Gromwell (Lithospermum erythrorhizon) root extract protects against glycation and related inflammatory and oxidative stress while offering UV absorption capability

Exp Dermatol. 2018 Sep;27(9):1043-1047. doi: 10.1111/exd.13706. Epub 2018 Jul 29.


Glycation and advanced glycation end products (AGE) damage skin which is compounded by AGE-induced oxidative stress and inflammation. Lip and facial skin could be susceptible to glycation damage as they are chronically stressed. As Gromwell (Lithospermum erythrorhizon) root (GR) has an extensive traditional medicine history that includes providing multiple skin benefits, our objective was to determine whether GR extract and its base naphthoquinone, shikonin, might protect skin by inhibiting glycation, increasing oxidative defenses, suppressing inflammatory responses and offering ultraviolet (UV) absorptive potential in lip and facial cosmetic matrices. We show GR extract and shikonin dose-dependently inhibited glycation and enhanced oxidative defenses through nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2)/antioxidant response element activation. Inflammatory targets, nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NFκB) and tumor necrosis factor alpha, were suppressed by GR extract and shikonin. Glyoxalase 1 (GLO1) and glutathione synthesis genes were significantly upregulated by GR extract and shikonin. GR extract boosted higher wavelength UV absorption in select cosmetic matrices. Rationale for the use of GR extract and shikonin are supported by our research. By inhibiting glycation, modulating oxidative stress, suppressing inflammation and UV-absorptive properties, GR extract and shikonin potentially offer multiple skin benefits.

Keywords: UV absorption; carbonyl stress; cell culture; colour cosmetics; skin care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorption, Radiation / drug effects*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Cosmetics / pharmacology
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced / metabolism*
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / prevention & control
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase / genetics
  • Lithospermum*
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / genetics
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / metabolism
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Naphthoquinones / pharmacology*
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Roots
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / metabolism
  • Ultraviolet Rays
  • Up-Regulation


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Cosmetics
  • Glycation End Products, Advanced
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2
  • NF-kappa B
  • NFE2L2 protein, human
  • Naphthoquinones
  • Plant Extracts
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • shikonin
  • Lactoylglutathione Lyase
  • Glutathione