Submitted Successfully!
To reward your contribution, here is a gift for you: A free trial for our video production service.
Thank you for your contribution! You can also upload a video entry or images related to this topic.
Version Summary Created by Modification Content Size Created at Operation
1 + 1410 word(s) 1410 2021-06-23 05:24:52 |
2 format correct Meta information modification 1410 2021-07-01 03:30:24 |

Video Upload Options

Do you have a full video?


Are you sure to Delete?
If you have any further questions, please contact Encyclopedia Editorial Office.
Wölfle, U. Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders. Encyclopedia. Available online: (accessed on 22 June 2024).
Wölfle U. Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders. Encyclopedia. Available at: Accessed June 22, 2024.
Wölfle, Ute. "Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders" Encyclopedia, (accessed June 22, 2024).
Wölfle, U. (2021, June 30). Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders. In Encyclopedia.
Wölfle, Ute. "Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders." Encyclopedia. Web. 30 June, 2021.
Herbal Biomedicines for Dermatological Disorders

Herbal extracts and isolated plant compounds play an increasing role in the treatment of skin disorders and wounds. Several new herbal drugs, medicinal products and cosmetic products for the treatment of various skin conditions have been developed in recent years. 

atopic dermatitis psoriasis wound healing

1. Introduction

Herbal therapies have been used for the treatment of skin conditions for centuries. Several plant compounds are still used in topical treatments, such as salicylic acid from willow bark from Salix spp. (for desquamation), 8-methoxypsoralen from Ammi visnaga (L.) Lam. (for photochemotherapy), and tannins from oak bark, black tea or hamamelis bark (for oozing eczema). Traditionally used medical plants were evaluated and documented in 300 monographs by Commission E at the German institute for drugs and medicinal products (BfArm) between 1976 and 1993. About 30% of these plants received a negative evaluation. The positive monographs contained 25 plants with relevance for dermatological treatments. They include well-known medical plants such as chamomile, which hazel and marigold. However, most of these plants only achieved a low level of evidence for their efficacy, because only a few high quality clinical studies have been performed  [1][2] During the last years the therapeutic potential of medical plants traditionally used in dermatology has been explored, and some of them have been developed and approved as drug or medical device for the treatment of skin disorders, e.g. for atopic dermatitis, psoriasis and wound healing.

2. Atopic Dermatitis

Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic, pruritic inflammatory skin disease. Dermatologists often prescribe glucocorticoids to the patients, but patients and parents of children with AD worry about the side effects of glucocorticoids, especially in long term therapy. They ask for herbal therapies because they expect similar effectivity and fewer side effects. A comprehensive, evidence-based review on clinical studies with herbal products for AD has been published recently [3]. Some of the studies are highlighted here.

2.1. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum (L.))

St. John’s wort is traditionally used as hypericum oil for the treatment of wounds and burns. The lipophilic phloroglucin derivative hyperforin displays antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and keratinocyte differentiation-promoting properties [4]

2.2. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra (L.))

The anti-inflammatory effect of licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra L. and Glycyrrhiza uralensis Fisch. ex DC.) is well studied and summarized in an actual review [5]. Most studies were performed with the triterpenes glycyrrhizin and glycyrrhetinic acid of licorice on skin [5][6][7]. However, other ingredients, such as the flavonoid isoliquiritigenin [8] and the chalcone licochalcone A [9] [10][11] display also anti-inflammatory effects. 

2.3. Tormentil (Potentilla erecta (L.))

Tannins from black tea (Camellia sinensis (L.) Kuntze), witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) and oak bark (Quercus spp.) have been empirically used in dermatology since ancient times. Tannins are used as wet-lipid wraps or local baths for the treatment of acute, oozing eczema. A cream containing 2 % tannins from the rhizome of tormentil (Potentilla erecta (L.) Raeusch.) displayed a corticoid-like vasoconstrictive effect in an occlusive patch test after 48 hours [12]

2.4. Bitter substances

Bitter substances have been used as appetizing and digestion promoting agents since Ayurvedic medicine 5000 years ago. Only recently the molecular structure of bitter taste receptors (TAS2Rs) has been elucidated, and it was shown that TAS2Rs are also expressed in human epidermis [13]. Bitter compounds such as salicin from willow bark (from Salix spp.) and amarogentin from Gentiana lutea (L.) bind to the bitter taste receptors of the skin, eventually leading to calcium influx and the enhanced expression of skin barrier-constituting proteins such as filaggrin [13]

2.5. Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis (L.))

