Interview with Dr. phil. II Beat Müller, specialist and expert for plant to skin know-how. A glimpse behind the scenes.

Dr. phil. II Beat Müller has been working in research and development at JUST since 2018. He is responsible for product maintenance of the JUST bestsellers, as well as for strategic projects that focus on the origin and cultivation of JUST herbs and plants. In the interview, you can find out which topics he deals with and why plant tradition is so important to Beat Müller in his work.

Hello Beat, please introduce yourself!
Beat Müller: My name is Beat Müller. For the past four years I’ve been working in the JUST R&D department and I’m responsible for JUST bestseller product maintenance as well as for strategic projects focusing on the origin and cultivation of JUST herbs and plants.

I have always been and still am fascinated by the power of plants and how we can optimally harness this power to our advantage.

Dr. phil. II Beat Müller, pharmaceutical plant expert at JUST International AG

You are responsible for the plants in the JUST products and literally bring these plants to our skin. Can you explain to us in simple terms what you do at JUST?
Beat Müller: As you mentioned, it’s all about getting the plants onto the skin. In more precise terms it’s my job to enable the JUST customers to benefit from the best qualities of the plants through their skin. So how do you get these best plant qualities onto the skin? This can be summarised in four steps:

  1. Choosing the right plant material
  2. Extracting the active ingredients from the plant
  3. Incorporation of the active plant ingredients into a JUST care product
  4. Transferring the plant ingredients into the skin with the JUST care product

Can you explain the four steps with examples?
Beat Müller:

1. Choosing the right plant material
In echinacea, the purple coneflower, for example, the active plant substances that strengthen our immune system are more concentrated in the leaves, stem and flowers than in the root. This is why we focus on the foliage.

2. Extracting the active ingredients from the plant
Conventional methods dissolve the herbal ingredients out of the plant material with a liquid. This produces plant extracts, which we also refer to as active plant ingredients. In the same way as when you make tea, the liquid must wet and penetrate the plant material. Edelweiss leaves have thousands of tiny hairs that repel water. For this reason alcohol is needed to wet and soften the edelweiss leaves. However, in order to also dissolve the edelweiss acid, the main active ingredient, we also need water. A mixture of ethanol and water is therefore used for extraction. In the second step the alcohol is removed from the extract.

3. Incorporation of the active plant ingredients into a JUST care product
In the third step, the extracts are incorporated into the JUST herbal creams and care products. While we are manufacturing these products we have to ensure that both the product itself as well as the active plant ingredients it contains remain stable during use to guarantee the lasting quality of the JUST care products.

4. Transferring the plant ingredients into the skin with the JUST care product
The last step is applying the plant-based active ingredients from the JUST product onto the skin so that they can take effect. An ointment base increases the skin’s receptivity by making the skin softer and more permeable. In this way the active herbal ingredients are infused into the skin more deeply and quickly.

You hold a degree in pharmacy and as a pharmacist you specialise in medicinal products and their use. What made you focus on plants and herbs?
Beat Müller: Medicines are very closely linked to the healing powers of plants. Many of the active ingredients used today in classic medicinal therapies originally come from plants.

Do you have an example of this?
Beat Müller: The one that is most familiar to us is certainly aspirin, which was originally extracted from the bark of the silver willow. Extracts from silver willow bark have been used since ancient times to relieve arthritic symptoms. This is due to the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect of salicylic acid, which is formed by the body from salicin. Salicin is contained in large quantities in the bark of the silver willow.

What do you find so special about the plants & herbs?
Beat Müller: The wonderful symbiosis between people and plants is truly fascinating. On the one hand we use plants as food and on the other hand as medicinal herbs to keep our body and skin in balance or to strengthen their defences.

Which plant power can we make use of to our benefit?
Beat Müller:

We use the energy stores of plants as nutrition. These are mainly the carbohydrates, but also fats and oils. These are also referred to as primary plant substances.

We can use the so-called secondary plant substances to keep our body and skin in balance or to strengthen the natural protective mechanisms of our body.

We use the primary plant substances as nutrition and the power of secondary plant substances to strengthening and well-being of our bodies.

Dr. phil. II Beat Müller, pharmaceutical plant expert at JUST International AG

How does this work exactly with the secondary plant substances? Can you explain this to us using a JUST product as an example?
Beat Müller: Edelweiss acid protects the edelweiss against damage caused by high radiation exposure even at high altitudes of up to 3,500 metres. We use this protective mechanism in our Vital Just products to protect facial skin against environmental stress.

What experience have you gained throughout your career that helps you in your work today? Do tell us …
Beat Müller:

When I was preparing my doctoral thesis I learnt a lot about the interaction between skin preparations and the skin. For example, absorption of active ingredients by the skin depends on the composition of the cream. With pharmaceuticals, it is important that the active ingredient acts where it is needed. For example, there are substances that promote the distribution of active ingredients in the uppermost layers of the skin, but make it difficult for them to penetrate into deeper layers of the skin.

Such insights help me to design a skin care product that enables the active plant ingredients to penetrate into the skin as efficiently as possible so that the plant can fully unfold its effect.

An important factor is also ensuring that this effect remains stable while the product is being used. In the development of medicines and sunscreens, I have learnt certain strategies to protect active ingredients from degradation. The same strategies can also be used to maintain the effect of active plant ingredients in care products.

Do you have a medicinal herb story that has helped JUST in the development of their products?
Beat Müller: Studies of camomile extracts produced in very different ways have shown us that using fresh plants for extraction purposes as practised in the manufacture of homoeopathic remedies results in the most valuable extracts.

Since I have been dealing with plants and their effects in depth at JUST, I am surprised every day about how effective plants can be and how little we know about them. Active plant ingredients consist of a variety of substances whose effects are often only known from herbal traditions and which are even today only partially proven by studies. This motivates me every day to understand the plants, their extracts and the associated effects more successfully.

Herbal tradition plays a very important role in my work.

Dr. phil. II Beat Müller, pharmaceutical plant expert at JUST International AG

What would you like to say to conclude your interview?
Beat Müller: Plants are superior to any chemist or biochemist when it comes to producing substances that make our lives easier.

Bisabolol, a component of the essential oil of chamomile, can be produced synthetically. However, we know from studies that the anti-inflammatory effect of the overall essential oil of chamomile is superior to pure bisabolol. We can reproduce individual plant constituents in the laboratory, but never in the diversity that we find in plants. For this reason some of the herbal power of chamomile is lost if we use only individual substances instead of the combination of different chamomile ingredients.

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