QUINOA – From the INCA’s to NASA

Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), a name derived from the Spanish “quinua” or Quechua, and pronounced “Keenwa” is a species of goosefoot a grain-like crop grown primarily for its edible seeds.

It is a pseudo-cereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds.

Quinoa is an Ancient Grain that grows high in the Andes Mountains of Peru and Bolivia as well as the high altitude regions of Colorado, USA well above the tree line in the purest of environments. This “Noble Grain” was a very important food to the Ancient Incas, and is highly regarded and consumed by health-conscious consumers to this day.

Up until now, the harvesting of Quinoa has mainly been done by hand and only rarely by machine. This is because of the extremely variable periods of maturity of native Quinoas, which increases difficulty of mechanization. Therefore, an exact timing of harvest is important in order to avoid high losses of grain due to shattering. However, the exact harvesting time is difficult to determine because seed heads of the same plant mature at different times.

The grain yield reaches comparable dimensions (often between 3 – 5 tons per hectare) to Wheat yields in the Andean areas. Handling involves threshing the seed heads and winnowing the seed to remove the husk. Before storage, the seeds need to be dried in order to avoid germination.

Quinoa was of great nutritional importance in pre-Columbian Andean civilizations, second only to the Potato, and was followed in importance by Maize. In contemporary times, this crop has become highly appreciated for its nutritional value, as its protein content is very high (12%–18%). Unlike wheat or rice (which are low in lysine), and like oats, Quinoa contains a balanced set of essential amino acids for humans, making it a complete protein source, unusual among plant foods.

It is a good source of dietary fibre and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration manned spaceflights.

Edelweiss – Leontopodium alpinum

Everybody knows the famous song from the Sound of Music – Edeleweiss

Edelweiss or Leontopodium alpinum is an herbaceous plant of the family Asteraceae which grows spontaneously on mountain ranges from the Pyrenees and the Alps to the Himalayas.
It is a rare and strictly protected plant and with its characteristic appearance, it has become the symbol of Alpine flora.
In order to survive the extreme conditions and low temperatures where it grows, the Edelweiss plant has had to develop many defensive mechanisms to protect itself from high level exposure to solar radiation.
Scientific studies have demonstrated the presence in the plant of powerful antioxidants and other substances with both anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective properties.

These include the natural actives – Leontopodic acids A and B, Chlorogenic acid, and 3, 5-dicaffeoylquinic acid, which have anti-hyaluronidasic and anti-collagenasic activity. Also present are Phytosterols, Amino acids, polysaccharides – with moisturizing properties and which act as plant nutrients.

Our partners in France – NAOLYS has developed a novel glycerinic extract of whole pure plant cells of Leontopodium Alpinum, with skin care benefits which exhibits strong anti-oxidant, anti-hyaluronidasic and anti-collagenasic activity.

Korean Bamboo Grass Extract

Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the family.

Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world, and certain species have been recorded as growing up to 100 cm (39 in) within a 24 hour period due to a unique rhizome-dependent system.

Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in South Asia, South East Asia and East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product.

One member of the family found on Jeju Island – the largest island located in the southernmost part of Korea where there is a very diverse plant community, is known as Sasa quelpaertensis and locally as “Jeju Jolitdae”. [Read more…]

Coconut Water Solids

Everyone knows how delicious Coconuts are, but not so many people may be aware of some of their health and anti-aging benefits.
Coconut milk is the sweet milky white cooking base taken from the flesh of a fully developed coconut.

However it is Coconut Water, the liquid endosperm of green tender coconuts (Cocos nucifera) which is much more interesting. The coconut is unique in that it contains large amounts of liquid endosperm for a year or more of its life. It delivers vital nutrients for sustained development of the solid endosperm (coconut flesh) found inside the fruit. At the completion of growth, the solid endosperm and the last of the coconut water provide nourishment for the forming embryo and seedling. Thus, coconut water serves the role as a reservoir of nutrients to support tissue growth.

Coconut Water is rich in proteins, amino acids, sugars, vitamins, minerals and growth factors with pivotal roles in supporting tissue growth. Shikimic acids and Quinic acids have been found in extracts of coconut water obtained from fruits at various stages of development, with the greatest amounts being found in young, green coconuts. These Alicyclic acids participate in aromatic biosynthesis, and are therefore significant in the growth and development of the budding coconut.
These compounds along with identified Cytokinins also play an important role in the nourishment and growth of plant and animal cells

Coconut Water is a refreshing beverage, a natural re-hydration medium, and is used as a supplement in nutrient media for tissue culture. Because it offers higher amounts of electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium than regular sports drinks, coconut water is known as a “natural isotonic sports drink.”

