Controlled Clinical Trial
Journal Article
Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
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Efficacy of the saponin component of Impatiens capensis preventing urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.

ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Many different tribes of American Indians used jewelweed, Impatiens capensis Meerb, as a plant mash to reduce development of poison ivy dermatitis. Saponins are a natural soapy constituent found within plants. A 2012 study suggested that saponins may be present in jewelweed which could be responsible for its efficacy in preventing rash development following contact with Toxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze (poison ivy). This study validated this hypothesis and demonstrated additional biological activity of the jewelweed saponin containing extract.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fresh I. capensis leaves were extracted with methanol and further partitioned between ethyl acetate and water, with a final separation between water and n-butanol, to obtain a saponin containing extract. The presence of saponins in the extract was demonstrated by the observation of foaming and using a vanillin colorimetric assay for total saponins. Efficacy of the saponin containing extracts in rash reduction was tested by brushing poison ivy (PI) onto the forearms of volunteers (N=23) in six locations and treating these PI exposed areas with distilled water (control), saponin containing extracts, fresh plant mashes, and soaps made with and without plant extracts. Saponin containing extracts were further tested for biological activity against both gram negative and gram positive bacteria and against cancer cell lines A-375, HT-29, and MCF-7. Additionally, because saponins have been shown to have a stimulatory effect in cardiac muscle 2 µl saponin extract was applied superficially to black worms, Lumbriculus variegatus (N=5).

RESULTS, AND CONCLUSIONS: Both saponin containing extracts and all soaps tested were effective in reducing poison ivy dermatitis; thus, saponin content correlates with PI rash prevention. No apparent antibiosis was observed against any bacteria tested; however, dose response cytotoxicity was documented against MCF-7 breast cancer cells and cytostatic activity was seen against the HT-29 colon cancer cell lines. Lumbriculus variegatus exhibited a 138% increase in heart rate over baseline rate five minutes post treatment implying a possible positive chronotropic effect.

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