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What you need to know about plants and the skin…Why ‘natural’ may not necessarily be ‘safe’…

The clocks have now gone forward HELLO! readers and believe it or not!
“British summer time” has officially begun. With the days becoming lighter and the weather turning milder we see plants and flowers beginning to blossom, gardening season off to a start and many off us will be spending more time in gardens, parks and the great British countryside. This is a time where we may come in contact with flowers and plants of all descriptions.
There is increasing popularity for “natural” skin care products with consumers being rightly far more aware of the harmful effects of chemicals and preservatives on one’s skin. It is also widely perceived that naturally growing flowers and plants pose less of a risk to our skin than artificially manufactured skin preparations; if only this were true!
In this blog post I hope to spread some awareness on how some commonly found plants may even cause skin irritation and occasionally ill health.


My 5 most common flowers/plants, which may cross your path this summer:

1. Daffodils/ Narcissus are in full bloom at the moment and you are more than likely to encounter some on your way to work or in thpark at the weekend. They belong to the family Amyrillidaceae and are commonly called “the lent lilly” as they typically flower in Europe at Easter time. Daffodils and narcissus oil contain chemicals called masonin and homolycorin, which have been associated with allergic contact eczema (redness and irritation of your skin associated with itching when your skin comes in to contact with an allergen), asthma, allergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nasal airways resulting in sneezing and a stuffy nose feeling) and even death due to anaphylaxis (a severe immediate allergy). Common products where narcissus oils are found are perfumes and essential oils such as aromatherapy oils.

2. Limes or margharita dermatitis: The juice and oil in limes contain light-sensitive chemicals called furocoumarins. On their own, furocoumarins are harmless, but when they come in contact with UV rays from the sun, they chemically transform into something very unpleasant for the skin. The resultant rash – which is much larger than just the point of exposure – is as red, blistery, itchy and uncomfortable as poison ivy (though unlike poison ivy’s linear pattern, phytophotodermatitis looks like paint dribbling down the arm.)

3. Celery belongs to the family Umbilliferae and is a known photosensitizer i.e. makes your skin more sensitive to the effects of the sun therefore accelerating sunburn. Celery is commonly eaten in salads and is also grown here in the UK. Direct contact with celery can cause blistering of the skin when exposed to the sun after eating celery either in its raw form or when eaten in the form of celery soup. Direct contact can also cause an eczema like reaction and may bring you out in hives called urticaria if you are truly allergic.

4. Chrysanthemums: It is part of the very large Asteraceae (Compositae) family. Chrysanthemums are related to dahlias, sunflowers and marigolds. It is an ornamental flower. It was believed by the Chinese to have the power of life. Legend has it that the boiled roots were used as a headache remedy; young sprouts and petals were eaten in salads; and leaves were brewed for a festive drink. Chrysanthemums contain a variety of allergens including sesquiterpene lactones. These allergens are easily airborne and at this time of year can commonly cause an out of the blue facial/ neck eczema (or an eczema presenting at exposed sites of the body). It is the most common cause of allergic contact dermatitis in florists and horticulturalists. Chysanthemums can also cause a contact urticaria (hives) and an extreme form of photosensitivity called chronic actinic dermatitis.

5. Garlic comes from the family Liliaciae and is grown in Asia however is used commonly in cooking here in the U.K. Garlic contains the chemical compound diallydisulphide, allicin which can cause finger tip dermatitis due to allergic contact and or irritant contact dermatitis where you may experience redness and peeling of skin from your fingertips. This is can be a common presentation on chefs or if you commonly peel garlic.

6. Tea tree/ Manuka: This tree is typically found in Australia and New Zealand however is now being grown here in England, and belongs to the family Myrtaceae. You will commonly know this product by it being found in aromatherapy oils, soaps and cosmetics and even honey.allergic and if you are sensitive to this product then it may cause an allergic rash on your skin resembling eczema called allergic contact dermatitis or even just irritation to your skin. irritant contact dermatitis.

These are just some common plants and flowers, which can cause skin reactions and if you notice any redness irritation upon contact with certain plants please do see your Doctor/Dermatologist for advice . There are many more plants, which are used in the production of medicines and may have a unpleasant reaction on your skin. I hope with this knowledge when you see a product claiming its “natural” origins and beneficial effects you will keep in your mind that “natural” does not always mean “safe”. Stay skin healthy and skin blessed until next time …

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