Archive for calendula

Why Your Skin Needs Carotenoids

Carotenoids are good antioxidants for the skin and are found in a number of plants. They are  yellow, orange, or red colored, fat-soluble pigments that give color to plants including autumn leaves. There are over 700 different carotenoids identified by chemists. Plants use these molecules to help absorb light that is then used for photosynthesis as well as for antioxidants.

You may have been hearing since you were a child to eat your carrots so you can see better.  Lutein and the two zeaxanthin isomers are actually part of the retina of the eye where they protect the retina,  help prevent macular degeneration, and enhance vision.

Vitamin A is important for skin as it assists in the regeneration of tissue, preventing the degeneration of the epidermis. Sunlight causes damage to the skin and carotenes can help protect the skin against this damage. Carotenoids can stimulate collagen and elastin in the skin to increase its density, elasticity and firmness. In addition carotenoids can repair and regenerate these protein fibers after damage by UV light. Carotenoids help stimulate epidermal regeneration helping to soften and smooth skin. They also reduce water loss so help hydrate. Carotenoids can help reduce skin pigmentation by decreasing the size of melanocytes and melanin levels.  Thus addressing hyperpigmentation caused by UV radiation, hormones or even acne.

Overall, carotenoids can help protect skin against premature aging caused by UV exposure.  Some types of carotenoids can actually absorb UV light thus protecting skin against burning. All this makes carotenoids a powerful anti-aging and skin repair ingredient in cosmetics.

Two broad classifications of carotenoids are carotenes (orange)  and xanthophylls (yellow). But they can also be classified as compounds that can be transformed by the body to create vitamin A (retinol) or those that do not. Provitamin A carotenoids include alpha-carotene, beta carotene and beta-cryptoxanthin.  Other carotenoids such as lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene are not transformed into vitamin A but have other important roles.

We use herbs that are rich in carotenoids in our products including calendula. Over 19 different carotenoids have been identified in calendula including lycopene, gamma carotene, flavoxanthin, lutein, and beta carotene. This may explain why calendula has such a history of use in skin care. You’ll find calendula extract in our Springtide Face Creams, Mountain Mist Hand and Body Lotion, Sole Pleasure Foot Butter and Knuckle Balm. Another herb rich in carotenoids is parsley. You’ll find this in our Parsley Eye Serum.

Calendula Basket

Smoking, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, illness, UV light and infrared radiation (heat) all decrease the levels of carotenoids in the skin.  Studies have shown that skin that is high in carotenoids looks considerable younger than skin depleted in carotenoids.  Skin benefits from both topical and oral carotenoids.

Saving the Harvest

Many of us are at that desperate time of year when we are trying to harvest as many herbs as possible before Jack Frost takes them. I cut some mint today because I remember how nice a hot cup of mint tea tastes in the winter. Here are a few tips for drying your herbs.

Cut a bunch of stems about the diameter of your thumb.

Wrap a rubber band around them to secure the ends of the stem.

Hang upside down somewhere warm and dry. I have an ‘herb hut’ outside where I do this, but you could find a place in your kitchen or living space too. Hanging herbs can be very attractive.

Let the bunch hang like this for a few weeks until brittle to the touch. Take the herbs down and using clean fingers strip the dry leaves from the stem and store in a glass jar – labeled of course with the name of the herb and the date.

Remember over the winter that you have these and put some in teas as well as cooking.

For larger amounts of herbs we dry them on shelves on a bakers rack or for flowers we typically dry them in baskets as below.

However you plan to do it, get out now to cut your herbs before its too late.