The In­flu­encer

Turmeric has made waves in so many ar­eas, from pest con­trol and crop grow­ing to health foods and cancer re­search. Goh Yee Huay finds out how one French beauty brand is now us­ing the spice to give us more youth­ful-look­ing skin.

Herworld (Singapore) - - BEAUTY -

Your favourite nasi biryani and chicken curry may not be the health­i­est dishes around, but one el­e­ment in them does you lots of good: turmeric.

A cousin of gin­ger dis­tin­guished by the brilliant yel­low-orange colour of its rhi­zome, turmeric has been used for thou­sands of years in Asia. Its ep­i­thets range from “the spice of life” to “the golden god­dess”, and it is said to have at least 53 names in San­skrit alone, in­clud­ing gauri (to make fair), jayanti (one that wins over dis­eases) and vishagni (killer of poi­son).

Pre­cious yel­low gold

The list of uses for turmeric is as long as its list of names. Apart from be­ing a pop­u­lar spice and food colourant, it’s es­tab­lished in Chi­nese and Ayurvedic medicine for treat­ing ail­ments from asthma and al­ler­gies to an ir­ri­ta­ble bowel, gall­stones, indi­ges­tion and liver dis­eases.

Not sur­pris­ingly, turmeric’s track record has at­tracted re­searchers of ev­ery stripe, in­clud­ing those for mod­ern medicine. Thou­sands of stud­ies have been car­ried out and pub­lished over the past few decades, re­veal­ing grow­ing ev­i­dence that turmeric’s strong an­tiox­i­dant and anti-in­flam­ma­tory prop­er­ties hold im­mense po­ten­tial for the treat­ment of var­i­ous dis­eases. Cancer re­search jour­nal

Car­cino­gen­e­sis says stud­ies show that cur­cumin – the sub­stance that makes turmeric yel­low – is a stronger an­tiox­i­dant than vi­ta­min E and may help to sup­press can­cer­ous mu­ta­tions in genes. An­other study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Neu­ro­chem­istry found that when mice were treated with cur­cumin ex­tract, symp­toms of Alzheimer’s dis­ease in their brain tis­sue dropped by 30

per cent in just a week.

In his re­ports on the world’s blue zones (places where peo­ple live much longer and health­ier lives than aver­age), Na­tional Ge­o­graphic Fel­low and best-sell­ing au­thor Dan Buettner cited turmeric as one of the top longevity foods in Ok­i­nawa, Ja­pan, whose long-liv­ing in­hab­i­tants have ex­tremely low rates of cancer, heart prob­lems and de­men­tia.

Even the BBC weighed in on turmeric in its in­ves­tiga­tive TV pro­gramme Trust Me, I’m a Doc­tor, a sort of med­i­cal

Myth­busters. To­gether with re­searchers from Univer­sity Col­lege Lon­don, they tested nearly 100 vol­un­teers to learn if con­sum­ing turmeric – and in what form – would boost the im­mune sys­tem and re­duce the risk of cancer. The find­ings? Mix­ing a tea­spoon of turmeric pow­der a day into your food has a huge im­pact in low­er­ing cancer risk (though it does lit­tle for immunity).

Within the farm­ing sec­tor, too, turmeric is a well­doc­u­mented in­sec­ti­cide and pest re­pel­lent. One Is­raeli com­pany, Biopack, even devel­oped plas­tic sheets treated with turmeric that have re­port­edly been very suc­cess­ful in pro­tect­ing crops.

The source of turmeric’s pow­ers is its turmerones – volatile and aro­matic mol­e­cules that give the plant its scent. Found in the leaves and the rhi­zome, turmerones not only keep pests away but also at­tract ben­e­fi­cial in­sects to aid in pol­li­na­tion.

Most im­por­tantly, they act as chem­i­cal sig­nals to other plants nearby, warn­ing them to mount their de­fences when threats arise. Turmeric is thus a watch­dog of sorts, and a chief mes­sen­ger of cru­cial in­for­ma­tion.

