Cosmeceutical Critique

Terminalia chebula



Terminalia chebula, a member of the Combretaceae family, is an evergreen plant found abundantly in India, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia.1,2 It has long been used in traditional medicine, particularly Ayurveda, as well as in Thai traditional medicine.3 It also has also been used for many years in the traditional medicine of the Samahni valley of Pakistan to treat chronic ulcers as well as dental caries and heart ailments.4 Other traditional indications include asthma and urinary disorders.5 In Thailand, it has been used to treat skin diseases and to promote wound healing and rejuvenation.1 It is particularly known for its potent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.6 The wide array of health benefits associated with T. chebula is attributed to its high content of phenolic compounds, flavonol glycosides, and other phytonutrients.7

Antioxidant, anti-aging, and depigmenting effects

In 2004, Na et al. observed that T. chebula fruit extract exerted an inhibitory effect on the age-dependent shortening of telomeres and UVB-induced oxidative damage in vitro.8

Kim et al. screened 50 Korean plants to identify natural sources of elastase and hyaluronidase inhibitors in 2010. The strong efficacy of T. chebula led the investigators to choose it for additional study in which the fruits of the methanol crude extract at 1 mg/mL demonstrated 80% elastase and 87% hyaluronidase inhibitory activities. In addition, the investigators isolated 1,2,3,4,6-penta-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucose (PGG), which also exhibited significant inhibition of elastase and hyaluronidase and induction of type II collagen expression. The authors concluded that PGG has the potential as a cutaneous anti-aging agent posing no cytotoxicity concerns and warrants further in vivo study.9

Dr. Leslie S. Baumann
Dr. Leslie S. Baumann

A 2010 in vitro study of the anti-aging properties of the extracts of 15 plant species, including T. chebula galls, outgrowths that result from insect bites, was conducted by Manosroi et al. The cold aqueous extract of T. chebula manifested the highest 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) radical-scavenging activity and highest stimulation index for proliferation of normal human skin fibroblasts. T. chebula, which also inhibited matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 activity, was compared against compounds such as ascorbic acid, alpha-tocopherol, and butylated hydroxytoluene. The investigators concluded that their findings supported the traditional uses of T. chebula gall in Thai medicine and suggest that T. chebula would be beneficial for inclusion in new anti-aging formulations.3

Later that year, Manosroi et al. characterized the biological activities of the phenolic compounds isolated from T. chebula galls, finding that these compounds (gallic acid, punicalagin, isoterchebulin, 1,3,6-tri-O-galloyl-beta-D-glucopyranose, chebulagic acid, and chebulinic acid) exhibited greater radical-scavenging and melanin-inhibitory activity than the reference compounds ascorbic acid, butylated hydroxytoluene, alpha-tocopherol, arbutin, and kojic acid. Although the T. chebula constituents were less effective than the reference compounds in mushroom tyrosinase inhibition and human tumor cytotoxicity assays, the investigators concluded that the antioxidant and depigmenting activity of the constituents of T. chebula accounted for the beneficial profile of the plant that has emerged over time.10

The next year, Manosroi et al. assessed the cutaneous anti-aging effects of a gel containing niosomes incorporating a semi-purified fraction including gallic acid derived from T. chebula galls or outgrowths. Human volunteers were enlisted to test skin elasticity and roughness and rabbit skin was used to evaluate skin irritation. The gel containing the semi-purified fractions loaded in niosomes was compared with an unloaded fraction, revealing that the loaded niosomes yielded greater gallic acid chemical stability as well as in vivo anti-aging effects.11 Earlier that year, the team had shown the viability of niosomes, particularly elastic ones, to promote chemical stability for the transdermal absorption of gallic acid in semipurified T. chebula gall fractions in rats. Their findings, they concluded, point to the potential for achieving topical anti-aging benefits from such formulations.12


In 2012, Akhtar et al. developed a water-in-oil T. chebula formulation and assessed its effects on various parameters. The investigators prepared a base with no active ingredients and a 5% T. chebula formulation, which remained stable at various storage conditions. For 8 weeks, they applied the base as well as the formulation to the cheeks of human volunteers, with weekly evaluations indicating that the formulation as opposed to the base yielded significant improvement, irrespective of time elapsed, in skin moisture content and erythema. The authors concluded that their T. chebula topical cream was effective in rejuvenating human skin.13

Wound healing

In 2002, Suguna et al. investigated in vivo the effects of a topically administered alcohol extract of the leaves of T. chebula on the healing of rat dermal wounds. The researchers found that treatment with T. chebula accelerated wound healing, with improved contraction rates and shorter epithelialization periods. T. chebula treatment yielded a 40% increase in the tensile strength of tissues from treated wounds. The authors concluded that T. chebula is beneficial in speeding the wound healing process.2

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