Synergy: from the forest to the extract

Synergy: from the forest to the extract 1890 1417 Celestin Nitkowski

Limitations of the single molecule

Cosmeceuticals is new and innovative branch whose activities are halfway between cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. It aims to integrate active molecules with preventive and therapeutic properties into cosmetics. To find these very particular molecules, science quickly turned to nature. First based on the pharmacopoeia [1] and now with the contribution of the cosmetopoeia [2], nature has become a boundless source of inspiration. Many currently used active molecules are derived by biomimicking and reproducing the amazing performances of nature [3]. Scientists first isolated active molecules from the organic material found in nature. Then, either in the interest of protecting nature or for economic profitability, depending on the case, some of the molecules were directly synthesized in laboratories or factories. Regardless of whether these molecules were isolated from natural extracts of artificially synthesized, they obviously have a very high biological activity since they are of maximum purity. This way of proceeding comes with several problems, which have been underestimated for a long time in the history of science. The first issue is related to the toxicity of the molecules used. Indeed, it is the dose that determines if a molecule will have beneficial or toxic effects. That is why an isolated molecule can have healing properties accompanied with side effects, whose limit in the risk-benefit ratio is unclear. It should be noted, however, that certain active molecules have been isolated to counteract the toxicity of other plant compounds present in the same extract. The second issue is directly related to the biological efficacy of the single molecule. A single molecule will have an efficient biological action, but this action will act upon a limited number of elements and will only rarely be sustainable. At this point, the glorification of the single molecule and its chemical structure has reached its limit.

Transcribing the dynamics of life

« When taken separately, active molecules have a specific activity, but when grouped together, their effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. That is synergy.»

Bio ForeXtra has decided to develop active ingredients solely obtained from the synergy of tree extracts. Ecological and inexpensive extraction processes allow to retrieve all non-volatile molecules from the plant, which are qualified as extractable. A natural extract obtained through this process contains many different molecules that spontaneously grouped together through the process of evolution. When taken separately, active molecules have a specific activity, but when grouped together, their effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. That is synergy. This influence of natural evolution on the synergic effect is very strong. Indeed, the mechanisms of natural selection led to the concentration of complementary molecules. A plant extract therefore has the power of collaborating molecules to create complex defense mechanisms. Naturally, the demonstrated activity of certain molecules is much superior to that of others. It should be noted, though, that some molecules will have support functions to facilitate the permanent fixation of molecules within our bodies. [4] [5] For example, certain fruits will allow to fix the vitamins they contain more efficiently than a dietary supplement made up of these same vitamins. [6] Furthermore, from a toxicity point of view, extracts also have the advantage of never containing the active molecule alone and in some cases, its toxic effects can be diluted or reduced by the action of surrounding molecules. [7] In addition, different molecules contained within the same extract can have various uses, which renders unnecessary the addition of many ingredients in a cosmetics formulation. For example, some molecules can serve as preservatives while others are antioxidants. Molecules, like all compounds of the nature, function as a group. The synergistic action mechanisms involved are still poorly known, but the effects have already been demonstrated. [7]

The energy of the forest

« The forest is so much more than just a series of trees. It represents a whole that has its own synergy.»

Beyond the synergy that can be observed within a plant extract is hiding another form of synergy, one operating at a greater scale—that of the forest. Particularly in natural forests, trees have the ability to mobilize their entire ecosystem to develop various forms of communication. Thus, in addition to the chemical markers that can be transmitted through leaves with the help of the wind, plants also exchange electric messages using complex mycorrhizal networks. Mycorrhizae are the symbiotic association between roots and fungi. [8] In case of an insect attack or significant climate change, trees can collaborate to improve one another’s defense strategy. This mutual assistance goes even further when it comes to sharing nutrients. Trees facing difficulties can therefore benefit from the assistance of their peers. Trees function as a society through this ability to communicate and share nutrients. Another level of organization has also been demonstrated, which takes the form of families. Mature trees protect younger trees, just like in a parent-child relationship. In fact, the overstory part of the crown, which is made up of an adult tree’s highest branches block the light from reaching young shoots by delivering the minimal amount necessary for photosynthesis. This also allows younger trees to grow at a slow pace, developing a solid trunk to be more resistant. To compensate for this lack of light, mature trees deliver the missing nutrients to their saplings through their roots. [9] Finally, it has been found that different tree species were also able to communicate with one another. [10] The forest is so much more than just a series of trees. It represents a whole that has its own synergy. One of the concepts developed by Bio ForeXtra is therefore to mix tree extracts from trees that thrive together in forests. Over the course of evolution, these species gathered and developed their ability to survive through symbiosis. The molecules of these extracts are therefore complementary and allow you to recreate the synergy of the forest.

We have a lot to learn from the forest! Let’s borrow this ancient knowledge and thrive in synergy with nature while benefiting from the properties of its eco-friendly products and actives for hair and skin.


[1]       J. COMBAZ, “La pharmacopée”, Sci. Pharm., 1985.
[2]       J.-L. Ansel, J.-F. Butaud, et P. Raharivelomanana, « Principaux taxons ligneux de la cosmétopée tropicale : une analyse bibliographique », Comptes Rendus Chim., vol. 19, no 9, p. 1035‑1048, sept. 2016.
[3]       G. Bœuf, « Biomimétisme et bio-inspiration », Vraiment Durable, no 5/6, p. 43‑55, 2014.
[4]       G. W. Burton et al., « Human plasma and tissue alpha-tocopherol concentrations in response to supplementation with deuterated natural and synthetic vitamin E », Am. J. Clin. Nutr., vol. 67, no 4, p. 669‑684, avr. 1998.
[5]       K. N. Chidambara Murthy, A. Vanitha, J. Rajesha, M. Mahadeva Swamy, P. R. Sowmya, et G. A. Ravishankar, « In vivo antioxidant activity of carotenoids from Dunaliella salina–a green microalga », Life Sci., vol. 76, no 12, p. 1381‑1390, févr. 2005.
[6]       « Achieving the Balance between ROS and Antioxidants: When to Use the Synthetic Antioxidants ». [En ligne]. Disponible sur: [Consulté le: 18-juill-2018].
[7]       P. Rasoanaivo, C. W. Wright, M. L. Willcox, et B. Gilbert, « Whole plant extracts versus single compounds for the treatment of malaria: synergy and positive interactions », Malar. J., vol. 10, no Suppl 1, p. S4, mars 2011.
[8]       S. W. Simard et D. M. Durall, « Mycorrhizal networks: a review of their extent, function, and importance », Can. J. Bot., vol. 82, no 8, p. 1140‑1165, août 2004.
[9]       K. Nara, “Ectomycorrhizal networks and seedling establishment during early primary succession”, New Phytol., vol. 169, no 1, p. 169‑178.
[10]     I. T. Baldwin et J. C. Schultz, « Rapid Changes in Tree Leaf Chemistry Induced by Damage: Evidence for Communication Between Plants », Science, vol. 221, no 4607, p. 277‑279, juill. 1983.