Higher plants are the source of a wide array of bioactive compounds that support skin integrity and health. Hibiscus syriacus, family Malvaceae, is a plant of Chinese origin known for its antipyretic, anthelmintic, and antifungal properties. The aim of this study was to assess the healing and hydration properties of H. syriacus ethanolic extract (HSEE). We established a cell culture from hibiscus extract and obtained an ethanol soluble extract from cultured cells. The properties of the extract were tested by gene expression and functional analyses on human fibroblast, keratinocytes, and skin explants. HSEE treatment increased the healing potential of fibroblasts and keratinocytes. Specifically, HSEE significantly stimulated fibronectin and collagen synthesis by 16 and 60%, respectively, while fibroblasts contractility was enhanced by 30%. These results were confirmed on skin explants, where HSEE accelerated the wound healing activity in terms of epithelium formation and fibronectin production. Moreover, HSEE increased the expression of genes involved in skin hydration and homeostasis. Specifically, aquaporin 3 and filaggrin genes were enhanced by 20 and 58%, respectively. Our data show that HSEE contains compounds capable of stimulating expression of biomarkers relevant to skin regeneration and hydration thereby counteracting molecular pathways leading to skin damage and aging.
Wound healing is a dynamic physiological process by which the skin regenerates itself upon injury. The restoration of tissue integrity is the result of the interaction between several distinct cellular elements (keratinocytes, fibroblasts, monocytes/macrophages, and endothelial cells) and extracellular matrix (ECM) components, such as fibronectin and collagen whose contraction encourages the edges of the wound to shrink together . The supply of the ideal microenvironment at the wound surface is fundamental for reaching full skin wound's healing potential. Indeed, adverse factors, such as infection, mechanical stress, or toxic agents, can significantly affect the skin ability to heal. Additionally, the process of wound healing is altered in a dry skin and skin of aged individuals . Skin dryness alters the ability of epithelial cells to migrate and cover the wound site and reduces the supply of white blood cells and nutrients, which are essentials to form new tissues and protect skin against infections .
Skin hydration depends on the humidity of the environment and the hygroscopic properties of the stratum corneum, the uppermost epidermal layer. The ability of the stratum corneum to retain water relies on the natural moisturizing factor (NMF), a set of substances including ions, small solutes, and free amino acids which are largely formed by the breakdown products of filaggrin protein .
Skin care products are often developed from plants. Higher plants are the source of a wide array of biochemicals that can support the health and integrity of the skin and are widely used in cosmetic formulations.
H. syriacus, family Malvaceae, is a plant of Chinese origin already known in Asia for its antipyretic, anthelmintic, and antifungal properties . H. syriacus extract was previously shown to have antioxidant capacity  and antiproliferative effects on human lung cancer cells . However, the leaves of hibiscus calyx extract genus are traditionally acclaimed as hair tonic in the Indian system of medicine. Accordingly, topical application of H. syriacus extract was found to stimulate hair growth thereby validating the ethnomedical use of this plants for hair loss treatment .
Remarkably, H. rosa-sinensis of the genus hibiscus extract powder was previously reported to efficiently act as wound healing agent by increasing cellular proliferation and collagen synthesis . More recent in vitro and in vivo studies indicated Hibiscus syriacus L. flower absolute (HSF) as a highly effective agent for wound treatment because of its ability to promote keratinocyte proliferation and migration .