An innovative company – Sabinsa Corporation, has developed a proprietary and patented freeze drying process which produces a stable composition of coconut water with its inherent biological activity preserved. The resulting product is an amorphous solid, which is easy to work into food and personal care formulations. Protein components and environment sensitive actives are protected by the amorphous nature of the solid, during subsequent processing. During storage, the material changes to the more stable, less hygroscopic, crystalline state.

This product is known as Cococin™. Sabinsa ensure that the green coconuts are harvested at the right stage of maturity to guarantee optimal content of RNA and growth factors, including Shikimic acid, Quinic acid and Indole-3-acetic acid, essential vitamins, amino acids, minerals and growth hormones.

Sabinsa carried out a clinical study to check on the efficacy of the freeze dried Coconut water solids in reducing the appearance of skin aging.

22 females in good health of ages 20-35 years old were subjects in a double blind placebo controlled clinical study
Members of this group had no known history of allergy, and did not have any skin diseases. Only those not taking any medication or antioxidants, and not having participated in any similar trial for at least 4 weeks before this trial were included in the study.

A cream was prepared containing 1.00% coconut water solids – Cococin™ and was applied onto the left arm of each subject, and the cream base was applied onto the corresponding area of the right arm, to serve as control.
200 mg of the cream and cream base was applied daily for eight weeks, to the marked areas on the left arm and right arm respectively.
Percentage reductions in skin roughness and modifications in skin elasticity were used to evaluate the product. Skin roughness was evaluated using a Skin Visiometer and dermal elasticity was measured using a Cutometer. The percentage decrease in skin roughness and change in elasticity affected by the test product were compared with that of the placebo.

The results of the study were conclusive and showed that treatment with the cream containing Cococin™ significantly improved skin elasticity (>30% after 60 days), which was manifested in decreased skin roughness and improved skin tone.

The conclusion is that Cococin™ when used at the recommended level of 1 – 5%s in creams and lotions nurtures keratinous tissue, and supports tissue integrity, thereby potentially inhibiting the appearance of the signs of aging and the manifestation of wrinkles. Sabinsa claim that Cococin™ can effectively be used for oral and topical applications and serves as a natural pool of nutrients and growth factors that support healthy aging.

Bakula – an Indian plant with interesting properties

Bakula Extract – INCI Name (proposed): Mimusops elengi

There is growing demand in the cosmetics Industry for exotic plants and fruits which have interesting beneficial properties for skin and hair care.

The latest of these is an Indian tree known as Bakula.

Bakula is one of the herbs mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic scriptures and has been used for centuries in India for medicinal purpose. In “Meghaduta”, one of the highly esteemed ancient poems by the great poet Kalidasa, there is a mention of Bakula trees. [Read more…]

Natural beauty with healing powers

Famed for its skin saving anti wrinkle properties and beautiful in its natural form, Echinacea is a superb natural active in any skin care range.

Echinacea also has a lovely marketing story to tell with many centuries of use in herbalistic remedies and medicinal potions.

The consumer is familiar with Echinacea in its alternative medicine guise as an antioxidant booster and guard against the common cold. [Read more…]

Pumice – complex geology in a familiar form

Pumice stone is the end product of an amazing natural force – the volcano.

As a natural ingredient it has some unique properties including low density, lightness and abrasiveness which make it ideal in exfoliating and polishing products.

From a marketing view point, pumice manages to combine scientific complexity with familiarity. Most people recognise a pumice stone as a humble household object – yet delving deeper into the scientific origins of pumice open up a much more complex picture requiring at least a superficial understanding of geology. [Read more…]

Why Moroccan women love rhassoul clay

Moisturizing and full of minerals Rhassoul clay has been the beauty treatment of choice for generations of women in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco.

Not all clays are created equal and rhassoul clay differs from others in its unique composition. Whilst it is extremely absorbent and great for cleansing skin it is moisturizing as well.

Many clays are known to strip oil from the skin but treatment with rhassoul clay leaves skin buttery soft. [Read more…]

How seaweeds benefit us all

Seaweed is a commonly used term for a vast and complex genus of plants covering some 6000 species. The term refers to the large marine algae that grow in the shallow waters at the edge of the world’s oceans.

Seaweeds provide a natural habitat and a source of food for a huge range of marine animals and enhance the natural beauty of the shore and underwater landscape. They are hugely valuable to humankind as a food, an industrial raw material and increasingly as a highly active cosmeceutical ingredient. [Read more…]

Micro algae fights skin ageing

Spirulina platensis – the most commonly found micro algae in Cuba – has been shown to offer high protection against free radicals according to a research study at the University of Havana.

The study which was carried out in November 2007 discovered that the high vitamin E and carotene content of the algae can stimulate the immune system and help in the prevention of cancer and premature skin ageing.

The research group has produced a line of cosmetic products based on their findings using hydroalcoholic extracts of Spirulina platensis which is being marketed throughout South America and parts of Europe. [Read more…]