In botany, an evergreen is a plant that has leaves that stay green throughout the year. This differs from deciduous plants, which completely lose their foliage during the winter or dry season.
There are many different kinds of evergreen plants, both trees and shrubs. Evergreens include:
- Most species of conifers.
- Live oak, holly and cycads.
- Most angiosperms from frost-free climates, such as eucalyptus and rainforest trees.
- Clubmosses and their relatives.
While pines or firs are probably the most recognized type of evergreen, many plants fit this description and many species of evergreens are compatible with topical use in skin care applications. A salve made from the resin of Norway spruce (Picea abies) is traditionally used in folk medicine to heal skin ulcers and infected wounds. Its antimicrobial properties were studied against certain human bacteria in infected skin wounds.
Bark extracts from Canadian forest species, in particular those of Red Maple (A. rubrum), Jack Pine (P. banksania), Yellow Birch (B. alleghaniensis) and Black Spruce (P. mariana) are rich in polyphenols and have the potential to be instrumental as anti-aging ingredients. Due to their antioxidant, anti-enzymatic and antimicrobial properties these extracts could be considered as potential candidates for the formulation of new anti-aging skin-care products.
Holly (Ilex), commonly used in decorative accents around the holidays or in landscaping, is an evergreen that can contain caffeic acid, chlorogenic acid, feruloylquinic acid, quercetin, quinic acid, kaempferol, tannins, rutin, caffeine, and theobromine. All compounds used in skincare products that promote anti-aging. Hence, we see some truth in the song lyrics, ‘ageless and evergreen’.
Yerba mate is an unusual evergreen as it is widely known as the source of the beverage called mate. Few evergreens are recommended for internal use, but yerba mate has become mainstream as a dietary supplement and is widely consumed in the form of a botanical tea. However, it has been recommended that consumption be kept minimal as studies have found that those who drink large amounts of yerba mate over prolonged periods may be at increased risk of some types of cancer, such as cancer of the mouth, esophagus and lungs. Yerba mate contains a variety of polyphenols such as the flavonoids quercetin and rutin and also contains elements such as potassium, magnesium, and manganese.
Running clubmoss or Ground Pine (Lycopodium clavatum), the most common clubmoss species in Turkey, has been reported to be used for its wound-healing effect as well as for the treatment of diaper rash. The spores of the plant were found to have a protective effect as dusting powder for tender skin. Interestingly, the spores of this moss, "lycopodium powder", were used as flash powder in early photography and magic acts because in high enough densities the spores explode into a powder.
Eucalyptus might be one of the most recognized evergreens found in cosmetics and for good reason. Studies found eucalyptus oil to be promising in controlling sebum protection making it useful in the management of acne. Eucalyptus is also frequently used in cleaning products or diffusers for its natural disinfectant qualities. Like other evergreens, eucalyptus can be toxic in large quantities.
The next time you think of formulating with evergreens, expand your botanical horizons a little. Branch out from the expected pines, firs and eucalyptus to some of the lesser-recognized family members to create a truly unique product that stands out.
- Antibacterial effects of home-made resin salve from Norway spruce (Picea abies). http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17504300
- Centre de recherche sur le bois, Département des sciences du bois et de la forêt, Pavillon Gene H. Kruger, local 2367, Université Laval, Québec, Canada G1K 7P4 PharmaNutrition 10/2013; 1(4): 158–167. DOI: 10.1016/j.phanu.2013.05.001
- Holly. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/plants/landscape/shrubs/hgic1066.html
- Loria D, Barrios E, Zanetti R. Cancer and yerba mate consumption: a review of
possible associations. Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2009 Jun; 25(6):530-9. Review.
PubMed PMID: 19695149.
- Appraisal of anti-inflammatory potential of the clubmoss, Lycopodium clavatum L. Journal of Ethnopharmacology (Impact Factor: 3). 02/2007; 109(1): 146-50. DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2006.07.018 Source: PubMed
- Studies on inhibitory effect of Eucalyptus oil on sebaceous glands for the management of acne. Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources. Vol. 2 (3), September 2011, pp. 345-349