Au Natural Factual: Honeysuckle Flower Extract

Excuse my delay in posting, I have been feeling under the weather. There’s definitely something going around with all this change in temperature…

When I first started my green beauty journey, I stopped using products containing parabens when I learned how bad they were for my health as well as the culprit for most of my skin irritation. Parabens are a class of chemicals that serve as preservatives allowing for products to have a longer shelf-life and protect against bacteria and contamination. However, parabens can be dangerous in regards to possible toxic reactions with other ingredients and the side effects that are threatening to your health.

While there is still more research to be done regarding the long-term effects of parabens, using products with a limited amount of parabens may still have purpose in regards to anti-bacterial and anti-viral products. I suggest you read more about parabens and make your own decisions on the ingredients in the products you use. I suggest reading more on parabens from books like, No More Dirty Looks  and research around the web.

With our modern lifestyles and growing awareness of bacterial contamination and diseases, preserving the shelf-life and cleanliness of products is important. So how does this work for organic and natural products?

Honeysuckle Flower Extract is an ingredient added to many of these products as an antibacterial and antiviral natural preservative. It is extracted from the flowers of the honeysuckle plant (Lonicera Caprifolium) which are known to be very fragrant and tubular. The fragrant yellow flowers of the honeysuckle plant have been used all over the world for medicinal purposes in teas and in herbal formulas to combat fevers, headaches and sore throat. Honeysuckle flower extract provides many anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits due to its rich quantity of flavonoids and saponins.

Honeysuckle flower extract naturally contains para-hydroxybenzoic acid (also, hydroxybenzoic acid, 4-hydroxybenzoic acid), the substance from which the creation of synthetic parabens were based on. Present in most organisms (plants, animals, insects), in nature, para-hydroxybenzoic acid allows organisms to protect themselves against bacterial and microbial intrusion. This function is perhaps the main reason scientists decided to model the molecular structure and function of synthetic preservatives after that of para-hydroxybenzoic acid. Honeysuckle flower extract must be paired with a co-preservative in order to stably carry out its function.

There is a bit of controversy regarding the use of honeysuckle flower extract with some opponents arguing the main purpose is for companies that are “greenwashing” or masking their use of preservatives in natural products. However, if viewed by the extract’s pure function in natural products, honeysuckle flower extract does not seem to produce many health risks compared to synthetic preservatives. One should carefully research the origins of ingredients and understand the functions within products.

The EWG’s Skin Deep database rates the ingredient, Lonicera Caprifolium (Honeysuckle) Flower Extract with a score of 0 for no known health concerns.

What are your thoughts on the use of Honey Flower Extract as a natural preservative?

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Images from Picture World, AyhhedEtsy.  Sources: Environmental Working Group, Garden of Beauty, Ingredient of the Week, Natural Plant ExtractPaula’s ChoiceRoyal Horticultural Society

Au Natural Factual: Glycolic Acid

Glycolic Acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), a group of chemicals that are also known as fruit acids and are most commonly used in the form of chemical peels and anti-aging skin products. Industrial uses for glycolic acid are for removing rust and degreasing and therefore require high concentrations over 70% or more. These concentrations are considered to be very dangerous to exposed skin. Glycolic acid is also used as a tanning and dyeing agent in the textile industry and sometimes as a flavoring agent in food processing.

Since glycolic acid is derived from sugar cane, it is considered a natural chemical and as a milder acid, is generally safe for personal use. There are other fruits from which glycolic acid can be extracted such as pineapples, unripe grapes, cantaloupe and sugar beets. Because glycolic acid so easily penetrates and reacts with the epidermis, it functions as an exfoliant or a pH adjuster (a buffer) in many skin care products.

Glycolic acid is a natural exfoliant in its removal of dead skin cells, is a natural skin brightener and has many anti-aging benefits including removal of skin discoloration. When applied to the skin, glycolic acid reacts with the upper layer of the epidermis by weakening the binding properties of the lipids holding the dead skin cells together. This reaction “dissolves” the outer layer of the skin and reveals the underlaying skin which has a smoother, unblemished, youthful appearance. Due to its powerful reaction to skin, the concentration levels of glycolic acid in skin products are generally restricted to low levels. If skin peels and exfoliants are used too often, they can have corrosive effects to the skin and is why it’s recommended for use only once or twice a week.

The EWG’s Skin Deep database lists glycolic acid with a score of 4 based on overall hazard and use restrictions.

Image source: PreMark Health Science. Sources: Environmental Working Group, Patient’s Guide, PreMark Health Science, WiseGeek.