The oil obtained from evening primrose seeds is beneficial for AD due to its high content of γ-linolenic acid. It is used both internally and in topical products. Only a few high-quality studies have investigated the effect of evening primrose oil in AD.A recent meta-analysis of the existing literature concludes that there is a moderate effect of evening primrose oil on itching, scaling and crusting in AD [14]

3. Psoriasis Vulgaris

Herbal products are also used for the topical treatment of psoriasis. Psoriasis is a chronic, immune-mediated skin disease that shows red and scaly patches on the skin that itch or burn. Three systematic reviews have evaluated the use of herbal therapies in psoriasis [15] [16] [17].

3.1. Araroba Tree (Vataireopsis araroba (Aguiar) Ducke)

The most potent topical treatment for psoriasis is the anthracen derivative dithranol (synonym: anthralin). It was obtained from chrysarobin, extracted from the bark of the araroba tree that grows in the rain forests of the Amazon. Dithranol inhibits the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and the proliferation of keratinocytes. 

3.2. Lace Flower (Ammi majus(L.) and Ammi visnaga (L.))

The furanocoumarins 8-methoxypsoralen (8-MOP) and 5-methoxypsoralen (5-MOP) are isolated for therapeutic use from Ammi majus (L.) and Ammi visnaga (L.) Lam. The psoralens are phototoxic substances that are photo-activated by long-wave ultraviolet A (UVA) radiation and may cause severe phototoxic skin reactions. 

3.3. Barberry Bark (Mahonia aquifolium (Pursh) Nutt.)

The barberry Mahonia aquifolium is a shrub indigenous to Northern America. It was used for centuries by Native Americans to treat psoriasis. Tinctures and ointments from Mahonia bark are available as traditional drugs in Northern America and Europe. 

3.4. Indigo (Baphicacanthus cusia, Brem.)

‘Indigo naturalis‘ is an important remedy in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is a blue powder obtained from the plant Baphicacanthus cusia by grinding, fermentation and addition of lime. In a randomized placebo-controlled study 42 patients suffering from chronic plaque psoriasis were treated once daily with a 10% indigo containing ointment for 12 weeks. The indigo naturalis used contained 1.4% indigo and 0.16% indirubin. Treatment with indigo improved symptoms by 81%, while the improvement with placebo was only 26% [18]

3.5. Turmeric (Curcuma longa (L.))

Turmeric plays an important role in TCM and in Aryuvedic Medicine. In vitro, turmeric and its major active ingredient curcumin display anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-oxidative properties [19]. During the last years some laboratory and clinical studies have investigated the therapeutic potential of curcumin in psoriasis. Curcumin may improve psoriasis by inhibition of phosphorylase kinase [20] [21], downregulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-17 and TNF-α, as well as improvement of the epidermal barrier by inducing the expression of involucrin and filaggrin in vitro [22]

3.6. Olibanum (Boswellia Serrata, Triana & Planch.)

Olibanum containing ointments were recommended in the Greco-Roman period by Hippocrates, Galen and Dioscorides for the treatment of various skin disorders such as psoriasis, burns, warts, bleeding and wounds. Recently 200 patients with mild to moderate psoriasis were treated in an open label application study three times daily for 12 weeks with an olibanum ointment containing 5 % 3-O-Acetyl-11-keto-β-boswellic acid. The PASI was significantly reduced, as well as serum biomarkers such as leukotrien B4, TNF-α, VEGF and PGE2 . Thirteen patients (6.5 %) developed contact dermatitis [23].

3.7. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum (L.))

