Shikonin: An Apoptosis-Inducer from Zicao


Shikonin: An Apoptosis-Inducer from Zicao

Circulating free radicals in the human body affect not only bodily processes like metabolism and digestion but also increases a person’s risk for various health conditions such as cancers and Diabetes Mellitus. Free radicals cause mutations among body cells which eventually lead to rapid growth of immature cells. When left untreated, the rapidly-growing immature cells impede bodily processes, which is in itself the end result of cancer. In order to treat cancer, many experts say that the most ideal pattern is through the promotion of apoptosis or natural cell death. Inducing apoptosis means killing fast-growing cancer cells, thereby preventing the condition from progressing. There are no established apoptosis-inducing treatment as of yet but various compounds isolated from plants and other sources like Shikonin has been found to have potential apoptosis-inducing effects.

What is Shikonin?

Shikonin is a compound isolated from one of the most popular traditional Chinese medicinal herbs known as Zicao. It is mostly studied upon for its potential effects in promoting cancer cell death. The claim on anti-tumor effects of Shikonin began following findings that it has certain effects in reducing gastric cancer cell growth. In one study, it was found that Shikonin controls proliferation of gastric cancer cells, although it is not yet fully understood how it works. Some studies show that Shikonin enhances production of enzymes in the body which naturally promote apoptosis. Some other experts say that it has something to do with mitochondria-mediated apoptosis. Although the exact mechanism of action of Shikonin in the human body is not yet well established, quantitative studies show evidences that it may has potential health advantages.

What are the benefits of using Shikonin?

Aside from its apoptosis-inducing effects, many independent studies show other health benefits of using Shikonin. These include the following:

  • It may be used in scar treatment

The elimination of scars in the skin usually requires intensive treatments. It was found in one study, however, that scars can be removed through Shikonin supplementation. This health benefit is also associated with its effect in inducing apoptosis and decreasing cell proliferation.

  • It may inhibit HIV growth

Another important concept on Shikonin health benefit is its effect on supressing HIV growth. This claim is not yet fully accepted in modern medicine, although it has been shown in several quantitative researches.

  • It has anti-inflammatory effects

Among the most accepted health benefits of Shikonin is its anti-inflammatory effect. Both qualitative and quantitative researches show that Shikonin may help ease out inflammation brought about by infection or trauma.


Shikonin is an ideal health supplement ingredient for health supplements indicated for adults who are at risk for cancers and other lifestyle-associated conditions. It is generally safe for use within prescribed doses.

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