Au Natural Factual: Willow Bark


Willow bark is widely known as a natural pain reliever and has been historically used by herbalists to make medicine. Dating back to 400BC, Hippocrates left behind historical records documenting that patients suffering from pain and fever were advised to chew on willow bark or drink willow bark tea. Though still used today, willow bark was used for pain treatment throughout history by the Egyptians and by ancient Asian and European civilizations.

The herb is commonly used to cure pain (including back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, inflammatory conditions and also acne treatment. It can be found in supplement form, as an extract or as a tea. Willow bark is categorized as the bark from different tree and shrub species within the willow family. Native to Europe, Asia and some parts of North America. Commonly known species include white willow or European willow (Salix alba), black willow or pussy willow (Salix nigra), weeping willow (Salix babylonica), purple willow (Salix purpurea) and crack willow (Salix fragile).


Willow bark contains salicin, a chemical compound similar to aspirin and which when metabolized in the liver, becomes salicylic acid. Combined with the herb’s powerful anti-inflammatory plant compounds, flavonoids, willow bark’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects is thought to be attributed to salicin.

Salicylic acid is also why willow bark’s antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a natural acne treatment. Tannins, catechins, and flavonoids in willow bark provide antioxidant, fever reducing, antiseptic and astringent properties. The FDA has approved willow bark as a topical acne treatment.

In the 1800s, acetylsalicylic acid or, aspirin was developed combining salicylic acid with other chemicals after researching the effects of salicin in willow bark. According to studies, willow bark appears to bring pain relief more slowly than aspirin yet its observed effects may last longer. Historians believe that willow bark contributed to Ludwig von Beethoven’s death. His autopsy report recorded Beethoven had ingested large amounts of salicin before his death and  that he had a specific type of kidney damage that can be caused by salicin.

Taking willow bark as a pain reliever may increase the risk of bleeding yet less than when taking aspirin. There is little or no toxicity information on the use of willow bark, the EWG’s Skin Deep database rates the herb with low scores ranging from 0 to 2. It is advised that patients should monitor for blood in stool, nausea or vomiting and stomach or kidney irritation if using willow bark for pain relief.

Natural/Organic Products Containing Willow Bark:

White Willow Bark 100 capsules from Nature’s Herbs

Willow Bark Pure Pore Serum, 1.1 oz, Andalou Naturals

Tata Harper Hydrating Floral Essence

Facial Care Peach Willowbark Deep Pore Scrub 4 oz, Burt’s Bees

Sources (click for link): WebMD, University of Maryland Medical Center, Healthline,, Willow Bark and Acne, Aspirin History. Images: Wilderness Family NaturalsWikimedia Commons, Empower Network.

Au Natural Factual: Witch Hazel

Don’t expect any ominous spells or tricks from this witch…
Witch hazel (hamamelias virginiana), also commonly known as winter bloom, is a low-growing shrub found in many areas of North America and Canada. Witch hazel extract is used in many healthcare products today but use of the plant has been traced back to medicinal practices of the Native Americans. The shrub’s name is said to have come from using the twigs in dowsing, a mystical practice involved in finding water sources.
Traditionally, Native Americans boiled the leaf, bark and twigs of witch hazel to produce an extract used to treat swelling, inflammation and tumors. Today, this practice is still commonly used through distilled witch hazel extract which is included in many products functioning as an astringent. Astringents are substances or chemical compounds which shrink and constrict skin tissue. Witch hazel is also topically used to relieve many skin irritations like itching, pain, bruises, hemorrhoids and bug bites.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent due to the high concentration of tannins in the plant. Witch hazel can be used topically to tighten pores and remove excess oil which makes for a great natural toner and also for reducing acne. Specific tannins in witch hazel; procyanadins, resin, and flavonoids, all add to the plant’s soothing, anti-inflammatory properties.
While it is less common, witch hazel can also be ingested as a remedy for many ailments. Drinking witch hazel tea can relieve sore throats, diarrhea, colds and respiratory illnesses.
However, do NOT try to ingest common drugstore witch hazel products, which are usually distilled with isopropyl alcohol or similar chemicals.
The Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database (EWG) ranks witch hazel with a score of zero citing its low health concerns here.
Organic and Natural Witch Hazel Products:

Herb Pharm, Witch Hazel Extract Liquid, 1 oz

Thayers Witch Hazel Toner Alcohol-Free Lavender with Aloe Vera 12 oz

Burt’s Bees Aloe Vera and Witch Hazel Hand Sanitizer

Logona Day Cream, Organic Witch Hazel

Sources/Read more here: WebMD , Discovery Fit and Health , Wise BreadWikipedia