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January 26, 2009

Cropwatch Newsletter Jan 2009 Published

The most recent Cropwatch Newsletter Jan 2009 [pdf] has been sent to subscribers and posted on the Cropwatch website. There is also an html format post elsewhere on the web, and several of the articles in it were previously posted on this blog, so we won’t do more than summarize it.

The Newsletter starts out with an Editorial on the theme 2008: A Bad Year for Natural Aromatic Ingredients.  A Good Year for Industry Consultants and Ingredient Clerks, in which Tony discusses the REACH Process, Corporate Influence over IFRA and its affect on the use of Natural Products, and the effects of increasing market demand for natural ingredients on the sustainability of the natural environment.

The articles included in the Newsletter are:

1. The REACH Pre-registration Exercise – an Autopsy
2. Sandalwood – A Critical View of Developments
3. IFRA Gives Up Supporting Two More Natural Aromatics:
Opoponax & Styrax Next for the Chop
4. Frankincense – A Brief Catch-Up
5. The Art of Natural Perfumery: Under Threat from Natural &
Organic Cosmetic Certifying Organisations?
6. The Oakmoss & Treemoss Saga – Slight Return
7. GM Fragrance Anyone? – Hopefully No Takers
8. IFRA Workshop - Allergy Prevalence in Fragrance, November
4, 2008, Brussels, Belgium
9. More on Ylang-ylang oil

Articles 2, 3 and 4 are updated and slightly expanded from articles previously published on this blog. Click on the number for links to the posts here: 2 3 4 however you may want to read the PDF version to get the latest information.

Article 5 on the Art of Natural Perfumery is a detailed analysis and response to the various attempts by various organizations to develop Organic and Natural Standards to control the ingredients used. This topic has been previously discussed on this blog; you can find the articles filed under the category Standards. Tony takes several of the standards to task and closes his article with:

We could review proposals from other organisations, but we think you get the idea ….. both natural & organic cosmetics are a long way from living up to the promise of their descriptions. The lack of common sense is also worrying – for example, banning added synthetics such as UV filters (one thing that Cropwatch would allow) which as well as increasing the shelf-life of the product, arguably
help protect against the risk of solar/UV-induced skin cancer. This ban, taken with other considerations, means that evolving versions of natural & organic cosmetics may be in danger of becoming considerably less safe than conventional cosmetics.

Regarding natural fragrances, it can be guessed that many of us who have been involved in the teaching, promotion & development of the art of Natural Perfumery over the past several years may be getting a bit hot under the collar when whole classes of raw natural aromatic ingredients are suddenly declared “not natural” by the self-proclaimed officials of certifying organisations, who don’t appear have experience across all the areas they are proposing to regulate. The exclusion of concretes, absolutes & resinoids from an inventory of natural aromatics for fragrances intended for natural cosmetics may well pander to the more chemophobic amongst cosmetics customers. But the banning of petrochemical solvents cannot be justified on health grounds relating to supposedly harmful amounts of solvent residues that remain in these materials – since there is no health risk. We should also mention that there is a move to allow solvent extraction in the form of allowing CO2 extracts and bio-ethanol. The protagonists of these proposals do not make clear how they are going to determine whether the CO2 used in such processes is natural (i.e. produced by fermentation of natural materials etc.), or how they will propose to police the matter. Cropwatch’s guess is that (a) they haven’t thought about it and (b) they can’t guarantee it (thanks to Daniel Joulain for bringing this to our attention). The
proposed allowable use of bio-ethanol is welcome, but does not substitute for the elimination of other solvents.

We can clearly see that attempts by these certifying organisations to redefine natural cosmetics, and natural cosmetic/aromatic ingredients clearly bow to the business interests of the major international cosmetic companies and their customers, who are the potential cash-cows that these organisations are trying to milk. The multinational’s interests in the natural personal care sector has been plain enough for all to see – L’Oréal bought out The Body Shop, Estée Lauder did the same with Aveda & Clarins took over Kibio, just to mention three. That doesn’t mean to say that those of us working with natural products now have to dance to a tune played by the big corporates, or the organisations that suck up to them. We feel that many of the above-cited proposals & guidelines will be rejected by those purists who have been involved with natural perfumery to its
present point. You probably do not need Cropwatch to tell you that many experienced older perfumers have been found surplus to requirements lately by some of the Aroma Giants, probably because they are too expensive compared with younger perfumers. Many of these more experienced professionals are now working independently, making a living by creating natural perfumes. It is
unlikely, we feel, that this group will accept many of the definitions currently proposed by these Natural & Organic Cosmetic Certifying Organisations, and hopefully this group will become a growing influence in this area, for better values, independent of big industry’s requirements.

The Oakmoss/Treemoss article updates an article in this blog several months ago and announces that a detailed review of the lichens is planned for publication in Flavour and Fragrance Journal by mid-February 2009.

