What : This sweet, aromatic yellow-orange fruit from the rose family is believed to have been cultivated in China over 4,000 years ago, traveling with traders on the Great Silk Road. Apricots tend to ripen earlier than the similar peach, and so was given the name praecoquus, 'early ripening', in Latin.
What it does : Applied on skin, the lightweight oil of apricot kernel improves skin’s ability to maintain elasticity as it seals in moisture for prolonged suppleness.
What : Arnica is sourced from a yellow wildflower indigenous to mountainous North Asia and is also known as Leopard’s Bane and Mountain Tobacco. A popular wound-healing plant, it demonstrates disinfecting and anti-inflammatory qualities when applied to cuts, bruises, and soreness, speeding up healing for a slew of skin ailments.
What it does: Arnica treats by boosting circulation, cutting down the time it takes to calm inflammation and reduce rosacea, sunburn, bruising, and acne.
What : Artemisia belongs to the sunflower family, and is a hardy, sometimes invasive plant with finely cut, fuzzy leaves. Throughout East Asia, the plant’s leaves and seedlings are eaten raw and cooked into soups, dumplings, confectionary, kimchi and glutinous rice cakes. Medicinal use includes steeping the herb as a tea, as well as moxibustion, where dried Artemisia is burnt over acupuncture points.
What it does : Artemisia conditions skin as an anti-inflammatory while stimulating collagen synthesis with its blend of vitamins A, B1, B2, & C
What : In 1973, an excavation of a second century Chinese tomb revealed 92 wooden tablets of herbal prescriptions, and the baikal skullcap was listed among them. One of the 50 fundamental herbs in Traditional Chinese medicine, it is best known for treating high fever, coughs with phlegm, gastrointestinal infections, as well as improving circulation and treating allergies.
What it does : Baikal skullcap flavonoids have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-allergy effects that calm acne, eczema and psoriasis.
What : While bamboo plants are often called trees, they are actually a type of grass, and unlike trees, don’t become broader or taller after just one growing season. Throughout East and Southeast Asia, bamboo is deeply intertwined with culture. Young shoots are consumed as food, raw leaves are livestock feed, pulped fiber is turned into paper, and the hardy, hollow stems used to build sturdy houses, rafts, tools, furniture, and utensils.
What it does : Compounds such as phenolic acids, flavones, and glycosides found in bamboo cleanse, comfort inflamed skin, and fade dark spots.
What : Edible bird’s nests are highly prized in Traditional Chinese medicine for their nutritional value, exclusivity and unique texture. Composed of hardened salivary material from male swiftlets, the nest is translucent, becoming smooth and gelatinous when prepared as bird’s nest soup. It is often consumed as a beauty supplement to rejuvenate the skin, as well as to promote immunity and speed up recovery from illnesses.
What it does : Epidermal growth factors in bird’s nest stimulate skin recovery and repair, building its elasticity.
What : The plant’s unusual name refers to the fragrant volatile oils produced by the plant which, in the heat of summer, can catch fire in a flash. Chinese traditional medicine healers classify the herb as providing clear heat and clean toxin, and use it to treat fungal infections, arthritis, cardiac arrhythmia and acne.
What it does : Burning bush’s antiseptic and antibacterial properties are able to treat skin inflammations, inhibiting the worsening of acne and eczema.
What : Gathered from the bark of Cinnamomum trees, fragrant cinnamon spice has been widely treasured for thousands of years. Ancient egyptians included it in embalming rituals while ayurvedic texts refer to it as an expectorant, stimulant and a cardiovascular tonic.
What it does : When applied topically, cinnamon stimulates the blood vessels to increase blood flow, lending skin an instant plumping effect and a healthy glow. Antioxidants in cinnamon are also known to clear acne.
