Exquisitely beautiful and elegant, orchids evoke feelings of luxury, opulence, sophistication, royalty, love and sensuality. And rightly so! Orchids are not just beautiful to look but also have potent bio-actives that help reduce many signs like lines and wrinkles, uneven skin tone, dryness and many more.
Orchids have been revered in different cultures as a symbol of virility, love, beauty and symmetry.
These flowers have been used in cosmetics and skin care products in India for centuries. In ancient Japan, orchids were treasured by the royalty and were considered symbols of wealth. In China, they were considered the epitome of human perfection and were revered for their beauty. In Victorian Europe, they were given as gifts to show love and affection and were even used in love potions.
There are more than 25,000 varieties of orchids and they come in all colours imaginable, other than black.
Orchids grow in almost all types of climate, live for years, sometimes more than 100 years, and in many varieties, the flowers bloom for weeks and even months at a time (this might give you an idea why they might be a miraculous anti-ageing ingredient)
Here I want to highlight The Queen of Orchids, Cattleya labiata or Crimson cattleya. It grows mostly in the South American countries, particularly in Pernambuco and Alagoas in Brazil.
If you look at a picture of the Cattleya labiata, you will realise that it is the most representative of all orchids, and is also the most popular due to its stunning beauty and intricacy. Also, known as The Lost Orchid, this striking, lavender-hued flower, like all orchids, is one of nature’s most potent anti-ageing powerhouse.
William Swainson, a naturalist who is famous for having traipsed through the unmapped jungles of Brazil, came across the first specimen of this beautiful flower about 40 miles north of the province of Rio de Janeiro.
Later, Swainson retired into the wilderness of New Zealand and other botanists and plant collectors tried to find other specimens of this beautiful flower but they all failed. None could find another sample of this then-very rare orchid for several decades.
71 years later, in 1889, a French insect collector, Monsieur Moreau, rediscovered the plant via one of his plant collectors whom he had sent to Brazil. He then cultivated the illusive Cattleya in his greenhouse and when Frederick Sanders, owner of one of the most noteworthy British orchid houses, stopped by at Monsieur Moreau’s place, he recognized the flower as The Lost Orchid.
Thus began the wonderful journey of one of the most beautiful and sought-after orchids in the world.
The main components that give orchids such miraculous anti-ageing powers include:
Anthocyanin – These are plant pigment with strong anti-oxidant powers. The common anthocyanins found in orchids include Orchicyanin 1, Orchicyanin 2 and cyanin.
Minerals – Orchids are rich in calcium, copper, iron, magnesium and zinc and these minerals play an important role in keeping skin healthy.
Mucilage – Mucilage, a thick gooey substance produced by many plants, is a biologically active ingredient that helps provide skin hydration and moisturise the skin.
Glucides – Plant sugars that help with moisturisation of the skin
Phytochemicals like alkaloids, bibenzyl derivatives, phenanthrenes etc which can play a vital role in maintaining skin health.
Anthocyanins are water-soluble plant pigments that are responsible for red, blue and purple colours of many flowers, fruits and vegetables. They belong to the class flavonoids and are powerful anti-oxidants.
Anthocyanins are part of the plant’s protective mechanism and they are synthesized in response to environmental stressors such as UV radiation, temperature extremes, drought, disease and pollution. The anthocyanins and the polyphones form a protective layer around the cell, which prevents it from breaking down. (This may tell you why anthocyanins are a boon for your skin)
Research shows that anthocyanins have free radical -scavenging capacity up to four times greater than Vitamin E and Vitamin C which makes it one of the most powerful antioxidants for your skin.
Skin protecting polyphenols like anthocyanin also inhibits enzymes responsible for the degradation of collagen fibres which helps in slowing down the ageing process.
Because of its antioxidative and astringent properties, the orchid may help improve skin tone while minimizing oxidative stress and delivering smooth and moisturised skin that is free of uneven spots and pigmentation.
The Cattleya labiata contains minerals like calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, iron, etc., all of which help keep the skin fresh and youthful for longer.
Minerals, when absorbed by the body, helps inhibit the enzymes which are responsible for the degradation and ageing of skin cells, meaning that it protects skin tissue from degenerating.
These minerals are also humectants, which means they can hold on to water, which in turn prevents lines and wrinkles from appearing on the surface of your skin, keeping your skin looking fresh and youthful for longer.
Mucilage is a polysaccharide (plant sugar) obtained from plants (such as this one) and is well-renowned because of its water-retentive properties. It functions as a wonderful moisturiser and emollient due to its high water-binding capacity.
Additionally, orchid extracts provide skin hydration by stimulating aquaporin 3 (AQP3) and LEKTI protein expression which, basically, increases surface cell hydration and reduces water evaporation from the skin.
The Cattleya labiata is a rich natural source of mucilage, which can be used to make your skin softer, suppler, and more youthful-looking. It has a soothing effect on the skin, which reduces the stress that could lead to wrinkles, fine lines, and other signs of ageing. It is a wonderful natural moisturizer for your skin; it not only makes it look firm and wonderful from the outside but hydrates your skin from the inside.
Glucides are also polysaccharides that have a moisturizing effect on the skin. It is a compound which has been directly linked with the production of additional collagen in the skin.
Collagen is the substance responsible for the firmness in your skin, and when your body is producing enough collagen, it is a sure sign of elasticity and suppleness in your skin.
As you age, the production of collagen reduces, which makes it necessary to get as much external help as you can to increase the production of collagen. Coincidentally, orchids are one of the richest sources of glucides, which helps in the rapid production of collagen and ceramides in the body.
Glucides can help your body retain more moisture, which in turn gives you a bright, youthful glow and keeps lines and wrinkles at bay.
Glucides also helps eliminate scars, blemishes and skin tissue damage thus keeping your skin smooth and blemish-free.
It also strengthens cell walls and regulates the pigmentation of your skin, so that you have a natural brightness to your skin, which cannot be imitated by any cosmetic product in the market.
Orchids also contain phytochemicals such as phenanthrenes, alkaloids, bibenzyl derivatives, etc., all of which are beneficial for the skin.
These phytochemicals have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral activities to keep your skin healthy and strong to fight environmental aggressors, temperature changes, microbes and infections, consequently delaying the effects of ageing.
Orchids might be the ultimate secret to glowing, bright and youthful skin that simply refuses to age!
Orchids are powerful anti-ageing agents that benefit several key parameters like fine lines and wrinkles, uneven and dull skin tone, skin hydration, pigmentation and a lot more. True, you don’t see too many products with Orchid extracts but that is only because they are expensive and only super high-end brands have products containing this powerful anti-ageing ingredient.
So, are you ready to incorporate this super ingredient into your skincare regime? Let us know in the comments.
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