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What is Ursolic Acid?

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  • Written By: Constance Simmons
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Ursolic acid is a natural substance derived from plant material. It is found primarily in the leaves, peelings, or bark of plants, including apples, lavender, oregano, cranberries, and many others. It often is used in cosmetology and medicine because of its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antitumor, antiulcer and antiviral properties.

Initially, ursolic acid was not thought to have medicinal qualities. Despite this, it was still traditionally used in alternative medicine. Its first pharmacological use was to aide in the making of oils and lotions, but not as an active ingredient. Eventually with further research, its anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antiviral qualities were discovered.

Ursolic acid is also sometimes called urson, prunol, or malol. Other acids that have similar chemical compositions — and therefore similar pharmacological and cosmological uses — include betulinic, moronic, and oleanic acid. Each of these also has anti-inflammatory, antifungal, or antiviral properties and are carboxylic acids, which are the most plentiful of the organic acids.

Ursolic acid has an exceptionally low toxicity. This dermatological harmlessness makes it extremely valuable, as it can be used in a large number of products. It is proven safe for both external and internal use as well.

In cosmetics, ursolic acid has a variety of applications. It is used to treat and prevent scalp irritation and to stimulate hair growth. It may also help reduce or stop dandruff. It's ability to stimulate blood flow is what makes it especially useful in treating scalp problems.

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Ursolic acid is also used in the cosmetics industry in antiaging products. It creates a barrier that repels oil on the skin, just as it does in the peel and bark of plants. This barrier helps keep moisture in the skin. It also helps to increase the skin's elasticity by restoring collagen. The use of ursolic acid on the skin can create more moisturized, younger-looking and feeling skin.

Ursolic acid's anti-inflammatory properties make it a valuable medicinal tool as well. It is used both internally and externally to reduce inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory qualities make it useful in creating topical treatments for burn patients, for instance. Its antimicrobial and antifungal properties also make ursolic acid important in treating bacterial or fungal infections, such as diarrhea and urinary tract infections. Additionally, ursolic acid has also been shown to stop the growth of cancer cells, and doctors often use it to treat tumors; it has been found to be more effective than retinoic acid, a widely used antitumor agent.

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