What : In Japan, the Chameleon Plant goes by dokudami, and its leaves are harvested and dried to make tea. This ubiquitous flowering herb is identifiable throughout Asia for its heart-shaped leaves and strange, fish-like scent, and is consumed in salads (Vietnam), prepared with fish (Manipur, India) and is supplied as a folk medicine for pneumonia (China).
What it does : Among the compounds responsible for the plant’s unusual scent is decanol acetaldehyde, an antibacterial for treating eczema and acne.
What : The flowering cnidium plant is among the most commonly used traditional herbal medicines, its fruit and seeds utilised for treatment of infertility and libido-related ailments in both men and women. It’s also prescribed for acne, eczema and severe itching, and as a kidney and liver supplement.
What it does : Cnidiums root contains phenolic compounds that guard the skin from environmental damage, increasing clarity and brightness.
What : The “King of Fruits” in Southeast Asia is strikingly large, with an iconic spiky rind that gives way to an equally bold scent and flavour. Loaded with phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and protein, durians custard-like flesh is most often consumed raw, although some cuisines include cooked and fermented preparations.
What it does : Potent antioxidant bioflavonoids and compounds including quercetin and caffeic acid restores skin and stimulates repair, making durian ideal in anti-aging formulations.
What : Harvested in spring and autumn, the roots of the perennial, herbaceous Fang Feng plant is among the most valued traditional Chinese medicines, used to treat many different ailments including colds, abdominal pain, joint pain, headaches, numbness, itching and spasms.
What it does : Fang feng is traditionally used to relieve skin itching and dryness, and is an especially effective as a soothing agent in skincare formulations for sensitive, inflamed skin.
What : Derived from the sake-fermentation process, galactomyces ferment filtrate is a nutrient-dense liquid sought-after for its fast-acting skincare benefits. Fermentation in food has been long regarded as beneficial, proven to increase bioavailability and enhance the presence of vitamins, minerals and amino acids, factors that are also vital to skin health.
What it does : Galactomyces ferment filtrate works on a cellular level to develop a healthy skin barrier, increase elasticity, banish acne-causing bacteria, improve hydration and regulate sebum.
What : Native to Eastern China is “living fossil” ginkgo, a tree species that has existed for over hundreds of millions of years. Ginkgo is one of Asia’s best selling herbal medications, lauded for its ability to improve blood circulation.
What it does : Ginkgo biloba contains high levels of flavonoids and terpenoids that protect the skin. Other benefits include intense hydration, skin-soothing and smoothing properties.
What : East Asia’s all-purpose tonic is celebrated for its adaptogenic properties, improving the body’s capacity to deal with stressful situations. Cultivated in Korea since antiquity, the ginseng root takes five to seven years to mature, before being dried and sold, or added to supplements, teas and energy drinks. Ginseng consumption is linked to enhanced mental performance, sensory awareness and memory.
What it does : With antioxidant effects, ginseng minimises the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles on the skin, firming and toning, while also rebalancing the barriers of oily and sensitive skins.
What : Gotu Kola is a treasured herbal cure-all in many parts of Asia. The small, aquatic plant is both consumed as a leafy green vegetable in salads and used as a medicinal skin-healer. Some call the plant “tiger grass” because legend has it that tigers wounded from hunting were observed rolling around in gotu kola bushes to cure themselves.
What it does : Packed with antioxidants and amino acids, gotu kola is remarkable for its ability to increase circulation, heal blemishes and skin irritations, and prevent scarring.
What : The burdock plant may not leave a good first impression-- its flowerheads a crown of barbs that cling onto clothes and animals that brush past. Yet its secret lies deep beneath the ground, where a fleshy tapered root extends up to two feet-long. The tuber is mainly consumed in Japan, where it was cultivated as an edible vegetable around 1,000 years ago.
What it does : Burdock root oil is anti-inflammatory and antiseptic, a natural remedy for many skin conditions including acne, eczema and psoriasis.
