History and Medicinal Uses of Japanese Honeysuckle
Legend has it that planting a honeysuckle vine in your garden will protect your other plants from evil spirits (worth considering as the potential culprit behind your dying potted geranium). In Victorian gardens, Japanese honeysuckle signified happiness and devoted affection, and was said to promote a sweet life filled with romance. Greek mythology had an equally fairy-tale take on the plant – in one legend, lovers Daphnis and Chloe could only see each other when the honeysuckle bloomed, so the God of Love ensured that honeysuckle would bloom throughout the year. And in some cultures, it’s still believed that if honeysuckle is brought into the house, a wedding will soon take place. We’re totally starry eye!
The love legends and yummy fragrance were already enough to have us totally charmed with the Lonicera Japonica plant, but in fact, Japanese Honeysuckle is more than just a pretty face. It has an array of powerful benefits, both medicinal and cosmetic. In ancient China, honeysuckle was used as a remedy for snake bites, thanks to its natural antibiotic properties. In the middle ages, it was used as a topical healing ointment to treat rashes and sores. It has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory attributes, which work both internally, when ingested as a tonic, and externally, when applied directly to a skin trauma in the form of an essential oil or floral water. You’ve probably noticed that we incorporate it into our entire line of products- that’s to get a subtle hint of its naturally occurring fragrance, as well as to reap its detoxifying and soothing skin perks.
Using Japanese Honeysuckle as a Preservative
It also happens to have another super unique application, which we rely on when crafting our Puristry formulas: Japanese honeysuckle is an effective natural preservative. It’s become the go-to for many organic plant-based cosmetic lines, thanks to its natural derivation process and non-toxic chemical profile. Using either a steam distillation or alcohol extraction procedure, Japanese honeysuckle can be converted into phytochemicals with strong antimicrobial and antibacterial features. In other words, it’s converted into a naturally derived preservative that keeps serums and lotions from going south.
Preservatives are an integral ingredient to include in natural beauty products, especially in organic skin care. Preservatives are necessary to ensure that these plant-based formulations maintain their integrity and consistency over time, and to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi (we love anti-aging fungi like chaga and reishi, but we don’t love fungi growing in our anti-aging cream). For example, our Restorative Facial Oil is made up of multiple exotic, luxurious cold processed oils; because these oils are pure and delicate, they are more susceptible to mold and bacteria growth, especially if stored in an area that gets alot of heat or steam (think sitting on bathroom counter during your steaming hot, post-workout shower). When using plant-based, cold processed, organic skin care ingredients, it’s more important than ever to use a natural preservative to protect the formulation’s integrity and lifespan.
So What's the Controversy?
When talking about cosmetic preservatives in certified organic skin care, it’s necessary to confront the controversy with using Japanese honeysuckle in both conventional and naturally derived beauty formulas. The preservatives you’ll find in non-organic makeup are made up of chemical compounds called parabens, which have caused significant alarm in consumers and scientists alike. You may have already gotten wind of the conversation – studies in the early 2000s linked parabens to heightened estrogen activity in the body, which was said to increase an individual’s risk for breast cancer. A media frenzy ensued, and somewhere along the way, critics also began to target Japanese Honeysuckle derived preservatives, pointing out that it contains the phytochemical para hydroxybenzoic acid, which allegedly behaves similarly to synthetic parabens when it’s isolated. Heated conversations erupted around the entire issue: should you use conventional cosmetics? Were the organic alternatives any safer?
The conversation was laid to rest in the years following the study. The claim that parabens could cause breast cancer was soundly debunked, by both scientists and the FDA. Moreover, it’s been established that honeysuckle derived para hydroxybenzoic acid doesn’t have the same chemical structure as synthetic parabens, nor does it behave similarly when its working synergistically with other naturally occurring phytochemicals. Para hydroxybenzoic acid is found everywhere in nature, and is present in most plants, animals, and insects. In fact, nature herself uses it as a natural protectant and repellent against bacterial and microbial intrusion.
So what’s the takeaway? There’s still a consensus that synthetic parabens, while not directly linked to breast cancer, may potentially affect estrogen levels in the body. Moreover, the most commonly used synthetic parabens – methylparaben, propylparaben, butylparaben, and ethylparaben – are allergens for many people, causing skin irritation, stinging, and breakouts. Our advice? Stay away from synthetic parabens – while they may not be considered as dangerous as a few early studies claimed, it’s better to stick with natural preservative alternatives.
We’ve taken you from romance legends to health scandal all in one breath – there’s certainly never a dull moment around here! Keep up with us for more ingredient investigations and product spotlights. We’re committed to both finding and sharing safe and natural alternatives to conventionally used chemicals, because beauty is never worth a toxic body.