A recent study has suggested that compounds found in the cocklebur plant, considered by many to be a weed, may have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory components that could be used to protect skin. The study also found that the spiky plant could influence the production of collagen, a protein helping skin elasticity, and preventing wrinkles. Researchers from Myongji University in South Korea say compounds in the plant’s fruit reduced damage from UVB exposure and sped healing in tests using cells and tissues. However, the study has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Cocklebur is a plant native to China, Central Asia, and Southern Europe that eventually spread worldwide. Its distinctive fruit is covered in stiff husks and burrs, which people have used for centuries in medicines for headache, stuffy nose, skin pigmentation disorders, and tuberculosis-related illness. In recent years, scientists have explored its possible use in treatments for cancer and rheumatoid arthritis. The authors of the new study say their work is the first examining the fruit’s abilities as a skin protectant and wound-healing agent.
The team said fruit grown in South Korea had slightly higher antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and more wound-healing activity than those from China. However, they cautioned that high doses of cocklebur fruit extract could be harmful and further research is needed before using it safely in cosmetic or pharmaceutical applications. The researchers said they will study the biological mechanisms involved and conduct experiments in animal alternatives.
Medical experts have commented that there’s real potential in researching benefits of cocklebur fruit, but there’s just as much potential for harm if not done correctly. They say that while cocklebur fruit has the potential to protect the skin and help enhance production of collagen, finding the proper concentration seems very important and would be key to commercializing cocklebur fruit extracts in cosmetics. Furthermore, the seeds of this plant contain carboxyatractyloside that can be toxic, and it can lead to experiencing unpleasant taste, abdominal pain, nausea, seizures, vomiting, and in worse cases, liver problems. Therefore, further tests and studies must be made.