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Scientific Name(s): Impatiens balsamina L., Impatiens biflora Willd., Impatiens capensis Meerb., Impatiens pallida Nutt.
Common Name(s): Garden balsam, Jewel balsam weed, Jewel weed, Jewelweed, Touch-me-not, Zhi hin nonxe thionbaba (Native Americans, the Omaha)
Medically reviewed by Holevn.org. Last updated on Sep 9, 2019.
Jewelweed is most commonly known for its antipruritic use in the treatment of poison ivy rash. It has also been used as an agent to promote blood flow, for postchildbirth and joint pain, bruises and swelling, and as an antidote to fish poisoning. However, there is no clinical information available to support its use for any indication.
Crushed jewelweed has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy; however, no specific dose has been determined in clinical trials.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Traditional use as an emmenagogue suggests caution.
None well documented.
None known for topical use.
Impatiens capensis and the closely related I. balsamina are tender, succulent herbs commonly found at wet woodland borders, shaded riverbanks, and roadside ditches, which are locations also preferred by poison ivy. They grow 2 to 5 feet in height and either bear orange to yellow, or pink to purple flowers, respectively, and are commonly grown as bedding and house plants.Motz 2012 Jewelweed is sometimes called the “touch-me-not.” This name alludes to the presence of a seed capsule made of a soft fleshy tissue that tends to expel its contents if touched or shaken.
Jewelweed has long been recognized as an herbal remedy for the treatment of topical irritation, most notably for the treatment of poison ivy rash. The sap of the jewelweed has been used by American Indians, particularly those living in Appalachia, as a prophylactic against poison ivy rash and as a treatment after the eruptions have occurred.Lewis 1977, Long 1997 The Southern Cherokee, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Meskwaki, and Omaha used I. capensis for a variety of pruritic dermatites besides treating and preventing poison ivy rash and itch, including treatment of stings from other plants (eg, stinging nettle) and insect bites.Motz 2012 In Japan the juice of the corolla from white balsamina flowers is painted on the skin as an antipruritic.Ishiguro 1997, Motz 2012, Oku 2002 And the aerial parts of Impatiens spp have been used in Chinese herbal medicine for treating pain and swelling, and as an antimicrobial.Motz 2015
The aerial parts of the plant are used in Chinese herbal medicine for rheumatism, beriberi, bruises, pain, and swelling, and as an antimicrobial agent.Ishiguro 2000, Oku 2002, Yang 2001 Impatiens seeds have been used to promote blood flow, including menstruation, and for the suppression of post-childbirth pain, as an expectorant and, in some Asian countries, as an antidote for fish poisoning.Shoji 1994
Commercial poison ivy–prevention products containing jewelweed are widely available.Motz 2012
Chemical compounds identified in the white petals of I. balsamina include kaempferol, kaempferol 3-glucoside, kaempferol 3-rutinoside, kaempferol 3-rhamnosyldiglucoside, quercetin, quercetin 3-rutinoside, 2-hydroxy 1,4-napthoquinone, and 2-methoxy 1,4-napthoquinone.Ishiguro 1997 Aerial parts of balsamina contain phenolics, flavonols, anthocyanin pigments, quinones, and saponinsYang 2001 as well as a testosterone 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor impatienol.Ishiguro 2000, Oku 2002
Four novel peptides with antimicrobial properties have been isolated from the seeds of I. balsamina,Tailor 1997 in addition to several saponins.Shoji 1994 2-methoxy 1,4-napthoquinone, lawsone (2-hydroxynapthoquinone), spinasterol, scopoletin, methylene 3,3-bilawsone (diphthiocol), and isofraxidin (8-methoxyscopoletin) have been identified in the roots as well as cysteine-rich compounds with antimicrobial and antifungal activity.Motz 2012, Panichayupakaranant 1995 In addition to antimicrobial activity, lawsone has demonstrated antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and COX-2 inhibitory actions.Motz 2012
Uses and Pharmacology
Compounds having antibacterial and antifungal activity have been isolated from the aerial parts of I. balsaminaYang 2001 as well as from the seeds.Patel 1998, Tailor 1997 The potential may be limited to the plant’s ability to resist pathogens, despite the reported traditional use of jewelweed tea for systemic and fungal infections.Yang 2001 Neither antimicrobial nor antifungal activity was evident with saponin-containing extracts at concentrations of 1 g plant material/g saponin when tested against gram-negative or -positive bacteria (ie, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, or Escherchia coli) or Candida albicans.
