Botanicals With Dermatologic Properties Derived From First Nations Healing: Part 1—Trees

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First Nations people have a long history of working with medicinal plants used to treat skin diseases. The purpose was to assess the dermatologic therapeutic potential of western red cedar, white spruce, birch, balsam poplar, and black spruce.


Based on expert recommendations, 5 trees were selected that were used in First Nations medicine for cutaneous healing and have potential and/or current application to dermatology today. We searched several databases up to June 12, 2014.


Western red cedar’s known active principal compound, β-thujaplicin, has been studied in atopic dermatitis. White spruce’s known active principal compound, 7-hydroxymatairesinol, has anti-inflammatory activity, while phase II clinical trials have been completed on a birch bark emulsion for the treatment of actinic keratoses, epidermolysis bullosa, and the healing of split thickness graft donor sites. Balsam poplar has been used clinically as an anti-aging remedy. Black spruce bark contains higher amounts of the anti-oxidant trans-resveratrol than red wine.


North American traditional medicine has identified important botanical agents that are potentially relevant to both cosmetic and medical dermatology. This study is limited by the lack of good quality evidence contributing to the review. The article is limited to 5 trees, a fraction of those used by First Nations with dermatological properties.

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