Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Ancient Chinese Remedy Removes Scars

An ancient Chinese remedy for healing wounds could be useful for removing raised scars called hypertrophic scars.

Chen Fan, a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, investigated the active components of shikonin, a traditional Chinese medicine made from the dried root of Lithospermum erythrorhizon, a plant that grows in China, Japan and Korea. “Shikonin has traditionally been used to improve wound-healing or to treat dermatitis and eczema,” Chen said. It also inhibits HIV-1.

“Hypertrophic scars form from a combination of reduced normal cell death, over-production of collagen, slow regrowth of the epithelial tissue or top layer of skin and prolonged inflammation during wound healing,” Chen said.

“When we tested shikonin’s active compounds on human scar cells in the laboratory we found it reduced cell growth and collagen production. This suggests that shikonin could be used as a powder on a hypertrophic scar 3 months after the wound has healed to reduce the scarring and perhaps return the scar to a normal healed wound.”

Chen’s study was published in Chemico-Biological Interactions.