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Int J Toxicol. 2001;20 Suppl 2:31-9.

Final report on the safety assessment of Hypericum perforatum extract and Hypericum perforatum oil.

[No authors listed]


Hypericum Perforatum Extract is an extract of the capsules, flowers, leaves, and stem heads of Hypericum perforatum, commonly called St. John's Wort. Hypericum Perforatum Oil is the fixed oil from H. perforatum. Techniques for preparing Hypericum Perforatum Extract include crushing in stabilized olive oil, gentle maceration over a period of weeks, followed by dehydration and filtration. Propylene Glycol and Butylene Glycol extractions were also reported. The following components have variously been reported to be found in H. perforatum: hypericin, naphtodianthrones, flavonoids, terpene and sesquiterpene oils, phenylpropanes, biflavones, tannins, xanthones, phloroglucinols, and essential oils. Hypericum Perforatum Extract is used in over 50 cosmetic formulations and Hypericum Perforatum Oil in just over 10, both across a wide range of product types. Acute toxicity studies using rats, guinea pigs, and mice indicate that the extract is relatively nontoxic. Animals fed H. perforatum flowers for 2 weeks showed significant signs of toxicity, including erythema, edema of the portion of the body exposed to light, alopecia, and changes in blood chemistry. In a chronic study, rats fed H. perforatum gained less weight than control animals. Mixtures containing the extract and the oil were not irritants or sensitizers in animals. Because of the presence of hypericin, H. perforatum is a primary photosensitizer. In clinical tests, a single oral administration of Hypericum extract resulted in hypericin appearing in the blood. With long-term dosing, a steady-state level in blood was reached after 14 days. The polyphenol fraction of H. perforatum had immunostimulating activity, whereas the lipophilic portion had immunosuppressing properties. Mixtures of the extract and the oil produced minimal or no ocular irritation in rabbit eyes. Mutagenic activity in an Ames test was attributed to flavonols in one study and to quercitin in another, but other genotoxicity assays were negative. No carcinogenicity or reproductive and developmental toxicity data were available. A mixture of the extract and the oil was not irritating in clinical studies. Adverse reactions to Hypericum extract in the clinical treatment of depression include skin reddening and itching, dizziness, constipation, fatigue, anxiety, and tiredness. Absent any basis for concluding that data on one member of a botanical ingredient group can be extrapolated to another in a group, or to the same ingredient extracted differently, these data were not considered sufficient to assess the safety of these ingredients. Additional data needs include current concentration of use data; function in cosmetics; photosensitization and phototoxicity data using visible light; gross pathology and histopathology in skin and other major organ systems associated with repeated dermal exposures; dermal reproductive/developmental toxicity data; human skin irritation and sensitization data using the oil; and ocular irritation data, if available. Until these data are available, it is concluded that the available data are insufficient to support the safety of these ingredients in cosmetic formulations.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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