From Nature, three key remedies for our liver

Spring is associated to wood element in traditional Chinese medicine – symbolizing rebirth – and it is related to specific organs such as liver and gall-bladder. By encompassing such Oriental tradition, we should consider the idea to purify our “overloadedliver after winter and to help its correct function. Such an organ – actually the biggest gland of our body – works in a “silent” way so that we are not very familiar with its functions. Liver operates in a series of important activities: it intervenes in intestine mediated fat absorption, in endogenous cholesterol synthesis, in body cells’ feeding, in elimination of toxic substances (i.e. drugs), in coagulation factors’ biosynthesis and it represents a storing place for our essential nutrients such as iron, copper and vitamin B12. Liver is an endless chemical transformation laboratory helping near organs (pancreas, intestine and kidneys) with the final aim of wellness of the whole organism.

Upon considering the above concepts, I understand now the repeated recommendations to consume dandelion, lemon, artichokes and I’d like to thank my yoga teacher which makes me writhe to re-activate full liver functionality! According to Chinese medicine, liver is appointed to distribute energy in the whole body to the point that the frequent springtime tiredness sensation could be caused by overloaded liver. That’s why we should take care of such a precious organ!

A correct dietary habit is the actual starting point: food that increases gastric secretion and acts as tonic for the whole system could be useful.

  1. Artichoke (Cynara scolymus), known as “liver’s friend” in the old Literature, is one of the most cultivated edible plant in the World. Its extracts have been used since ancient times for hepatic disorders. Its beneficial properties – known since XVII century – are now supported also by scientific research which confirms the protective action on liver[1]. highlithing other therapeutic properties like the antioxidant and the activity in reducing lipid and glycemic content.[2] Artichokes protect and prevent oxidation on liver along with boldine (active principle of boldo),[3] vitamin E , C and minerals as Zinc and  Copper.
  2. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) which is best known as “lion’s tooth”, with its very common and typical yellow flower in meadows and countryside during springtime, boasts relevant detoxification properties on liver along with diuretic actions. Dandelion, as revealed by the common name piscialetto (the italian for bed wetter) is known since the most traditional use for its capacity to help liquid drainage, both at intestinal and kidney level along with choleretic, digestive and depurative properties useful when general detox is needed.
  3. The last ingredient I’d like to talk about is Olive (Olea europaea): a common plant widely distributed in Mediterranean areas and in Italy in particular. Both fruit and leaves are full of active principles,which are collected in the standardized olive extract, in particular oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol boast beneficial properties such as antioxidant, hepatoprotective properties [4] and help lower and protect from oxidation blood LDL (low density lipoproteins) commonly known as “bad cholesterol”, which are often involved in the problems of the circulatory system.

Very common edible plants with a typical bitter taste such as artichoke, milk thistle, gentian, dandelion are well widespread in Mediterranean areas but sometimes they are not always available on our table so we can find easily in a dietary supplement which collects them in a single capsule and is formulated to help liver functions and its equilibrium. The dietary supplement Epo Stim® by BeC Natura contains all those ingredients and it could be consumed along with Depur Plus® supplement to promote physiological intestinal function and prevent overloaded liver after winter charges in order to better enjoy the benefit Springtime!

[1] Rangboo V, et al The Effect of Artichoke Leaf Extract on Alanine Aminotransferase and Aspartate Aminotransferase in the Patients with Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis International Journal of Hepatology vol. 2016, Article ID 4030476, 6 pages, 2016.
[2] Rondanelli M, et al Health-promoting properties of artichoke in preventing cardiovascular disease by its lipidic and glycemic-reducing action Monaldi Arch Chest Dis 2013; 80: 17-26
[3] Kringstein P, Cederbaum AI, Boldine prevents human liver microsomal lipid peroxidation and inactivation of cytochrome P4502E1   Free Radic Biol Med. 1995; 18: 559-63
[4] Barbaro B, et alEffects of the Olive-Derived Polyphenol Oleuropein on Human HealthInt. J. Mol. Sci. 2014, 15, 18508-18524

