Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Out Of Africa Part II

Another oil from Africa is gaining attention, Calodendrum capense (Cape Chestnut) oil or as it is more commonly referred to, yangu oil. It is a non-toxic, non-drying oil that is used in Africa in soaps and cosmetics and is reported to have UV protective properties.

PACT Kenya has funded a project to conserve the Calodendrum capense trees and help local people earn a second income from the oil. The oil has been singled out by cosmetic industry watchers (See Earthoil in the Cosmetic Concepts, Amsterdam link below) as something different.

Going by the fatty acid profile, which I have verified on other websites, I would say that it cannot not penetrate hair deeply. The majority of the fatty acids have double bonds and oils like that do not deeply penetrate the hair shaft in research studies I have read. It has no lauric acid content. The oil does have a tradition of use for skin.

Updated October 21, 2012
From the iodine value in the MSDS I added below, it may be a semi-drying oil, depending on the source. Classifying an oil is based on its average iodine values because botanical natural oils can vary in properties and constituents.

WildLiving.com and cape chestnut oil
Wild Living Technical Team 
Cosmetic Concepts, Amsterdam
See Also

Monday, December 21, 2009

Natural Products For Hair And Skin

I have been researching information on natural products for cosmetic use for quite a long time. I have searched the literature available in books and online. Books can be out of date by the time they go to press as new research becomes available and is released very quickly. Information is constantly being updated. There are many reputable online sources for information about plants and trees and the oils, barks, extracts and other versions used in cosmetics.

Since the 1970s and the resurgence of natural products becoming mainstream popular again today, I have seen almost no scientific information available, become a lot of excellent scientific information. This information is accessible to anyone interested in taking the time and effort to look for it.

The most important thing to remember about any natural product is whether or not it is safe to use and then in what quantities it is safe. Sometimes there are few restrictions recommended on quantities. Sometimes there are many restrictions. Governments are now beginning to regulate natural products. It means that an industry that has previously had no restrictions put upon it, will have to fall in line with food and drug regulations on safety, labelling, doses and precautions clearly listed on the container in addition to any insert.

Some natural products like foods such as sage and other herbs are perfectly safe in the amounts usually eaten but taken in excess, there can be adverse effects. One cannot assume that a food item can automatically be used in large quantities frequently as a cosmetic. Researching a product carefully for current information is the best "remedy" of all. Plants and extracts can act differently topically as opposed to ingestion but not in all cases. There is the issue of skin absorption that is not to be discounted. Cosmetic products are tested for skin absorption and safety and are regulated with regard to the amount of an ingredient used. However, not all natural cosmetic products are regulated, even though they are on the market. Buyers should beware!

Much more is now known about natural product interactions with drugs and long term use effects. Some people rely on traditional use as the measure of a natural product’s safety. Traditional use of a natural product does not signify its safety. If one looks at cosmetic history throughout the world, many natural toxic substances were used both medicinally and cosmetically in many cultures at various times and the toxicity of them was not recognized until much later. Lead in cosmetics was used in Ancient Rome and during Elizabethan times. It can still be found to contaminate some cosmetics today like kohl, a popular eye make-up, as stated in this FDA advisory and (updated) this one from Health Canada.

Many traditional herbs are used in combinations and at doses known to be safe by those trained in how to use them. The safety of many of the products in question is being validated by science. In other instances, the plants or herbs have shown no evidence of efficacy or safety.

I believe that some of the answers to cosmetic questions, including hair care can indeed come from natural products used on their own, in combinations, or added to conventional formulations. The key questions of concern are about the safety and proper use of such products, as more information becomes known.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Out Of Africa

There are some interesting projects and developments happening around the world with indigenous plants and their traditional uses.

Africa has a rich history of traditional plant use that is now being looked at to help the people in certain areas develop businesses and conserve nature at the same time. Research into plants with a history of medicinal use is being done to validate folklore and science is doing just that in a number of cases.

One such plant is the lelechwa shrub, Tarchonanthus camphoratus L. Traditionally the plant is used in various ways and one of those is that it is burned and the smoke inhaled to help respiratory problems. Animals that rub against the plant were observed to have unblemished skin compared to the same animal species in areas where the plant does not grow. The essential oil is now being added to cosmetics. Like any essential oil, it should be used cautiously. Essential oils are not meant to be used in quantity or straight but blended with a carrier oil and not ingested.

The plant itself has been shown in research to be even more valuable in raw form. There are other constituents that contribute to its strength as an antibacterial, antiviral product. The smoke of the leleshwa shrub has been shown to be effective for respiratory ailments in vitro (in the lab). The leleshwa shrub is a sustainable resource.

In 2008, a U.S. patent was granted to inventor Kuki Gallman for a hair treatment that contains the aqueous portion of leleshwa which was normally discarded during the steam distillation process to obtain the essential oil. The aqueous portion of leleshwa may prove to stimulate human hair growth.

More information can be found in the following:

Kuki Gallmann Patent

The Gallmann Memorial Foundation

Antibacterial and antifungal activities of Tarchonanthus camphoratus essential oil

How plant constituents work together

The antimicrobial activity of Tarchonanthus camphoratus

Validation of smoke inhalation therapy