Natural Protection From UV Radiation
From NaturalNews (4/15) Natural Licorice Compound Helps The Body Protect Skin From Sun Damage by David Gutierrez
A chemical extracted from licorice root may help protect the skin from the
damage caused by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation - without blocking that
radiation and interfering with vitamin D synthesis - according to a study
conducted by researchers from Beiersdorf AG in Germany and published in the
journal Experimental Dermatology in January. "We found out that the antioxidant
active Licochalcone A, which is the main component of the root extract of the
plant Glycyrrhiza inflata (Chinese Licorice), is able to protect the skin from
subsequent UV irradiation damage from within by strengthening the skin's own
defense systems," said researcher Gitta Neufang. "Thus plant extracts with the
described profile are able to provide a protective shield from sun exposure
supporting and going beyond the action of sunscreens regarding sun protection."
Licorice root is a common treatment in traditional Chinese medicine,
particularly for respiratory or digestive problems. Recent research has found
that components of licorice root are also antimicrobial. A 2012 study in the
Journal of Natural Products found that Licochalcone A and another licorice
compound, licoricidin, effectively killed bacteria responsible for tooth decay
and gum disease. Activates body's own protective mechanisms Because the skin is
constantly being damaged by a variety of environmental stressors, including
chemicals and UV radiation, skin cells have several built-in mechanisms for
protecting against and repairing that damage.
One of the main ways that chemicals and radiation damage skin is by producing
free radicals, which then damage skin cells and DNA unless they are first
neutralized by antioxidants. In the new study, researchers exposed human skin
cells in the laboratory to radiation simulating that from sunlight. They found
that when cells were pretreated with the chemical Licochalcone A, extracted
from licorice root, they produced more antioxidants upon exposure to radiation
than when they had not been pre-treated. In addition, the natural licorice
compound helps the body protect skin from sun damage. Pre-treated skin cells had lower levels of free radicals following UV radiation
exposure than the control cells.
The researchers then conducted a followup study, in which human volunteers
applied a lotion containing licorice root extract high in Licochalcone A to
their inner forearms for two weeks. They found that the skin of these
participants then suffered less damage from UV radiation.
The findings are notable in that the licorice extract appears to activate the
body's own natural defense systems, something that neither sunscreen nor
protective clothing is able to do. "Even with the best sun-protecting filter
system (SPF50+) 2 percent of UV-rays still reach the skin and cause damage,"
Neufang said. "We hope that our study helps to improve the effectiveness of
sunscreens to protect from the harmful aspects of sun exposure." If licorice
root is turned into a sun-protecting lotion, it might have another important
implication that the researchers do not discuss: It might enable people
concerned about skin damage to increase their sun exposure, thereby increasing
their body's levels of vitamin D and improving their health.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient produced by the skin upon exposure to UV
rays. Once thought to play a role only in bone health, vitamin D is now known
to play a critical part in maintaining a healthy immune system and protecting
against cancer, autoimmune disorders and perhaps other chronic diseases. Yet
due in part to inadequate sun exposure caused by sedentary lifestyles, vitamin
D deficiency is widespread. An October 2014 study in the journal Diabetes
revealed another health benefit to spending more time in the sun, without
sunscreen: UV radiation also causes the skin to generate nitric oxide, which
helps to regulate metabolism and slow weight gain, and may reduce the risk of
obesity and related disorders (including cancer).