Maple leaves may hold the key to anti-aging skincare products.
New research that was presented at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society suggested that maple leaf extract could be used to prevent wrinkles.
Prof. Navindra P. Seeram, of the Department of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences at the University of Rhode Island in Kingston, is the senior investigator of the study.
Prof. Seeram and colleagues decided to study the therapeutic properties of maple leaves. "Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine," he explains, "so why should we ignore the leaves?"
Rigorous scientific studies have backed the health benefits of products derived from maple trees. Three years ago at the 253rd annual meeting of the American Chemical Society, one symposium called "Chemistry and Biological Effects of Maple Food Products" rounded up the latest research on maple's effect on chronic inflammation.
Maple food products, researchers suggested, could relieve conditions such as metabolic syndrome and liver disease, as well as benefit brain health and help maintain a healthy gut. Also, maple tree products were found to contain as many as 65 beneficial antioxidants.
Now, the research carried out by Prof. Seeram and colleagues — presented this year by Hang Ma, a research associate in Prof. Seeram's laboratory — delves into the dermatological benefits of maple leaf extract.
Maple leaf compounds, elastin, and elastase
As the researchers explain, the elasticity of the skin is partly due to a protein called elastin. During the aging process, an enzyme called elastase degrades elastin, leading to wrinkles.
"We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase," explains Ma.
Prof. Seeram and colleagues focused on compounds in the leaves called glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs). Previous studies by the same research group found that GCGs can prevent skin inflammation and protect against dark age spots.
In this study, they explored the ability of GCGs to stop the activity of elastase in the laboratory. Also, the researchers carried out a computational analysis to determine which GCGs are more effective in blocking elastase.
The analysis found that GCGs that comprise several galloyl groups blocked elastase more effectively.
'A plant-based Botox,' without injections
The researchers are keen to transform the botanical extracts into marketable skincare products. They have already developed a formula that contains GCGs, which they called "Maplifa."
They are confident that their products will appeal to customers who want to use natural, plant-based skincare products.
"You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox, though they would be a topical application, not an injected toxin."
Prof. Navindra P. Seeram
"Many botanical ingredients traditionally come from China, India, and the Mediterranean," adds Prof. Seeram, "but the sugar maple and the red maple only grow in eastern North America."
He suggests that maple-based skincare products could boost the local economy.