Beta glucan is a natural compound, extracted from plants, that helps to maintain a youthful appearance for skin. This compound works indirectly in the human immune system by activating the production of an important part of the immune system called the Langerhan cells. The Langerhan cells are important both for over-all health and youthful looking skin, since they protect the body from major infections and provide a way to repair the day-to-day wear that comes from age. Unfortunately, over the course of aging, the production of Langerhan cells is slowed down by such factors as over-exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays, contact with chemicals and the simple wear and tear of age. As the human body begins to slow down the production of these very important immune cells, beta glucan acts to re-start the system that creates them. This system works in three stages: an activating compound – beta glucan – the immune cell and the reaction of the skin’s cells that make up tissues to help your skin look smooth, healthy and youthful.
There are a variety of sources for beta glucan. Most commonly, in skin care products, it is derived from the cell walls of baker’s yeast (Saccharmoyces cerevisiae), but beta glucan can also be extracted from the bran (the inner, most nutritious part of the seed) of oats, barley, rye and wheat. Beta glucan is, oddly enough, also a product of the shiitake mushroom (Lentinula edodes). Looked at chemically, beta glucan is made up of a long chain of d-glucose molecules, which are small enough to be quickly absorbed through the skin and which can be immediately used by the human body. This is important because, in medical terms, this means that beta glucan is both bioavailable and bioactive. This makes the compound able to be easily absorbed, so it can get right to work, and be quickly accepted by the body’s immune system so it can make a difference.
For thousands of years, folk medicine healers had recognized that rubbing a paste, called a poultice, made of oat bran onto the skin helped to relieve itching and pain and to help more quickly heal minor wounds, such as cuts, sores and rashes. Even without understanding the process, the results were obvious. Modern medicine has identified the connections regarding active compound – beta glucan – and what it actually is: how it works and what it does. The chemical structure of beta glucan allows it to interact with a specific type of microphages (immune cells) called Langerhans cells. (Confusingly, there are other cells with a similar name, called the islets of Langerhans in the pancreas, but these have an entirely different function.) The part of the immune system called Langerhans cells are a very specific type of cell located in the skin tissues and mucus. They provide an extremely important function by activating microbial antigens, the actual germ-killers. So, beta glucan is the key and the Langerhans cells are the factories that create the cells which actually do the work of protecting the body.
When applied topically, beta glucan is quickly absorbed into the skin and is accepted by the immune system, starting a process that attacks invading bacteria and viruses. By using skin care products which contain beta glucan, the body receives this necessary compound to jump-start the process which results in the production of immune cells. More than just helping to stimulate the production of immune cells, beta glucan has also been found to be effective in reducing blood cholesterol concentration and in reducing nasal inflammation caused by allergies.
In practical terms for human skin, beta glucan begins a process which will help heal skin from over-exposure to the sun, mild burns, rashes and even cuts and wounds. It not only helps the body’s immune system active and able to resist bacterial and viral infection, it also helps to stimulate the skin tissue to re-build surface cells and to restore the collagen structure. Fresh, youthful skin cells are grown while the supporting structural cells are also continually maintained. Beta glucan is an immune system guardian; it works at such a basic and important level – and in a completely natural way – that it provides the best and most basic skin care protection.