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Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity
Volume 2016 (2016), Article ID 7053897, 9 pages
Research Article

An Evaluation of Root Phytochemicals Derived from Althea officinalis (Marshmallow) and Astragalus membranaceus as Potential Natural Components of UV Protecting Dermatological Formulations

Clinical Photobiology, European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter Medical School, Knowledge Spa, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro, Cornwall TR1 3HD, UK

Received 18 September 2015; Revised 2 January 2016; Accepted 10 January 2016

Academic Editor: Hesham A. El Enshasy

Copyright © 2016 Alison Curnow and Sara J. Owen. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


As lifetime exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation has risen, the deleterious effects have also become more apparent. Numerous sunscreen and skincare products have therefore been developed to help reduce the occurrence of sunburn, photoageing, and skin carcinogenesis. This has stimulated research into identifying new natural sources of effective skin protecting compounds. Alkaline single-cell gel electrophoresis (comet assay) was employed to assess aqueous extracts derived from soil or hydroponically glasshouse-grown roots of Althea officinalis (Marshmallow) and Astragalus membranaceus, compared with commercial, field-grown roots. Hydroponically grown root extracts from both plant species were found to significantly reduce UVA-induced DNA damage in cultured human lung and skin fibroblasts, although initial Astragalus experimentation detected some genotoxic effects, indicating that Althea root extracts may be better suited as potential constituents of dermatological formulations. Glasshouse-grown soil and hydroponic Althea root extracts afforded lung fibroblasts with statistically significant protection against UVA irradiation for a greater period of time than the commercial field-grown roots. No significant reduction in DNA damage was observed when total ultraviolet irradiation (including UVB) was employed (data not shown), indicating that the extracted phytochemicals predominantly protected against indirect UVA-induced oxidative stress. Althea phytochemical root extracts may therefore be useful components in dermatological formulations.