« Why A Carcinogen Scores a "0" in the Cosmetics Database | Main | Hugo Naturals Responds to Japanese Honeysuckle Claims »

Manufacturer Opens up about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract

After months of my e-mailing them, the manufacturer of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract has finally responded to my questions.  This issue continues to get more complex and the reputation of the extract keeps getting lower and lower. 

I wrote to Dr. Bala, the owner of Campo Research that makes Japanese Honeysuckle Extract and asked him if parahydroxy benzoic acid present in all or any grades of Plantservative (the tradename for Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.)  His response was yes and no. 

In the Verification of the description, you may find a variety of phydroxyBenzoic Acid of the Salcyclic class (ie of Aspirin) slightly present in Campo Plantservative, of Which I believe is what Ms ****** ****** has confirmed as Phydroxybenzoic Acid. 

Let me clarify what he's saying. 

Parahydroxybenzoic acid, the chemical we've been talking about for all these months in my previous articles, is also known as 4-hydroxybenzoic acid.

4-hydroxybenzoic acidDr. Bala is saying that the parahydroxybenzoic acid present in the product is actually 2-hydroxybenzoic acid, which has the same combination of atoms, just arranged in a slightly different shape. 

2-hydroxybenzoic acid

You'll notice the OH group is just in a different place on the carbon ring. 

The common name for 2-hydroxybenzoic acid is salicylic acid.  This is the same salicylic acid that scores a 7 in the EWG Cosmetics Database.  So now, instead of containing an ingredient that's similar to methylparaben, which scores a 4, we find out that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract actually contains a chemical that scores much higher and is so strong that it's regulated as a drug when it's listed as an ingredient.  According to the database, it's a reproductive toxin, a neurotoxin, and a penetration enhancer.  See my Chemical of the Day analysis here.

A few other notes about Japanese Honeysuckle Extract that I found out in my research.  This is all from the materials that Dr. Bala e-mailed to me:

  • A small amount of butylene glycol is used as a solvent in its production, and it is present up to 2.5% of the finished product. Below is a screen shot of the product detail sheet. 

  • Once the product is filtered, it then undergoes a process called Collusion-induced Dissociation.  Basically, they take the extract and put it in a vaccuum and spin it around at an incredibly high speed---so fast that it actually breaks the molecular bonds of the original compounds to create new molecules that aren't present in nature.

  • Japanese Honeysuckle Extract uses nanotechnology.  Once the extract has been taken from the flowers, it is run through a nano-sized filter two times, resulting in biologically-based nanoparticles. 
  • They claim that Plantservative doesn't undergo any "animal testing" however, it is tested on embryonic stem cells.

Embryonic stem cells are usually taken from human fetuses that are just a few hours old, comprised of just a few cells.  They are typically created in a lab and then used for testing.  So, it's not as gruesome as it sounds, but, depending on your own personal beliefs, you can make your own decision if you accept the use of this practice by using this ingredient. 

The bottom line is, Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is not natural.  It is created using very sophisticated technology, (nanoparticles, Collusion-Induced Dissociation, etc) contains salicylic acid (a chemical with quite a few risks), contains a small amount of butylene glycol, and is made up of other unknown compounds that do not ocurr in nature.  Is it the worst ingredient in the world?  No.  Is it one that I personally avoid.  Yes.  Now that you have ALL the information on the ingredient, you too can make an informed decision. 

Japanese Honeysuckle Extract Quick Facts:

  • Contains Salicylic Acid
  • Created using nanotechnology
  • Unnatural molecules created using Collusion Induced Dissociation
  • Contains butylene glycol
  • Tested on human embryonic stem cells

Brands that use Japanese Honeysuckle Extract:


Thera Wise


Hugo Naturals

John Master

Rocky Mountain Soap Company

Raw Natural Beauty

Kiss My Face

Beauty without Cruelty

Elizabeth Arden



Nvey Eco

100% Pure

Ava Anderson Non-Toxic

Shea Moisture

Reader Comments (32)

Thank you for continuing to do the research on this one Stephanie! Bubble & Bee will continue to be my first source for products that are exactly what they claim to be with none of the scary stuff!

Tue, July 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMelisa

This was very informative, I will continue to use this page as a source for information as I become more aware of the products I used and what they are actually made of.

Thu, July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWhitney

This is laughable. Our malls are filled with Bath and Body stores making millions, and their products are FULL of chemicals. No one seems to mind. If everyone is so concerned about the use of Japanese Honeysuckle, I suggest you read your food labels, and your toothpaste tube. Most likely you are using over the counter toothpaste and enjoying the nice foamy feeling given by the SLS in your toothpaste. ( it is absorbed immediatley under the tongue. ) I am very concerned about what I use on my skin BUT what we eat is extremely harmful. I would say what is going in your bodies is far worse than Japanese Honeysuckle. And I would not buy from the company who tried to make themselves look best.

