Tuesday, January 31, 2012

We are Certified!

I'm happy to announce that our farm has just become Certified Naturally Grown (CNG). I am excited about this program and you can read more about here http://www.naturallygrown.org/.  Its standards are similar to the USDA's Certified Organic program in that it does not allow synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds. It differs in that it is a small, private and grass roots organization not associated with the government and encourages collaboration, transparency and community involvement.

I've never been quite comfortable with the Certified Organic Program; its a government sponsored program that seems more tailored towards the larger sometimes corporate farms involved in monocropping. Not to mention their ownership of the word 'organic'. USDA COP farm inspectors are forbidden to make suggestions or help the farmers in any way while CNP farm inspectors are peers and volunteers that are encouraged to share information.  I look forward to my first farm inspection this spring by one of my peers who has volunteered to do so and I expect it to be a learning process. I've asked Darrell Cook of Ginger Cat Farm to do my inspection. CNP relies on volunteers like this which encourages community involvement and collaborations.

At Colorado Aromatics Herb Farm I grow things the way my Mother taught me and she learned from her Mother, the traditional way, long before there even were synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. I do have the benefit of having herbs and lavender as my main crop which are probably easier to grow than vegetable crops. But we fertilize our fields in the winter using manure produced by our horses, goats and chickens. Although we are still learning how to best control weeks; we pick by hand until our backs ache, we use weed cloth and we hoe (we also accept volunteers). We try to reduce the amount of gasoline we use on the farm too by doing most of the work by hand rather than by tractor (we don't own a tractor). Because of the way we farm, beneficial insects such as bees, ladybugs and praying mantis abound. When we do get damaging insects such as aphids our first choice is to take care of them with the garden hose.

I think growing my herbs with the Certified Naturally Grown seal partners well with the extracts I make from them for natural cosmetics. I'll soon be adding pictures and information to our profile at CNG http://www.naturallygrown.org/farms/3421.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Allantoin in Cosmetics

Allantoin is one of my favorite herb derived cosmetic ingredients. Its chemical name is 5-ureide-hydantoin. It is used in both cosmetics and drug preparations because of its ability to boost wound healing. Studies have found allantoin has wound healing, anti-irritating, hydrating, keratolytic, analgesic, cell proliferative and epithelial stimulating effects.  Its beneficial effect on wound healing seems to primarily be inhibiting the inflammatory response.  Allantoin enhances desquamation of dead upper layers of skin meaning that it promotes exfoliation and thus improves the smoothness of skin.

Allantoin is found in herbs including comfrey, plantain, yam, borage, tea, horse chestnut, uva ursi, and sour cherry stems. It is also found in animals (plants, animals and humans have very similar biochemistry. In fact, at one time blowfly larvae were used to treat severe wounds because of its high content of allantoin.  Comfrey powder was used during WWI to treat wounds.

Allantoin is formed from uric acid which occurs from breakdown of purine.  I love when my current reading takes me back to college biochem classes; ah, yes, purine salvage pathway. Purines include adenine and guanine which make up nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).  The body is very conservative and purines from the breakdown of nucleic acids or foods are typically salvaged to be reused in new nucleotides.  Just in case you are interested in purine metabolic pathways here is a short youtube video I found as a refresher: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIJVb_HXUQk

When purines do breakdown (instead of being salvaged) they form uric acid which in most organisms is converted to allantoin by the enzyme uricase. Humans however, do not have this enzyme and so do not make allantoin, or at least not significant amounts. Allantoin will however, accumulate in times of oxidative stress and is a marker for that. Perhaps the fact that humans do not have the uricase enzyme that breaks down uric acid is the reason humans get gout; a disease caused by accumulation of uric acid in the joints.

But back to allantoins role in skin care. Allantoin is a white, odorless powder that is safe and non-allergenic. Its properties make it appropriate for aging skin, acne skin, scars, psoriasis, eczema, diaper rash as well as just dry, chapped skin. Because its an anti-irritant it is also suitable for very sensitive skin. It is typically used at concentrations from 0.1%  to 2% but sometimes higher for pharmaceutical preparations.

How does Colorado Aromatics use allantoin? In three of our balms we use allantoin containing herbs; comfrey in our Joint Jam for its analgesic effect, plantain in our Knuckle Balm for its wound healing effect and comfrey again in our Sole Pleasure foot butter for its softening and keratolytic effect. In our higher end products we use pure allantoin in our Springtide Antiaging Cream for its skin regeneration properties and antiaging properties and in our Oasis Spray Lotion for its anti-irritant properties. We also use it in our body powder to decrease itching and to sooth rashes.


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