Plants and the chemicals they make. Tradition and phytochemistry in Skin Actives capillary health cream

Skin Actives capillary health cream contains the best that tradition and phytochemistry can offer us to protect the fine capillaries that bring oxygen (and take away the carbon dioxide) to our cells.

Essential fatty acids present in the traditional rosehip seed oil will help the skin build a strong barrier to keep water inside and bad stuff out. Sea kelp bioferment, has all the benefits that brown algae bring from the ocean.

Horse chestnut and butcher’s broom have been used for centuries to protect blood vessels and phytochemistry has elucidated which are the chemicals in them and how they work. You will also find other traditional extracts: liquorice, grape seed, Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) plus soy isoflavones, rutin and hesperidin.  I like this alliance of traditional extracts with an anchor in chemistry and biochemistry.

How do they work?

The anti-edema, anti-exudative and vasoprotective actions of horse chestnut are reported to be mainly due to escin. Orally and topically administered proanthocyanidin A2 is reported to have wound healing actions. Esculin is useful in improving microcirculation.

Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum ) Extract and Escin (aescin)

 Aescin is not a single chemical but a family of compounds, glycosides of saponins present in horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) extract. They have strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Through their action on connective tissue, they strengthen fragile capilliary blood vessels, thus helping to prevent leakage of fluids into surrounding tissues and decreasing exudation and edema development. Horse chestnut extract has other valuable chemicals, including the antioxidants quercetin and kaempferol but, because of the special properties of escin, at Skin Actives we use an extract standardized (i.e. enriched so that it has a very high minimal concentration) for this particular chemical.  Aescin is believed to foster healthy tone in vein walls by inhibiting enzymes that attack the interior of the veins, it also facilitates the contraction of elastic fibers in blood vessel walls, thereby elevating the flexibility of the vessels. This extract is used topically to help with varicose veins, swelling, and oxidative stress. Rutin, another chemical present in Horse Chestnut extract, also strengthens fragile capillaries, working synergistically with escin to promote vascular health. Aescin inhibits elastase and hyaluronidase, preserving the structure and volume of the dermis matrix.

Butcher’s broom extract, (Ruscus Aculeatus) has been used in Chinese medicine for millennia, and helps reduce redness and irritation. Butcher’s broom (Liliaceae, Box-Holly), is not very new for the users of our capillary health cream, but we responded to the request by DIY clients who like to use this very valuable active in their own “potions”. This extract helps with venous insufficiency, and decreases capillary permeability. Our extract is standardized for ruscogenins.

Liquorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root extract. Licorice root has been used in Europe since prehistoric times, documented since the ancient Greeks, for its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial activity. Phytochemists and biochemists have been working for decades elucidating the structure of the chemicals involved and mechanisms of action. In the case of the root of Glycyrrhiza glabra this is not a single chemical that benefits the skin, but rather a combination of many chemicals.

From all the active chemicals in licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) root extract, glabridrin is the one most responsible for the beneficial effect of licorice on the skin. Glabridrin inhibits the activities of two tyrosinase isozymes, T1 and T3 (and melanin synthesis) without affecting cell proliferation. Topical application of glabidrin prevented pigmentation and erythema induced by UV-B. The anti-inflammatory effect of this chemical is through the inhibition of superoxide anion production and cyclooxygenase activity. For all of these reasons, glabridrin is a good inhibitor of melanogenesis and skin inflammation.

Grape seed extract is a source of proanthocyanidins, flavonoids that protect capillary walls and inhibit the enzymes that break down collagen (collagenase), hyaluronic acid (hyaluronidase) and elastin (elastase). Also anti-inflammatory, antihistamines, antiallergenic, and as major free radical scavengers. Proanthocyanidins also help promote tissue elasticity, help heal injuries, reduce swelling and edema, restore collagen and improve peripheral circulation. Proanthocyanidins also prevent bruising, strengthen weak blood vessels and reduce histamine production.

Centella asiatica  (Gotu kola, a.k.a. Hydrocotyle asiatica) is an oriental herb that has been used for centuries in both traditional Chinese and Indian medicine. The active chemicals in the extract are terpenoids including asiatic acid, madecassic acid, and asiaticoside. Centella asiatica helps wound healing, apparently by stimulating the production of type I collagen and decreasing the inflammatory reaction and myofibroblast production. Triterpenes from gotu cola may also affect various stages of tissue development including keratinization (the process of replacing skin after sores or ulcers) and stimulate the formation of lipids and proteins necessary for healthy skin. The triterpenes of Centella asiatica are also reported to increase the incorporation of alanine and proline into the structure of collagen, promoting healing of epithelial ulcers, bedsores and skin disorders. Recent studies have shown Centella asiatica may have a positive effect on the circulatory system and may improve blood flow throughout the body by strengthening the veins and capillaries.  At SAS we use Centella asiatica standardized for triterpenes (terpenes consisting of six isoprene unites and have the molecular formula C30H48).

Soy isoflavones. In Korean folk medicine, soybean paste was applied to lacerated skin wounds, in the belief that it would accelerate wound healing and decrease scarring. Modern science has corroborated those beliefs and shown the broad scope of the beneficial effects of soy isoflavones on skin. For example, soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein were found to stimulate the synthesis of hyaluronic acid, preventing damage to the skin structure caused by natural loss of this structural component. Genistein induces collagenation in soft tissue wound healing and inhibits of tyrosine kinase, angiogenesis, and topoisomerase II and seems to inhibit tumor progression. In mice, genistein inhibited the initiation and promotion of two-stage skin carcinogenesis and ultraviolet light-induced oxidative events. Isoflavones are polyphenolic compounds that are capable of exerting estrogen-like effects, i.e. they will bind to the estrogen receptors. For this reason, they are classified as phytoestrogens—compounds with estrogenic activity derived from plants. Legumes, particularly soybeans, are the richest sources of isoflavones in the human diet. In soybeans, isoflavones are present as glycosides (bound to a sugar molecule). Fermentation or digestion of soybeans or soy products results in the release of the sugar molecule from the isoflavone glycoside, leaving an isoflavone aglycone. Soy isoflavone glycosides are called genistin, daidzin, and glycitin, while the aglycones are called genistein, daidzein, and glycitein, respectively (chemical structures of isoflavone aglycones).

Rutin ia a flavonoid, abundant in Viola tricolor, Sophora japonica, Morus alba and many other plants, has numerous beneficial properties. Besides its anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects, it protects capillaries from oxidative stress preventing fragility.

Hesperidin is a flavonoid present in lemons and oranges and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity. It also decreases capillary permeability. It also anti-allergic, vasoprotective and cancer preventive activities and may stimulate mitochondrial activity.

DISCLAIMER: These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent any disease.


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  1. […] don’t have a cellulite cream at Skin Actives but our capillary health cream is great (no false modesty here) and contains  Rosa Canina (Rosehip) Seed Oil, Seakelp […]

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