The definition of an organic compound is, in its most simple form, a compound that contains carbon. Organic compounds share similar traits. The most common of these traits is a carbon back bone or ring structure. This creates the main structure of the compound with single, double or triple bonds added into the picture. Carbon has four valence electrons to share, so it will only ever create four bonds of varying types with other side or functional groups. Oddly enough, there is no formal definition of what a carbon compound truly is. Most textbooks refer to them as compounds that contain C-C bonds or C-H bonds.
Carbon compounds are also the backbone of life. All living things have organic compounds in their systems. They also have digestive systems and metabolic pathways designed to break down carbon compounds. They form carbohydrates, proteins and fats, the staples of food for most species of life on Earth. The carbon compounds that are consumed are then returned to the Earth to be recycled by bacteria. This then provides plants with nutrients to grow. Two cycles on Earth depend on these compounds: the nitrogen cycle and the carbon cycle. Both of these take carbon compounds (one as carbon in its simplest form and the other organic compounds in the form of protein like substances) and recycle them for use by many species of life.
There are carbon compounds that are gasses as well. Some of these natural gases are methane, propane, butane and a variety of others. A great majority of these gases are flammable and can be found in naturally on Earth. They are harvested from under the ground and used for fuel. Some of these gas-like compounds are synthetic.
Another interesting thing about carbon compounds is their structures. Sometimes, they can form what is known as enantiomers, or mirror images. Even though both compounds have the same chemical formula and they are mirror images of each other, they will have very different properties. An example of this is spearmint and peppermint. Their organic compounds are enantiomers, but the two scents that result are very different. The orientation of the bonds and their position can create a totally new compound with new properties.
Organic compounds have more uses than one can possibly conceive. They are used for plastic products, pharmaceuticals, fuel, food and explosives. The study of these compounds and their creation begins with a branch of science known as organic chemistry. An organic chemist can manipulate and create organic compounds using synthesis reactions. In this way, many of the above mentioned products are expanded or improved. Such an example is beneze, which was first synthesized by the scientist Friedrich Kekule. This compound is one of the most widely found organic compounds and is used in everything from pharmaceutical drugs to bug spray!