Herbal Remedies for Lichen Planus

Lichen planus is a disease caused by abnormal functioning of the immune system. Patients suffering from this disease experience skin itching and swelling. They also suffer from ulcers in the mouth. The authors of this research reviewed various studies on the beneficial effects of different herbs in alleviating the symptoms of oral lichen planus. “There are many types of herbs that can help the lesions of oral lichen planus effectively and safely, as well as keep them from returning,” according to the researchers.

Oral lichen planus is more prevalent in women (1.57 percent) than in men (0.96 percent). Although the exact cause for this disease is not known, mental stress and consumption of certain foods to which the patient is allergic are thought to be responsible. Presently, steroids are used in the treatment of this disease. They provide symptomatic relief for a short period of time. Use of steroids is associated with various side effects, such as the development of Cushing syndrome and oral thrush. Various herbs are known to be beneficial in the treatment of lichen planus. These herbs have fewer side effects, compared to steroids. Researchers reviewed articles particularly related to aloe vera, turmeric and “thunder god vine” root bark. They also reviewed articles on the utility of licorice, which is a potent stress reliever. In addition, they studied the usefulness of astringents, such as tormentil, in reducing the symptoms of oral lichen planus.

In the present review, studies done on the beneficial effects of various herbs in the treatment of oral lichen planus were primarily included. To know the effect of aloe vera, a Thai double-blind study conducted on 54 adults was analyzed. An Iranian clinical trial using purslane weed was also included in the review. Turmeric has been used for ages in the treatment of various skin disorders in many parts of Asia. There are studies conducted to know the efficacy of turmeric in alleviating the symptoms of lichen planus. The utility of herbs which decrease immunity, such as “thunder god vine” root bark; herbs with an astringent property, such as tormentil; and herbs which reduce stress, such as licorice, were also assessed.

Key findings
* Compared to the placebo group, patients who received aloe vera experienced 50 percent higher healing of ulcers of oral lichen planus. “Nine patients taking aloe had complete remission of all symptoms compared to one taking placebo — a significant difference.” Trials with purslane also yielded similar results.
* Curcumin, an active compound present in turmeric, has a therapeutic effect. To be useful in oral lichen planus, it has to be consumed in a very high dose of more than 1,000 mg twice per day.
* “Thunder god vine” root bark has a strong immunosuppressive property. Although it is useful in treating lichen planus, there are many side effects that it has.
* Licorice is especially useful in treating lichen planus, which is caused due to hepatitis C virus infection. Astringents, such as tormentil, coat the ulcers and help in healing by protecting the ulcer from the irritation caused by saliva and food.

This review has highlighted the therapeutic usefulness of various herbs in the treatment of oral ulcers, which occur in lichen planus. Most of these herbs, unlike steroids, have very few side effects. According to the authors, lichen planus occurs because of leaky gut, stress and allergic reactions. Herbs used in the treatment of lichen planus either correct the leaky gut or they decrease the immunological reaction. There is a need to increase the use of these herbs in the routine treatment of lichen planus. There are many others herbs which are used in the treatment of symptoms of lichen planus, such as marshmallow and holly rock leaves. Systematic clinical trials need to be conducted on these herbs so that their utility can be scientifically confirmed.

For More Information:
Herbal Treatment for Lichen Planus
Publication Journal: Alternative and Complementary Therapies, August 2010
By Eric Yarnell; Kathy Abascal; Bastyr University, Kenmore, Washington and Botanical Medicine Academy, Washington

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.

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