Apocynin was first described by Oswald Schmiedeberg, a German pharmacologist, in 1883 and was first isolated by Horace Finnemore, in 1908, from the root of Canadian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum). At the time, this plant was already used for its known effectiveness against edema and heart problems. In 1971, apocynin was also isolated from Picrorhiza kurroa, a small plant that grows at high altitudes in the western Himalayas. P. kurroa was used for ages as a treatment for liver and heart problems, jaundice, and asthma. In 1990, Simons et al. isolated apocynin to a pharmacologically useful level using an actively guided isolation procedure. Apocynin’s observed anti-inflammatory capabilities proved to be a result of its ability to selectively prevent the formation of free radicals, oxygen ions, and peroxides in the body. Apocynin has since been extensively studied to help determine its disease-fighting capabilities and applications .
Aging and other stressors, such as excess ultraviolet radiation and damaging free radicals, take a toll on your skin, and so does steadily depleting COL17A1, as it replicates weaker cells, not stronger ones. The inevitable results: skin that is thinner, more prone to damage and takes longer to heal.
The research involved the use of mice tails because of their similarity to human skin.1 Emi Nishimura, a professor at the Tokyo Medical and Dental University’s stem cell biology department and leader of the featured study, noted that “Damaged or stressed stem cells can be selectively eliminated by intact stem cells every day in our skin.”
Why Apocynin Regenerates Skin
Apocynin: What It Is and What It Does
Perhaps a simpler way of characterizing apocynin is to explore where it’s found. The 2008 inflammation study12 notes that it was first described in an investigation conducted in 1883 when the compound was isolated from the roots of Canadian hemp (Apocynum cannabinum) and used to treat dropsy and heart problems.
It was also found in the root of Picrorhiza kurroa, a plant with the faint odor of vanilla, native to India, Nepal, Tibet and Pakistan and common in Ayurvedic treatments. In India and Sri Lanka, extracts were used “for the treatment of ailments of liver, heart, joints, and lungs.”13
A 2014 study14 shows that the “small phenolic antioxidant” known as apocynin and extracted from the Jatropha multifida plant, also known as Guatemala rhubarb or coral plant, grown from Mexico to Central America to Brazil, was shown to have potential for treating neurodegenerative diseases.
Researchers also found apocynin to be one of five volatile vanilla flavor compounds in the vanilla bean, aka Vanilla planifolia.15 Another study suggested its cancer-fighting potential:
“The spread of cancer cells to distant organs, in a process called metastasis, is the main factor that contributes to most death in cancer patients. Vanillin, the vanilla flavoring agent, has been shown to suppress metastasis in a mouse model … (and) their structurally related compounds, apocynin and diapocynin, in hepatocellular carcinoma cells.”16
Besides its advantageous effects on fighting inflammation and free radical scavenging, apocynin has a history of successful treatment of a long list of ailments, including:
- Ischemia-reperfusion, characterized by damaged lung tissue due to a lack of oxygen and subsequent returned supply,17 with apocynin also showing potential in treating several other respiratory diseases
- Possible neuroprotective abilities, particularly in brain injury following an eschemic stroke,18 as well as reduced cerebral and vascular injury in experimental stroke models19
- Potential in the treatment of atherosclerosis due to reduced blood pressure,20 and preventing endothelial dysfunction21
- Chronic inflammatory joint diseases such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis22
- Inhibiting tumor migration in breast cancer cells23
A 2014 study notes that “the perspectives for apocynin in chronic neurodegenerative disorders,” suggests a “potentially beneficial role” in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) or Lou Gehrig’s disease,24 Alzheimer’s25 and Parkinson’s disease.26 Although mouse models were the usual subjects in experimentation, the researchers are hopeful that apocynin will prove just as effective in human patients.
Other Beneficial Functions of Apocynin
Arguably the most important aspect of apocynin is its role in fighting inflammation, and the above study notes that it’s been demonstrated in a variety of cell and animal models. Apocynin also “inhibits the assembly of NADPH-oxidase that is responsible for reactive oxygen species (ROS) production.”27
The 2008 study explains NADPH-oxidase as the enzyme responsible for ROS production, so suppressing it is often the goal in disease prevention therapies. When antioxidants are in place or introduced, oxidative stress is diminished. Your body produces an “armory of antioxidants to defend itself,” which nonetheless are sometimes insufficient to effectively defend against ROS.
ROS damages your cells as well as your DNA, which is part of the reason your body begins showing signs of aging. To a large degree, how well your mitochondria work is determined by your diet, optimally a ketogenic diet (in which you replace carbs with moderate amounts of high-quality protein and high amounts of beneficial fat).
However, the featured study notes that it’s the excessive production of ROS that becomes damaging, and that’s how it’s been implicated in the progression of many diseases. It’s also why apocynin is noted as a potential treatment for many of them.
A Mediators of Inflammation review concluded that apocynin, besides its lack of known side effects, deserves further attention in the development of “safe and selective anti-inflammatory drugs which lack the often serious side effects of steroids.”28