This lat­ter abil­ity of turmeric at­tracted the at­ten­tion of French sk­in­care gi­ant Clarins. Through its col­lab­o­ra­tion with the medicine fac­ulty of Bel­gium’s Univer­sity of Na­mur, the com­pany learnt that our body’s cells have tiny re­cep­tors on their sur­faces that re­lay mes­sages about the en­vi­ron­ment into the cell. Think mi­cro­scopic satel­lite dishes.

What the skin needs

Marie-He­lene Lair, Clarins’ sci­en­tific com­mu­ni­ca­tion di­rec­tor, says: “When these mes­sages ar­rive in the cell mem­brane, they are re­ceived by the re­cep­tors which then send a mes­sage to the cell nu­cleus. If the cell needs wa­ter or oxy­gen or pro­tec­tion, for in­stance, the nu­cleus is in­structed to start the pro­duc­tion of col­la­gen, fi­lag­grin, nat­u­ral mois­tur­is­ing fac­tors and so on.”

But as with ev­ery­thing else in our bod­ies, re­cep­tor num­bers dip with age and dam­age from ex­ter­nal ag­gres­sions. Skin be­comes slower to re­act to environmental changes and its own es­sen­tial needs.

“That’s the start of a de­cline in skin’s five vi­tal func­tions – re­gen­er­a­tion, oxy­gena­tion, nu­tri­tion, hy­dra­tion and pro­tec­tion,” says Lair. “It’s like if you can’t hear the peo­ple around you, it be­comes very dif­fi­cult to ad­just your be­hav­iour. The cells ex­pe­ri­ence the same thing.”

The most talkative plant

To find a solution, Clarins looked to na­ture. Lair ex­plains that be­cause the prob­lem boils down to a lack of com­mu­ni­ca­tion within the skin, the brand set out to find the most “talkative” plant avail­able – one that could help re­store the skin’s healthy, com­mu­nica­tive state. Turmeric was the an­swer, as its turmerones en­able it to “lis­ten” to its sur­rounds and “speak” to its neigh­bours.

Chris­tian Court­inClar­ins, pres­i­dent of the Clarins Group’s su­per­vi­sory board, says: “When you grow turmeric, all the plants around it are beau­ti­ful. The fruits are big­ger and health­ier be­cause the turmeric boosts com­mu­ni­ca­tion among them. Of all the plants we con­sid­ered, turmeric had the strong­est ef­fect.”

In-vitro tests showed that turmeric ex­tract helps pre­serve the abil­ity of cell re­cep­tors, and boosts their num­bers as well. In other words, it’s the per­fect fix for tired and age­ing skin that can’t carry out key func­tions prop­erly, re­sult­ing in vis­i­ble symp­toms from wrin­kles and dull­ness to loss of firm­ness and en­larged pores.

An evolved an­ti­age­ing serum

Clarins ap­plied its find­ings to its most defining anti-age­ing prod­uct – the Dou­ble Serum. “We learn from na­ture. Ev­ery time we im­prove some­thing at Clarins, it’s the plants that tell us what to do,” Courtin-Clarins says of the bio-in­spi­ra­tion that led to the in­clu­sion of turmeric in the serum’s lat­est up­grade.

Devel­oped in 1985 by brand founder Jacques Courtin-Clarins, the Dou­ble Serum fa­mously com­bined nu­mer­ous oil- and wa­ter­based botan­i­cal ac­tives into one anti-age­ing panacea for women of all ages and for all skin types.

This lat­est up­grade sees the serum pack­ing in 20 plant ex­tracts, plus turmeric as the star booster. And the con­tainer has an in­ner bot­tle of li­pidic in­gre­di­ents sit­ting within an outer bot­tle of hy­dric in­gre­di­ents. One pump dis­penses a drop that’s one-third oil and two-thirds wa­ter – ex­actly the same ra­tio as skin’s own hy­droli­pidic film – ev­ery sin­gle time.

Lair says the serum is a good kick-starter for fa­tigued skin and repar­a­tive treat­ment for sen­si­tive, frag­ile skin. But that hardly sums up its func­tions. “The Dou­ble Serum is like a Swiss Army knife. What­ever a woman’s age or needs, it has some­thing that can ad­dress them, whether it’s a lack of ra­di­ance for some­one in her 20s or age­ing con­cerns like wrin­kles and dry­ness in older women,” she says.

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