Plant Extract Fights Dandruff
August 12, 2004—Dandruff sufferers may find that shampoo containing a standardized extract of the plant Solanum chrysotrichum treats their condition as effectively as antifungal shampoo containing the drug ketoconazole, according to a study in Planta Medica (2004;70:483–8). Though the specific product used in this study is not yet on the market, this finding is good news for those who want to know more about natural treatments for a common and sometimes embarrassing problem.
Dandruff, also known as seborrheic dermatitis, is associated with an overgrowth of a yeast germ called Malassezia, which commonly lives on the scalps of many people without causing a problem. However, unchecked Malassezia growth causes faster turnover of skin cells, resulting in flakes of dead skin sloughing from the scalp and often causing itchiness. Dandruff usually starts during puberty and peaks at around age 40. Increased oil production by the scalp, male hormones, stress, infrequent shampooing, heredity, and certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease are all thought to contribute to dandruff development.
Treatments for dandruff include over-the-counter and prescription shampoos that contain selenium sulfide (Selsun™), zinc pyrithione (Head and Shoulders™), coal tar (Neutrogena T-Gel™), and ketoconazole (Nizoral™). In more severe cases, corticosteroid creams may be prescribed. Ketoconazole has been found the most effective in treating dandruff and preventing recurrences. However, certain strains of yeast are becoming resistant to drugs in the ketoconazole family.
S. chrysotrichum is a Mexican plant that has been shown to successfully treat athlete’s foot (a fungal infection) without causing unwanted side effects. The new study compared the effect of a shampoo containing S. chrysotrichum with ketoconazole shampoo in treating 103 men and women with Malassezia overgrowth. The participants were randomly assigned to use either a shampoo standardized to contain 12.5% saponins from the plant S. chrysotrichum, or a shampoo containing 2% ketoconazole. They were instructed to apply the shampoo directly to the scalp, lather, leave it on for five minutes, and then rinse with clean water. The treatments were repeated every three days for four weeks and were evaluated two and four weeks after the treatment began.
Therapeutic effectiveness, defined as the absence of dandruff and eradication of Malassezia, was similar between the two treatment groups. The S. chrysotrichum shampoo was very well tolerated and was effective for 65% of the participants who used it, whereas the ketoconazole shampoo was effective for 73%.
These results suggest that a standardized extract of S. chrysotrichum in a shampoo base is a safe and effective alternative for the treatment of dandruff associated with the Malassezia yeast. With these favorable results, it may be hoped that the shampoo used in the study will soon be made commercially available.
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Kimberly Beauchamp, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Rhode Island and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. She is a co-founder and practicing physician at South County Naturopaths, Inc., in Wakefield, RI. Dr. Beauchamp teaches holistic medicine classes and provides consultations focusing on detoxification and whole-foods nutrition.
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