 

The “natural athlete”: the essential oils as performance enhancers

montagne_simoI remember a speech by Prof. Gerhard Buchbauer (Dept of Clinical Pharmacy and diagnostics at Vienna University, Austria) held at Sana, the International exhibition of organic and natural products in 2008: in particular during his speech entitled “Aromatherapy: recent advances in scientific research” he showed human electroencephalograms evidencing increased activities of specific cerebral areas after inhalation of certain essential oils. In order to get in depth to the matter I found some Literature dealing with the ability of typical fragrances in helping cognitive functions and attenuating pain (i.e. Peppermint [1]), activating blood circulation, helping in lactic acid removal (i.e. camphor and Rosemary [2] ) or eliciting  potent antioxidant and anti inflammatory activities (i.e. Tea Tree, Lemon e Thyme [3] ). It seems clear that each essential oil is endowed with specific therapeutic properties and it is able to give different effects when inhalated or administered on the skin. As a matter of fact the essential oils can acts therapeutically by three distinct ways:
1.    Pharmacological – by causing real biochemical changes at cellular level
2.    Physiological – by acting to specific body systems
3.    Psychological – by stimulating an olfactive feedback
By first and second ways the essential oils biocomponents penetrate through epidermis [4] (or they are absorbed by digestive or respiratory systems) and reach organs and cells by blood circulation, in the third case they enter the organism by nasal flow.
ciclismoIn the same year I started to intensify my sport activity with cycling and I tried to better understand potential benefits elicited by essential oils and the possibility to improve my performances. For instance, does a “psycho-aromatic” influence exist on the athletes? It is fully recognized that mental wellness deeply influences sport performances therefore portable music players for music listening are prohibited in competitive marathons because are intended as “emotional doping”. For this reason, the act of simple smelling a specific essential oil or a blend of them could stimulate cognitive ability and give a good contribute to reach a top sport achievement.
One of the most important features for an aerobic endurance athlete (i.e. a marathon runner or a cyclist) is represented by risk of muscular damage associated to lactic acid production (cramps) [2] and to the oxidative stress caused by free radicals originated by prolonged efforts. The latter phenomenon is effectively counteracted by antioxidants which represent a potent solution to protect cells and the whole organism from negative effect caused by free radicals (tissue ageing, muscular pain, etc.).
Researchers at Tufts University (Boston, Massachusetts) have designed and validated the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity)  [5]  laboratory test to determine radical oxygen radical absorption by food and natural products and is nowadays recognized as one of the most widespread technique to measure antioxidant capacity.  By using this method, it is shown that the antioxidant power of essential oils is much higher than commonly believed antioxidant molecules or food such as Vitamin E, orange or lemon juice. Moreover, the pure essential oils – obtained by natural methods – are much more potent and effective in comparison to their single components (natural or synthetic molecule). For instance, the preservative ability of not-adulterated eucalyptus oil is higher compared to the main component eucalyptol [6].
trainingFor this reasons, scientific evidences showed the importance of essential oils for an athlete who  wants improve his performances in a natural way and I definitely chose Olio Strongful® by BeC as a strong partner before and after daily training: it has become fundamental  for me because its blend of diverse essential oils has been conveniently designed to gain the “winning synergy”.

Along with Olio Strongful, the dietary supplement PerforMax is particularily suitable for aerobic fitness such as marathon when good resistance is required. Olio Strongful and PerforMax represent optimal tools to reverse muscular deficit (with cramps and oxidative stress) associated to prolonged efforts. The subsequent free radicals overproduction is deeply counteracted by antioxidant activity of ingredients of our both products along with their precious essential oils.

Learn more information about Olio Strongful and PerforMax on BeC website.

