Chemists say maple leaf extract may prevent wrinkles

If you thought maple syrup and beautiful autumn leaves were the best part of maple trees, think again.

Scientists reported on Aug. 20 at the 256th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston that an extract from maple leaves may prevent wrinkles.

While scientists have studied the chemistry and health benefits of sap and syrup from sugar maple and red maple trees, historical records suggest other parts of the trees could be useful too, according to Navindra P. Seeram, the project’s principal investigator.

“Native Americans used leaves from red maple trees in their traditional system of medicine, so why should we ignore the leaves?” he asked.

Skin elasticity is maintained by proteins such as elastin. Wrinkles form when the enzyme elastase breaks down elastin in the skin as part of the again process.

“We wanted to see whether leaf extracts from red maple trees could block the activity of elastase,” said Seeram’s research associate, Hang Ma.

In their research at the University of Rhode Island, they focused on phenolic compounds in the leaves known as glucitol-core-containing gallotannins (GCGs) and examined each compound’s ability to inhibit elastase activity in a test tube. They also did computational studies to examine how the GCGs interact with elastase to block its activity and how the molecules’ structures affect that blocking ability.

Their previous tests have showed that these same GCGs might be able to protect skin from inflammation and lighten dark spots, such as unwanted freckles or age spots.

Further testing is planned.

“You could imagine that these extracts might tighten up human skin like a plant-based Botox, though they would be a topical application, not an injected toxin,” Seeram said.

Funding and support for their work comes from the University of Rhode Island and Verdure Sciences, a supplier of botanical extracts.