Pinus strobus, commonly called Eastern white pine, is a hardy evergreen that grows rapidly and reaches up to 90 meters in height, making it the tallest tree in eastern Canada. It is harvested primarily for its pulp and lumber and is widely used in the construction industry. The Algonquin First Nations in Quebec consider the white pine as king of the forest and sacred, and it is believed to protect the people.1
The tree’s bark was used by the First Nation tribes of Canada for the exterior coverings of longhouses. In traditional medicine, the bark also served in dressings to treat cuts, wounds and swelling.
In industry, the bark is generally considered a non-valuable byproduct and is currently either composted or burned. As the “skin” of trees, barks are rich in bioactive polyphenols that serve to protect the tree from harsh environmental conditions, such as extreme Nordic temperatures. Unfortunately, all the natural active compounds in the bark are destroyed during composting and burning.
Extracting these bioactive molecules before they are lost can serve as a creative way to eco-valorize these otherwise wasted byproducts. Indeed, the key to a circular economy is to keep resources in use for as long as possible, to extract the maximum value from them while in use, then to recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each life cycle.2
The present work examines an extract for cosmetic applications that supports the circular economy in that it is derived from this upcycled wood waste material. Obtained through the aqueous extraction of white pine barks—collected from a sawmill in the province of Quebec that applies eco-responsible forest management—the extract was standardized for its taxifolin content, quality control and biological activity.
Taxifolin is a flavonoid belonging to the polyphenol family of plant metabolites naturally occurring in white pine bark. Flavonoids (and polyphenols in general) are bioactive molecules of high interest for the cosmetic industry; polyphenols in particular have been reported in the literature to inhibit melanogenesis and to demonstrate high antioxidant potential.3, 4
Being rich in various polyphenols with antioxidant potential,5 the Pinus strobus bark extract was initially tested in tubo and in vitro and found to demonstrate mechanistic efficacy. The work described here explored its ability to improve skin complexion ex vivo and clinically.
- Uprety, Y., Asselin, H. and Bergeron, Y. (2013). Cultural importance of white pine (Pinus Strobus l.) to the Kitcisakik Algonquin community of Western Quebec, Canada. Can J For Res 43(6) 544-551.
- Stahel, W.R. (2016). The circular economy. Nature 531(7595) 435-8.
- Chang, T.S. (2012). Natural melanogenesis inhibitors acting through the down-regulation of tyrosinase activity. Materials 5(9) 1661–1685.
- Topal, F., Nar, M., Gocer, H., Kalin, P., Kocyigit, U.M., Gülçin, I. and Alwasel, S.H. (2016). Antioxidant activity of taxifolin: An activity-structure relationship. J Enzyme Inhib Med Chem 31(4) 674-83.
- Legault, J., Girard-Lalancette, K., Dufour, D. and Pichette, A. (2013). Antioxidant potential of bark extracts from boreal forest conifers. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 2(3) 77–89.