[1] Fox M., Krueger E., Putterman L., Schroeder R. The Effect of Peppermint on Memory Performance.  Physiology 435, Spring 2012
[2] Diego MA, Jones NA, Field T, Hernandez-Reif M, Schanberg S, Kuhn C, McAdam V, Galamaga R, Galamaga M. Aromatherapy positively affects mood, EEG patterns of alertness and math computations Int J Neurosci. 1998 217-24.
[3] Ali B., Ali Al-Wabel N., Shams S., Ahamad A., Alam Khan S., Anwar F.. Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review.  Asian Pac J Trop Biomed 2015; 5(8): 601–611
[4] Gabbanini S., Lucchi E., Carli M., Berlini E. , Minghetti A., Valgimigli L.. In vitro evaluation of the permeation through reconstructed human epidermis of essentials oils from cosmetic formulations J Pharm Biomed Anal. 2009 Oct 15;50(3):370-6
[5] Bentayeb K, Vera P, Rubio C, Nerín C. The additive properties of Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) assay: the case of essential oils. Food Chem. 2014 Apr 1;148:204-8.
[6] Tadtong S, Puengseangdee C, Prasertthanawut S, Hongratanaworakit T. Antimicrobial Constituents and Effects of Blended Eucalyptus, Rosemary, Patchouli, Pine, and Cajuput Essential Oils.Nat Prod Commun. 2016; 11, 267-70

Essential oils and Nutraceutics

Libro_essential_oilsAt BeC, we have been using essential oils in cosmetics and diet supplements for more than 30 years. Our natural cosmetics boast a unique touch not only for special flavours but also for important beneficial activities provided by such a “Nature’s distillates”. Today we recommend a relevant publication where typical features and innovative properties of essential oils were described, ranging from multiple uses in traditional Eastern medicine to Western culture and much more. We suggest the book “Essential Oils as Natural Food Additives” published some years ago by Nova Science Publishers, Inc. (New York, 2012) because we have proudly contributed to scientific and reliable information in accordance to BeC’s choice to invest successfully in Research & Development.

Plant essential oils have been used for centuries in the preparation of cosmetic fragrances and food flavors, as well as in traditional medicines as therapeutic remedies. In recent years they have been attracting the renewed interest of both the scientific community and the general public. Their use in different aspects of human life is generally regarded as being part of a healthier, natural-oriented life style. On the other hand, a wealth of scientific studies has been documenting their biological properties, particularly associated with their antimicrobial and antioxidant activities, although additional medicinal properties have also been brought to light. This book offers an up-to-date examination of scientific literature on the antimicrobial and antioxidant activity of main dietary essential oils from all over the world, together with a general introduction to their chemistry, classification, bio-synthetic origin, preparation and analysis.

Further information on Publisher’s website

https://www.novapublishers.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=28680

Magnolia: a Nature’s gift! The beneficial properties of the Eastern bark

magnoliaMagnolia officinalis is one of flowering plant of Magnoliaceae family, originating from Far East (China, Thailand, Korea and Japan). Several officinal extracts from bark and strobili have been used in traditional eastern medicine. In particular, special decoctions or teas from Magnolia bark have been used for 2000 years in traditional Chinese medicine for treating different disorders, such as cough, asthma and gastrointestinal or urinary tract illnesses. The eastern herbalist preparation, known as “Saiboku-to” – containing Magnolia bark – have been used up till now to alleviate asthma and  anxiety as well.

The majority of beneficial activities of Magnolia derive from certain allyl-phenols, such as magnolol and honokiol. Several pharmacological activities are ascribed to Magnolia:  the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotectant activities along with the ability to inhibit platelets aggregation. Among the new promising actions it should be cited the action in contrast angiogenesis and certain tumor mechanisms. Bioactive components of Magnolia (above all honokiol) have been attracted deep interest: scientific community is investigating beneficial activity toward anxiety, depression and stress treatment. Among documented scientific properties, particular attention is addressed to antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and hepato-protective properties.

