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Nerium oleander- Nerium AD’s toxic active
Several of you have written in to ask if we know about and have a view on a newish serum called Nerium AD. I have been given a sample of the Night Cream ($110), but before giving it a try felt that I should do some research into its unusual and very controversial active ingredient and the company behind it.
Nerium AD’s key ingredient is a beautiful, but also deadly plant, the Nerium Oleader. This flowering shrub, evocative of New Orleans and Billy Holiday, is commonly used for roadside landscaping due to its forgiving nature towards poor soil. It is also extremely toxic and one leaf can kill a child (source).
The American Cancer Society unequivocally describes the oleander plant as “poisonous,” and adds “many people have died of heart failure or respiratory paralysis after eating parts of the plant or drinking tea made from it.” Although I found one published report of a death as a result of oral oleander extract, very few toxic events in humans have been reported. According to the Toxic Exposure Surveillance System (TESS) in 2002, there were 847 human exposures to oleander reported to poison centers in the United States. Despite this exposure level, from 1985 through 2005, only three deaths were reported, according to Wikipedia.
Still, toxic it is. So what’s it doing in my face cream? Well, it has been used in folk medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. Researchers have established that the key components are cardiac glycosides, one of which is called oleandrin. And then Anvirzel burst on the scene, claiming to be a breakthrough cancer-curing drug based on nerium oleander extract. The company behind Anvirzel is Nerium Biotechnology – the same company that makes Nerium AD.
In test tube studies, Anvirzel appeared to slow the growth of human bladder cancer cells. But “carefully dosed” people with cancer did not demonstrate that Anvirzel helped them. In the end, it was not approved by the FDA. Oleander leaf is on Germany’s regulatory agency list of unapproved herbs as it has not been proven to be safe or effective. However, all hope for oleander’s curative powers are not lost as the National Cancer Institute instigated a new trial of Anvirzel earlier this year.
Since, so far, Nerium Biotechnology hasn’t made it big on the anti-cancer front, it seems to be trying its hand at anti-aging cosmetics. Fair enough, but I wasn’t able to find any evidence that nerium oleander extract works as a wrinkle-repair ingredient or any other form of anti-aging for the skin.
Furthermore, Wikipedia cites studies in which “a nerium oleander extract was applied to the skin of people with different dermal conditions, sensitive mass spectrometry based blood analyses were not able to detect the presence of cardiac glycosides such as oleandrin, indicating that these compounds are not readily absorbed through the skin.”
So, I am facing a poisonous, failed (so far) cancer drug that doesn’t penetrate the skin and is a potential irritant – apparently skin irritation from contact with oleander has occurred and allergies are possible (source). As well as being unproven as an anti-ager (I haven’t even found a single other instance of nerium oleander being used in a cosmetic product), this doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence.
To read my review of Nerium AD after testing it, click here