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Since ancient times, plants have been used as herbal medicines. Ayurveda has a 5000 years old rich heritage of the use of plants in the treatment of various human ailments as alternative medicines. Herbal extracts are primarily added to the cosmetic formulations due to several associated properties such as antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and antimicrobial properties. Even today, people in rural and urban areas depend upon herbs for traditional cosmetics.
Ancient alchemists like Philippus Aureolus Paracelsus knew the power, plants have for improving our lives. They understood how the nutrients could be concentrated with the five elements of nature - water, earth, air, fire, and ether. Since that time, many have attempted to recreate their processes and unlock the full healing potential of herbs.
A Herbal Extract is a substance made by extracting a part of a herbal raw material, often by using a solvent such as methanol or water. The process of Herbal Extraction is usually designed to maximise a certain portion of the original chemical compounds found in the plant, many of which have a therapeutic action. Extracts may be sold as tinctures, absolutes or in powder form. Herbal Extracts are now used as a major part of alternative medicine in both Ayurveda and homeopathy.
Although herbal extracts come in many forms, they have one common feature. Extracts represent naturally occurring phytochemicals (plant produced compounds) that have been removed from the inert structural material of the plant that produced them. The main advantage of using extracts over raw herb is that once extracted from the plant matrix, the phytochemicals bypass the need for digestion and are far more readily absorbable. Liquid extracts also offer greater convenience than consuming an herb in its raw form.
Extracts are typically categorized by the solvent used to make them and/or by their form. Some of the more common solvents that are used include water, alcohol, glycerin, and vinegar. The inherent qualities of each of these solvents will attract different phytochemicals in an herb. Watery extracts made by infusion or decoction are used as teas, rinses and the base for syrups and other products.
Tinctures are liquid extracts made with alcohol and may include other food-grade solvents. Alcohol extracts a wide range of phytochemicals and is an excellent preservative. It may also be diluted with water to adjust alcohol content and glycerin may be added to curb excessive precipitation of the finished extract.
Food-grade glycerin is a low glycemic index sweetener often used as a solvent to make alcohol-free liquid extracts. While most glycerites lack appreciable alcohol, intermediate extraction may be carried out with alcohol on occasion. In this case alcohol is used to form the initial extract, and is then removed from the finished product with glycerin added in its place.
Vinegars are not common, but are experiencing a bit of resurgence in popularity. These are made by extracting herbs directly in vinegar. Apple cider or other plant based vinegars are most desirable in this case.
Oils are fatty oils that have been infused with herbs for topical use and may be called herbal oils or infused oils. The fatty oil used as a base is commonly from olive, sesame or coconut, although many other sources may be used.
Essential oils are the volatile components that have been separated from an aromatic herb. Quality essential oils are either steam distilled or, in the case of herbs like citrus peel, pressed directly from the fresh herb. Essential oils are very strong preparations and are well diluted for internal use.
Powdered extracts are formed by drying liquid extracts including tinctures and water extracts, often under vacuum.
Supercritical extracts are made by extracting herbs with a gas, usually carbon dioxide, at low temperature and high pressure to bring it into the supercritical state. These are semi-solid extracts representing the fat-soluble components of an herb.
There are more than 45,000 plant species that are present in the Indian sub-continent. The dependence of people on plants for various health benefits has significantly evolved the herbal extracts market of the country over the past. Being the largest supplier of ayurvedic medicines and herbs in the world, the herbal extract manufacturers in the country cater to the requirements of the companies, which majorly operate in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and food and beverages industries across the world.
Companies in the pharmaceutical, F&B and cosmetics industry realized the importance of using natural herbs as ingredients in various products. This was not only done to drive the growing demand, but it also benefitted the companies in procuring raw materials from extensive species of plants in India.
Various technological processes including Supercritical Fluid Extraction, Thin Film Distillation, Spinning Cone Column, Supercritical CO2 and other Conventional extraction processing techniques were used to meet the current demand. Market players also launched new products to assist the production and sales of companies in pharmaceutical, cosmetics and food and beverages sectors. New herbal extracts will boost the overall revenues of the market due to the introduction of varied products manufactured using such natural extracts.
Do I need vitamin supplements?
Most people do not need to take vitamin supplements and can get all the vitamins and minerals they need by eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Vitamins and minerals, such as iron, calcium and vitamin C, are essential nutrients that your body needs in small amounts to work properly.
Many people choose to take supplements but taking too much or taking them for too long could be harmful. The Department of Health and Social Care recommends certain supplements for some groups of people who are at risk of deficiency.
