Developing cosmetic ingredients from medicinal plant by-products

Researchers from the Institute for Environmental Solutions (IES) in cooperation with SIA “Alternative plants” develop high value-added bioactive cosmetic ingredients from by-products of medicinal plant processing and plant cell cultivation.

The growing human population creates increasing demand of natural resources for food, medicine, pharmacy, and other industries. IES’s researchers see a great potential in industrial organic medicinal and aromatic plant processing by-products:

  • Medicinal and aromatic plant processing by-products from medicinal chamomile essential oil extraction provided by organic farming experts SIA “Field and Forest”.
SIA “Field and Forest” medicinal chamomile essential oil extraction process. Image: Institute for Environmental Solutions.
  • Dragonhead (Dracocephalum), European gooseberry (Ribes) and Juniper (Juniperus) plant tissue cultivation by-products of cosmetic production provided by SIA “Alternative plants” company.
SIA “Alternative Plants” ārstniecības augu šūnu audu kultūru kultivēšanas process. Attēls: Vides risinājumu institūts.

During the previous research period (January – March 2021) scientists began the biorefining processes – extraction, fractionation and chemical characterization of active compounds that can be found in by-products. Dr Ilva Nakurte describes this process: “Before the start of this research, we already knew that these medicinal and aromatic plant processing by-products contain high concentrations of valuable compounds. After the first test trials we realized that by using biorefining processes we can obtain active compounds that are highly demanded by pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and food industries.”

Researchers have also started the biorefined extract tests on cells to assess their applicability to the development of new cosmetic products. “Our research partners SIA “Alternative Plants” have started the combination of biorefinery fractions and extracts to generate a composite of high value cosmetic ingredients. These ingredients are tested on human skin cells aiming to assess the impact. For example, they are testing if different active compounds can protect skin cells from Ultraviolet (UV) radiation,” explains Dr Ilva Nakurte.

Researchers plan to continue the adaptation of the extraction methods for each group of by-products. That will allow them to find out which fraction contains the most valuable bioactive compounds and which of them would be worth testing further on the skin cells.

Research “A biorefinery approach for the development of bioactive cosmetic ingredients from by-products of medicinal plant processing and plant cell cultivation” ( is developed as a part of the European Regional Development Fund programme measure “Support for applied research” and specific objective 1.1.1 “Improve research and innovation capacity and the ability of Latvian research institutions to attract external funding, by investing in human capital and infrastructure”

More on the project HERE.