Large-scale Screenings of Botanical Ingredients: Challenges and Opportunities

Until recently, the development of a botanical ingredient for cosmetic use has been a long and tedious process. This was typically initialized by defining the mechanism of action, which is sometimes based on the interactions of users with plants, i.e., ethnobotanical influences, including diverse popular and cultural traditions; in addition to determining the endpoints to be evaluated to screen the ingredient for performance; and searching the available literature to identify natural sources for some molecules that already have been described as having effects on those endpoints. After the initial theoretical prospecting using literature or popular knowledge, the development process of the botanical ingredient finally begins.

The traditional process also must consider the extraction procedure, e.g., whether molecules of interest will be isolated or concentrated; the loss of bioactivity that commonly occurs during the purification process; and limitations for the early dereplication of known or otherwise uninteresting compounds. Once the ingredient is obtained, at least on a laboratory scale, it is characterized for its composition through classical analytical technologies such as high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and/or gas chromatography (GC), which, for example, may be coupled to ultraviolet (UV) photodiode array detection, and/or to mass spectrometry (MS), to provide the mass and UV spectrum to compare with databases and identify the compounds. Moreover, liquid chromatography (LC) combined with MS, UV and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), using techniques such as LC/UV, LC/MS, LC/MS/MS and LC/NMR, quickly provide structural information with minimal amounts of the compounds required. After the phytochemical characterization, performance screenings are executed based on the pre-determined endpoint.

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