It turns out maple trees are good for a lot more than syrup, fall foliage and Canadian flags. According to new research out of the University of Rhode Island—and you might want to hold onto your pancakes for this one, y’all—maple leaf extract could be used as an all-natural way to treat wrinkles too.
In a normal, inevitable part of growing old, wrinkles form when the enzyme elastase breaks down elastin in the skin. “We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase,” explained Hang Ma, Ph.D., who recently presented his group’s findings at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society.
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“Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine, so why should we ignore the leaves?” he added.
Scientists were able to zero in on resinous compounds in the leaves known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) which inhibit elastase activity.
"You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox," the project’s principal investigator, Navindra P. Seeram, PhD, explained. And unlike Botox, an injected toxin, maple leaf extract can be applied topically—no needles required.
It gets better, still. The study also found that the GCGs in maple leaves can protect skin from inflammation and treat dark spots and pigmentation. Exciting? You bet! Researchers are already trying to get their maple leaf extract formulation called, Maplifa, into products.
And, because maple leaves fall naturally from trees in the fall, creating Maplifa would be a sustainable process.
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal, if you ask us!