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For centuries, women have adorned themselves with the elegance of pearls—however, ancient and modern medicine know that their allure is more than aesthetic.
Throughout history, pearls have been treasured for their natural beauty and elegance. But beyond their aesthetic allure, pearls have been long celebrated for their potential health benefits.
For centuries, pearl powder has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and Ayurvedic practices. In recent years, modern science has begun to unveil and confirm the remarkable health advantages of this natural substance.
What is Pearl Powder?
Pearl powder is made by boiling fresh or saltwater pearls, sterilizing them, and milling them into a soft, fine powder.
This powder contains a rich combination of minerals, amino acids, and other bioactive compounds making pearl powder a unique and valuable addition to traditional medicine and wellness practices.
The trace elements found in the human body, although present in small quantities, exert potent biological effects. They play essential roles in the metabolic processes of enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and nucleic acids.
Research shows that pearls contain a variety of trace elements which vary depending on whether they are saltwater or freshwater pearls and include: sodium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, silicon, copper, iron, zinc, barium, germanium, chromium, nickel, cobalt, titanium, scandium, selenium, bromine, and iodine.
Significantly, a substantial portion of these elements are essential for the human body’s functioning.
The trace minerals within pearls can exert specific effects on the human body:
- Selenium enhances human immunity and possesses anti-cancer properties.
- Zinc activates human enzymes associated with aging.
- Manganese safeguards against cardiovascular diseases, contributes to nervous system regulation, and facilitates calcium absorption.
- Germanium exhibits anti-tumor properties.
- Iron can help alleviate symptoms of anemia.
From Ancient Times to Modern Science
Pearl powder has a long history of use in various cultures for its health and beauty benefits. The use of pearl powder in China for TCM, cosmetics, and supplements dates back to at least 320 A.D.
In TCM, pearl powder is used as an anti-inflammatory and detoxification agent, a relaxant, and for its high calcium content, which is beneficial for calcium-deficient individuals with issues such as osteoporosis.
The medical book Bencao Gangmu of the Ming dynasty claims that pearls can stimulate new skin growth, release toxins, and remove sun damage and age spots.
Other records dating back to 907–960 A.D. say that pearl power is effective to “soothe the nerves, improve eyesight, and maintain beauty.”
Health Benefits of Pearl Powder
Modern science has also confirmed many of the health benefits of pearl powder that traditional medicine has known since ancient times.
One of the most renowned benefits of pearl powder is its impact on skin health. It is known for promoting a radiant complexion and improving the overall appearance of the skin.
The amino acids and trace minerals in pearl powder help stimulate collagen production, enhancing skin elasticity, and reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
Additionally, pearl powder can help fade dark spots and promote a more even skin tone.
Pearl powder can help wounds heal by promoting the growth of important cells and increasing the production of TIMP-1, a protein that helps maintain and repair tissues.
Antioxidant Properties and Immune Support
Pearl powder is rich in antioxidants, which play a crucial role in neutralizing harmful free radicals in the body. By reducing oxidative stress, pearl powder can help protect cells and tissues from damage, potentially lowering the risk of chronic diseases and promoting overall well-being.
A study published in the Journal of Functional Food investigated the efficacy of protein-rich pearl powder on antioxidant status in a randomized placebo-controlled trial.
The study included 20 healthy middle-aged subjects who were given 3 grams of pearl powder daily for eight weeks.
The results showed that pearl powder administration led to a substantial increase in total antioxidant capacity and glutathione content, along with the suppression of lipid peroxide products which are reactive compounds that can damage cells.
These findings suggest that pearl powder can be used to treat various age-related degenerative diseases by enhancing the body’s antioxidant defenses.
Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant that plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system, providing antioxidant protection, and removing toxins.
The specific mechanisms by which pearl powder increases glutathione levels are not fully understood, but it is believed to be due to its high antioxidant content and the presence of certain trace elements.
Increasing glutathione levels in the body is important for several reasons:
- Antioxidant protection: Glutathione helps regenerate other antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, and plays a crucial role in neutralizing and removing free radicals and other harmful substances from the body.
- Detoxification: Glutathione is involved in the detoxification of various compounds—including heavy metals like mercury—by binding to them and facilitating their elimination from the body.
- Immune support: Glutathione is essential for the proper functioning of the immune system.
- Cellular health: Glutathione is involved in various cellular processes and is important for maintaining the overall health and function of cells.
Relaxation, Stress Reduction, and Sleep Benefits
In recent scientific studies, pearl-related substances like pearl powder and pearl protein extracts have been found to have a calming effect by slowing down brain activity and calming the central nervous system.
Pearl powder also has a high magnesium content, which has been shown to elevate gamma-aminobutyric acid levels, a neurotransmitter that helps alleviate depression, anxiety, and certain sleep disorders.
Pearl powder can be beneficial for bone growth when used in combination with other materials that create conditions that support the long-term growth of bone cells.
For instance, research shows that when combined with polylactic acid, a bioactive polymer made from renewable resources, pearl powder strengthens scaffolds (three-dimensional biomaterial structures) used in bone repair and enhances the activity of bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells which play a crucial role in tissue repair, regeneration, and maintenance.
Heart and Cardiovascular Health
A 2018 study found that when pearl hydrolysate was added to human microvascular endothelial cells (cells that line tiny blood vessels), it made the cells grow and multiply much faster.
The more pearl hydrolysate they used, the more the cells thrived. Additionally, the number of cells moving around also significantly increased. This suggests that pearl hydrolysate might help keep blood vessel cells healthy and function well.
Other studies have found that water-soluble pearl powder can help the heart contract better and recover its normal rhythm faster and can also help prevent certain heart rhythm problems when given in higher doses multiple times as cited in the 2022 review published in Frontiers in Pharmacology.
Non-water soluble pearl powder had no effects, possibly because its active ingredients were not released as effectively. Researchers are looking into how to extract the helpful parts of pearls for further study.
Pearls also have restorative and protective effects on the eyes.
A study cited in the same 2022 review applied pearl powder treatment to injured rabbit corneas. Not only was significant improvement observed making them indistinguishable from a normal cornea, but positive effects persisted for three months after the treatment was discontinued.
How to Choose High-Quality Pearl Powder
Bioavailability and ensuring pearls are sustainably sourced are key factors when choosing a high-quality pearl powder.
Although trace elements are crucial for the body, pearls can also contain heavy metals and other contaminants that can be harmful depending on where they are sourced.
Mr. Roeske has found that clams sustainably sourced from freshwater lakes within north and south Asia (primarily Indonesia) contain a lower heavy metal content compared to other locations.
Levigation and hydrolysis are processes used to break down complex molecules into smaller, more easily absorbable components through the addition of water.
A review article published in the journal Materials found that the best results were seen with nano-sized pearl powder—likely due to its larger surface area which is greater than coarser powders—as well as the higher water-soluble protein content.
Mr. Roeske recommends finding companies that work with farms that source their pearls in small batches and “do not over-harvest any small area so that the clams and surrounding microbiome can regenerate before collecting pearls again.”
How to Use Pearl Powder
Take it orally: Pearl powder is edible and can be mixed into drinks and foods, or taken in capsule form. This allows the beneficial nutrients in pearl powder to support overall health from within.
Apply it topically: Pearl powder can be used topically by mixing it with a carrier oil or water to create a paste or serum. This can be applied to any problem area of the skin.