Maple trees are best known for their maple syrup and lovely fall foliage. But it turns out that the beauty of those leaves could be skin-deep—and that’s a good thing. In August 2018, scientists reported that an extract from the leaves may prevent wrinkles.
The researchers presented their results at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.
The scientists had previously studied the chemistry and health benefits of sap and syrup obtained from sugar maple and red maple trees. Historical records suggested that other parts of the trees could also be useful, according to Navindra P. Seeram, PhD, lead investigator. “Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine,” he said, “so why should we ignore the leaves?”
Skin elasticity is maintained by proteins such as elastin. Wrinkles form when the enzyme elastase breaks down elastin in the skin as part of the aging process. “We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase,” said Hang Ma, PhD, who is presenting the work at the meeting and is a research associate in Seeram’s lab.
The researchers, who are at the University of Rhode Island, zeroed in on phenolic compounds in the leaves known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) and examined each compound’s ability to inhibit elastase activity in a test tube. The scientists also conducted computational studies to examine how the GCGs interact with elastase to block its activity, and how the molecules’ structures affect that blocking ability. GCGs containing multiple galloyl groups (a type of phenolic group) were more effective than those with a single galloyl group. But these compounds can do more than interfere with elastase. In prior work, Seeram’s group showed that these same GCGs might be able to protect skin from inflammation and lighten dark spots, such as unwanted freckles or age spots.
Seeram and Ma plan to do further testing. “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,” Seeram said. And the fact that the extracts are derived from trees would be appreciated by consumers who are looking for natural, plant-based ingredients in their skincare products.
The researchers have taken steps to get the extracts into products, having developed a proprietary patent-pending formulation containing GCGs from summer and fall maple leaves and maple sap, which they named MaplifaT (pronounced “mape-LEAF-uh” to reflect its origin). They have licensed it to botanical extracts supplier Verdure Sciences based in Indiana and are hoping to eventually find a market for the formulation in the cosmetics sector or even in dietary supplements.
Since then, Maplifa is now available from Verdure Sciences (Noblesville, IN); it is a proprietary patent-pending red maple leaf extract standardized to polyphenols and glucitol-coare containing gallotannins (GCGs). GCGs have been reported to show inhibitory effects on the formation of advanced glycation endproducts (AGEs) which are key biomarkers known to contribute to aging-related skin conditions, such as sagging and wrinkles.
For more information, visit www.vs-corp.com/maplifa.