July 16, 2024

The University of the Philippines Manila’s National Integrated Research Program on Medicinal Plants (NIRPROMP) has created an herbal lotion against skin fungal infections using the Akapulco plant.

Skin infections are prevalent among Filipinos due to environmental factors, such as heat and humidity, and socioeconomic conditions, such as overcrowding, poverty, and poor hygiene.

Institute of Herbal Medicine-National Institutes of Health (IHM-NIH) Director, Dr. Cecilia Maramba-Lazarte noted that Azole antifungals treat such infections effectively but are often expensive and require prolonged application.

“One solution to this problem is the use of Senna alata, more commonly known as Akapulco,” she said in a statement.

“Traditional healers and those of other cultures have used this to treat skin diseases. The antifungal activity of Akapulco has been well-documented in various studies.”

Akapulco is a perennial shrub widely distributed in the Philippines.

It typically reaches one meter to two meters in height with dense branches and leaves composed of eight to 20 elliptical leaflets.

It contains several phytochemicals, including chrysophanic acid and anthraquinones, which exhibit strong antifungal activity against Epidermophyton, Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Penicillium.

Lazarte said the effectiveness of Akapulco preparations had been measured by the results of seven randomized controlled trials involving 726 patients.

Four trials were performed using the NIRPROMP-IHM formulation, which enrolled 461 patients.

These trials showed preparations containing Akapulco are as efficacious as synthetic antifungal treatments containing 25 percent sodium thiosulfate, ketoconazole, or terbinafine cream.

Researchers noted minimal adverse effects from Akapulco lotion compared to conventional treatments.

“Randomized controlled trials are crucial to establish the efficacy and safety of treatments. Our findings indicate that Akapulco lotion offers a cost-effective alternative to imported antifungal medications,” Lazarte said.

She said potential investors could capitalize on the global antifungal drug market, which was valued at USD15.8 billion in 2023 and is expected to expand further.

Apart from economic benefits, the development of Akapulco lotion promotes local agriculture and Filipino self- reliance as dependence on imported drugs diminishes, she added. – PNA