In vitro anticancer activity was investigated in breast, melanoma, and colon cancer cell lines with test solution made from dried extract and applied at concentrations of 100, 80, 64, 48, and 34 mcg/mL. Dose response cytotoxicity was observed in breast cancer cells that also demonstrated characteristics typical of apoptosis with low concentrations producing a 39.8% reduction in cell growth and high concentrations resulted in no growth. Cytostatic activity was documented in the colon cancer cells and no growth inhibition was observed in the melanoma cell line; neither of these latter 2 cell lines exhibited apoptotic characteristics.Motz 2015
A possible positive chronotropic effect was observed with the addition of I. capensis saponin extract to the controlled aqueous “pond water” environment of black worms (Lumbriculus variegatus) at a concentration of 100 mg extracted plant material/mL of “pond water.” Resting heart rate of the 5 black worms increased immediately to 107.5% of resting rate, and within 5 minutes to 138% of heart rate; no increase in heart rate was seen in the 3 controls.Motz 2015
Effect on blood pressure
Researchers have evaluated the protective effect of extracts of I. balsamina and I. textori species flowers on severe hypotension resulting from simulated anaphylaxis in mice. The results suggest the presence of a platelet activating factor antagonist, as well as a compound with weak antihistamine effect.Ishiguro 1997, Ishiguro 2002, Oku 1999, Ueda 2003
Poison ivy treatment
Several attempts have been made to verify that jewelweed extracts, when applied topically, have a beneficial effect on poison ivy eruptions. Approaches, formulations, and preparations have been varied (ie, glycerin or aqueous extracts, whole-plant mashes, juice from aerial parts, sprays, soaps, creams).Motz 2012
A study using an ethanol extract of the white petals of I. balsamina suggested that there might be 2 different compounds responsible for antipruritic activity demonstrated in mice.Ishiguro 1997
The results of a small clinical trial suggest an aqueous extract of jewelweed stem was ineffective in reducing the erythema, vesicles, and edema associated with poison ivy, but the subjects did report decreased pruritus.Long 1997 An experimental controlled study seeking to validate ethnopharmacological use of jewelweed for prevention of poison ivy as well as to determine any correlation of jewelweed formulation and lawsone concentration of efficacy enrolled 40 volunteers 18 to 65 years of age across 6 US locations. Both I.capensis and balsamina were studied. Preparations varied from fresh, frozen, and dried material prepared as a mash of whole plants and plant parts that were harvested at different times during the growth season, to cold aqueous infusions, soap preparations, ethanol extraction, olive oil extraction, neutral decoction, and a basic decoction. The comparators included distilled water administered as a single wash and double wash, a lawsone solution equivalent to the I. capensis infusion, and Dawn dish soap. Lawsone concentration was highest in fresh aqueous extract and fresh mash of I. balsamina mid-season harvest (744 to 750 mcg/g of plant material) and lowest in olive oil extraction and the ethanol extract of dried material. Approximately half of the participants developed significant poison ivy dermatitis with a median rash development score of 10 on a scale of 0 to 14. On day 7, 11 of 12 (91.67%) patients exhibited significantly less of a rash in the areas treated with either of the Impatiens spp. compared to the control (water). The rash score averaged 6.7 for the Impatiens spp extracts, which was not significantly different from the control (9.3); however, both Impatiens mashes resulted in significantly lower rash scores (4.7). Interestingly, all 3 soap products (Impatiens soaps and Dawn soap) provided significantly improved mean rash scores of 3.1 (a 67% reduction in rash), irrespective of the lawsone concentration. The lawsone solution produced a rash score of 7, and therefore, appeared to play no significant role on its own in preventing rash development. The efficacy of the soaps and the mashes is likely associated with the water content washing away the urushiol with the plant material serving as an abrasive, which supports earlier findings with commercial soaps (ie, Dial, Technu, Goop) that produced 62.7% reduction in rashes.Motz 2012 An additional study by this author using the same methodology in 23 volunteers, investigated the role of saponins (the major constituent of soap) in contributing to efficacy of jewelweed for prevention of poison ivy dermatitis. In patients exhibiting severe rash response, the greatest rash score reductions were from the soaps and a double-strength extract (P < 0.05) compared with fresh mash, plant strength extracts, and control. The soaps provided a reduction of 48% and 46% with and without addition of jewelweed extract, respectively, and the double-strength extract a 33% reduction compared to control. These data indicate that the detergent action of the soaps was effective in reducing rash development likely due to emulsification of the urushiol oil.Motz 2015
More recent studies have identified chemical compounds supporting traditional uses of jewelweed: the identification of COX-2 inhibitory napthoquinone salts supports the use of jewelweed for articular rheumatism, pain, and swellingOku 2002 and the presence of a testosterone 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor supports its use against male pattern baldness;Ishiguro 2000 however, further studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
Crushed jewelweed has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy. No other specific dosing information is available.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Considering its traditional use as an emmenagogue9 use in pregnancy should probably be avoided until further evidence is available.
