How Broccoli May Save Your Skin

June 2018

By Christine Cheng, R.Ph. and Fred Cheng, R.Ph

Everyone knows how damaging ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun and other sources can be. It’s not just the UV-B radiation that we are familiar with when the sun is hot in the summer and we get sunburns more easily. Damage to our skin cells’ DNA is more attributed to UV-A radiation, which is present throughout the year, regardless of the weather. So, how can broccoli save our skin? Consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and radish have been inversely associated with various types of cancer.  This can be attributed to the phytochemical sulforaphane, a sulfur-containing isothiocyanate.

What is exciting is that sulforaphane can also have profound effects on the skin when applied topically. In-vitro experiments looking at the effect of applying sulforaphane topically to skin that has been exposed to UVR have shown it to be effective at reducing redness and inflammation that was induced by this UV-B radiation exposure. Researchers found that this benefit was not due to free-radical quenching or UVR absorption as has been seen with other phytonutrients (such as vitamin E or green tea extract). Rather, sulforaphane acts to increase the transcription and thus the synthesis of proteins, mostly enzymes resulting in a lasting effect, i.e., the benefit of the topical product will not be “washed away” once the sulforaphane is absorbed. Sulforaphane has also been shown to affect keratin biosynthesis, which suggests that it affects the integrity of the skin.

Newco, a Canadian company has developed a line of skin care products called BroccoFusion™ that employs the use of sulforaphane. The lotions can be used to relieve sunburn, heal burns and skin irritations, reduce hyperpigmentation (eg. age spots), help with stretch marks and acne as well as protect and repair U.V. radiation damage. The ointment contains a higher concentration of sulforaphane and can reduce and possibly eliminate hyperpigmentation, treat skin tags, lessen scars (from chicken pox, shingles, cold sores, and cysts) and moles, help heal cracked skin resulting from chemotherapy treatment, minimize stretch marks, help treat psoriasis and eczema, lighten dark undereye circles, and may even help with diabetic neuropathy in the feet.

For more severe skin conditions or for quicker benefits, this phytonutrient is also available in capsule form for oral use. In addition to its potential benefits in reducing the risk of certain types of cancer, sulforaphane may also help reduce hypertension and atherosclerosis. There is also preliminary research into the benefits of sulforaphane and its effects on maintaining the integrity of the blood-brain barrier following cortical contusion injury as well as its effects on improving symptoms associated with autism. 

Of course, the proper use of sunscreen and covering up are the first line options for protecting our skin from UV radiation. If you are considering using sulphoraphane, always remember to check with your doctor or pharmacist prior to using any supplement to ensure their safe use.

Christine and Fred Cheng are a passionate, charismatic sister-brother pharmacist team at their unique, family-owned and operated Pharmasave in Cloverdale, B.C. They specialize in natural remedies and compounding for both human and veterinarian use. Everything mentioned in their article is available InStore



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