Researchers at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) are using phytosome nanotechnology – an emerging field – to improve the bioavailability of Rooibos extracts in dermal formulations.
Previous studies that highlighted the protective effect of Rooibos against inflammation of skin cells prompted Dr. Mariska Lilly, senior researcher in proteomics and molecular biology at the Applied Institute of Microbial and Health Biotechnology (AMHBI) of the CPUT to deepen its research.
“We knew that once the skin was exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, Rooibos extracts could eliminate pre-cancerous damaged cells and block the onset of inflammation. It does this by preventing the multiplication of inflamed cells and ridding the body of them.
“Our studies went further. Instead of just studying one biomarker, we looked at several and found the same to be true. Rooibos has a powerful anti-inflammatory effect, which protects the skin from sun damage, changing environmental conditions and pollution. However, the concentration of the Rooibos extract must be right.
She says it’s the combination of polyphenols (antioxidants) — natural compounds found in Rooibos — that give it its restorative ability.
“Because of their potential health benefits to humans, phytochemicals (bioactive polyphenol compounds) found in plants and herbs have been extensively studied in recent years. These compounds not only protect the plant throughout its life cycle, but are responsible for its color, aroma and flavor.
“Given their positive biological effect, higher safety margins and lower cost than synthetic agents, this has led to a significant increase in demand for herbal products worldwide.”
The powerful bioactivity of Rooibos against various diseases – by scavenging free radicals (harmful compounds or elements) in the body and its ability to be used in the production of cosmetics and food supplements – has attracted the attention of the scientific world and the big audience.
Researchers are studying its ability to heal wounds, relieve burns and other skin conditions.
Researchers are studying its ability to heal wounds, relieve burns and other skin conditions including eczema, acne, hives, pruritus, psoriasis and other bacterial and fungal skin diseases, among a host other ailments.
Lilly explains that so far the bioavailability (proportion of active ingredient that is taken up by cells and can have an effect when introduced into the body) of many plant extracts, including Rooibos, has been hampered by its high molecular weight.
“But, by loading the polyphenolic compounds of Rooibos (extracts) in a new nano-delivery system, it will facilitate their penetration through skin barriers, thereby improving their topical bioavailability.
“Nanocarriers will not only help protect the bioactive compounds in Rooibos from oxidation and degradation, but may also improve solubility, absorption, long-term benefits, as well as stability (shelf life).
“Phytosomes as lipid-based nanocarriers play a crucial role in improving the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of polyphenolic compounds in Rooibos and make nanotechnology a promising tool for the development of novel topical formulations that will take skin care rooibos skin to the next level,” she says. .
Before making the Rooibos Phytosome available on the market, further research will be conducted to determine the correct Rooibos concentration and bioavailability rate. This will then be followed by clinical trials in humans where prototype phytosomes will be tested in small skin biopsies.
Lilly says it could take another two to three years, but it’s a development that could revolutionize Rooibos skincare. This technology could also be used to make Rooibos more bioavailable in forms other than dermal formulations.