The relevant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities of Magnolia have been explored for cosmetic purposes, as well. Very recently, great interest have been addressed to antimicrobial activities in topical formulation: Magnolia shows beneficial effects in  young skin in limiting acne related bacteria such as Propionibacterium acnes. Moreover, recent studies on oral-care applications have been shown magnolol and honokiol are able to modulate cellular activities of microorganisms causing dental caries.

magnolia2Thanks to antibacterial properties of Magnolia, the bark extract have useful cosmetic applications both as new organic or natural preservative and as active ingredient with antiseptic and dermo-hugienic properties, useful in preventing skin infections. Magnolia officinalis could represent an alternative preservative in skin-care cosmetics and a functional ingredient being twice as precious and useful. For these reasons, we envisioned to include Magnolia extract in several products of our traditional BeC cosmetic line. In particular, it is an ingredient of Nuova Maschera and Pasta Idrogel, contributing to important dermopurifying properties. The soothing cream VelvÈ contains Magnolia extract (rich in magnolol and honokiol) that helps in tackling cellular aging, alleviates irritation phenomena and contributes to limit skin oxidative processes.

Thanks to its clean and eco-friendly production processes, approved by certification bodies like Ecocert, Magnolia extract could be included also in our new organic cosmetic line Terra biocare, We include it in the specifically designed formulation for delicate and impure skin: the face organic cream PuraBi.

Definitely, Magnolia bark with its synergic properties appears as a Nature’s gift: traditionally used for calming and relaxing properties since centuries, it has nowadays showed precious antioxidant, antimicrobial and dermohygienic properties, exploited with knowledge in natural cosmetics.

Radish sprouts, source of important nutraceuticals: isothiocyanates and anthocyanins

Raphanus sativus (L.) species comprises a large variety of dietary vegetables as radish and horseradish. Among the wide Brassicaceae family, radish represents one of the most consumed vegetables in the world: easy to grow and with a good, sharp and spicy taste. Mature radishes are rich of microelements such as vitamins (A, B1, B2, B3 e C) and minerals (iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus) along with fiber.

ravanelli antocianine isotiacianati

Glucosinolates, which originate isothyocyanates, are the most interesting compounds of Brassicaceae endowed with strong smell and spicy taste. The isothyocyanates, diffused in several Brassica vegetables such as cabbage, radish, broccoli, mustard, rocket endowed with relevant antitumoral, antioxidant and detoxifying properties as shown by scientific in vitro and in vivo studies. Therefore, the intake of Brassica vegetables contributes to protect from several chronic degenerative disorders.

Contrary to other white Raphanus species, red radishes bear a lot of anthocyanins, the typical flavonoids, found in berries and red fruit as well. Natural occurrence of both groups of biocomponents (isothyocianates and anthocyanins) with important antioxidant properties makes cultivar Sango of Raphanus sativus one of the most interesting health promoting food. In particular, in R&D laboratories of BeC, we have recently studied juice of Sango sprouts. It contains a high amount of isothiocyanates comparable to other Brassica sprouts (see our article Food Chemistry 2012), but it contain surprisingly a huge amount of anthocyanins, found only in blueberry and raspberry. Moreover, sprouts offers a wide anthocyanins diversity in comparison to mature plant, where the differentiation produces only a few major components. As shown by several epidemiologic studies, anthocyanins endowed with protective actions from risks related to cardiovascular pathologies, cancer and other chronic degenerative disorders. Such richness and structural diversity in Sango sprouts could strengthen the important dietary value. During our Research project, we identified and characterized different unknown anthocyanins (see our article Food Chemistry 2015) which share cyanidin as structural motif making radish sprouts a unique food in vegetables.

Thanks to a proficient collaboration with University of Bologna it was possible to study antioxidant properties of isolated anthocyanins from Sango which were comparable to antioxidant profile of vitamin E. We highlighted the importance of structural diversity of Sango anthocyanins, responsible of red-violet colour of the sprouts and of the significant properties of sharp tasted isothiocyanates (vide supra).

Due to high content of dietary ingredients such as vitamins ad minerals, along with isothiocyanates and anthocyanins, Sango helps in strengthen muscular tissues and sight, it boasts antiseptic action and improves organism’s barriers, stimulates digestion and protect from action of free radicals.

We are proud to share with you our studies and we’ll let you know future developments.