None well documented.
Research reveals little information regarding adverse reactions with the topical use of this product. Use of Impatiens spp tea has been reported to cause digestive upset, while consumption of the whole plant induces vomiting and diuresis.Motz 2012
There are no published reports of toxicity associated with the topical use of jewelweed extracts. The safety of internal ingestion is not well-defined.
- Impatiens capensis
USDA, NRCS. 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5 (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA.Mabberley DJ. The Plant-book. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press; 1987.Lewis WH, Elvin-Lewis MP. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health. New York: Wiley; 1977.Long D, Ballentine NH, Marks JG. Treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis with an extract of Jewelweed. Am J Contact Dermat. 1997;8:150-153.9249283Ishiguro K, Oku H. Antipruritic effect of flavonol and 1,4-naphthoquinone derivatives from Impatiens balsamina L. Phytother Res. 1997;11:343-347.9313910Oku H, Ishiguro K. Cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory 1,4-naphthoquinones from Impatiens balsamina L. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002;25:658-660.12033510Ishiguro K, Oku H, Kato T. Testosterone 5a-Reductase inhibitor bisnaphthoquinone derivative from Impatiens balsamina. Phytother Res. 2000;14:54-56.Yang X, Summerhurst DK, Koval SF, Ficker C, Smith ML, Bernards MA. Isolation of an antimicrobial compound from Impatiens balsamina L. using bioassay-guided fractionation. Phytother Res. 2001;15:676-680.11746859Shoji N, Umeyama A, Yoshikawa K, Nagai M, Arihara S. Baccharane glycosides from seeds of Impatiens balsamina. Phytochemistry. 1994;37:1437-1441.7765763Tailor RH, Acland DP, Attenborough S, et al. A novel family of small cysteine-rich antimicrobial peptides from seed of Impatiens balsamina is derived from a single precursor protein. J Biol Chem. 1997;272:24480-24487.9305910Panichayupakaranant P, Noguchi H, De-Eknamkul W, Sankawa U. Naphthoquinones and coumarins from Impatiens balsamina root cultures. Phytochemistry. 1995;40:1141-1143.Ishiguro K, Fukumoto H. A practical and speedy screening method for murine anaphylaxis: on the antianaphylactic effect of Impatiens balsamina L. Phytother Res. 1997;11:48-50.Ishiguro K, Ohira Y, Oku H. Preventive effects of Impatiens balsamina on the hen egg-white lysozyme (HEL)-induced decrease in blood flow. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002;25:505-508.11995933Oku H, Ishiguro K. Screening method for PAF antagonist substances: on the phenolic compounds from Impatients balsamina L.Phytother Res. 1999;13:521-525.10479766Ueda Y, Oku H, Iinuma M, Ishiguro K. Effects on blood pressure decrease in response to PAF of Impatiens textori MIQ. Biol Pharm Bull. 2003;26:1505-157.14519965Patel SU, Osborn R, Rees S, Thornton JM. Structural studies of Impatiens balsamina antimicrobial protein (Ib-AMP1). Biochemistry. 1998;37:983-990.9454588Motz VA, Bowers CP, Young LM, Kinder DH. The effectiveness of jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, the related cultivar I. balsamina and the component, lawsone in preventing post poison ivy exposure contact dermatitis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(1):314-318.22766473Motz VA, Bowers CP, Kneubehl AR, Lendrum EC, Young LM, Kinder DH. Efficacy of the saponin component of Impatiens capensis Meerb. in preventing urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2015;162:163-167.25543019
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