Effective Formulation with Natural Preservatives

by Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., and Mark Sysler



In today’s image-conscious society, consumers are increasingly looking to maintain youth and vitality. The concept of free radical damage has highlighted the importance of antioxidants and nutritional supplementation in maintaining health; cosmetics and topical creams are a vital component of this movement.

Preservatives and antimicrobial agents are important to control and inhibit the growth of microorganisms in topical products. While most commonly-used preservatives and microbial agents are synthetic, consumers are increasingly interested in eliminating the use of synthetic compounds because of confirmed and perceived concerns such as carcinogenicity, teratogenicity, or liver, kidney, heart and neurological problems.

Therefore, manufacturers are striving to develop natural products containing all natural ingredients. Plant materials may prove a viable alternative to synthetic preservatives, as they are a significant source of active constituents with a high level of antimicrobial activity. Consumers consider these materials less toxic and more beneficial to the body than synthetics, and their use is consistent with the all-natural concept fueling the personal care and cosmeceutical industries.

Various herbal and plant compositions are already recognized for their antimicrobial benefits by institutions such as the Chemical Abstracts Service (CAS) and European Inventory of Existing Commercial/ Chemical Substances (EINECS) (see list below). Plant components have been used historically for their health benefits, which provides insight into possible design and sales concepts; plant components also have strong scientific validation supporting their active role as antimicrobials.

Powerful Options: Oregano, Olive

An ideal case study is oregano. The ancient Greek’s name for this plant, Oreganos, translates to “delight of the mountains.” Oregano is experiencing a renaissance in consumer popularity and recognition as a value-added component. There are, however, many plants throughout the world called “oregano,” including marjoram (Origanum majorana), Spanish oregano (Thymus nummulariu) and Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens). This can pose a challenge to formulators, as different species have different chemical constituents and different levels of those constituents.

True oregano, Origanum vulgare, contains more than 50 compounds that possess antimicrobial actions, including the highest levels of the active compounds carvacrol and thymol, compared to other species. Oregano oil has been used traditionally as an antifungal,1 antimicrobial,2,3,4 and even for gum care and canker sores.

Another effective traditional botanical is olive leaf (Oleuro europa). Olive leaf has traditionally been referenced as a mythological symbol, nutritional food and healing medicinal plant. The outstretched olive branch is a well-known sign of peace. In Genesis (8:11), Noah is told of the nearness of land when a dove flies over the ark with an olive leaf in her mouth. The Egyptians extolled the leaf as a symbol of cosmic power.

Increasingly, researchers recognize that in addition to the olive fruit and olive oil, the leaf of the olive tree also has health benefits.

Olive leaf contains several active constituents, including oleuropein, triterpenes, and flavonoids such as rutin, with antioxidant effects.5,6 Olive leaf extract has many applications for the cosmetic industry due to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial actions. Oleuropein, a bitter compound, affords the olive tree a marked resistance to insects, bacteria and other parasites. Its use for helping with human health issues can be found in past medical literature; The Pharmaceutical Journal published an antimalarial recipe in 1854 made from olive leaves and wine. One isolate of oleuropein, elenolic acid, has been shown in vitro to inhibit the growth of an incredible array of pathogens, including bacteria, yeasts and viruses, without toxicity.7,8

Making the Right Choice

Natural preservatives must possess high antimicrobial activity, have minimal toxicity, and not compromise the desirable physical characteristics of a topical or cosmetic product. Recognizing the market demand for efficacious natural preservatives, Bio-Botanica developed three all-natural preservatives utilizing a proprietary combination of certain botanical extracts, now covered by a U.S. patent (No. 7,214,392 B2; “Process and composition for inhibiting growth of microorganisms”).

These natural preservatives provide a balanced, synergistic combination of botanical fractions possessing potent antimicrobial activity against a broad spectrum of organisms, including possible pathogenic organisms (i.e., Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, Salmonella typhimurim, Candida albicans, etc.).

Investigations into natural preservatives have the potential to develop a new generation of highly efficacious ingredients. Tapping into the array of botanical powerhouses developed by Mother Nature will allow companies to meet rising consumer demand.

Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., RN, The Natural Nurse® is the author of The Natural Medicine Chest and a professional herbalist and nutritionist. Mark Sysler is the vice president of sales for Bio-Botanica® (Bio-Botanica.com), an ingredient supplier based in Hauppauge, N.Y.

CAS/EINECS Registered Botanicals

CINNAMON (Cinnamomum zeylancium bark extract): CAS # 84649-98-9; EINECS # 283-479-0

GOLDENSEAL (Hydrastis canadensis root extract): CAS # 84603-60-1; EINECS # 283-261-5

LAVENDER (Lavandula angustifolia flower extract): CAS # 90063-37-9; EINECS # 289-995-2

LEMON (Citrus medica limonum peel extract): CAS # 8008-56-8; EINECS # 284-515-8

OLIVE (Oleuro europa leaf extract): CAS # 8060-295-5; EINECS # 232-277-0

OREGANO (Origanum vulgare leaf extract): CAS # 84012-24-8; EINECS # 281-670-3

PEPPERMINT (Mentha piperta leaf extract): CAS # 84082-70-2; EINECS # 282-015-4

ROSEMARY (Rosmarinus officinalis leaf extract): CAS # 84604-14-8; EINECS # 283-291-9

THYME (Thymus vulgaris extract): CAS # 84929-51-1; EINECS # 284-535-7

“Effective Formulation with Natural Preservatives” References

1. Talpur N et al. “Medicinal herbal oils: Antifungal effects of the edible oil of Oregano.” J Am Coll Nutr. October 2000; 19:5.

2. You YS, Park KM, Kim YB. “Antimicrobial activity of some medical herbs and spices against Streptococcus mutans.” Kor J Appl Microbiol Bioengineer. 1993; 21(2):187-191.

3. Stiles JC, Sparks W, Ronzio RA. “The inhibition of Candida albicans by oregano.” J Appl Nutr. 1995; 47(4):96-102.

4. Karioti A et al. “Analysis of the essential oil of Origanum dubium growing wild in Cyprus. Investigation of its antioxidant capacity and antimicrobial activity.” Planta Med. 2006 Nov; 72(14):1330-4.

5. Benavente-Garcia O et al. “Antioxidant activity of phenolics extracted from Olea europae L. leaves.” Food Chem. 2000; 68(4):457-62.

6. Pinelli et al. “Quali-quantitative analysis and antioxidant activity of different polyphenolic extracts from Olea europaea L. leaves.” J Commod Sci. 2000; 39(2):71-83.

7. Amari S, Maramaldi G. “Olive leaves . Their extract performs effective antiradicalic action.” SOFW J. 1999; 125(8):30-32.

8. Baycin D. “Adsorption of Olive Leaf (Olea europaea L.) Antioxidants on Silk Fibroin.” J Agric Food Chem. 2007 Jan 30.


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