Skin damage caused by “wrong” sunscreens: the photosensitization phenomenon

 creme solari becAs we have seen in the previous post, many sunscreens get damaged by sun radiation as they absorb it. The modest photo-stability of such sunscreens has important consequences on the safety and efficacy of sun-care products based on them. In the previous discussion we have seen that photo-instability of sunscreens causes a reduction of sun protection factor (SPF) with time. There are, however, additional interactions of sunscreens with sunlight that have even worse consequences on their safety. We will discuss them in this article.
Solar radiation contains sufficient energy to damage some molecules (M), including some molecules found in our skin, as exemplified in the equation:

M + light→ fragment-A + fragment-B

Fragments indicated as A and B, in the example above, are often free radicals that can attack other molecules, damaging or modifying them. For instance, if such a reaction occurred in our skin, damage could occur to structural proteins like collagen and elastin, contributing to the formation of wrinkles and the onsetting of photo-aging. Furthermore, it could start chain-reactions leading to erythema, other inflammatory states and even genetic mutations (skin cancer). Products containing sunscreens are meant to protect skin from all such damages, and normally they do, by decreasing the amount of UV radiation that hits our skin, i.e. acting as “filters”. But CAUTION !!! Not all the sunscreens are friends of our skin, and actually some might cause bigger damage than that they are expected to prevent. How?
Let’s go back to our previous example. In order for M to react with light, it is necessary that molecule M is at least able to absorb the light at quantum level, i.e. it is necessary the energy carried by light photons hitting M corresponds exactly to the energy gap between quantum levels in the molecule. Often this is not the case and molecule M would be perfectly “safe” if it was not for the presence of other molecules called photosensitizers.

benzofenone

Benzophenone and main benzophenone derivatives used as sunscreen in sun-care cosmetic products as well as in the protection of manufacts. The common base structure is drawn in blue

F + light F*  

then…

F* + M F + fragment-A + fragment-B

This process is well known in photochemistry and benzophenone is among the photosensitizers of broader use in industrial processes to induce photochemical reactions. Benzophenone is also the lead structure for many and, unfortunately, very popular sunscreens, widely used in sun-care cosmetics to give sun protection factor. Most common examples are depicted in the figure above. Sunscreens like benzophenone-3 and benzophenone-4 are structurally related to benzophenone and are potent photosensitizers. In case M is a biomolecule in our skin, such as collagen, elastin, an enzyme or DNA, this can be damages by exposure to sunlight in the presence of photosensitizers (like benzophenone derivatives) much more it would happen in their absence. In other words, certain sunscreens can amplify the damage to our skin caused by sunlight.

Many benzophenone derivatives are available today and 12 of them are of common use.  Those more commonly used in the manufacture of sun-care cosmetics and other goods, are listed in the following:

Benzophenone-1: 2,4-Dihydroxybenzophenone
Benzoophenone-2: 2,2′,4,4′-Tetrahydroxybenzophenone
Benzophenone-3 (or oxybenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxybenzophenone
Benzophenone-4 (or sulisbenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxy-benzophenone-5-sulphonic acid
Benzophenone-5 (the sodium salt of sulisbenzone): Benzenesulfonic acid, 5-benzoyl-4-hydroxy-2-methoxy-, monosodium salt
Benzophenone-8 (or dioxybenzone): 2-Hydroxy-4-methoxyphenyl)-(2-hydroxyphenyl)methanone
Benzophenone-10 (or mexenone): 2-hydroxy-4-methoxy-4′-methyl-benzophenone
Benzophenone-11: it is a mixture of benzophenone 2 e 6.

For these reasons BeC does not use benzophenone derivatives in sun-care products !!! BeC uses only physical filters in low protection products and, in high protection products, we use a combination of physical filters and new generation chemical filters, which are highly photostable. Here you can find more info on BeC sun-care products.

Therefore, when we chose a sun-care product, it is very important we pay attention to the label and read the composition: don’t look at the SPF value only!

