Use of Saint John’s Wort in skin care

St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum), also known as goat weed or enola weed, it’s a perennial flowering herb belonging to the Clusiaceae family. The name of the specie, “perforatum”, refers to small translucent spots that are evident when the leaves are held up to the light.

It has been used since Ancient Greece both externally as a macerated oil to treat wounds, burns, bruises, cuts, and pain and internally in infusion against stomach ulcers, neuralgia, anxiety, and insomnia.

The herb produces golden yellow flowers that, according to the traditional recipe, must be left to macerate for 40 days in olive oil and exposed to direct sunlight. Legend has it that the oil is more effective if flowers are collected on Saint John’s Day (June 24) and left to macerate until the day of the Saint’s beheading (August 29). The resulting oil is red, which is also associated with the color of St. John’s blood.

The red color of the oil is due to the presence of hypericin, an anthraquinone-derived pigment, belonging to the naphthodianthrones chemical family. Due to its chemical structure, with two oxygen atoms very close to each other sharing a mobile hydrogen atom, hypericin is very reactive to light.

The macerated oil contains other naphthodianthrones such as pseudohypericin, isophypericin, and protohypericin, together with other lipophilic compounds such as hyperforin (another photoreactive compound), adhyperforin and furohyperforin.

Hypericin and hyperforin are antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Hyperforin stimulates the growth and differentiation of keratinocytes. St. John’s wort extract enhances collagen production and activates the fibroblasts that is responsible for wound closure.

Hyperforin has been shown to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria and viruses.

St. John’s wort extracts and macerated oils are used in skin care products to;

  • Prevent fine lines
  • Treat acne
  • Soothe reddened, burnt, or sunburned skin
  • Reduce itching, irritation, eczema, and inflammation
  • Treat psoriasis or dermatitis
  • Regenerate the skin in case of minor wounds, bruises, and dry skin
  • Promote recovery after a tattoo

Due to the high photoreactivity of hypericin and hyperforin, St. John’s wort extracts and macerated oils are mildly phototoxic. Phototoxicity is a chemically induced skin irritation that takes place when the skin is exposed to the sun. It is advised not to expose the skin to the sun after using skin care products containing St. John’s wort extracts or macerated oils and apply them preferably at night.

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Chicory root in pet foods

Chicory (Cichorium intybus) is a herbaceous, perennial plant, more or less one meter tall, that belongs to the Asteraceae family.

It is a plant originating in the sub-Mediterranean region, although it is present in both Central Europe and America. It grows by the side of roads and fields and in dry, calcareous terrain. It blooms between May and September, the flowers are a very colorful blue and turn their heads to the sun, like sunflowers.

Chicory was already known and cultivated by the ancient Egyptians, more than 3000 years ago, who used it against liver diseases.

The main producing areas are France, Belgium, Germany and Spain. Currently, several varieties are cultivated that are quite different in appearance from the wild plant, and which are used for consumption as a vegetable, to produce coffee substitutes and for the extraction of inulin. The root of the Sativum variety contains up to 16% inulin. Chicory root extract is obtained by a hot water diffusion process and contains more than 95% inulin.

Inulin is an energy reserve carbohydrate present in the roots, tubers and rhizomes of more than 36,000 plant species. It is composed of linear chains of fructose, therefore it is a fructan.

Because of their chemical configuration, fructans cannot be hydrolyzed by the digestive systems of humans and many animals, so they pass through most of the digestive tract practically unchanged. When inulin reaches the large intestine, it serves as food for bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which metabolize it, producing short-chain fatty acids, especially butyric acid.

This results in an increase in the number of lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (beneficial species) in the colon and a decrease in the number of harmful bacteria, such as E. coli or Clostridium spp. On the other hand, the production of short-chain fatty acids strengthens the immune system, increases the absorption of minerals and fats and boosts the endogenous production of vitamins by the gut flora.

When added to pet food, inulin:

  • Encourages the growth of beneficial microorganisms (lactobacilli and bifidobacteria) in the gut
  • Improves digestion
  • Helps cats and dogs that have difficulty in digesting fats
  • Improves the stool quality, relieving diarrhea and constipation
  • Eases the symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases
  • Promotes a normal body weight
  • Reduces the risk of diabetes

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