TCM Herb Could Reduce Unsightly Scarring

Shikonin, a compound extracted from the Lithospermum erythrorhizon plant, has been shown to reduce scar formation.

AsianScientist (May 15, 2015) – A Queensland University of Technology (QUT) PhD researcher is on the way to showing that an ancient Chinese remedy for healing wounds could be useful for removing raised scars called hypertrophic scars.

Mr. Chen Fan, from QUT’s School of Biomedical Sciences at the Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, investigated the active components of shikonin, a compound extracted from the dried root of a plant called Lithospermum erythrorhizon which grows in China, Japan and Korea.

“Shikonin has traditionally been used to improve wound healing or to treat dermatitis and eczema,” Chen said.

Chen collaborated with researchers from Changhai Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China and the Tissue Organ Bank & Tissue Engineering Center, General Hospital of Ningxia Medical University, China. Their findings were published in the journal Chemico-Biological Interactions.

Hypertrophic scars are common in developing countries and can pose problems, especially after burns, according to Chen.

“A year after a wound has healed they feel tough, are dark and can cause loss of movement of joints, pain and itching,” said Chen.

Chen said while the exact mechanism that caused hypertrophic scars to form was unknown, researchers did know it was a combination of conditions that caused the unsightly, often debilitating, scars.

“Hypertrophic scars form from a combination of reduced normal cell death, over-production of collagen, slow regrowth of the epithelial tissue or top layer of skin and prolonged inflammation during wound healing,” he said.

“When we tested shikonin’s active compounds on human scar cells in the laboratory we found it reduced cell growth and collagen production.”

He suggests that powdered shikonin could be applied on a hypertrophic scar three months after the wound has healed to reduce scarring and heal it to a normal healed wound.

Chen’s work is another example of QUT researchers investigating a traditional Chinese medicine. Dr. Patrick Ling, from QUT’s Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Center-Queensland, has found that a mushroom compound, long used to boost health and immunity in China, has a role in reducing the growth of prostate cancer tumors.

The article can be found at: Xie et al. (2015) Functional And Mechanistic Investigation Of Shikonin In Scarring.


Source: Queensland University of Technology; Photo: Shutterstock.
Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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