Effects of topical application of Astragalus membranaceus on allergic dermatitis

Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2013 Feb;35(1):151-6. doi: 10.3109/08923973.2012.733708. Epub 2012 Oct 19.


Astragalus membranaceus (AM) is one of the most popular health-promoting herbs in East Asia, and has been used in traditional medicine for more than 2000 years. This study was performed to examine whether AM suppresses atopic dermatitis (AD)-like skin lesions in BALB/c mice. Seven-week-old female BALB/c mice were sensitized with 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (DNCB) to induce allergic dermatitis. Skin sections were stained with hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) to assess epidermal and dermal hyperplasia, which were determined by measuring the thicknesses of the epidermis and dermis, respectively. The serum immunoglobulin G (IgE) concentration was quantified by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). In addition, the levels of interleukins (IL)-4, -5, -6, and -13 and tissue necrosis factor (TNF)-α were measured in mouse serum. Significance was determined by one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA). Topical AM markedly improved the AD skin lesions in DNCB-induced mice. The AD skin lesions were significantly thinner in the AM treatment group compared with untreated controls, and the hyperkeratosis disappeared. Topical treatment of AM also restored nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) expression. In addition, the serum IgE level was reduced. AM suppressed the expression of Th2 cytokines (IL-4, -5, -6, and -13) and significantly decreased the TNF-α level. AM is effective for treating AD by regulating cytokines. AM may be an alternative or complementary therapeutic option for treating patients with AD. More in-depth studies are necessary to clarify the mechanisms of AM.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Animals
  • Astragalus propinquus / immunology*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / drug therapy*
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / immunology
  • Dermis / immunology
  • Epidermis / immunology
  • Female
  • Hyperkeratosis, Epidermolytic / immunology
  • Immunoglobulin E / blood
  • Interleukins / immunology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • NF-kappa B / immunology
  • Phytotherapy
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology


  • Interleukins
  • NF-kappa B
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Immunoglobulin E