The GM Fragrance article discusses the progress? made in the floral products industry to increase the fragrance of flowers through GMO manipulation and the possibility that this will be a back door entry into the aromatics industry in spite of public opposition (especially in the EU) to Genetic Modification. The article contains several references and additional reading.

Brief comments on the IFRA workshop on Allergy Prevalence in Fragrance suggest a possible out for IFRA on the current over-regulation of the European cosmetics industry with a report that

sensitization to fragrance ingredients has decreased considerably over the years, and for some weak allergens, the rate of incidence is now so low that several thousands of subjects now need to be tested
to obtain one genuinely positive result.

The Ylang Ylang article is an update and correction to comments made in the previous Cropwatch Newsletter (Sept 2008) having to do with coniferyl benzoate in (or not in) ylang-ylang oil. Tony goes on to clarify the current status of the Ylang market.

All in all, a useful and interesting issue. Recommended reading for a variety of topics and interests.

Posted by Rob on January 26, 2009 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Oil Crops, Perfumery, Safety/Toxicity, Standards, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 01, 2009

Frankincense – A Brief Catch-Up

Copyright ã Tony Burfield. Jan 2009.

The year 2008 saw the publication of a number of papers on the analysis & therapeutic properties of Frankincense gum, extracts & distillates, and it is only in recent years perhaps, that we are gaining further insight into the true nature & therapeutic potential of these various exudations & preparations. The whitish-yellow or yellow-orange tears or lumps of Frankincense gum (syn. Olibanum) (syn. Incense) are obtained by tapping the trees of a number of Boswellia spp., and the gum & derivatives are valuable exported commodities for the Horn of Africa region (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia & the island of Socotra (Yemen)), but also for Sudan and other African regions. Frankincense gum is used to prepare incense, and extracts & distillates have been widely used as fragrance ingredients. Indian, Arabian & African Boswellia spp. have a number of uses in local ethnic medicine, which is starting to translate into uses in evidence-based conventional medicine (see for example, the major feature on Frankincense & derivatives in Phytomedicine, June 2008).

For a working definition, we can say that Frankincense is the dried exudation obtained from the schizogenous gum-oleoresin pockets in the bark of various Boswellia spp - the Boswellia group itself being placed within the Burseraceae family. The Boswellia group constitutes some 25 species of shrubs or small trees found in the dry tropical areas of N.E. Africa, S. Arabia and India (including N.E. Tanzania and Madagascar) growing at a height of 1000 to 1800 m.:


Boswellia Species. Eritrea Ethiopia Somalia Sudan India Kenya Oman Nigeria
B. dalzielii Hutch.               X
B. frereana Birdw.     X          
B. microphylla Chiov.   X            
B. neglecta S. Morre   X X     X    
B. ogadensis Vollesen   X            
B. papyrifera (Del.) Hochst X X   X        
B. pirottae Chiov.   X            

B. rivae Engl.

  X X          

B. sacra Flück **

  X X          

B. serrata Roxb.

        X   X  

Table 1. Distribution of some Boswellia spp.
*some now say syn. B. sacra Flück ** syn. B. carteri Birdw.

Frankincense – Uses

Frankincense has been very highly valued for thousands of years, dating to pre- Roman times, and has many uses & applications. It is the Horn of Africa’s highest volume export, and apart from uses in incense/perfumery, the gum oleoresin & preparations thereof are also used in a number of medicinal systems, for flavourings (‘maidi’ type of frankincense preferred) & for skin cosmetic applications for toner, emollient & anti-wrinkle uses.

Survival Pressure on Boswellia spp.

Several Boswellia spp. are listed in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008, including several individual spp. from the island of Socotra, off Yemen. However, some Frankincense- yielding species of commercial importance would also appear to be under threat e.g. Boswellia papyrifera in Eritrea, Ethiopia & Sudan (see Cropwatch’s Updated List of Threatened Aromatic Plants Used in the Aroma & Cosmetic Industries v1.09 Dec 2008). The results of the analysis of the essential oils from three threatened Boswellia species from Socotra have recently been published (Awadh Ali et al. 2008).

Frankincense - Anti-inflammatory Effects

Given the use of Indian Frankincense (B. serrata) gum-oleoresin in treating inflammatory disease in Ayurvedic medicine, a number of researchers have investigated the anti-inflammatory & anti-arthritic effects of the Boswellia resins. Frankincense contains α- and β-boswellic acids from 3α-hydroxy-olean-12-en-24-oic acid and 3α-hydroxy-urs-12-en-24-oic acid respectively, amongst others. Boswellic acid & pentacyclic triterpene acids are marketed as anti-inflammatory & anti-arthritic drugs in India (Handa 1992). Examples of commercialised products containing boswellic acids include ‘H15’ and ‘Sallaki’. Another, ‘Boswellin’ (a patented product of Sabinsa Corporation) is described as the standardized ethanol extract of Boswellia serrata gum resin, containing 60% to 65% boswellic acids.