Psoriatic keratinocytes show increased cell proliferation, disturbed cell differentiation, an inflammatory phenotype and reduced expression of cationic channels such as TRPC6. Hyperforin—the major lipophilic active ingredient of St. John’s wort—displays in vitro pronounced anti-inflammatory effects and stimulates calcium influx into psoriasis keratinocytes, activates TRPC6 expression, reduces cell proliferation and promotes proper cell differentiation [24]

4. Wound healing

 Wound healing is a natural physiological response to tissue injury and involves a complex interplay between numerous cell types (keratinocytes, fibroblasts and immune cells), cytokines and the vascular system to stop bleeding, kill bacteria and initiate re-epithelialization. Most herbal remedies traditionally used for wound healing have not been investigated in controlled clinical studies [25]. In contrast, the wound-healing properties of a betulin rich extract from the bark of white birches have been thoroughly investigated. This extract allows the production of a solid phase stabilized emulsion without conventional emulsifiers or preservatives [26]and will be described in more detail.

 4.1 Birch bark (Betula spp.)

The wound healing properties of betulin have been elucidated at the molecular level and positively affects all 3 phases of wound healing (inflammatory phase as well as migration and differentiation phase of keratinocytes) [27]. First clinical evidence for the wound healing properties of betulin were achieved in a split thickness wound study with topical application of a water free betulin oleogel [28]

4.2 Onion (Allium cepa L.)

A systematic review published in 2017 on anti-scarring agents mentions many positive outcomes in scarring management with onion extract [29].

5. Conclusion

Botanical compounds such as salicylic acid, methoxsalen and chrysarobin have been traditionally used and still play an important role in the treatment of psoriasis. Recently, the alkaloid indirubin from indigo has been shown to be effective in psoriasis in randomized clinical trials. Glycyrrhetinic acid and licochalcone A from licorice have been shown to be effective in the treatment of atopic dermatitis.  Only recently, betulin-oleogel obtained from birch bark has been approved as a drug for the topical treatment of superficial wounds and burns. These examples illustrate that botanical compounds and extracts have a great potential to be developed as prescription or over the counter drugs in dermatology.


