Is the key to anti-aging in YOUR backyard? Common weeds show promise in early study
An invasive weed common in American backyards may help prevent signs of visible aging, a new study suggests.
The spiky fruit of the cockle plant has been shown to reduce damage caused by UV rays and speed up wound healing in lab studies on human cells.
Extracts from the fruit also seemed to boost collagen production, a property common to many high-end skincare products that promise to help maintain skin elasticity and prevent wrinkles.
Cocklebur, or Xanthium strumarium, is native to parts of Europe, Asia and North America and lives mainly in open, often moist places such as riverbanks in farmland and other areas.
It is widely used in traditional Chinese and Native American medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments, from nasal congestion and headaches to arthritis and tuberculosis.
Compounds in cocklebur’s prickly fruits reduced damage from exposure to UVB — rays that can cause sunburn, darkening and thickening of the skin’s outer layer — and accelerated wound healing in lab tests involving cells and tissues
The seeds of cockle fruit contain a chemical called carboxyatractyloside, which can poison and kill livestock when eaten.
In humans, eating the prickly plant can cause mild symptoms, including an unpleasant taste and nausea, or more severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, low blood sugar, seizures, and severe liver damage.
Despite the risks associated with ingesting parts of the plant, the fruits and leaves have long been fixtures in traditional medicine.
The researchers from Myongji University in South Korea said their findings suggest that extracts from the fruit could be an attractive ingredient for topical skin creams and other cosmetics.
Eunsu Song, a PhD student at Myongji University who conducted the research, said: ‘We found that cockle fruit has the potential to protect the skin and help improve collagen production.
“It is likely to show a synergistic effect when mixed with other effective compounds, such as hyaluronic acid or retinoic acid, for anti-aging.”
The researchers studied the molecular properties of cockle fruit extracts and isolated certain compounds that might have some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
They then conducted lab experiments in cells and on a 3D tissue model with properties similar to human skin to study how these compounds affect collagen production, wound healing and damage from UVB radiation – the type that causes skin aging, sunburn and skin cancer.
Their findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society For Biochemistry And Molecular Biology in Seattle.
Native Americans have traditionally used clam leaves to brew as a tea to treat a wide variety of ailments, including kidney disease, arthritis and tuberculosis.
The plant was also once used to treat malaria, rabies and leprosy.
The researchers found that fruits grown in South Korea had slightly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and greater wound-healing activity than those grown in China. And they reinforced the fact that the plant can be deadly to animals and cause nausea and discomfort in humans.
Ms. Song said, “In its blackberries, cockle fruit also has a toxic component, carboxyatractyloside, which can damage the liver.
Cocklebur showed potential as a cosmetic by increasing collagen synthesis; however, it showed negative results at higher concentrations.’