Alkannin and shikonin: effect on free radical processes and on inflammation - a preliminary pharmacochemical investigation

Arch Pharm (Weinheim). 2002 Jun;335(6):262-6. doi: 10.1002/1521-4184(200208)335:6<262::AID-ARDP262>3.0.CO;2-Y.


Alkannin and shikonin, two natural products from Alkanna tinctoria and Lithospermum erhythrorhizon (Boraginaceae), are used in folk medicine where they are claimed to possess, among other properties, wound healing and anti-inflammatory activity. We investigated, together with the structurally related naphthazarin, their in vitro antioxidant and hydroxyl radical scavenging activity as well as their in vivo antiinflammatory activity. I was found that all examined compounds significantly inhibited in vitro lipid peroxidation of ra hepatic microsomal membranes, competed with DMSO for free hydroxyl radicals, and reduced inflammation (mouse paw edema induced by FCA) very efficiently. The examined compounds proved equal or superior to the common reference compounds for each of these properties. I is concluded that the claimed and/or proven actions of alkannin and shikonin are attributable at least partly to their intervention in free radical processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide
  • Edema / chemically induced
  • Edema / pathology
  • Edema / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Free Radical Scavengers / chemistry
  • Free Radical Scavengers / pharmacology*
  • Freund's Adjuvant
  • Lipid Peroxidation / drug effects
  • Naphthoquinones / chemistry
  • Naphthoquinones / pharmacology*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred F344


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Free Radical Scavengers
  • Naphthoquinones
  • alkannin
  • shikonin
  • naphthazarin
  • Freund's Adjuvant
  • Dimethyl Sulfoxide