What : The attractive deep red, oval heads of the great burnet plant are most commonly seen in cool climates of Northern Asia, home of most of its 20 species. Great burnets genus name, Sanguisorba, translates to ‘to absorb blood’, and refers to its use in folk medicine to arrest bleeding. The plant is also edible, with young leaves that have a mild-tasting, crisp, cucumber-like flavour.
What it does : Great burnet root is a powerful anti-ager, fighting free radicals as it soothes and refreshes with its saponin ziyu glycoside I.
What : This sacred tree of Japan is prized for its elegant, fine quality timber, which have been used for centuries to construct temples, shrines, and palaces such as the Horyuji Temple in Nara and the Osaka Castle. Varieties of hinoki cypress are cultivated for ornamental purposes such as bonsai.
What it does : Hinoki wood is naturally lemon-scented, and its oils lend a rejuvenating, decongesting effect. Applied on acneic skin, cypress oil balances sebum overproduction and speeds up healing while remaining mild enough not to aggravate the skin.
What : There are about 200 species of honeysuckle, and their fragrant, trumpet-shaped flowers grow all across Asia, Europe and parts of the Americas. Half of them are located in China, where they are a key medicinal herb used to treat all manner of skin conditions and wounds.
What it does : Honeysuckle flower is particularly effective against inflammation of the skin, with antioxidant flavonoids and saponins that reduce swelling and calm redness.
What : From the Middle East to Southeast Asia, the red fruits of the jujube are consumed fresh, dried, pickled, candied, in soups and jams. Its fruit and seeds are also an integral part of several traditional medicinal practices, where it’s believed to invigorate the body, increase metabolism, and treat insomnia and low-immunity.
What does it do : Jujube is lauded for its skin-comforting, antioxidant properties. It offers relief from sunburns and dryness, as well as defense against free radicals.
What : The kiwifruit may forever be associated with New Zealand, yet the fuzzy fruit with sweet, green flesh was originally the Chinese gooseberry, indigenously picked from the wild as medicine. A school principal brought some seeds with her from China back home to New Zealand in 1904, giving it to a farmer whose trees first bore fruit six years later. The rest, as they say, is history.
What does it do : Antioxidants vitamin C and E work to support elastin and collagen structures, and on the surface, kiwifruit enzyme, actinidin gently slough off dead cells to reveal healthy and resilient skin.
What : The name licorice comes from the Greek glykhrrhiza, translated as “sweet root”. One of the most popular herbs worldwide, it was prized by ancient Hindu, Chinese, Greek and Egyptian healers as medicine for colds, rejuvenation, and to enhance the potency of herbal concoctions.
What it does : Licorice root is the key to radiant, youthful skin. Potent antioxidants glabridin, glycyrrhizin and liquiritin soothe and condition complexions besieged by sensitivity and inflammation, regulate sebum secretion and even out skin tone and texture.
What : Sometimes called the “Mushroom of Immortality”, the lingzhi mushroom is venerated in ancient medicine as a remedy for a wide variety of illnesses. Through the latest research, we know now that lingzhi contain many bioactive molecules that make the mushroom a potential well of antioxidant, antitumor, antiviral, antimicrobial, and immunomodulatory agents.
What it does : Rich in polysaccharides vital for skin renewal as well as its ability to retain hydration, lingzhi is effective in calming inflammation and defending against free radical damage.
What : A sacred flower in Buddhism, lotus blooms can thrive in muddy waters, retreating underneath the surface at night and rises at dawn. This mystical poetry is matched only by the lotus’ remarkable versatility as an edible plant-- almost all its parts are health-promoting and contain protective flavonoids and phenolic acids.
What it does : Lotus seeds antioxidant, skin-soothing properties work to calm redness, prevent breakouts and improve skin elasticity.
What : The “Queen of Nuts”, macadamias are named for John McAdam, the Scottish-born chemist who first cultivated them, and are the world’s youngest commercially cultivated tree nuts. Harvested in winter, the nuts produce a buttery-tasting oil popularly used as a plant-based replacement in baking and cooking.
