From lovely fall foliage to delicious syrup, the mighty maple tree has much to offer, and now scientists have discovered it may also help keep skin youthful.
University of Rhode Island researchers presented their interesting new findings at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) in August 2018.
According to Navindra P. Seeram, Ph.D., the project’s principal investigator, the scientists had previously studied the chemistry and health benefits of sap and syrup obtained from the sugar maple and red maple trees.
But the part of the tree with the most promising youth secret is not something you’d normally eat. . .
For youthful skin, the Rhode Island group is pointing toward the leaves of the maple.
“Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine, so why should we ignore the leaves?” Seeram noted in an ACS press release.1
The maple tree was important to the Algonquian tribes of the northwestern United States and western Canada. These Native Americans enjoyed the maple sugar and syrup, but also utilized leaves and bark in their traditional medicine.
Natural Compound Blocks Breakdown of the Skin
To understand how it works, you need to know that wrinkles form when the enzyme elastase breaks down a substance in the skin called elastin. Researchers found that red maple extract serves to guard your skin’s youthful elastin as you age.
“We found that maple leaf extract could inhibit the activity of elastase, which is the enzyme responsible for breaking down elastin,”2 says Hang Ma, Ph.D., one of the researchers behind the study.
If proven effective on humans, this natural extract could actually slow the formation of crow’s feet and worry lines.
Researchers discovered that maple leaves contain a phenolic compound known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs), which inhibit elastase activity in a test tube. Computational studies also examined how their structures interact with elastase to block its activity.
And according to the ASC press release, the University of Rhode Island group also proved that GCGs might be able to protect skin from inflammation and lighten dark spots, such as unwanted freckles or age spots.
In other words, this newly discovered compound may just be your aging skin’s new best friend!
“You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox,” says Dr. Seeram. He adds that it would be a topical application, not an injected toxin.1
I think this is exciting news in a world where savvy consumers prefer natural, plant-based products.
New Hope For Your Hands, Too
I’m not surprised that these researchers are keen to get these extracts into consumer products. They’ve developed a proprietary patent-pending formulation – dubbed Maplifa — containing GCGs from summer and fall maple leaves and maple sap. They have licensed Maplifa to a botanical extracts supplier and are looking forward to finding a market for the formulation in the cosmetics or dietary sector.
Still, it’s a long way from the test tube to your skin. The research is promising, but Dr. Seeram cautioned in a Newsweek interview that “there is no human clinical data yet to support what we saw.”3
Dr. Seeram says clinical trials in humans could begin in a year, adding that it’s too early to estimate when this maple miracle may get into consumers’ hands.
Now most botanical ingredients traditionally come from China, India and the Mediterranean, but the sugar maple and red maple are only grown in eastern North America.
There’s hope that this discovery will help the economy of maple tree farmers in our own country. Besides harvesting maple syrup, they could collect leaves during normal pruning or when they fall from trees in the autumn.