Ethnopharmacological relevance: With a net turnover worth of £181 billion, the cosmetic industry is a leading worldwide business with a very lucrative future. Nonetheless, due to recent concerns regarding toxicity of synthetic cosmetics, herbal products have come into the limelight of cosmetology. The tropical island of Mauritius has a well-anchored diversity of indigenous plant species which are exploited for various purposes but no study has been designed to (i) quantitatively document, (ii) assess the effectiveness, and (iii) study the incidence of adverse effects and perception associated with the use of herbal products for cosmetic applications.
Method: Data was collected from herbal users via face-to-face interviews using semi-structured questionnaire. Quantitative ethnobotanical indices (fidelity level (FL), variety of use (VU) and relative frequency of citation (RFC)) were calculated.
Results: Twenty five herbs belonging to 21 families were recorded in use for 29 different cosmetics applications. Many of the documented species represented well-known plants, although we also recorded a few plants being exploited for new cosmetic applications. Plants with the highest RFC were Curcuma longa L. (0.45), Lawsonia inermis L. (0.42) and Aloe vera (L.) Burm.f. (0.42). A total of 8 plants were reported to score 100% with respect to the FL. Interestingly, Lawsonia inermis L. being the highly cited plant species showed a clear dominance as a popular phytocosmetic and which has also been extensively documented for its pharmacological properties. Moreover, it was found that 25% of the respondents experienced adverse effects; with pruritus (11%) being the most reported condition. It was also observed that participants perceived herbs/herbal products to be free from adverse effects.
Conclusion: Most of the plants reported have been described in previous studies for their bioactive components which tend to justify their use as phytocosmetics. Further research should be geared to explore the potential of these plant products for the cosmetic industry.
Keywords: Cosmetics; Herbal preparations; Herbs; Mauritius; Phytocosmetic.
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