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Nanotechnology used to enhance the effect of Rooibos in skincare products

By using phytosome nanotechnology, researchers at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) are enhancing the bioavailability of Rooibos extract, improving its anti-inflammatory effect when used in skincare products.

Rooibos has the potential to fight diseases, but until now, the high molecular weight of Rooibos extract has hindered its bioavailability, meaning a smaller amount of the active ingredients could be absorbed by cells.

Previous studies of Rooibos have revealed its protective effect against inflammation in skin cells. It has even been shown to remove precancerous damaged skin cells and to block the onset of inflammation in the skin after exposure to the sun.

There are also studies underway to explore the ability of Rooibos to heal wounds and relieve burns and other skin conditions, including eczema, acne, urticaria, pruritus, psoriasis and other bacterial and fungal skin diseases.

But according to Senior Researcher at CPUT Dr Mariska Lilly, for Rooibos to reach its full potential in protecting the skin from the sun damage, changing environmental conditions, and pollution, "the concentration of the Rooibos extract must be just right".

This is where nanotechnology comes in.

"By loading Rooibos' polyphenolic compounds (extracts) in a novel nano-delivery system will facilitate their penetration across skin barriers, thereby enhancing their topical bioavailability," Lilly says.

This process has great implications for the future of Rooibos skincare products. Not only does it enhance the efficacy of the product, but also improves solubility, absorption, long-term benefits, and shelf-life.

“Phytosomes as lipid-based nanocarriers play a crucial function in the enhancement of pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of Rooibos’ polyphenolic compounds and make nanotechnology a promising tool for developing new topical formulations that will take Rooibos skincare to the next level,” Lilly says.

More research is necessary before Rooibos phytosomes can be taken to market. The right concentration of Rooibos and rate of bioavailability are yet to be determined, and human clinical trials need to be conducted. This can take another two to three years.

Rooibos extracts are already widely used in skincare products and dietary supplements.

Rooibos’ potent bioactivity against various diseases – by scavenging free radicals (harmful compounds or elements) in the body and its ability to be utilised in the production of cosmetics and dietary supplements – has caught the attention of the scientific world and the public at large.

Lilly says that the combination of polyphenols (antioxidants) – natural compounds found in Rooibos – gives it a restorative ability.

“Because of their potential health benefits to humans, phytochemicals (bioactive polyphenolic compounds) in plants and herbs have been studied extensively in recent years. These compounds not only protect the plant throughout its lifecycle but are responsible for its colour, aroma and flavour. Given their positive biological effect, higher safety margins and lower cost than synthetic agents, it has led to a significant increase in the demand for herbal products globally."

Cape Natural Tea Products is a founding member of the SA Rooibos Council.



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