What does it do : Macadamia nut oil is rich in deeply moisturising and anti-microbial oleic, linoleic and palmitoleic acids, of which the latter is rarely found in vegetable oils.
What : A symbol of good fortune, mandarin oranges are displayed and gifted to family and friends for Chinese New Year. The sweet citrus is an excellent source of dietary fibre, vitamin C and A, and is often consumed in full-- its juicy flesh eaten raw, and its peel saved to use fresh, or dried to make a chi-regulating medicine in Chinese herbology traditions.
What it does : Full of antioxidants, mandarin orange is able to prevent lines and wrinkles, as mild bleaching qualities treat pigmentation from UV damage and its astringency minimizes excess sebum production.
What : Known in the Asian tropics as “The Queen of Fruits”, mangosteens red-purple exterior belies wedges of soft, white flesh. Across many parts of South and East Asia, the fruit is consumed both for its tangy, sweet flavour and used as traditional remedy against infections, gastrointestinal ailments and wounds.
What it does : Xanthones from mangosteen are easily absorbed into the surface of skin to fight free radicals, prevent inflammation and minimise skin sensitivity.
What : There are 13 species of moringa in all, flowering plants used medicinally and as a nutritious food source for over 4,000 years. Of them, moringa oleifera is the most widely cultivated, its seed pods, leaves, seeds, oil and flowers used in various ways regionally.
What it does : Both extracts and oil from the “miracle tree” impart a glowing complexion via vitamins A and E, and moisture retaining omegas-3 and -6.
What : In China where it has been cultivated for over 2000 years, the moutan peony is greatly revered. Initially grown for its rootbark, a popular traditional medicine to invigorate the body, it was later developed for its beauty. It’s little wonder-- the tree peony’s majestic large pink to white blooms are unrivalled, and its plant can live for more than 50 years.
What it does : Paeonol, a compound derived from the moutan peony rootbark, inhibits the enzyme activity that causes pigment to form and rise to the skin’s surface from UV exposure, keeping skin even-toned and bright.
What : Mung beans are a staple in cuisines across Asia, used in sweet and savory dishes, and eaten whole or ground into paste. The legumes are also commonly sprouted for bean sprouts, a crunchy, nutty vegetable rich in concentrated amounts of key vitamins and minerals.
What it does : Added to cleansers and masks, mung bean powder provides gentle manual exfoliation and deep cleansing to remove dirt, bacterial and sebum buildup.
What : Over thousands of years, the Japanese have eaten fermented soybeans, or natto, with rice. Likely discovered as an accident when the beans were wrapped in rice-straw, a natural habitat for the bacterial starter Bacilus subtilis, nutrient-rich natto is most famously known for its memorable funk and stringy, slimy texture.
What it does : Natto’s slime contains gamma polyglutamic acid (PGA), lecithin and vitamin E that work in tandem to effectively protect, hydrate and smooth skin.
What : A sign of peace, purity, wisdom and power, the olive was revered across ancient communities across the West for their symbolism and myriad uses, seen as a gift from the gods. The fruit and its oil are some of the most important ingredients in mediterranean cooking, and wood from evergreen olive trees are very strong and durable, precious for its colour, patterns and natural antibacterial properties.
What it does : Vitamin E, polyphenols and phytosterols make olive oil an antioxidant powerhouse. Together, they defend skin cells from oxygen-depleting free radicals, repair skin damaged from sun exposure, and encourage acne scars to heal.
What : Perilla hails from the same family as basil and mint, and actually refers to a group of separate herbs, seeds and vegetable crops. Their broad leaves with serrated edges are perhaps most recognisably used in Korean, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese cuisine to impart a mild sweetness and herbaceous aroma.
What it does : Perilla seed oil is among the best plant-based sources of omega-3 essential fatty acids, able to repair, soothe and condition ageing skin. A compound in the oil acts as a natural precursor for ceramides, which fortifies skin’s natural barrier against water loss.
