The Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®
Life Extension NewsTM
Volume 13 No. 2 • April 2010

Anti-Aging Supplements

Plant Extracts That Inhibit Elastase and Collagenase

Elastase is a proteolytic enzyme involved in the degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM), that includes elastin. Elastin provides much of the elastic recoil properties of skin, arteries, lungs, and ligaments.1 Loss of elastin is a major part of what causes visible signs of aging (wrinkles, sagging) in skin. Eighty percent of the dry weight of skin is reported to be collagen,1 responsible for the tensile strength of skin. Collagenases are a type of metalloproteinase that can cleave molecules in the ECM that includes elastin, fibronectin, laminin, and collagen. As the authors of paper #1 point out, you need elastase to degrade proteins that are, for example, within the ECM after wounding in order to eliminate this proteinaceous material by phagocytosis to permit repair. However, natural materials with anti-elastase and anti-collagenase properties can help prevent the undesirable age-associated destruction of elastin and collagen.

In a recent study,1 the anti-elastase, anti-collagenase, and anti-superoxide activity of 21 plant extracts were determined in a chemical assay. Nine of the plant extracts exhibited anti-elastase activity, with the highest six being white tea (~89%), cleavers (~58%), burdock root (~51%), bladderwrack (~50%), anise and engelica (~32%). Anti-collagenase activity was exhibited by 16 of the plant extracts, with the highest inhibition being exhibited by white tea (~87%), green tea (~47%) rose tincture (~41%), and lavender (~31%). Nine of the extracts had activity against both elastase and collagenase, as follows: white tea (E:89%,C:87%) > bladderwrack (E:50%,C:25%) > cleavers (E:58%,C:7%) > rose tincture (E:22%,C:41%) > green tea (E:10%,C:47%), followed by rose aqueous > angelica > anise > pomegranate (E:15%,C:11%).

The phenolic content of the extracts varied between 0.05 and 0.26 mg gallic acid equivalents/ml. with the exception of white tea, reported as 0.77 mg gallic acid equivalents/ml.1

White tea was clearly the superior plant extract in this study for anti-elastase and anti-collagenase activity (white tea and green tea also had about the same and the highest level of superoxide scavenging activity compared to the other extracts). The authors also cite a separate study done by other researchers in which 150 plant extracts were tested for their anti-elastase activity, with six inhibiting elastase more than 65% that included cinnamon, turmeric, and nutmeg.

The data speak for themselves. Though chemical assays may differ from in vivo results due to the compartmentalization of chemical systems within cells, the strong anti-elastase and anti-collagenase and anti-superoxide activity of some of these extracts, particularly white tea, along with the safety of drinking white tea (which is just green tea picked at an early phase in its growth) suggests one easy method for protecting elastic tissues, including skin, at least in part, from an important aspect of aging.


  1. Thring et al. Anti-collagenase, anti-elastase and anti-oxidant activities of extracts from 21 plants. BMC Complement Altern Med 2009, 9:27 doi:10.1186/1472-6882-9-27.

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