Edelweiss in Cosmetics
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Sherry A Barker
Posted on: February 20, 2001

I am planning on trying edelweiss this year in my all natural skin care line. How best to use this herb? Parts to use? Can it be infused in oils and waters?

According Charles Rey of the Forschungsanstalt fuer Pflanzenbau in Switzerland, the medicinal constituents of edelweiss are tannins, flavanoids and phenylpropane derivatives. They are found in the flowers.

The tannins are water-soluble phenolic compounds of molecular weights between 500 and 3000. These are thought to be involved in the effect of neutralizing free radicals and preventing the formation of superoxides, both of which are often associated with degeneration of cells and tissues. According to Rey, the European cosmetic industry is now looking at edelweiss as a potential ingredient in cosmetics.

It appears that the important compounds are hydrophilic in nature which means that they can be extracted with water or alcohol. In Rey’s research, methanol was used as the solvent for the hydrophilic fraction. In folkloric medicine, an astringent tea used to treat diarrhea and dysentery is made with the flowers and it very likely contains a similar concentration of astringent phenolic compounds.

So it appears that a simple water or ethanol extract could be used for the manufacture of cosmetics. But at this stage, there is no published information on what extraction procedure the cosmetic industry is using, so you are on your own at this stage in developing your own procedures.

It is worth noting that another traditional folkloric remedy is made by cooking flowers in milk and mixed with butter and honey for the treatment of respiratory problems including tuberculosis. It is possible that extraction with milk and the inclusion of butter helps to extract flavanoids that are fat soluble. But one can only speculate what the roles of the milk and butter are; their significance may be more related to the delivery of medicinal constituents to the respiratory system than to any extraction of fat soluble constituents.

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