Mahonia aquifolium / Mahonie

Mahonia aquifolium is widespread in the forests of North America, and is also known as the cultivated plant ‘Mahonia’. It is commonly found in gardens and parks growing as high as 1 - 2 metres with ever-green, leathery pinnate leaves, with a very shiny upper surface and a thorny toothed edge.

It’s yellow buds develop into blue , frost-covered berries which contain a dark-red juice and contain 2-5 shiny seeds. The berries are edible and are used to make wine and brandy. The bark of roots and stems contain alkaloids which have a number of therapeutic properties.

In North American medicine, Mahonia aquifolium has been traditionally used to treat fever, diarrhoea, dyspepsia, gout, rheumatic ailments, kidney and liver diseases, but most prominently for skin complaints. However, only in the last five years have scientists discovered how and why this herbal extract is so beneficial for psoriasis sufferers.

What can it help?

Mahonia aquifolium applied topically and taken internally as a remedy for psoriasis. The very first clinical study involving Mahonia aquifolium as a treatment for psoriasis occurred in 1992.

Mahonia aquifolium – A new type of topical treatment for psoriasis

In an open, prospective multicentre trial in 89 dermatological practices in Germany, 443 patients with subacute and chronic forms of psoriasis were treated with Mahonia aquifolium ointment.

Of 443 patients entered into the study, 375 were treated over the planned period of 12 weeks, or dropped out of the study early because of healing, A modified PASI score feel significantly from 5.5 plus or minus 4.0 to 2.3 plus or minus 2.6. According to an overall evaluation by dermatologists, symptoms improved or disappeared in 81% of patients. According to a subjective evaluation by the patients, 79.7% improved or healed completely. The tolerability of M. aquifolium ointment was evaluated as good or very good by 82.4% of patients.

There was a significant improvement in the quality of life, which was used as a subjective parameter throughout the study. While 30.1% of patients had significant or severe symptoms at the start, this fell to 5.6% after 12 weeks. M. aquifolium ointment is thus a well-tolerated preparation which should find a place in the treatment of psoriasis.

Gieler U.; Von der Weth A.; Heger M.

Universitats-Klinikum (Giessen, Ludwigstrasse 76, D35392 Giessen Germany

Journal of Dermatological Treatment (United Kingdom), 1995, 6/1 (31-34)

Mahonia aquifolium in patients with psoriasis vulgaris – an intraindividual study

A randomised, placebo controlled clinical trial was established to investigate the efficacy and safety of Mahonia aquifolium bark extract in psoriasis patients. From autumn 1990 to spring 1992, 82 patients, of all severity gradings, were recruited from 22 family physicians. The patients were instructed to apply two types of ointment (verum/placebo), one to the left side of their body and the other to the right side. After an average treatment period of four weeks, the treatment success was assessed on a three-level ordinal rating scale. The patients’ reported significant improvements. Adverse reactions (e.g. Itching, burning sensation) occurred in four of the patients. The researchers stated that "Mahonia seems to alleviate symptoms especially in moderately severe cases", and concluded that "Mahonia aquifolium bark extract as a potential and safe therapy of moderately severe cases of psoriasis vulgaris".M. Weisenauer and R L. dtke. Phytomedicine 3(3) 1996; 231-235

The antipsoriatic Mahonia aquifolium and its active constituents; II. Antiproliferative activity against cell growth of human keratinocytes

The extract of the bark of Mahonia aquifolium is an inhibitor of keratinocyte growth (abnormal skin cell growth) with an IC50 of 35 microM. Of its main alkaloids tested, berberine inhibited cell growth to the same extent as did the Mahonia extract, while the benzylisoquinoline alkaloids berbamine and oxyacanthine were more potent inhibitors by a factor of three.

Muller K; Ziereis K.; Gawlik I.. Institut fur Pharmazie, Universitat Regensburg, Universitatsstr. 31, D-39040 Regensburg Germany. PLANTA MED. (Germany), 1995, 61/1 (74-75)

Lipoxygenase inhibition and antioxidant properties of bisbenzylisoquinoline alkaloids isolated from Mahonia aquifolium

Products of lipoxygenase metabolism are known to play a role in the pathogenesis of psoriasis. Six bisbenzylisoquinoline (BBIQ) alkaloids, oxyacanthine, armoline, baluchistine, berbamine, obamegine, aquifoline, isolated from Mahonia aquifolium, were tested for lipoxygenase inhibitors, whereas armoline and baluchistine exhibited only very low potencies. Oxyacanthine and bertamine were also among the most active compounds to inhibit lipid peroxidation. Between the results of lipoxgenase inhibition and the lipid peroxidation a linear correlation was found.

The data suggests that in the mechanism of lipoxygenase inhibition by these alkaloids, inhibition of lipid peroxide substrate accumulation, either by direct reaction with peroxide or by scavenging or lipid-derived radicals, may play a role. Inhibition of lipoxygenase by these compounds may contribute to the therapeutic effect of Mahonia aquifolium extracts in treatment of diseases in pathogenesis of which the products of lipoxygenase metabolism are involved (including psoriasis).

BEZAKOVA L.; Misik V.; Malekova L.; Svajdlenka E.; Kostalova D.

Dept. Cell/Mol, Biology of Drugs, Faculty of Pharmacy, J.A. Comenius University, Kalinciakova. 8, 83232 Bratislava Slovak Republic

Pharmazie (Germany, 1996, 51/10 (758-761)

Antifungal screening of medical plants of British Columbian native peoples

One hundred methanolic plant extracts were screened for antifungal activity against 9 fungal species. Eighty-one were found to have some antifungal activity and 30 extracts showed activity against 4 or more of the fungi assayed. The extracts with the greatest fungal inhibition were prepared from Mahonia aquifolium roots, Alnus rubra catkins, Artemisia, ludoviciana aerial parts, Artemisia tridentata aerial parts, Geum macrophyllum roots, and Moneses uniflora aerial parts.

McCutcheon A.R.; Ellis S.M.; Hancock R.E.W.; Towers G.H.N.

Department of Botany, University of British Columbia, 3515-6270 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC VIT 1ZA Canada. J. ETHNOPHARMACOL. (Ireland), 1994, 44/3 (157-169)

The antipsoriatic Mahonia aquifolium and its active constituents;

I. Pro- and antioxidant properties and inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase

The effects of the extract of the bark of Mahonia aquifolium and its main constituents (berberine, berbamine, oxyacanthine) on 5-lipoxygenese, lipid peroxidation in phospholipid liposomes induced by 2,2’-azo-(bis-2-amidinopropane), deoxyribose degradation, and their reactives against the free radical 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl have been studied. The extract of M. aquifolium inhibits 5-LO with an IC50 value of 50 microM, whereas no appreciable effects were observed by its constituent alkaloids. Reactivity against DPPH increased in the following order: berberine < M. aquifolium < oxyacanthine, berbamine. Pro-oxidant effects by M. aquifolium or its constituents can be excluded, since deoxyribose degradation was not influenced as determined by the release of malondialdehyde. The most prominent feature of M. aquifolium is its efficacy in inhibition of lipid peroxidation (IC50 = 5 microM) which was not mentioned by the alkaloids berberine, berbamine, and oxyacanthine.

Muller K; Ziereis K..Institut fur pharmazie, Universitat Regensburg, Universitatsstr. 31, D-93040 Regensburg Germany PLANTA MED. (Germany), 1994, 60/5 (421-4