The nomenclature of natural products has suffered from much confusion, mostly for historical reasons. The isolation of a new substance, in the early days of the science, generally preceded its characterization by a lengthy period. Thus, these compounds were often assigned trivial names that gave no indication of the structure of the molecule and were often found afterwards to be misleading. Even when the original names were later revised (for example: glycerin to glycerol) the new names often expressed the structure imperfectly and were thus unsuitable for the nomenclatural manipulation that is required to name derivatives or stereoisomers. The result was a proliferation of trivial names that taxed the memory of chemists and obscured important structural relationships.
The resultant disorder in the literature led to the creation of committees of specialists with the task of codifying the naming of compounds in various connected areas of natural-product chemistry, such as steroids, lipids, and carbohydrates. As far as their recommendations have been followed, their efforts have been successful in eliminating confusing or duplicate nomenclature.
It is the aim of the lUPAC Commission on Nomenclature of Organic Chemistry to unite as far as possible all the specialist reports into a single set of recommendations that can be applied in most areas of natural-product chemistry. Accordingly, provisional recommendations were prepared and published as Section F of the lUPAC Organic Nomenclature Rules, first in 1976, and then in the 1979 edition of the Rules.