Oregon grape extract: A natural treatment for psoriasis

Oregon has another reason to be proud of its state flower. The extract of Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) offers a natural way to alleviate the chronic skin condition psoriasis, according to the American Herbalists Guild.

As far back as 1900, there have been cases when an individual suffering from psoriasis made a recovery after regularly taking an extract made from Oregon grape root. Today, its herbal preparations are used as alternatives and tonics for a number of conditions.

This common use is attributed to the rich number of alkaloids found in M. aquifolium, the most important of which is berberine.

Britannica defines alkaloids as naturally-occurring nitrogen-based compounds that exert physiological effects on humans. Some of the more famous medicinal ones are the anesthetic morphine, the anti-malarial quinine, and the stimulant ephedrine.

The alkaloid berberine is considered to be an anti-psoriatic. Plants that are rich in it – such as Oregon grape – and its related alkaloids, are used to make tinctures for skin problems such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis.

The World Health Organization (WHO) described psoriasis as a painful, disfiguring, and disabling disease.

Modern studies indicate Oregon grape extract inhibits psoriasis

Two modern human studies investigated the safety and efficacy of Oregon grape extract on psoriasis patients.

The first study was “The antipsoriatic Mahonia aquifolium and its active constituents; II. Antiproliferative activity against cell growth of human keratinocytes” in the journal Planta Med. It involved 82 participants.

In this randomized study, a 10-percent extract made from the dried root bark of M. aquifolium was applied to one side of psoriasis lesions. The other side received a placebo ointment.

The researchers reported that the M. aquifolium treatment got more positive responses than the placebo. When health professionals assessed the lesions, they indicated that 36.3 percent improved or vanished thanks to the herbal ointment.

Meanwhile, four participants suffered adverse reactions such as allergic sensitivity and burning or itching sensations.

The second study, “Effects of Mahonia aquifolium ointment on the expression of adhesion, proliferation, and activation markers in the skin of patients with psoriasis,” was published in the German journal Forsh Komplementarmed.

The experiment compared the effectiveness of M. aquifolium ointment with the pharmaceutical drug anthralin. The former was topically applied three times a day while increasing doses of the latter were given on a daily basis.

Biopsies taken of the skin lesions before and after the four-week therapy showed the M. aquifolium ointment greatly reduced markers associated with psoriasis.

Furthermore, it performed just as well as anthralin in reducing both the size of the lesions and the skin immunity mechanisms. (Related: Vegan diet cures psoriasis: Woman, 20, is now off all traditional treatments after going gluten-free, vegan.)

Make that bitter Oregon grape extract drinkable

The aforementioned human studies restricted themselves to using local applications of Oregon grape extract. Topical treatment concentrates the active alkaloids on the lesions.

However, thick or scaly skin may limit the penetration of topical ointment, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the herbal treatment.

Traditional use of Oregon grape relied on drinking a tonic made from root or root bark extract alongside topical treatment. The combination of external and internal treatment works more effectively.

The problem with this treatment method is that alkaloids are very bitter. Children and people with negative reactions to bitter tastes cannot stand the taste long enough.

One way to make the tonic more tolerable is to mix the Oregon grape tincture with leaves from the yerba santa. The latter herb will greatly reduce the bitterness of the alkaloids.

There are no solid extract preparations of Oregon grape root bark available so far.

Find out more ways to promote your natural health at AlternativeMedicines.news.

Sources include:

AmericanHerbalistsGuild.com [PDF]


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