Para cress (also termed toothache plant, Brazil cress) is a tropical plant cultivated in South America, Africa and Asia. In Brazil, the plant is called "Jambú" and used as a vegetable. Like chilly pods, Para cress has a light anaesthetic effect. The tabloid press has quite recently presented Para cress extract as a so-called wrinkle killer sensation.
Mrs Martina Grams, training manager at KOKO's asked the managing director and chemist at KOKO, Dr Hans Lautenschläger, what he thinks of skin care treatments with Para cress preparations.
M. Grams: Is Para cress the new hype or a well-known active agent?
Dr Lautenschläger: KOKO encapsulated Para cress extract in liposomes and introduced it on the market as an "anti-wrinkle serum" within its product range "dermaviduals® modular sera" as long ago as July 2006. In other words, the active agent and its effects have been known for more than 10 years. Dr Hans-Ulrich Jabs covered the effects of Para cress in his article entitled "Die Schätze des tropischen Regenwaldes - Exotische Wirkstoffe" which was published in 2007 and can be downloaded from the website www.dermaviduals.de.
M. Grams: What is the mode of action of Para cress?
Dr Lautenschläger: Para cress contains spilanthol alias (2E,6Z,8E)-N-Isobutyl-2,6,8-decatrienamide. Like botulinum toxin it reduces the muscle contraction of the mimic wrinkles. The result is a relaxation which involves a visible smoothing of the skin.
M. Grams: Are there other terms for the plant?
Dr Lautenschläger: The German term "Parakresse" is ambiguous since the plant actually belongs to the aster family (alias composite or daisy family) while the term suggests affiliation to the Brassicaceae family. The correct botanical term is "Acmella Oleracea". This is also the term used in the INCI of skin care preparations. Another plant name - in particular used in Brazil - is Jambú.
M. Grams: Para cress extract is termed as a so-called effect agent. Are there actually such substances as "effect agents" and what does the term imply in the cosmetic field? .
Dr Lautenschläger: In contrast to the common cosmetic active agents which improve the lipid content of the skin, for instance, or have hydrating effects, the so-called effect agents have quick and clearly visible effects. Among them are the visible improvements on the erythema skin but also the immediately visible wrinkle reduction after treatments. Unlike cosmeceuticals with their long-term effect, the results of effect agents are of temporary nature. The preparations have to be re-applied again and again.
M. Grams: Product marketing talks consumers into thinking that you "apply Para cress once and you are free of wrinkles within 6 minutes". Can that be possible?
Dr Lautenschläger: As always, marketing messages are ahead of reality. It should be mentioned however that Para cress shows quick results when it is combined with penetration-enhancing substances such as liposomes.
M. Grams: Para cress is also marketed as "Bio Botox". Is there any truth behind the advertising message?
Dr Lautenschläger: Marketing always tends to use broad brand awareness by comparison and transfer to unknown products. The visible result of Para cress is the same, as a matter of fact. While botulinum toxin has a longer lasting toxic effect on the nerves, Para cress has temporary effects similar to a local anaesthetic, though.
M. Grams: What particular cosmetic active agents support the effects of Para cress?
Dr Lautenschläger: The effects are optimized when amino acids of the NMF (Natural Moisturizing Factor) and skin barrier supporting substances are contained in the preparation.
M. Grams: Is Para cress tolerated by all types of skin?
Dr Lautenschläger: Restrictions have not been reported so far. In the case of very sensitive skin, a temporary light skin irritation and/or a temporary erythema have been reported similar to the effects of chilly extracts. Hence it is recommended to start with a small dosage. Experience also has shown that with repeated application, the dosage can be lowered at a consistent effect.
M. Grams: Is Para cress a proper and, above all, a healthy alternative to botulinum toxin?
Dr Lautenschläger: As already mentioned above, the effect of Para cress extract is not based on toxic impacts. It should also be mentioned that unlike botulinum toxin, an accidental overdosage is not critical.
Further interesting details in connection with Para cress can be found on the websites:
M. Grams: Thank you very much for your evaluation.