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Is the key to anti-aging in your backyard? The common weed shows promise in an early study

Is the key to anti-aging in your backyard? The common weed shows promise in an early study

A new study finds that an invasive weed popular in America’s backyards can help stave off visible signs of aging.

The thorny fruit of the cocklebur plant has been found to reduce damage caused by ultraviolet light and speed up wound healing in lab studies on human cells.

The fruit’s extracts also seem to boost collagen production, a common feature among many high-end skincare products that promise to maintain skin elasticity and prevent wrinkles.

Cocklebur, or Xanthium strumarium, is native to parts of Europe, Asia, and North America, and primarily inhabits open, often moist places such as riverbanks in farmland and other areas.

It is widely used in Chinese and Native American medicine to treat a wide range of ailments from stuffy nose and headaches to arthritis and tuberculosis.

Compounds in Cocklebur prickly pear reduce damage from exposure to ultraviolet light — rays that can cause sunburn and darken and thicken the outer layer of skin — and speed up wound healing in lab tests using cells and tissues

The seeds of the cocklebur fruit contain a chemical called carboxyatractyloside, which can poison and kill livestock when ingested.

In humans, ingesting the thistle plant can cause mild symptoms including an unpleasant taste and nausea or more severe symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting, low blood sugar, seizures, and severe liver injury.

Despite the risks that come with eating parts of the plant, its fruits and leaves have long been proven staples in traditional medicine.

Researchers at Myeongji University in South Korea said their findings suggest that fruit extracts could be an attractive ingredient for topical skin creams and other cosmetics.

“We found that Cocklebur fruit has the ability to protect the skin and help promote collagen production,” said Eunsu Song, a doctoral candidate at Myongji University who conducted the research.

It is likely to show a synergistic effect if mixed with other effective compounds, such as hyaluronic acid or retinoic acid, against aging.

Researchers studied the molecular properties of Cocklebur fruit extracts and isolated specific compounds that could provide some antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.

Then they conducted lab experiments in cells and on a 3D model of tissue with similar properties to human skin to study how these compounds affected collagen production, wound healing, and damage from UV rays — the kind that causes skin aging, sunburn, and skin cancer.

Their findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in Seattle.

Native Americans traditionally used Cocklebur leaves to brew as a tea to help treat a wide range of conditions, including kidney disease, arthritis, and tuberculosis.

The plant was also once used to treat malaria, rabies, and leprosy.

Researchers found that fruits grown in South Korea had slightly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and had greater wound-healing activity than those grown in China. And they reinforced the fact that the plant can be deadly to animals and cause some nausea and discomfort to humans.

‘The Cocklebur fruit in its bumps also contains a toxic ingredient, carboxyatractyloside, which can damage the liver,’ Ms. Song said.

Cocklebur has shown potential as a cosmetic agent by increasing collagen synthesis; However, it has shown negative results at higher concentrations.