  1. Juliane Reuter; Ute Wölfle; Steffi Weckesser; Christoph Schempp; Which plant for which skin disease? Part 1: Atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, acne, condyloma and herpes simplex. JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 2010, 8, 788-796, 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2010.07496.x.
  2. Juliane Reuter; Ute Wölfle; Hans Christian Korting; Christoph Schempp; Which plant for which skin disease? Part 2: Dermatophytes, chronic venous insufficiency, photoprotection, actinic keratoses, vitiligo, hair loss, cosmetic indications. JDDG: Journal der Deutschen Dermatologischen Gesellschaft 2010, 8, 866-873, 10.1111/j.1610-0387.2010.07472.x.
  3. Brittany L. Vieira; Neil R. Lim; Mary E. Lohman; Peter A. Lio; Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Atopic Dermatitis: An Evidence-Based Review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2016, 17, 557-581, 10.1007/s40257-016-0209-1.
  4. Ute Wölfle; Günter Seelinger; Christoph Schempp; Topical Application of St. Johnʼs Wort (Hypericum perforatum). Planta Medica 2013, 80, 109-120, 10.1055/s-0033-1351019.
  5. Rui Yang; Li-Qiang Wang; Bo-Chuan Yuan; Ying Liu; The Pharmacological Activities of Licorice. Planta Medica 2015, 81, 1654-1669, 10.1055/s-0035-1557893.
  6. Young-Mi Lee; Seiichi Hirota; Tomoko Jippo-Kanemoto; Hyung-Ryong Kim; Tae-Yong Shin; Young-Il Yeom; Kyung-Kwang Lee; Yukihiko Kitamura; Shintaro Nomura; Hyung-Min Kim; et al. Inhibition of Histamine Synthesis by Glycyrrhetinic Acid in Mast Cells Cocultured with Swiss 3T3 Fibroblasts. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology 1996, 110, 272-277, 10.1159/000237298.
  7. Mufti Rana Farrukh; Ul-Ashraf Nissar; Peerzada J. Kaiser; Quadri Afnan; Praduman R. Sharma; Shashi Bhushan; Sheikh A. Tasduq; Glycyrrhizic acid (GA) inhibits reactive oxygen Species mediated photodamage by blocking ER stress and MAPK pathway in UV-B irradiated human skin fibroblasts. Journal of Photochemistry and Photobiology B: Biology 2015, 148, 351-357, 10.1016/j.jphotobiol.2015.05.003.
  8. Haiyang Yu; Haiyan Li; Yongxi Li; Min Li; Guanzhi Chen; Effect of isoliquiritigenin for the treatment of atopic dermatitis-like skin lesions in mice. Archives of Dermatological Research 2017, 309, 805-813, 10.1007/s00403-017-1787-3.
  9. Jochen Kühnl; Dennis Roggenkamp; Sandra Andrea Gehrke; Franz Stäb; Horst Wenck; Ludger Kolbe; Gitta Neufang; Licochalcone A activates Nrf2in vitroand contributes to licorice extract-induced lowered cutaneous oxidative stressin vivo. Experimental Dermatology 2014, 24, 42-47, 10.1111/exd.12588.
  10. Nu Ry Song; Jong-Eun Kim; Jun Seong Park; Heerim Kang; Eunjung Lee; Young-Gyu Kang; Joe Eun Son; Sang Gwon Seo; Yong Seok Heo; Ki Won Lee; et al. Licochalcone A, a Polyphenol Present in Licorice, Suppresses UV-Induced COX-2 Expression by Targeting PI3K, MEK1, and B-Raf. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2015, 16, 4453-4470, 10.3390/ijms16034453.
  11. M. Sulzberger; A.-C. Worthmann; U. Holtzmann; B. Buck; K.A. Jung; A.M. Schoelermann; F. Rippke; F. Stäb; H. Wenck; G. Neufang; et al.E. Grönniger Effective treatment for sensitive skin: 4-t-butylcyclohexanol and licochalcone A. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology 2016, 30, 9-17, 10.1111/jdv.13529.
  12. Ute Wölfle; Julia Hoffmann; Birgit Haarhaus; Venugopal Rao Mittapalli; Christoph M. Schempp; Anti-inflammatory and vasoconstrictive properties of Potentilla erecta – A traditional medicinal plant from the northern hemisphere. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2017, 204, 86-94, 10.1016/j.jep.2017.03.058.
  13. Ute Wölfle; Floriana A. Elsholz; Astrid Kersten; Birgit Haarhaus; Walter E. Müller; Christoph M. Schempp; Expression and Functional Activity of the Bitter Taste Receptors TAS2R1 and TAS2R38 in Human Keratinocytes. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2015, 28, 137-146, 10.1159/000367631.
  14. N L Morse; P M Clough; A meta-analysis of randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials of Efamol evening primrose oil in atopic eczema. Where do we go from here in light of more recent discoveries?. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology 2006, 7, 503-524, 10.2174/138920106779116946.
  15. Benjamin Farahnik; Divya Sharma; Joseph Alban; Raja K. Sivamani; Topical Botanical Agents for the Treatment of Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Clinical Dermatology 2017, 18, 451-468, 10.1007/s40257-017-0266-0.
