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Boots Sweet Gale oil for personal care

Challenge

Obtain sweet gale oil in a sustainable way.

Problem

Bog myrtle is a plant that grows in northern and western Europe. It has been used since Viking times for its insect repellent properties. Also known as sweet gale, the essential oil obtained from the plant was shown to have deodorant, antioxidant and skin protection properties. Boots, a UK personal care company, sought to use it as a natural ingredient in their Botanics range to treat sensitive skin and acne.

Solution

A process for extraction of sweet gale oil from bog myrtle was developed that used mobile units in plantations in the Scottish Highlands. Local communities are being regenerated by this opportunity with the primary processing taking place in the field. The top 10 cm of the plant is clipped and the oil extracted by distillation with water. The use of sweet gale oil in a range of products, including anti-aging creams, is expected to lead to this becoming a £50 million industry.

Benefits

Harvesting method encourages bushy growth which provides cover for wildlife
Distillation unit recycles its water
Localised processing minimises transport and energy impacts
Waste materials composted
Encourages a mixed agricultural economy and supports local communities

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