Ice Plant

The secret of the ice plant

Nurse Waltraud Marschke long ago realised that preparations made from the drought-resistant ice plant could be used to soothe and care for dry skin. But what makes the ice plant so effective? Searching for answers, WALA partnered with the Greifswald Institute for Pharmaceutics to conduct intensive research, in the end applying the results to the development of skin care products whose effectiveness and good tolerability were proven in clinical tests. Dr. Ulrike Lindequist of Greifswald University agreed to join us for an interview.

Dr. Ulrike Lindequist, qualified pharmacist and professor of pharmaceutical biology at Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-University in Greifswald, Germany since 1992, supervised the testing of the ice plant for use as a WALA ingredient.

Dr.Hauschka Med: Your field is pharmaceutical biology. What does this mean exactly?

Dr. Ulrike Lindequist: The focus of pharmaceutical biology is the study of natural materials with regard to their pharmaceutical effects. The subjects of our research range from micro-organic substances – for example antibiotics – to the broad field of medicinal plants. Our goal is to establish a scientific foundation for the potential use of medically effective natural substances. On the one hand, this has to do with discovering new active substances. On the other, our research deepens knowledge of known medicinal plants, some of which are already used in pharmaceuticals.

How do you approach this sort of research?

We use cell-biological models to prove pharmaceutical or cosmetic effectiveness. This includes some that correspond to human skin cells and share their typical characteristics, allowing us to determine how skin cells react to specific substances. At the same time, we analyse the chemical composition of the substances.

What was your “job description” from WALA for the ice plant research?

“To find out what substances contained in ice plants are responsible for the plant’s positive effects on dry skin as observed in the past by Waltraud Marschke.” In our analyses, we split the juice that had been pressed from the ice plant into many different, increasingly smaller parts. In the end we arrived at a few substances that were known to have moisture-binding properties and to which we could primarily attribute the special effects of the ice plant on dry skin. This was followed by corneometric tests with these substances in which the moisture replenishment of the skin was analysed; these tests confirmed our results. It is especially interesting to note that the compounds we found are similar to natural moisturising substances in human skin that protect it from dryness – and which are lacking in dry skin.

How would you summarise the results?

To put it simply, the ice plant possesses substances that store moisture; they are essential to the plant's survival in arid regions. These substances are also beneficial to dry human skin, replenishing moisture and, in the long term, helping the skin to retain moisture itself. What particularly pleases me is that, thanks to our close partnership with WALA, our research is finding a practical application in the form of the Dr.Hauschka ice plant products – which will now be used to help people who suffer from very dry and hypersensitive skin. This is a very satisfying result