We often hear that we should not expose to sunlight after having used perfumes or other products, as they can give photosensitization problems. The typical recommendation is to use only sunscreen products, but caution should be paid when we choose the sunscreen product, as even sunscreens can cause the same problems. Therefore, even if you have no particular problem of sensitivity to sunlight and think that any product will do the job, think again and don’t overlook the importance of choosing high quality sunscreens, so to make sure that the problems you don’t have will not be caused by the wrong product.

Photo-degradation of sunscreens and skin damaging

soleWe have previously discussed the mechanism of action of sunscreens, underlining that chemical sunscreens absorb the energy of sunlight and subsequently re-emit it in the form of heat, possibly without any alteration in the structure of the sunscreen itself. Possibly… does it always go this way? Unfortunately it doesn’t. For this reason we wish to discuss here a bit more on the photostability of sunscreens. Although this aspect is often overlooked (guess why?), it has major consequences on our health.
After having absorbed sunlight energy, chemical sunscreens are in a higher quantum energy state, from which they can undergo one of three processes:

  1.    they can go back to the lower energy state by loosing energy in the form of heat (which is often not perceived by our senses), thereby making ready to start over again and absorb more solar energy;
  2.     they can release the excess energy by breaking their structure into fragments, i.e. they degrade and form free radicals or use the energy to react with other molecules (photochemical reactions);
  3.     they can transfer the excess energy to another molecule by “hitting it”, i.e. they behave as photo-sensitizers.

Ideally, sunscreens should use only the first route; however, not all the sunscreens are identical and some of them, which are less stable than others, after several absorption-emission cycles, may take the second route (we will discuss in a following post of those sunscreens that take the third route and act as photosensitizers).
If the sunscreen degrades, it most commonly produces free radicals and other dangerous species. If the sunscreen has been absorbed deeply into our skin, those free radicals can attack and damage proteins and DNA, accelerating the photo-aging processes of the skin. In high quality formulations such damages can be prevented by the abundant presence of antioxidants (e.g. vitamin E) in the formula, so to block free radicals before they can cause any damage. Therefore, it is very important to always choose high quality products after careful reading of their label.
There is, however, another point to take into account: as the sunscreen degrades the solar protection factor (SPF) of the product progressively decreases. And antioxidants cannot help in this reguard.

photo-degradation_EN

Variation of the UV-Vis absorption spectra of two examples of sunscreen formulation, after exposure of the formulation to the same “dose” of sunlight (UV irradiation). The upper graph refers to a formulation with NON photostable sunscreens, which evidently shows a reduction of the spectrum after UV exposure, meaning a marked decrease in the SPF. The lower graph, instead, shows the behavior of a (BeC) formulation with photostable sunscreens: only negligible variation of the spectrum is displayed after irradiation implying no loss of SPF and more durable performance.

The fact that a sunscreen formula looses its SPF on exposing to sunlight depends on the phostability of the sunscreens: with highly photostable sunscreens the phenomenon has negligible relevance; however, with little photostable sunscreen molecules, which are unfortunately the most common in commercial formulas, the phenomenon is very relevant, as illustrated in the graphs on the left, displaying the comparison between two real formulations: a famous commercial products (don’t ask which one) and BeC sunscreen SPF15 cream.
Many of us think that “waterproof” sunscreen formulas – which can resist for several minutes of swimming in seawater – would provide a safer protection for the entire day, since the product would not be washed away. A look at the graphs clearly tells that this is not the case: a waterproof sunscreen formula does not guarantee safer daylong protection. First of all, we should consider whether the sunscreen contained in the formula is photostable!!! Secondly, we should consider that, even if the sunscreen is photostable, during a typical day at the seaside, we dry ourselves with a towel; we roll up in the sand, which we clean up by rubbing or washing our skin; we sweat in the heat or during physical activity (e.g. beach sports). All such actions end up removing the sunscreen form our skin anyway. Therefore, a high quality sunscreen formula, based on photostable components, is the ideal choice for a safer protection, but we should not forget that it is wise to re-apply the product several times during the day, particularly in the case of children.