Wed, December 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJan

@Jan---most of our readers here already have given up SLS, Bath and Body Works, and all the chemical-based products. Japanese Honeysuckle Extract by far is the least of the worlds' worries. BUT I believe that people have the right to know what they're putting on their skin---so many companies that are marketing "pure" products still contain questionable ingredients, and this is one of them. Parabens and phthalates and SLS--those are all kind of old news. My goal with Chemical of the Day is to bring to light ingredients that people don't already know about. Our readers are highly educated people with discerning tastes and very high standards and want the cleanest, greenest products possible!

Wed, December 8, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Hi Stephanie, I have kept out of all discussions on the JHS debate, basically because I don't think it is at all important whether it contains parabens, phba or salicylic acid, but you have made one very basic error in your reporting of this product above. The use of "nanofilters" does does constitute nanotechnology, and it certainly does not mean that nanoparticles are involved in the product. In fact, it means entirely the opposite! A nanofilter just means that the pores in the filter are extremely fine, and will actually filter out smaller particles than a more coarse filter. JSE is a liquid - a solution - which essentially consists of separate molecules, and small clusters of molecules floating around in the solvent - these could equally be described as nanoparticles, so ANY solution consists of nanoparticles! This is certainly NOT nanotechnology!

Tue, December 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDene Godfrey

I'm open to that criticism, Dene, and will research that issue further.

Tue, December 14, 2010 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thank-you for all your research, Stephanie! I am glad I have you to point me in the right direction on products that are actually green and safer for us. I love your products!

Fri, January 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Thanks so much for your support, Diana! :D

Fri, January 21, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Hi Stephanie, I came back to this because someone referred to it on the CFSC Facebook page and, on reading it again, it don't understand how you can claim that anything is "made up of other unknown compounds that don't occur in nature". If these compounds are unknown, how do you know they don't occur in nature? There is no term of reference. For a start, not everything that occurs in nature is known anyway! On what basis do you make this claim?

Mon, May 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDene

That's a good point Dene--I suppose I should say " unknown compounds that don't occur naturally in the plant itself." Perhaps they are somewhere in nature, but we don't even know the names or structures of these molecules, let alone how they function biologically in humans.

Tue, May 10, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thanks for your response, Stephanie. I believe that your revised statement is more accurate, but it could also probably be applied to the majority of plant components. Many will be unique to a single species. Some of them may have been chemically characterised, but only a small proportion of them will have been thoroughly tested. Exactly the same principles should apply to natural compounds as they do to synthetics. There are far more data available on many synthetic compounds than on the individual components of complex extracts from plants!

Wed, May 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDene Godfrey

Okay, I'll consider revising that statement in some way. However, I wouldn't consider this a true plant extract, considering all the steps of processing it goes through. But yes, I would agree that sometimes there is more hard data on a single synthetic ingredient than on a plant extract. However, plant substances have been around for thousands of years. Our bodies evolved with them (or God created them for us, depending on your beliefs) and we have a long history of knowing which plants are safe for us an which are not. Thus, the "synthetics are guilty until proven innocent" mindset that many people (including myself) have adopted, Oh we could go on all day about this, couldn't we. ;)

Wed, May 11, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Does Japanese extract contain radiation? I mean, it comes from Japan I guess. Japan is having a lot of problems lately with radiation. All types of stuff is showing up being radioactive, such as cars, green tea, ans such. should we be concerned with japanese ingredients

Thu, June 16, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterhayes mark

That's a great question. This product is actually not made or grown in Japan, despite its name. It's actually made by Campo Research, which is based in Singapore. But...even if it contains no radiation, I would still avoid it for its questionable components and processing.

Wed, June 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I'm an advocate of 100% natural beauty - but I have to say, I'm disappointed with this article. If I were any of those companies whose names you've tarnished here, I'd be pretty upset.
For a start, anybody who has ever studied organic chemistry will know that just because two substances are made up of the same atoms, it doesn't mean they are ANYTHING alike! That is the nature of chemistry - you can change a million things by changing the location of a chemical bond. Those two chemicals will be like chalk and cheese. Assuming that they're in any way similar is totally unfounded.
Stating that japanese honeysuckle 'contains salicylic acid' is therefore just completely incorrect and inaccurate. - Like I said, if I were one of those companies using this ingredient, I'd pretty upset at these claims.
This article hasn't changed my opinion on the ingredient at all - and I hope it doesn't for other people.

Fri, September 16, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKate

I think you must have not fully read the article here Kate. I'm not making any unfounded assumptions here. p-hydroxybenzoic acid has been found in lab tests to be an estrogen mimicker. So has salicylic acid. It was previously thought that p-hydroxybenzoic acid was present in JHE, but as the manufacturer has confirmed, it is its isomer, salicylic acid. I totally agree with and understand what you're saying. Just because two molecules are isomers, doesn't mean that they're going to act the same. However, in this case, based on available data, both p-hydroxybenzoic acid and salicylic acid are weak estrogens. I think that you must have misread my article with your putting "contains salicylic acid" in quotes...this is not information I made up or pulled from the air--it came directly from the manufacturer.

