IN OUR UPCOMING APJ JOURNAL WE featured a veryinteresting article on Australian natives that are rich in vitamin C presented by Dr Donna Lee Marçal. There is currently a new trend in Australia as consumers are seeking and favouring skincare products that are Australian-Made. In addition, consumers are becoming savvy with ingredient knowledge and also seek ingredients that are sourced from within Australia. What is fantastic is there are some powerful and unique ingredients that are primarily from Australia, or only grow natively in Australia.
We have some of the harshest conditions here in Australia, and don’t we know this from our summer season? Many plants have had to evolve over thousands of years to survive and thrive in these unforgiving conditions. One category of plants that have been around for centuries, and now becoming increasingly popular for skincare is Australian native plants and fruits rich in vitamin C.
We are all familiar with vitamin C in skincare in the form of ascorbic acid. Ascorbic acid is a fractionated purified molecule of the vitamin C complex, and can also be synthesized in the lab. Quite often, vitamins and their isolates or components get confused for each other. A vitamin is a complex of molecules and cofactors working together in a process. We know very well that ascorbic acid can be quite unstable. However, vitamin C or its purified ascorbic acid as ingredients are highly sought after in skincare as a result of its wonderful properties.
Vitamin C is a powerful water-soluble antioxidant that is active in hydrophilic (water-loving) environments. It is a vitamin that cannot be produced in our bodies and therefore must be supplemented in our diet. It is a very effective antioxidant even at low levels. As an antioxidant, it helps protect critical molecules including proteins, lipids, carbohydrates (sugars), and DNA from free radical damage. Vitamin C is also essential in the process of collagen synthesis.
With the advances in technology, the ability to test and analyse natural extracts relatively easily and accurately for the complement of molecules they contain, we now know so much more about natural extracts and their molecular composition. We can then link these compositions to the amazing properties that have been experienced for centuries by our ancestors. As a result, we have discovered just how amazing some of our native Australian plants are in their composition, including their levels of vitamin C.
Currently, our native Kakadu Plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana) is the natural source with the highest known concentration of vitamin C. Also known as Gubinge, Billygoat Plum or Murunga, this tree is native to the Kimberleys and Northern Territory. The Kakadu Plum fruit has been used for centuries by Indigenous Australians for its wonderful healing properties. What is brilliant about the vitamin C in Kakadu Plum is that it is also highly stable, something very sought after for skincare formulations. The amount of vitamin C in Kakadu Plum fruit is 7g / 100g of dry weight content. That’s a whopping 7%! This is 100 times more than the levels of vitamin C contained in oranges. And we all know we’ve been taught to eat or drink our oranges to get our vitamin C intake. It is also much higher than blueberries which have shown to have a relatively ‘high’ level of vitamin C at 0.646 g / 100 g),which is only 0.6%. What makes the Kakadu Plum so amazing is it also contains the phytochemicals gallic and ellagic acids which are well known for their antibacterial and antifungal activities. These are other important properties for skincare formulations.
Our next Australian native is Desert Lime (Citrus glauca). This is a small tree that gives a light green fruit that looks somewhat like a typical lime and is closely related to other citrus fruits. It is native to the semi-arid regions of Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. The extract contains 0.962 g / 100 g of vitamin C by dry weight(nearly 1%) and also has high ferulic acid which is an antioxidant that works to boost the effects of other antioxidants. It is also a really great source of calcium.
Not to be confused with Desert Lime is the Finger Lime (Citrus australasica), also known as Citrus caviar. Finger lime grows naturally in the sub-tropical rainforest along the border of south-east Queensland and New South Wales. However, due to land clearing for settlement, much of the wild-growing trees have been destroyed. Wild harvesting is now rare and it is mainly sourced from cultivated trees. The fruit it gives with its interior caviar look has quite a variety of red and green tones, and with cultivated growth, the colour of the fruit can be controlled a bit more. It has been reported that Finger Lime has about 3 times the level of vitamin C as oranges, however hard evidence for this is still lacking.
Also native to Australia is Desert Quandong (Santalum acuminatum) which is from the Sandalwood family. Itis often referred to as the ‘native peach’ and is native to the deserts of Australia. It has red fruit and almost looks a bit like a dried-up pomegranate on the outside. Several sources indicate that the Desert Quandong contains about twice the amount of vitamin C as oranges do, and thus a good source of vitamin C. It also contains complex beneficial oils and is antibacterial, historically used by indigenous communities to heal the skin.
Illawarra Flame Tree
A unique ingredient that helps support vitamin C and boost its potency is the Brachychiton acerifolius or Illawarra flame tree. This is a large tree native to subtropical regions of the Eastern coast of Australia. It is commonly referred to as the ‘Kurrajong’ and is well known for its bright red bell-shaped flower it bears when it loses its leaves (after the dry season). This particular extract does not have high levels of vitamin C but it is an amazing ingredient for helping intensify the actions of vitamin C from its counterparts. It contains the active molecules epigallocatechin, rutin, as well as both tri and tetrahydroxyflavone.
The Davidson Plum (Davidsonia jerseyana) is an Australian native tree bearing a blue/purple plum that is native to the rainforests of New South Wales. Some sources report that Davidson Plum contains high levels of vitamin C, yet this has not been proven or detected in recent studies. What it does contain, and where the confusion may come from, is that it contains high levels of flavones that help enhance the activity of vitamin C. Therefore, combining Davidson Plum with other ingredients rich in vitamin C is highly beneficial.
Our last ingredient for discussion is the Australian Jacaranda. The Jacaranda is originally from South America (Brazil) and now grows widely throughout Australia. The extract from the Jacaranda is another fantastic extract that helps stabilize and support vitamin C. The extract also behaves like an alpha hydroxy acid, so how good is that!
From what we can see, Australia has some pretty potent sources of vitamin C and natives that contain extracts that help support vitamin C and its potency. So why is that? We don’t know specifically why this is, however, one can suggest that it is likely to help protect these natives from the harsh and intense conditions that exist in our climate that promote free radical damage. This is great for our Australian beauty industry as we have local access to these potent and effective antioxidant extracts and give the Australian skincare industry a great point of difference.