|Severe erythematous plaque psoriasis in a 61-year-old Japanese female. This patient was largely immobilized by the lesions on her feet. |
|The same patient after 8 months of treatment with 12 mg olive polyphenols daily. Photos courtesy of Dr. Fujio Numano, Tokyo Vascular Institute and Dr. Roberto Crea, CreAgri (www.creagri.com). |
Polyphenols from olives, known to be potent antioxidants, can also down-regulate inflammation, and they're proving effective in clearing psoriasis.
Like many interesting medical developments, this discovery arose serendipitously. Dr. Fujio Numano, of the Tokyo Vascular Disease Institute, was studying cardiovascular effects of a proprietary olive polyphenol formula called Olivenol. This compound, from water pressed out of organic olives, contains high levels of hydroxytyrosol, one of the strongest antioxidants in the natural world.
Dr. Numano, who died in 2005, was one of Japan's leading experts on heart disease. He was interested in the role of both oxidative stress and inflammation in heart disease pathogenesis. Several years before his death, Dr. Numano became aware of Olivenol, and decided to test it. He enrolled 35 patients in an open-label trial of 2 capsules of the Olivenol formula daily. His primary objective was to see how the compounds affected patients' lipid profiles.
Though the study was not intended as a dermatologic trial, it turned out that 8 of the 35 patients had skin disorders, including several with psoriasis. Dr. Numano noticed that for most of these patients the olive compound produced a measurable improvement in the skin lesions.
"After a few months, Dr. Numano contacted me and said that he had a big surprise," said Roberto Crea, PhD, a biochemist who discovered the clinical value of hydroxytyrosol as well as a practical method for extracting it from the waste-water of olive oil production. (To read more about olivenol, join www.holisticprimarycare.net and download "Finding Antioxidant Gold in Olive Industry Waste Stream.")
"He told me that one of his patients, a 71-year-old with widespread psoriasis who was on heavy immunosuppressive drugs, showed remarkable improvements after several months on the Olivenol," Dr. Crea told Holistic Primary Care. "After two months, 80% of the lesions had disappeared."
Impressed but cautious about jumping to conclusions, Dr. Numano enrolled several more people with psoriasis and other severe inflammatory skin diseases like allergic contact dermatitis, erythema nodosum, and seborrheic dermatitis. Within 8 months of treatment, all showed major improvements.
"The case we were really excited about was a 61 year old woman who was immobilized due to psoriatic plaques on her feet. After about 8 months on treatment, these were almost totally healed," said Dr. Crea, founder of CreAgri, a California based company that markets the Olivenol, as well as organically grown olive oil (www.creagri.com).
"Psoriasis is such a nasty disease, and there really is no effective cure. Conventional therapies are far from ideal. We certainly don't want to overstate the potential value of olivenol, and we're far from saying olive polyphenols are a cure, but we think we've got something here that can help a lot of patients, and we're eager to start true clinical trials."
Dr. Crea said that he was not entirely surprised that olivenol had positive effects on inflammatory skin diseases. "We always felt that while the antioxidant properties were very important, they were not the whole story. No doubt the antioxidant and radical-scavenging properties play a role in what we saw with psoriasis. But the olive water also contains components that we know next to nothing about. I believe they may be inhibitory factors for enzymatic reactions or signals in the inflammatory cascade."
In vitro experiments have shown that Olivenol can inhibit TNF-α, interleukin 1, and lipoxygenase 5. "It's a puzzle how all of this fits together in vivo."
What was surprising is that the psoriasis patients had such remarkable responses to fairly small doses of olive polyphenols. "Two capsules of olivenol provide roughly 12 mg of polyphenols per day, a very modest dose," said Dr. Crea.
The Olivenol formula is currently available as a nutraceutical, for oral administration. But Dr. Crea said his company is exploring the possibility of topical formulations.