Feverfew is a popular herb, due largely to its use in an as yet unsolved mystery: migraines. Unlike its pharmaceutical counterparts, feverfew has demonstrated efficacy in the prevention of migraines. But how it works is still not known, although speculations and hypotheses abound. Some very recent research in the realm of skin biology demonstrates an anti-inflammatory effect, which may (through shared signalling molecules) shed some light on this question.
One class of bioactive components in feverfew is the parthenolides. Researchers from Japan and Switzerland have shown these anti-inflammatory agents are able to "tone down" the vigorous response in a skin immune cell triggered by a bacterial toxin or a pro-inflammatory cytokine (Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology Annual Meeting, Ehime, Japan, September 7-8, 2001). Parthenolide also reduced the amount of a pro-inflammatory cytokine tumour necrosis factor from these "hyperactive" immune cells. Could a standardised and cosmeceutical stable feverfew extract tone down human inflammatory skin conditions and diseases?
Histamine Helps Wound Healing
When you hear the word histamine do you begin tearing and sneezing? Millions do but what about your skin? In an earlier study intended to explore the role of histamine in animals one finding related to the delayed healing of skin at wound sites. In this follow-up study (Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology Annual Meeting, Ehime, Japan, September 7-8, 2001) genetically modified mice unable to produce histamine were found to show substantially protracted healing of wounds. Application of a histamine-containing solution to the wounds not only normalised wound healing but also accelerated it beyond that of the normal unmodified mice. Additional investigations led to the conclusion that histamine promoted new blood vessel growth (angiogenesis), an absolutely critical component of wound healing. This may explain why the dipeptide L-carnosine, which contains L-histidine (the direct precursor of histamine), is an effective wound healing promoter and the subject of new patents.
Green Tea And Hair Loss
The low level emotional and mental trauma associated with hair loss and incurred during the wakeful state may be a yawn when contrasted to that "seen" in the dream state. (I know I have had countless dreams where I stroke my hands through my hair only to find my palms bearing a keen resemblance to The Wolfman.) A recent paper (Arch Dermatol 137: 943-7, 2001) reviewed the purported link between baldness and cardiovascular disease. As if baldness did not cause enough morbidity now some are suggesting increased mortality...
The author, a dermatologist from the University of Genoa, in Italy found many of the research articles suggesting a link to be flawed. They lacked evaluation of androgen hormone and genetic-determined hair loss or androgenetic alopecia (AA), by a dermatologist. He did assert, however, that men developing aggressive forms of AA before the age of 30 merit additional attention, because AA could indeed be a risk for heart disease (Arch Intern Med 160: 165-71, 2000).
What natural products exert bioactivity in AA? What could offer the greatest promise is the humble tea leaf, Camellia sinensis. An abundant amount of animal and in vitro studies have hinted at its promise in AA. Green tea operates via its catechin constituents, acting in a manner similar to that of finasteride, the pharmaceutical agent that blocks the enzyme 5-alpha-reductase (Biochem Biophys Res Commun 214: 833-8, 1995). Other research by the same group has shown curcumin (from turmeric), alizarin (from Madder root), and a fatty acid abundant in Serenoa repens extract (myristoleic acid; also found to be the principal bioactive of Serenoa repens against prostate cancer cells in culture) to hold promise (Arch Dermatol Res 293: 200-5, 2001). These are the subjects of patents that have yet to be clinically validated. What may be even more exciting and novel is white tea, the immediate processing progenitor to green tea...
Anthony L. Almada, BSc, MSc
Founder, President and Chief Scientific Officer
IMAGINutrition®, Inc. and MetaResponse Sciences®
30131 Town Center Drive, Suite 211
Laguna Niguel, CA 92677