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Thursday
Mar212013

Japanese Honeysuckle Extract Discussion Continues

Today I received some questions that I thought I'd share with everyone, as it has to do with Japanese Honeysuckle Extract, the controversial preservative I've written about before.  It's been a while since I've weighed in on the topic, so I thought this might be an interesting follow-up.  

One of the companies that uses Japanese Honeysuckle Extract was defending their choice of this preservative. Here is an excerpt from their statement:

From existing research, the part of Japanese honeysuckle in question, the p-hydroxy benzoic acid that is being compared to a paraben, is not the same. It is as chemically similar to paraben as theobroma is to caffeine. Today P-hydroxy benzoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that is not only in japanese honeysuckle, but also found in cranberries, plums, acai berry, and many other berries. In order to believe that Japanese honeysuckle is a paraben, you would also have to consider these fruit parabens since they contain the same component in question. 

The questions posed to me were:

  1. Based on your research, does it make sense to try to steer clear of acai berry extracts and cranberry extracts as well? Their comment caught me a bit off guard, and I would appreciate any thoughts you may have.
  2. Secondly, I was just thinking, have you found any research on the xenoestrogen levels of synthetic parabens versus JHE? I assume that the estrogen-mimicking nature of JHE is lower than the synthetic parabens, but was wondering how much lower it may be. 

So...should we steer clear of acai, cranberry, blueberry extracts ? What about eating these berries? 

No. These are all beneficial fruits and can be consumed and used in extract form without reservation (of course, unless you have an allergy or medical condition that prevents you from doing so.)

P-hydroxybenzoic acid may ocurr in these and other foods and fruits, however, first of all, it's at a much lower concentration than what would be used to preserve a cosmetic (otherwise the fruit would never go bad!). Additionally, one has to look at the overall effect that the fruit has.  The whole fruits and extracts of the fruits contain a host of beneficial compounds, including tannins and flavonoids that create an overall benefit in the body. The healthy antioxidant powers of fruits such as acai, cranberries, blueberries, and plums are well established.

One thing that we have to remember is that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is not a true extract. It undergoes advanced processing that alters the original compounds in the true plant extract. It is true that lonicerin, a beneficial flavonoid, is present in the original plant extract, however, after processing it becomes a blend of unknown substances (listed as "lonicerin ester A, B, C & D" Source) The safety of these altered substances have not been established, and the only information available about it is that which the manufacturer provides. 

Synthetic parabens vs JHE. 

No one has ever studied the estrogenic effects of Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.  P-hydroxy benzoic acid has been studied and found to be weakly estrogenic. (Source) However, the manufacturer stated to me that it's actually "p-hydroxy benzoic acid of the salicylic class" (See the article here).  In other words, JHE doesn't contain the p-hydroxy benzoic acid from the study above, but the isomer (molecular mirror image) otherwise known as salicylic acid. According to a 1973 RTECs study, salicylic acid does act as a xenoestrogen, however, more recent bioassays have not been done. Salicylic acid has been found to inhibit an enzyme called SULT1A1, an enzyme that helps flush estrogen-mimicking chemicals (phenols) out of the system. (However, its effects on estrogen levels are unknown.) Salicylic is known to be a reproductive toxin shown, when taken internally, to cause developmental abnormalities.  (Source 1) (Source 2) (Source 3) (Source 4

Some have asked me if there's an update to the Japanese Honeysuckle Extract debate. Unfortunately there is no new information since my original articles. It's not widely used enough in the industry to warrant independent studies, so the only information that anyone has access to is based on what the manufacturer, Campo Research, provides. 

Reader Comments (4)

Hi, I came across 100% Pure skincare and the ingredients look good until I saw "Japanese Honeysuckle" I sent them an e mail asking if they were to change the preservatives in the near future. They came back in 30 seconds. See below:

Hello,

Thank you so much for contacting us, we appreciate your interest in 100% Pure! We at 100% Pure believe in the safety and integrity of all our products and ingredients therein. If there is an ingredient in questions, we will research into it. If that research proves that the ingredient is unsafe for use at the current concentration used, we will remove this ingredient from our products. Our use of Japanese honeysuckle has been questions by a competing cosmetic company and we are doing more research into it. From existing research, the part of Japanese honeysuckle in question, the p-hydroxy benzoic acid that is being compared to a paraben, is not the same. It is as chemically similar to paraben as theobroma is to caffeine. P-hydroxy benzoic acid is a powerful antioxidant that is not only in japanese honeysuckle, but also found in cranberries, plums, acai berry, and many other berries. Also of note is that Japanese honeysuckle derives its preservative power from its lonicerin, which is not a paraben. In order to believe that Japanese honeysuckle is a paraben, you would also have to consider these fruit parabens since they contain the same component in question. We believe that Japanese honeysuckle, cranberries, plums and berries are safe, however we will constantly be researching and testing to ensure the absolute highest safety for our customers. I hope this helps with your research. There are a lot of misinformed people out there with access to a large pool of chemists and trained advisers. I want you to be assured that we have access to many of the top chemist and rely on them to make the absolute best decisions for your safety.

Sincerely,
100% Pure
415.814.9788

Tue, July 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterSc

If salicylic acid act as a xenoestrogen, does the BHA (beta hydroxy acid) also behave the same, or is it safer?

Wed, April 30, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

Sorry, I meant if salicylic acid act as a xenoestrogen, does GLYCOLIC acid act as one too, or is it safer? (glycolic acid doesn't have the same ring, should I assume it is safe?)

Thu, May 22, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKate

@Kate--no, glycolic acid is different from salicylic acid. Beta hydroxy acid--there's not much information regarding its potential estrogenic activity.

Fri, January 9, 2015 | Registered Commenter[Stephanie Greenwood]

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