What's the Ferulic Acid?
Ferulic acid is a hydroxycinnamic acid, an organic compound. It is an abundant phenolic phytochemical found in plant cell walls, covalently bonded as side chains to molecules such as arabinoxylans. As a component of lignin, ferulic acid is a precursor in the manufacture of other aromatic compounds. The name is derived from the genus Ferula, referring to the giant fennel (Ferula communis).
Occurrence in nature
As a building block of lignocelluloses, such as pectin and lignin, ferulic acid is ubiquitous in the plant kingdom.
Ferulic acid is found in the cell walls of plants such as wheat, rice, peanuts, oranges and apples. It seems to be particularly abundant in coffee and amaranth (the name comes from the Greek for "the one that does not wither," presumably as a result of all the ferulic acid). It is an antioxidant that can seek and destroy several different types of free radical - ‘superoxide’, ‘hydroxyl radical’, and ‘nitric oxide’ - according to a 2002 Japanese study.
How Does Ferulic Acid Work?
Ferulic acid is probably one of the most powerful anti-oxidants available. While the ones discovered so far provide a protective cover against the free radicals and it can be argued that they act defensively, ferulic acid is an offensive anti-oxidant. It actively seeks and destroys some of the most powerful free radicals in nature.
It is an unfortunate practice, but some of the new substances discovered for cosmetic uses get released to the general public without proper testing and evaluation. While the testing as to any short or long term side-effects from the usage is still pending, there have been several independent studies that have taken ferulic acid to a new level of acceptance.
The first known study was conducted in 2002 in Japan and according to its results ferulic acid was successful in eradicating some of the so called “superadicals” like nitric oxide, superoxide and hydroxyl. Further studies conducted in 2004 in Italy determined the substance to be more powerful than ascorbic acid (vitamin C), alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) and beta carotene.
Duke University took things one step further after the results of these initial studies. An attempt was made to combine ferulic acid with vitamins C and E and the results were nothing short than astounding. It appears that the anti-oxidant effect becomes cumulative and the mix renders the properties of the vitamins much more powerful. However, this was not the epitome of the study.
What was truly astonishing was that when ferulic acid is used in combination with the other vitamins to combat the effects of the sun and UVA/UVB radiation, the stronger the ultra violet light was, the more powerful ferulic acid became. This discovery alone makes it a very potent material to use in the fight against wrinkles.
The current combination released in public (15% vitamin C, 1% vitamin E and 0.5% ferulic acid) has had some debate as to restrictions that must be imposed upon its use. First of all, it becomes rather harmful and is not to be used after its expiration date. This is not a warning to be taken lightly.
Secondly, it must be kept in the refrigerator tightly sealed. We all know that vitamins quickly dissipate in room conditions and even if the combination makes them more stable it is inevitable that some degradation is involved which means that the potency is reduced if the storage conditions are not proper.
Vitamin C has been known, being an acidic compound, to cause irritation to people with sensitive skins. At the recommended concentrations for collagen production stimulation it is strongly recommended not to use any such compound before receiving professional advice.
However, for many, the most important issue seems to be the price of products containing ferulic acid. They are among the most expensive cosmetics available. It is not easy to come by and it is not easy to extract. There has been an attempt to create a synthetic version called trans ferulic acid but it does not seem to be as effective as the natural version.
It is because of this price that there has been strong support in DIY topical options. However, this is a complex issue as there are several risks involved if one dares to produce it at home and mix it with other compounds.
While the properties of ferulic acid have been independently confirmed by more than one studies and these properties seem to classify it as a super anti-oxidant and a very valuable ingredient in cosmetics, they also classify it as a substance that needs to be handled with care and after some precautionary measures are precisely observed.
Unfortunately at the price it comes to the general public it can only be available to those that have the money to buy it. The majority of the population will never have the chance to enjoy its properties and beneficial results to the skin unless a solution is found to offer a cosmetic at a reasonable and affordable price.
As it stands it seems that ferulic acid, for the time being, is more trouble than it’s worth. There are too many safety concerns to allow for unguided usage, untested conditions if people decide to use it on their own and therefore unpredictable results and a rather too steep of a price to enjoy the benefits of a tested combination.
Hopefully in the future its properties can be better harnessed and a solution can be found to allow for everyone to enjoy its benefits
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