  16. A. Caresse Gamret; Alexandra Price; Raymond M. Fertig; Hadar Lev-Tov; Anna J. Nichols; Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for Psoriasis. JAMA Dermatology 2018, 154, 1330-1337, 10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.2972.
  17. Anna Herman; Andrzej Przemysław Herman; Topically Used Herbal Products for the Treatment of Psoriasis – Mechanism of Action, Drug Delivery, Clinical Studies. Planta Medica 2016, 82, 1447-1455, 10.1055/s-0042-115177.
  18. Yin-Ku Lin; Chee-Jen Chang; Ya-Ching Chang; Wen-Rou Wong; Shu-Chen Chang; Jong-Hwei Pang; Clinical Assessment of Patients With Recalcitrant Psoriasis in a Randomized, Observer-Blind, Vehicle-Controlled Trial Using Indigo Naturalis. Archives of Dermatology 2008, 144, 1457-1464, 10.1001/archderm.144.11.1457.
  19. Emiliano Antiga; Veronica Bonciolini; Walter Volpi; Elena Del Bianco; Marzia Caproni; Oral Curcumin (Meriva) Is Effective as an Adjuvant Treatment and Is Able to Reduce IL-22 Serum Levels in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris. BioMed Research International 2015, 2015, 1-7, 10.1155/2015/283634.
  20. M.C.Y. Heng; M.K. Song; J. Harker; Drug‐induced suppression of phosphorylase kinase activity correlates with resolution of psoriasis as assessed by clinical, histological and immunohistochemical parameters. British Journal of Dermatology 2000, 143, 937-949, 10.1046/j.1365-2133.2000.03767.x.
  21. Shrikanth Reddy; Bharat B. Aggarwal; Curcumin is a non-competitive and selective inhibitor of phosphorylase kinase. FEBS Letters 1994, 341, 19-22, 10.1016/0014-5793(94)80232-7.
  22. Sandeep R. Varma; Thiyagarajan O. Sivaprakasam; Abheepsa Mishra; Sunil Prabhu; Rafiq M; Rangesh P; Imiquimod-induced psoriasis-like inflammation in differentiated Human keratinocytes: Its evaluation using curcumin. European Journal of Pharmacology 2017, 813, 33-41, 10.1016/j.ejphar.2017.07.040.
  23. M Muhammed; Kalyanam Nagabhushanam; Sankaran Natarajan; Rattan Sood; Suresh KUMAR Karri; Clinical evaluation of AKBBA in the management of psoriasis. Clinical Dermatology 2014, 2, 17-24, 10.11138/cderm/2014.2.1.017.
  24. Kristina Leuner; Margarethe Kraus; Ute Wölfle; Heike Beschmann; Christian Harteneck; Wolf-Henning Boehncke; Christoph M. Schempp; Walter E. Müller; Reduced TRPC Channel Expression in Psoriatic Keratinocytes Is Associated with Impaired Differentiation and Enhanced Proliferation. PLOS ONE 2011, 6, e14716, 10.1371/journal.pone.0014716.
  25. Nader Pazyar; Reza Yaghoobi; Esmail Rafiee; Abolfath Mehrabian; Amir Feily; Skin Wound Healing and Phytomedicine: A Review. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2014, 27, 303-310, 10.1159/000357477.
  26. Melanie Laszczyk; Sebastian Jäger; Birgit Simon-Haarhaus; Armin Scheffler; Christoph M. Schempp; Physical, Chemical and Pharmacological Characterization of a New Oleogel-Forming Triterpene Extract from the Outer Bark of Birch (Betulae Cortex). Planta Medica 2006, 72, 1389-1395, 10.1055/s-2006-951723.
  27. Sandra Ebeling; Katrin Naumann; Simone Pollok; Tina Wardecki; Sabine Vidal-Y-Sy; Juliana M. Nascimento; Melanie Boerries; Gudula Schmidt; Johanna M. Brandner; Irmgard Merfort; et al. From a Traditional Medicinal Plant to a Rational Drug: Understanding the Clinically Proven Wound Healing Efficacy of Birch Bark Extract. PLOS ONE 2014, 9, e86147, 10.1371/journal.pone.0086147.
  28. Hans-Robert Metelmann; Johanna M. Brandner; Hauke Schumann; Felix Bross; Rolf Fimmers; Kerstin Böttger; Armin Scheffler; Fred Podmelle; Accelerated Reepithelialization by Triterpenes: Proof of Concept in the Healing of Surgical Skin Lesions. Skin Pharmacology and Physiology 2014, 28, 1-11, 10.1159/000357501.
  29. Qing-Qing Fang; Chun-Ye Chen; Min-Xia Zhang; Chun-Lan Huang; Xiao-Wei Wang; Ji-Hua Xu; Li-Hong Wu; Li-Yun Zhang; Wei-Qiang Tan; The Effectiveness of Topical Anti-scarring Agents and a Novel Combined Process on Cutaneous Scar Management. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017, 23, 2268-2275, 10.2174/1381612822666161025144434.
Contributor MDPI registered users' name will be linked to their SciProfiles pages. To register with us, please refer to :
View Times: 661
Entry Collection: Biopharmaceuticals Technology
Revisions: 2 times (View History)
Update Date: 01 Jul 2021
Video Production Service