Alkanna is grown in the south of France and on the shores of the Levant (the mountainous region paralleling the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, including parts of the countries of Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, and Israel). Its root yields a fine red coloring, which has been used as a cloth dye and a tint for tinctures, oils, wines, and varnishes. It is commonly used today as a food coloring.
Alkanna has been used traditionally for its wound healing and anti-inflammatory effects. Evidence supporting folkloric uses of alkanna is mixed.
There is currently no available scientific evidence of alkanna to recommend its use, safety or effectiveness for any medical condition.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
* Key to grades
A: Strong scientific evidence for this use B: Good scientific evidence for this use C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work) F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)
Tradition / Theory
The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to alkanna, its constituents or potentially any member of the family Boraginaceae should not take alkanna.
Side Effects and Warnings
In general, the lack of available scientific evidence makes it difficult to comment on the potential adverse effects of alkanna. Nevertheless, certain constituents (pyrrolizidine alkaloids) found in alkanna may be potentially damaging to the liver and lungs, and may also be carcinogenic (cancer-causing). Pyrrolizidine alkaloids may also cause pneumonitis (inflammation of the lungs) or pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure).
Caution is advised in patients with hepatic or pulmonary insufficiency. Patients with cancer should also use cautiously because the quantity of pyrrolizidine alkaloids in some herbal teas and dietary supplements may worsen the condition.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Alkanna is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to lack of available scientific evidence.
Constituents of alkanna include pyrrolizidine alkaloids and N-oxides. These are potentially toxic to the liver and lungs, and may be cancer-causing. Patients taking any medications should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before using alkanna.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Constituents of alkanna include pyrrolizidine alkaloids and N-oxides (found in alkanna). These are potentially toxic to the liver and lungs, and may be cancer-causing. Patients taking any herbs or supplements should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, before using alkanna.
Altamirano JC, Gratz SR, Wolnik KA. Investigation of pyrrolizidine alkaloids and their N-oxides in commercial comfrey-containing products and botanical materials by liquid chromatography electrospray ionization mass spectrometry. J AOAC Int. 2005;88(2):406-412.
Assimopoulou AN, Papageorgiou VP. Radical scavenging activity of Alkanna tinctoria root extracts and their main constituents, hydroxynaphthoquinones. Phytother.Res 2005;19(2):141-147.
Chen CH, Chern CL, Lin CC, et al. Involvement of reactive oxygen species, but not mitochondrial permeability transition in the apoptotic induction of human SK-Hep-1 hepatoma cells by shikonin. Planta Med 2003;69(12):1119-1124.
Kourounakis AP, Assimopoulou AN, Papageorgiou VP, et al. Alkannin and shikonin: effect on free radical processes and on inflammation - a preliminary pharmacochemical investigation. Arch.Pharm (Weinheim) 2002;335(6):262-266.
Ogurtan Z, Hatipoglu F, Ceylan C. The effect of Alkanna tinctoria Tausch on burn wound healing in rabbits. Dtsch.Tierarztl.Wochenschr. 2002;109(11):481-485.
Papageorgiou VP. Wound healing properties of naphthaquinone pigments from Alkanna tinctoria. Experientia 11-15-1978;34(11):1499-1501.
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.