Mon, September 19, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Stephanie, please can you provide references to support your claim that p-hydroxybenzoic acid is specifically an oestrogen mimicker, and please bear in mind that "oestrogenic activity" and oestrogen mimickry" are not the same? All the data I have seen has shown very clearly that p-hydroxybenzoic acid has NO oestrogenic activity. (Routledge, E.J, Parker, J, Odum, J, Ashby, J and Sumpter, J.P. – Tox & Appl Pharm 153, 12–19 (1998), for example). Something with oestrogenic activity is not neccesarily an oestrogen mimic, although oestrogen mimics MUST have oestrogenic activity. It is so important get this right! Even if something IS an oestrogen mimic, that in itself may not be a problem if human exposure is not sufficient to result in any adverse health effects. As you know, any detected hazard alone is no reason to be concerned about, it is the exposure that is the critical factor.

Tue, September 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDene Godfrey

You can read more about p-hydroxy benzoic acid in my article here: The sources are cited within the article.

However, the subject of p-hydroxy benzoic acid in Japanese Honeysuckle Extract and its possible estrogenic activity is moot at this point, since the manufacturer has stated that it contains salicylic acid, not p-hydroxy benzoic acid, which has long been known to be a "xenoestrogen."

Wed, September 21, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Thanks for the reference, Stephanie but, with respect, the point is not entirely moot, because there are implications for your claim way beyond the relatively minor issue of what is, or is not in Japanese Honeysuckle extract. The reference you have given is to a single study. To my knowledge, this work has not been replicated, and no other study has detected oestrogenic activity for p-hba and, therefore, the weight of evidence is in favour of a lack of oestrogenic activity. If you know of other studies that HAVE claimed activity for p-hba, I would, as always be very interested. One further point concerning claims of oestrogenic activity - let's not forget that the main study on this subject (Routledge, as referred to in my previous comment) also detected NO oestrogenic activity in methylparaben, and even the most "potent" of the parabens (butylparaben) was 100,000 times weaker than oestradiol - arguably negligible, so to claim oestrogenic activity with no further qualification (ie, a comparison with the standard of oestradiol) is potentially misleading. Many phytoestrogens are only 2000 times weaker than oestradiol, for example, and these occur widely in many foods with far greater human exposure than parabens. Context is vital.

Wed, September 21, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDene

And which leads me back around to the SULT argument...having something 100,000 times weaker than oestradiol in an estrogen receptor cite isn't an accurate representation of how the ingredient works in the body. It is indeed about context. We have to consider how parabens have been found to inhibit SULT activity in the skin, leading to the possible buildup of estradiol in the body. Haha, we're just going to go round and round with this one. :)

Thu, September 22, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

Yes, we do go round in circles, but it is useful for the other contributors to see the discussion, even if WE have been here before. We still need to consider whether parabens actually reside in the body for long enough to have such an effect. Darbre's "evidence" of intact parabens is not robust enough to be relied upon by any means.

Just for the sake of accuracy, the response from Dr Bala was inaccurate. 2-hydroxybenzoic acid is NOT a "variety" of p-hydroxybenzoic acid. It may be that something was lost in translation, but they are two different compounds, albeit similar in SOME respects, but it is not accurate to talk in terms of "varieties" and the implications that brings.

Mon, September 26, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDene Godfrey

Haha, yes, his reply is a bit hard to understand due to the language barrier...but I believe it's clear that "phydroxyBenzoic Acid of the salicylic class" means salicylic acid, aka, 2-parahydroxy benzoic acid. 4-parahydroxy benzoic acid and 2-parahydroxy benzoic acid are indeed two different compounds that have been found to act similarly on a biological level in some respects (of course, but not all).

Mon, September 26, 2011 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

I would like to make a point that not all products containing Honeysuckle Extract are of the Campo variety (ie. concentrated and processed, containing solvents and other impurities). There are actually some who create Honeysuckle extract the old-fashoned way (teas, maceration etc.) for the wonderful properties it has on the skin. I think you should further qualify what type of Honeysuckle Extract you are talking about rather than generalize about this ingredient. Also, a lot of time and energy has been put into this subject, yet I could probably name 10,000 body care products that are far more scary than something natural that contains Campo's Honeysuckle Extract to help preserve it...

And while we're on the subject of parabens: My understanding about parabens (talking about methylparaben, propylparaben etc.) is that paraben molecules are too large to penetrate the skin anyway, making it impossible for them to be absorbed into the bloodstream and organs and I did read that the whole paraben thing is just a scare tactic manufactured by natural skin care brands to win more market share. It would be interesting to find out the truth one day...

Mon, January 16, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDee

Embyronic Stem Cell Test (EST) is NOT consdiered animal testing. Also, by European regulations Human and/or animal testing was REQUIRED before 1992 per Directive 86/609/EEC. This allows us to determined the safety of the product. JHS has NOT been tested on EST since (long before) 1992.

Wed, March 14, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKim

Yes, that's why I stated that it didn't undergo animal testing, but human EST instead.

Mon, March 19, 2012 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>