Diseases of the Skin: Alteratives Or Depuratives

Alteratives or depuratives, otherwise known as blood cleansers, are used to effect a gradual change in chronic disease states, including skin diseases, and are the foundation of any skin formula. There is a dearth of scientific research to support the use of alteratives; however, traditional use and indications are based on empirical observations in people and may have application in animals.

Cleavers (Galium aparine) are used for dry skin conditions, eczema, seborrhoea, and psoriasis. The iridoid glycoside constituents are mildly laxative. Burdock root (Articum lappa) is one of the best known alteratives for eczema and chronic inflammatory states. One of its constituents, inulin, works as a gentle laxative. It is traditionally recommended for dry, red, scaly skin with hair loss. Oregon grape (Mabonia aquifolium) is used for rough, dry, scaly skin and dandruff. Red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense) and Yellow dock root (Rutnex crispus) are used for chronic skin disease. Cholaretic herbs are also considered to have depurative activity. These include Dandelion (Taraxacum offtcinale), Fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), Barberry (Berberis vulgaris), and Globe artichoke (Cynara scolymus). Similarly diuretic herbs that increase detoxification through the urinary tract might be useful; these include Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum offtcinale), Cleavers (Gallium aparine), Burdock (Arctium lappa), and Red clover (Trifolium pratense). Herbs with activity on the immune system are also regarded as possessing depurative activity and include Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea), which is indicated in bacterial and viral infections, mild septicemia, furunculosis, boils, carbuncles, abscesses, and poke root (Pbytolacca decandra), a toxic herb.

It is sensible to use antiinflammatory herbs while longer-term alterative strategies take effect. Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and its antipuritic effects were tested in mice fed a diet containing 1.2 w / w% of ethyl acetate extract of dried flower of German chamomile for 11 days. Induced scratching behavior was significantly suppressed without affecting body weight. The inhibitory effects of the dietary intake of the German chamomile extracts were comparable to those of an antiallergic agent. Green tea (Camellia sinensis) catechin may be useful in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Others include Rehmannia (Rebmannia glutinosa); evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis); turmeric (Curcuma longa) — which, at low levels the constituent cucurmin is a prostaglandin inhibitor and at higher levels it stimulates the adrenal glands to secrete cortisone; and Bupleurum (Bupleurum falcatum) — which inhibits arachidonic acid metabolism and the potency of the antiinflammatory saikosaponins and is similar to that of prednisolone.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) triterpenoids are reported to possess wound-healing ability and its constituents Asiaticoside and Madecassoside are documented to be antiinflammatory. Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) alkaloids were tested in vitro and found to inhibit lipid peroxide substrate accumulation, either by direct reaction with peroxide or by scavenging lipid-derived radicals. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) contains saponins with antiinflammatory activity; it is shown to inhibit the activity of proinflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes and appears to have a cortisone-like effect, making it useful as an antiinflammatory.

Other antiallergy herbs also have a role to play. An ethanol extract of Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) was tested on both in vitro and in vivo murine CD4 T cells and their differentiation into Th1 and Th2 subsets. The data indicated that Astragalus selectively alters Th1 / Th2 cytokine secretion patterns and provides the pharmacological basis for its clinical applications.

Astragalus was given to 106 people with herpes virus keratitis; it modulated the imbalance state of Th1 / Th2 in these patients and improved their immune function disturbance. Other antiallergy herbs include nettles (Urtica dioica), Albizzia (Albizzia lebbeck), and Albizzia kalkora, also known as mimosa. Studies on a bark extract of Albizzia showed antiallergy activity against anaphylaxis and atopic allergy. Albizzia has been shown to stabilize mast cell degranulation, depress levels of antiallergy antibodies, and decrease the overaggressive action of T and B lymphocytes.

Baical skullcap root (Scutellaria baicalensis) contains the flavonoids baicalin and wogonin (similar to quercetin in mechanism of action), both of which have antiallergy and free radical scavenging activity. Another constituent, baicalein, is also antiinflammatory and antiallergy; it reduces leukotriene B4 and C4 production by inhibiting lipooxygenase. Quercetin is an active flavonoid found abundantly in many plants. Degranulation of mast cells is an active process that requires the influx of calcium. Quercetin prevents this influx into the cell. Quercetin also inhibits many steps along the eicosanoid membrane pathway, including phospholipase A2 and lipooxygenase. It is a strong inhibitor of basophil and mast cell degranulation.

Quercetin is found in Ginkgo biloba, Evening primrose leaf (Oenothera biennis), Green tea (Camellia sinensis), Neem (Azadirachta indica), Oats (Avena sativa), Apple (Malus domestic), Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon), Nettle (Urtica dioca), and Brassica vegetables. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) is antiallergic and Rehmannia (Rebmannia glutinosa) demonstrated antiallergic effects on induced allergic reactions in vivo and in vitro by reducing plasma histamine levels in a dose-dependent manner. It also dose-dependently inhibited the histamine release from the rat peritoneal mast cells.

Licorice helps to reduce oxidative damage associated with inflammation. Other herbs to consider include Ginger (Zingiber officinale), Ginkgo biloba, Grape seed (Vitis vinifera), Green tea (Camellia sinensis), Reishi (Gandodertna lucidium), Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinale), Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Milk thistle (Silybum marianum), and Turmeric (Curcuma longa).

Adaptogens should be considered if the patient is stressed, anxious, or depressed, and for convalescence. This type of adaptogens includes Ashwaganda (Witbania somnifera), Bupleurum (Bupleurum falcatum), Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Rehmannia (Rebmannia glutinosa), Siberian ginseng (Elutherococcus senticosus), and Gotu kola (Centella asiatica). Likewise, nervine herbs can be beneficial. Consider Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora), Oats (Avena sativa), and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum).