Sunday, February 28, 2010

Ginseng extract

Ginseng or Panax ginseng is an extract that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine, but it hasn't been studied very well for cosmetic use. It is reported to be an anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, and anti-tumour ingredient that stimulates collagen production and wound healing, as well as increase protein synthesis. How does it do all of these wonderful things?

Note: Siberian ginseng is from a completely different plant, so the information contained in this post has nothing to do with it!

Ginseng is considered by herbalists to be an adaptogen - "an agent that allows the body to counter adverse physical, chemical or biological stressors by raising non-specific resistance towards stress, allowing the organism to adapt to stressful circumstances".

The main active ingredients in ginseng are ginsenosides, polysaccharides, and saponins.

The ginsenosides in ginseng are triterpenoid saponins, meaning they are natural foamers when added to water. Panaxytriol is the most studied of these saponins, and it is showing promise for anti-tumour properties in cancer prone mice, probably through the reduction in free radicals. Some saponins are toxic to cold-blooded animals, and they can enhance penetration of larger molecules like protein into the skin. Ginseng saponins are used in cough medicines as expectorants.

The polysaccharides in ginseng behave the same way they work in aloe vera and cucumber extract - they are hydrating, emollient, anti-inflammatory, and create a barrier on our skin, thanks to the wonders of gelling. They are used in cold medications as demulcents - agents that form a soothing film over a mucous membrane, relieving minor pain and inflammation.

So can ginseng does what it claims? Sort of. There haven't been a lot of studies about the cosmetic application of ginseng, so a lot of the information simply isn't there. The saponins are good anti-oxidants, and the polysaccharides provide emollience, hydration, and anti-inflammation properties. It could help with increased penetration of active ingredients we put into our products.

As I've never used ginseng, I can't comment on how it feels or works in a product. Use it at the rates suggested by your supplier.

Join me tomorrow for fun with liquorice extract.

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