Herbal Extracts May Reduce Inflammatory Symptoms of Acne Vulgaris

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Herbal extracts can be an alternative to traditional drugs as they can target various molecular pathways of acne pathogenesis with fewer adverse effects than traditional medications.

Herbal extracts demonstrated therapeutic effects in patients with acne vulgaris, as demonstrated by study data published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment.

Investigators randomly assigned 60 patients age 20 to 40 years with mild to moderate acne vulgaris to receive treatment with either herbal extracts (n=30) or vehicle (n=30) for 8 weeks. In both study groups, patients applied a cleanser formulation twice daily. In the herbal extract group, the cleanser was comprised of mangosteen extract, Lithospermum officinale extract, Tribulus terrestris L extract, and Houttuynia cordata Thunb extract. Participants attended clinical visits at baseline and at weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8. Inflammatory lesion count, non-inflammatory lesion count, and adverse events were assessed. Skin biopsy was obtained from acne lesions at baseline and at week 8; immunohistochemistry staining was performed for interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor-α, and keratin 16.

Mean (SD) inflammatory lesion count at baseline was 4.43 (0.87) in the herbal extract group and 2.67 (0.63) in the vehicle group (P =.225). For non-inflammatory lesions, mean (SD) baseline counts were 41.40 (5.10) and 32.17 (2.91) in the herbal extracts and vehicle groups, respectively (P =.17). Over 8 weeks, inflammatory lesion count decreased by 56% in the herbal extracts group and 17% in the vehicle group (P =.005). Similarly, mean reduction of non-inflammatory lesions was 36% in the herbal extracts group, compared with 12% in the vehicle group (P =.028). A total of 9 adverse events were reported during the study period, 6 of which occurred in the herbal extracts group. All events were mild, and symptoms did not persist after study completion. Immunohistochemistry indicated significant reductions in IL-1α, IL-8, and keratin 16 in the herbal extracts group compared with the vehicle group.

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The mechanisms by which herbal compounds reduce acne symptoms require further study. Investigators hypothesized that the synergistic effects of each herbal compound contributed to the efficacy of the study formulation. “Herbal extracts [may] be a new therapeutic option for patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris who are reluctant to use drugs,” investigators wrote.

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Yang JH, Moon J, Yoon JY, et al. Clinical efficacy of herbal extracts in treatment of mild to moderate acne vulgaris: a 8-week, double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial [published online August 19, 2019]. J Dermatolog Treat. doi:10.1080/09546634.2019.1657792