The mechanism of the anti-inflammatory action may occur via the inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase (and hence leukotriene biosynthesis: Ammon et al. 1993; Ammon 1996). This action taken together with inhibition of human leukocyte elastase (Safayhi et al. 1997) may constitute the basis of the anti-inflammatory effect, since both of these enzymes play key roles in inflammatory & hypersensitivity-based diseases. The most active inhibitor of 5-lipoxygenase seems to be acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid, which is also cyctotoxic to meningioma cultures (Park et al. 2000).


The use of Boswellia preparations to treat another inflammatory disease, ulcerative colitis, may also owe its beneficial action to 5-lipoxygenase inhibition (Gupta et al. 1997).

Anti-carcinogenic Effects.

Leading on from the above, extracts of B. serrata & boswellic acids & their derivatives have been investigated by a number of researchers for their (chemopreventive) anti-carcinogenic/anti-tumorigenic effects via their cytotoxic & apoptosis effects in various in vitro cell lines. In particular acetyl-11-keto-beta-boswellic acid shows strong cyto-toxic activity against meningioma cell-lines and is the strongest 5-lipoxygenase inhibitor yet tested amongst triterpenoids (Hostanska et al. 2002). See Cropwatch’s Frankincense Bibliography v1.02 Jan 2009 for further details.

Use in Treating Respiratory Disease.

Gupta et al. (1997) investigated the use of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma in 23 males & 17 females with a history of the disease, in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study, 70% of the patients showed an improvement (against a 27% improvement in the control group).

Incense: the Purifying Smoke.

The smoke of incense is traditionally used in Arabia & NE Africa for its deodorizing and purifying effects. Basar (2005) showed that the pyrolysates of Boswellia carterii & B. serrata resins showed anti-bacterial inhibition for contained certain substances e.g. 24-norursa-3,12-diene, incensole acetate & cembrene A, in the case of B. carterii. The author concluded that the results could support the successful use of certain Boswellia resins as a disinfectants in traditional ceremonies.


The literature is beset with analytical investigations of non-botanically verified frankincense samples, often obtained from local markets. A few papers have been published more recently where proper botanical identification has been established. One such paper is that of Hamm et al. (2005) who analysed the mono-, sesqui- & di-terpene contents of 6 olibanum samples of botanically certified origin. For example the characteristic chemical compounds of Boswellia papyrifera were stated as the diterpenic biomarkers incensole and its oxide and acetate derivatives, n-octanol and n-octyl acetate.


Ammon H, et al. (1993) “Mechanism of antiinflammatory actions of curcumine and boswellic acids.” J. Ethnopharmacol 38(2-3), 113-19.

Ammon H. (1996) “Salai guggal Boswellia serrata : from a herbal medicine to a non-redox inhibitor of leukotriene biosynthesis.” Eur J Med Res 1(8), 369-70.

Awadh Ali N.A., Wurster M., Arnold N., Teichert A., Schmidt J., Lindequist U. & Wessjohann L. (2008) "Chemical Composition and Biological Activities of Essential Oils from the Oleogum Resins of Three Endemic Socotraen Boswellia Species." Rec. Nat. Prod. 2(1), 6-12

Basar S. (2005) Phytochemical investigations on Boswellia species: Comparative studies on the essential oils, pyrolysates and boswellic acids of Boswellia carterii Birdw., Boswellia serrata Roxb., Boswellia frereana Birdw., Boswellia neglecta S. Moore and Boswellia rivae Engl. PhD Thesis, Universität Hamburg 2005.

Gupta I., Gupta V., Parihar A., Gupta S., Ludtke R., Safayhi H. & Ammon H. P. (1998). “Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with bronchial asthma: results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled, 6-week clinical study.” Eur. J. Med. Res. 3, 511-514.

Hamm S., Bleton J., Connan J. & Tchapla A.(2005) "A chemical investigation by headspace SPME and GC-MS of volatile and semi-volatile terpenes in various olibanum samples." Phytochemistry. 66(12), 1499-514.

Handa S.S. (1992) Fitoterapia 63(10), 3.

Hostanska K., Daum G. & Saller R. (2002) "Cytostatic and apoptosis inducing activity of boswellic acid towards malignant cells in vitro.” Anticancer Research 22, 2853-62.

Gupta I., Parihar A., Malhotra P., Singh G. B., Ludtke R., Safayhi H. & Ammon H.P (1997) “. Effects of Boswellia serrata gum resin in patients with ulcerative colitis.” Eur J Med Res . 2(1), 37-43.

Park Y.S., Lee J.H., Bondar J., Harwalakr J.A., Safayhi H. & Golubic M. (2000) “Cytotoxic action of acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic Acid (AKBA) on meningioma cells.” Planta Med. 68, 397-401.

Safayhi H., Rall B., Sailer E-R. & Ammon H.P.T. (1997) "Inhibition by boswellic acids of human leukocyte elastase." Pharmacology 281(1), 460-463.

Posted by Tony Burfield on January 1, 2009 in Ecological/Cultural Sustainability, Essential Oils/Plant Extractions, Incense | Permalink | Comments (5) | TrackBack