Sunday, June 5, 2011

Honeysuckle As Sunblock Boost?

In urban parks like Sligo Creek and the Northwest Branch, the fight against invasive exotic plants often produces huge amounts of leafy garbage, prompting land managers and volunteers alike to wish for some creative use for all of the so-called “yard waste.”

In the past this has led to garlic mustard recipe books and kudzu cook-offs, and even artwork made of vines. Such efforts, however, seem to barely make a dent in the huge amount of green stuff pulled from our parks in order to save the trees and native plants.

So I was really excited to read last week about a paper recently published by the American Chemical Society on a potential new use for honeysuckle. Writing in the journal Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research, two Chinese researchers say they’ve found a way to use honeysuckle to boost fabric’s ability to block UV rays. This new discovery could potentially improve the design of so-called “sunblock shirts” by making them more effective and more sustainably produced.

The researchers note that honeysuckle has long been used to treat colds and fevers in Asia, and that it is currently also used as a food preservative. Some cosmetic makers also use the plant in products which are touted to make customer’s skin look younger.

There’s a down side to all of this, however. The initial research was conducted on fabric made of wool, and most of us are searching for sunblocking clothes which are both lightweight and UV protective.

Still, it would be nice to find a good use for all that stuff strangling the trees out there in the park. And I wonder what it smells like, too… sweet, or wooly?

No comments: