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Lutein and the petal power of marigold

March 27, 2009 Reviewed by Marta 1 Comment

Reading somewhere that fluorescent lighting is going to make me old and blind, I went off on a bit of a wild goose chase that encompassed blue light and eventually led to marigolds. The work of a wrinkle warrior can be mysterious indeed.

Unlike UV light, blue light is visible to us. Blue light waves are what makes the sky, or any object, appear blue. Blue light waves are also very short and scatter easily, so a great deal of the glare we experience from sunlight also comes from blue light. Indoor fluorescent light has a fair amount of blue. I'll spare you a lot of the blue light stuff, since it is so contradictory. On the one hand, it is believed to induce oxidative stress and possible free-radical damage to the eyes and skin. On the other hand, it is a miracle cure for cancer and acne.

If you subscribe to the theory that blue light is bad, then you'll want to make friends with lutein, since this  filters the high-energy, blue wavelengths of light from the visible-light spectrum by as much as 90%. In our own bodies, lutein is concentrated in the macula, the area of the retina responsible for central vision, and a deficiency of lutein can affect our eyesight. In the plant world, it is abundant in spinach and eggs.

Lutein is a carotenoid - my grandfather's adage that eating carrots would help me see in the dark is begining to make sense. According to Wikipedia, the luteins business is one of the fastest growing carotenoids industry, feeding a voracious cosmetics industry that is hungry for new antioxidants. The lutein source of choice for potion makers is marigold petals.

Lutein may prove to be an indispensible source of skin protection. According to a Harvard research team, it may have the potential to act as a preventative agent against UVB-induced skin cancer and skin damage. Reseacrh on lutein has also been undertaken by the University of Naples in Italy. The study involved female Italians aged 25 to 50 who were given a topical formulation and an oral supplement of lutein each day over a 12-week period. Apparently, hydration increased by 60%, elasticity by 20%, superficial skin lipids by 50% and lipid oxidation was seen to decrease by 55%.

Marigold extract (calendula) shows up in cosmetics all the time. But strangely enough it is rarely associated with lutein. In fact, it is nearly always billed as an anti-inflammatory and/or a wound healer. One of the few cosmetics to wave the lutein flag is by Bioelements, which makes Lutein Indoor Protective Day Cream.

Jurlique does a nice Calendula Cream ($32). Calendula and carrot seem to go together for that extra shot of vitamin C and betacarotanoid and so it is not surprising to find carrot root extract here too. With the inclusion of marshmallow, which is good for chapped, dry skin, this would be a good cream to emerge from winter with. It also has spilanthes acmella, which also goes by the name of acmella oleracea. This is a botanical that has been cropping up recently and is billed as a muscle relaxant that helps prevent the formation of expression wrinkles.

For DIY enterprising types, there is a marigold facial mask that can be made from grinding petals with a teaspoon of honey, a carrot and a teaspoon of milk. You could add a dash of aloe vera gel for good measure.

Ingredients in Jurlique Calendula Cream

Aqua (Water); Herbal Extract Mixture from: Calendula officinalis, Prunella vulgaris (Self Heal), Hamamelis virginiana (Witch Hazel), Echinacea purpurea, Spilanthes acmella, Althaea officinalis (Marshmallow); Cetearyl Alcohol and Ceteareth-20; Honey; Cocoglycerides; Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride; Glycerin; Macadamia ternifolia Seed Oil; Persea gratissima (Avocado) Oil; Carthamus tinctorius (Safflower) Seed Oil; Butyrospermum parkii (Shea Butter) Oil; Daucus carota sativa (Carrot) Root Extract; Oenothera biennis (Evening Primrose) Oil; Aloe barbadensis Leaf Extract; Hydroxymethylglycinate; Lactic Acid; Citrus grandis (Grapefruit) Seed Extract; Panthenol; Tocopherol (Vitamin E).

  • December 17, 2014

    by paul

    "my grandfather's adage that eating carrots would help me see in the dark is begining to make sense".

    This was disinformation issued by the British in the Second World War, to explain why British pilots were shooting down so many German nightfighters. In fact the Brrits were using radar to find enemy planes. The ploy was so successful, that the Luftwaffe increased the ration of carrots to their pilots.

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