The Organic Consumer Association’s article More on Parabens: Greenwashing With Honeysuckle Extract has caught the attention of editors and I am getting more and more questions regarding Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.

Plantservation is being marketed as a liquid preservative isolated from the herb Japanese Honeysuckle. It is a debated ingredient by cosmetic formulators and chemists. It does not appear on the proven list of preservatives by either the EU or the FDA. It claims to have a broad spectrum antimicrobial activity, however, reports in the documentation only shows effective bactericidal activity. My thorough search for preservation test results came up empty. Any cosmetic product that contains water or even traces of water requires broad spectrum preservation.

The Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is said to contain para-hydroxy benzoic acid, which is a naturally occurring paraben. Para-hydroxy benzoic acid is a phytochemical that is readily available throughout nature in plants, animals and insects. Carrots, olive oil and a whole host of other natural sources contain the same phytochemical. If carrots, olive oil or honeysuckle is mixed with water preservation is required, showing the the para-hydroxy benzoic acid occurring in nature is not at high enough concentrations to act as a broad spectrum preservative as claimed by Plantservation. Since the phytochemical para-hydroxy benzoic acid found in plants is not a broad spectrum preservative alone it is not a far stretch of the imagination to conclude that the Japanese Honeysuckle Extract has altered, boosted or adulterated in the laboratory.

Even the claim that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract contains naturally occuring para-hydroxy benzoic acid is up for debate. When I spoke with an outside testing lab regarding this product they doubted that claim and suspected naturally phenols instead.

David Steinberg, president of the cosmetic consulting firm Steinberg & Associates, adjunct professor at Farleigh Dickinson University, an instructor for the Society of Cosmetic Chemists and the best preservative expert I know on the market wrote an article for Personal Care Truth on Honeysuckle Plant Extract that goes into more depth on the topic.

In terms of how green this product is there is evidence that Japanese honeysuckle contains 5 possible allelochemicals that cause interference with forest regeneration in the United States. It appears to be one of the ingredients that sounds good on the label but in reality has flaws and lacks scientific documentation to prove it to be the next great ingredient on the market.

I have chosen not use Japanese Honeysuckle Extract as a preservative method because I cannot get full disclosure of ingredients, it does not have a proven track record and it does not have a history of testing for proven safety. I simply am not certain that Japanese Honeysuckle Extract is not another Grapefruit Seed Extract trap. It sounds natural, but is it really?

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