Although cultivated for over 7000 years, mainly for production of cotton fibre, the cotton plant has not been fully explored for potential uses of its other parts. Despite cotton containing many important chemical compounds, limited understanding of its phytochemical composition still exists. In order to add value to waste products of the cotton industry, such as cotton gin trash, this review focuses on phytochemicals associated with different parts of cotton plants and their biological activities. Three major classes of compounds and some primary metabolites have been previously identified in the plant. Among these compounds, most terpenoids and their derivatives (51), fatty acids (four), and phenolics (six), were found in the leaves, bolls, stalks, and stems. Biological activities, such as anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory activities, are associated with some of these phytochemicals. For example, β-bisabolol, a sesquiterpenoid enriched in the flowers of cotton plants, may have anti-inflammatory product application. Considering the abundance of biologically active compounds in the cotton plant, there is scope to develop a novel process within the current cotton fibre production system to separate these valuable phytochemicals, developing them into potentially high-value products. This scenario may present the cotton processing industry with an innovative pathway towards a waste-to-profit solution.
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