What : The ancestors of the pomegranates we know today originated in the region of modern day Iran through to the Himalayas in northern India. Sacred throughout ancient cultures, the tangy, sweet fruit with its clusters of ruby red pulp-covered seeds were seen as a symbol of resurrection and eternal life in Christian art, of prosperity and fertility in Hinduism and as a blessed fruit in Buddhism.
What it does : Pomegranates are a formidable source of antioxidants, which are able to combat inflammation from acne, smoothen skin, stimulate the production of collagen and shield cells from oxidative stress.
What : A weed you can eat, purslane grows on every continent in the world except Antarctica. It has a staggering level of omega-3 fatty acids, the highest out of all leafy vegetables, and a flavour that has been compared to spinach and watercress. When taken as an herbal supplement, the plants seeds act to lower levels of blood glucose, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.
What it does : Mother nature’s anti-ager purslane activates the telomerase enzyme, which protects the DNA of skin cells, repairing on a cellular level. On top of this, vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene prevents lines and uneven skin tone from UV-damage.
What : Raspberries come in more than than 200 species and a variety of colours, chiefly red, black and yellow. Believed to have evolved in Eastern Asia, the nubbly-textured fruit is a treasure trove of nutrition, rich in vitamin C, manganese, dietary fiber, copper, magnesium, folate, potassium and omega-3 fatty acids.
What it does : The oil extracted from raspberry seed is known for ellagic acid, an antioxidant which has been shown to limit the destruction of collagen, protecting the skin against UV damage. Raspberry is also especially high in skin-conditioning essential fatty acids and vitamins A and E.
What : The outer layer of the kernel is a humble byproduct of the rice-milling process, yet it’s remarkable for a slew of health benefits when taken as a supplement, owing to its composition of antioxidants, vitamin E, B vitamins, phytosterols, and essential fatty acids. More unique functions of rice bran include use in pickling and stewing food, and in a traditional detergent.
What it does : Rice bran oils squalene can heal cracked, chapped skin from severe dryness, while its B vitamin complex, phytic acid, encourages skin cell turnover for visibly brighter skin.
What : Soybean is the number one source of the world’s vegetable protein and oil. It’s most widely consumed as food for humans and feed for animals. But byproducts from the bushy, green soybean plant are also used in variety of of industrial applications, from biodiesel to inks, candles to skincare.
What it does : Soybean is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, targeting pigmentation, fortifying skin from the elements, and boosting hydration through stimulating the body’s inbuilt hyaluronic acid production.
What : Succulent, red strawberries symbolize righteousness and perfection, and in medieval Europe, were carved as motifs on church pillars and altars. Like many other red-to-blue coloured fruit, strawberries are rich in antioxidative, antimicrobial pigments that improve health and protect against diseases.
What it does : Skin-perfecting salicylic acid in strawberries smooth and fight acne, while omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants strengthen skin and fade dark spots.
What : Each spring, wild sweet cherry trees transform into a sight to behold, producing dense clusters of small white flowers. This is followed by a crop of sweet deep-red fruits. Ripening in June or July, they are the ancestor of almost every established dessert cherry.
What it does : Sweet cherries possess a radiance-building cocktail of exfoliating malic acid, a type of alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), hydration-locking sugars and antioxidant vitamin C to refine and defend against skin discolouration.
What : The globally-prized camellia sinensis plant is the starting point of all teas, whether black, white, green or oolong. Its earliest written records can be traced back to a book in from the late Western Han dynasty, authored by the emperor Shen Nung, a man linked to the many mythical origins of tea.
What it does : Teas antimicrobial, astringent, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties make it an efficacious anti-aging and skin-balancing ingredient, reducing blackheads and acne, stimulating cell healing, preventing free radical damage and fighting bacteria.