Folic acid supplement in pregnancy
If you're pregnant, trying for a baby or could get pregnant, it's recommended that you take a 400 microgram folic acid supplement every day until you're 12 weeks pregnant. Folic acid supplements need to be taken before you get pregnant, so start taking them before you stop using contraception or if there's a chance you might get pregnant.
Folic acid can help to prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
Find out more about vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy.
From around late March or early April until the end of September, most people can get all the vitamin D they need through sunlight on their skin and from eating a balanced diet.
However, during the autumn and winter, you need to get vitamin D from your diet because the sun is not strong enough for your body to make vitamin D.
Because it's difficult for people to get enough vitamin D from food alone, everyone (including pregnant and breastfeeding women) should consider taking a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D during the autumn and winter.
Some groups of the population are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D and are advised to take a supplement every day of the year.
It is recommended that:
breastfed babies should be given a daily supplement containing 8.5 to 10 micrograms of vitamin D from birth, even if the mother is taking a supplement containing vitamin D herself
babies having 500mls (about a pint) or more of formula a day should not be given a vitamin D supplement, because infant formula is fortified with vitamin D and other nutrients
all children aged 1 to 4 years old should be given a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
people who are not often exposed to the sun – such as people who are frail or housebound, are in an institution such as a care home, or usually wear clothes that cover most of their skin when outdoors should take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D
Find out more information about vitamin D.
Supplements containing vitamins A, C and D
Children aged 6 months to 5 years should take vitamin supplements containing vitamins A, C and D every day.
Find out more about vitamins for children or ask your health visitor for advice.
You can get Healthy Start vitamins for free if you qualify for Healthy Start.
A GP may also recommend supplements if you need them for a medical condition. For example, you may be prescribed iron supplements to treat iron deficiency anaemia.
Are Artificial Food Additives Harmful to Your Health?
Artificial food additives can be controversial, but they aren't as scary as they may sound.
As their name suggests, artificial food additives are synthetic ingredients added to food to enhance its color or flavor, extend its shelf life, or improve it in some way.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ensures that all food additives on the market are safe for use. Still, you may wonder whether you're better off limiting your intake of these ingredients.
This article explains all you need to know about artificial food additives, including their safety, uses, and potential health risks, as well as helpful tips to reduce your intake if that's important to you.
Types of food additives
The FDA uses the following two categories of food additives (1Trusted Source):
Direct. These are added for a specific purpose, such as texture, leavening, binding, or color. For example, aspartame is a popular artificial sweetener used to improve the taste of sodas and low calorie or sugar-free foods.
Indirect. These may become part of food in trace amounts due to packaging, storage, or other handling practices. In this case, manufacturers must ensure all packaging materials are safe for use.
For the most part, direct food additives are the focus of concern for consumers. These can be further categorized into the following two categories:
Natural. Natural additives are derived from a natural food source. For example, red beets are used to produce natural red food coloring, while soybeans and corn are used to make lecithin — a type of emulsifier — to bind ingredients.
Artificial. Artificial additives are not derived from nature. For example, most vanilla extracts are made from vanillin, which is produced in a lab.
Both natural and artificial food additives must meet strict regulatory and safety guidelines to be approved for use in food.
Types of food they're commonly found in
Artificial food additives are found in many popular foods, such as yogurts, breads, salad dressings, sodas, baked goods, chips, protein bars, and other processed foods.
In fact, many foods on grocery store shelves contain either natural or artificial food additives in some form. Some foods may contain emulsifiers, while others may contain sweeteners or food colorings.
Unless a food is completely unprocessed, such as an apple, be sure to read the label if you're concerned about any food additives.
Raw materials of cosmetics
This chapter explains the principal raw materials used in cosmetics. The principal raw materials used for manufacturing cosmetics are oily materials such as oils, fats, wax esters, and ester oils, and surface-active agents are used as emulsifiers, solubilizing agents, etc. Humectants, thickening agents, film formers as well as polymers are used as powders, ultraviolet absorbents, antioxidants, sequestering agents, coloring agents such as dyes and pigments, along with vitamins, pharmaceutical agents such as plant extracts and perfume. Oil has the ability to dissolve fats and is widely used as a component of cosmetics. Oily materials control the evaporation of moisture from the skin and are used mainly to improve the feeling on use. The solute in a solution can be adsorbed to a gas–liquid, liquid–liquid, or liquid–solid surface. These remarkable changes in the properties of surfaces are called surface activity and the so-called surface-active agents are materials demonstrating unusual surface activity. This surface activity is exploited in emulsification, solubilization, permeation, wetting, dispersion, cleansing, etc. In addition, this chapter also stresses on other raw materials used in cosmetics.
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