Background: Atopic eczema (AE) is a chronic inflammatory and pruritic skin disease. There is still an unmet need for topical anti-inflammatory and anti-pruritic substances exhibiting an excellent safety profile. The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate various aspects of cutaneous barrier and immune functions, thus targeting it may be a valid approach for alleviating the symptoms of AE.
Objective: To assess the putative efficacy of Echinacea purpurea-derived alkylamides (Ec. extract) activating cannabinoid (CB)-2 receptors in exerting anti-inflammatory effects and alleviating symptoms of AE.
Methods: In vitro anti-inflammatory efficiency was investigated by monitoring the effects of Ec. extract on poly-(I:C)-induced pro-inflammatory cytokine expression (Q-PCR) and release (ELISA) of HaCaT keratinocytes. Irritancy and sensitization potential (assessed by Human Repeat Insult Patch Test; Clinical trial 1); clinical efficiency in alleviating symptoms of AE (Clinical trial 2) as well as effects on human skin structure and lipid content (Clinical trial 3 followed by transmission electron microscopy and HPTLC) were investigated in randomized double blind clinical trials.
Results: Ec. extract significantly reduced mRNA expression as well as release of poly-(I:C)-induced pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-6 and IL-8) in keratinocytes. Thus, not surprisingly, the well-tolerated (Clinical trial 1) Ec. extract-based cream reduced local SCORAD statistically significantly, not only compared to baseline, but also compared to the comparator (Clinical trial 2). Of great importance, besides the in vitro anti-inflammatory effects, administration of the Ec. extract-based cream also resulted in significantly higher levels of overall epidermal lipids, ceramide EOS (ω-esterified fatty acid+sphingosine sphingoid base), and cholesterol at Day 15 compared to baseline as well as significantly greater numbers of intercellular lipid lamellae in the intercellular space (Clinical trial 3).
Conclusion: The investigated Ec. extract shows great potential in alleviating cutaneous symptoms of AE, and by exerting remarkable anti-inflammatory actions and restoring the epidermal lipid barrier, it will be very likely a well-tolerated, powerful novel ingredient for the adjuvant therapy of AE.
Keywords: Atopic eczema; Echinacea purpurea; Endocannabinoid system; Inflammation; Skin barrier.
Copyright © 2017 Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.