What : For over 2000 years, families in the southern provinces of China have used oil pressed from the seeds of the camellia oleifera as a cooking oil. The nutritious, bright yellow liquid is preferred for its high temperature resistance and smoke point, and holds high amounts of oleic acid, 75-80%, along with low levels of saturated fats.
What it does : The unique composition of tea oil camellia and natural antioxidants lend it a mild, soothing quality, ideal for dry and irritated skins.
What : The distinctive goldenrod yellow of ginger’s cousin, turmeric root, is what gives curry its bold colour. Also dubbed “Indian Saffron,” the spice has long been employed in the subcontinent’s holistic healing system -ayurveda- as an ingredient in food, tinctures, juice form and topically, valued for its myriad applications and potent therapeutic qualities.
What it does : Turmerics bioactive compound, curcumin, boasts anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antioxidant qualities that clear acne, calm flare-ups and slow-down the effects of ageing.
What : Achieving an impressive one meter height in its lifetime, water celery goes by many names, including water dropwort, Indian pennywort and Japanese celery. Water celery is consumed as a vegetable and medicinal herb, an excellent source of vitamin E, iron, and beta-carotene.
What it does : Water celery is antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory-- a trio of qualities perfect to calm, protect and revitalize damaged, sensitive skins.
What : One of the 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese herbology, Weeping Forsythia is a flowering shrub with long trailing branches. The leaves, stems, fruits and roots are all used to treat ailments. Its golden flowers and unripe fruits, in particular, are traditionally decocted for a anti-ageing, acne-clearing face wash.
What it does : Studies show that Weeping Forsythia is a notable anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial, balancing sebum production while alleviating redness and swelling from acne.
What : The name of the white jelly mushroom refers to the plants distinctive translucent white fronds. Also known as the snow fungus or tremella mushroom, it is commercially cultivated as a tonic, and added to medicinal Chinese dessert soups that combat dry skin, heal coughs and clear “heat” in the lungs.
What it does : Polysaccharides in white jelly mushrooms have a humectant property that draws moisture from the atmosphere to maintain hydration where it’s needed most.
What : Native to Northern China, the white mulberry tree is perhaps best known for its wide cultivation as feed for silkworms in the commercial silk industry. Both smaller and sweeter than black and red varieties, white mulberries are distinctly sweeter and are highly concentrated with antioxidant flavonoids that promote heart health.
What it does : It’s been discovered that white mulberry naturally inhibits melanin production, improving the appearance of melasma and hyperpigmentation.
What : White willow tree bark is among the world’s oldest herbal cures for pain and inflammation, used across Indian, Chinese, Greek, Egyptian and Roman civilisations. When consumed, the body converts the white willow’s active ingredient, salicin, into salicylic acid. Aspirin’s compound acetylsalicylic acid is, in fact, derived from salicylic acid.
What it does : Willow bark holds keratolytic qualities, which means it softens and sheds dead skin cells, inhibits bacteria and breaks down impurities lodged in pores for a refined, clearer complexion.
What : Witch hazel has been used for centuries like an all-purpose healing plant-- from being infused into teas for colds and coughs, to soothing sore muscles when steamed. More recently, it has been used medically as an astringent to stop bleeding and relieve pain.
What it does : Added to skincare formulations, the tannins and polyphenols from the witch hazel plant kill bacteria, speed-up healing and lift excess oil from the skin.
What : Yuzu is a hybrid of ancient citrus Ichang papeda and satsuma mandarin, originating from the upper regions of the Yangtze River. The fruit made its way to Japan in the Tang Dynasty, and there it’s still by far the most beloved citrus, used in cooking, medicine and as part of an invigorating ritual bath on the day of the winter solstice.
What it does : The benefits of yuzu are threefold : One, the aromatic oils relax and energize while it softens dry skin. Two, the fruits stores of vitamin C stimulate collagen production and boosts skin immunity. Three, anti-microbial p-methoxycinnamic acid keep acne and skin infections at bay.