Tiger Grass: What's The Hype About for Skin Care?
Tiger Grass – Ancient Herbal Remedy for Skin
In the world of skin care, new ideas are free flowing but often stem from ancient medicine in the form of herbal remedies. Centella asiatica is a tropical plant that grows in regions of Asia, Africa, Oceania, and America. This medicinal plant, a member of the parsley family, received its colloquial name “Tiger Grass” from the folklore of tigers rolling in the grass for its wound healing properties. This should not be confused with the Thysanolaena genus of plants which are also known as “tiger grass.” Spanning Ayurvedic medicine as mandukaparni to Traditional Chinese Medicine as ji xue cao, this plant has clawed its way to increasing popularity in the jungle of the skin care market.
Centella asiatica extract, also known as gotu kola or Indian pennywort, has been slowly making its appearance into the ingredient lists of quite a few skincare products in the Asian market. C. asiatica extract has been used for thousands of years and was traditionally used in Asian medicine to relieve and treat skin diseases. The C. asiatica herb was used to help with burns, scars, eczema, or scleroderma but also other diseases related to the inner body and mind. There is growing research on the effects of this extract on diseases such as dermatitis or psoriasis.
What Are the Main Active Ingredients in Tiger Grass?
The two major bioactive ingredients of Centella asiatica are Madecassoside and Asiatic acid. Madecassoside has antioxidant properties, particularly at the level of skin melanocyte cells. Asiatic acid is a compound shown to reduce inflammation through decreased nitric oxide production. These active ingredients provide antioxidative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
How Can Tiger Grass Affect the Skin?
Investigations have demonstrated that Centella asiatica can help play a role in wound healing and in the repigmentation of vitiligo.[3,5] When skin is injured, the body responds through four stages to repair the affected area: hemostasis, inflammation, tissue formation and proliferation, and remodeling. This complex process is mediated through direct cell-to-cell interactions and through communications from different cell types through soluble messenger molecules.
Table 1. Wound healing stages
Wound Healing Stage
Cells and Cytokine Messengers Involved
Blood flows into the site of injury with platelets and other clotting factors contacting the external collagen to form an initial “platelet plug.”
White blood cells such as neutrophils and macrophages enter the wound area to help clean out foreign material, damaged tissue, and bacteria.
After cleaning the skin cells, fibroblasts deposit a collagen meshwork outside the cells.
The collagen meshwork is organized and the area is healed as a scar.
While inflammation is part of the wound healing process, if it is chronic, this can delay wound healing. In acute inflammation, nitric oxide is released in the affected area of the body, giving the tell-tale signs of swelling and redness. Higher levels of nitric oxide production are stimulated by ultraviolet (UV) light damage and wounds. This nitric oxide-mediated inflammation can be toxic to the DNA of cells, allowing for mutations to build and cell death.
Through Madecassoside and Asiatic acid, Tiger grass has reported properties to help heal skin damage from oxidative stress like UV damage and the normal aging process. A study on Madecassoside on aging skin found that using a cream with vitamin C and C. asiatica extract improved the appearance of roughness, texture, and wrinkles. These results were supported by measurements of skin elasticity and semi-quantitative histological assessment of the elastic fiber network in the papillary dermis.
This is due to the enhancement of type I collagen, which usually decreases with aging. C. asiatica has been shown to modulate collage synthesis and proliferation. The study also looked at just vitamin C and found that the combination on C. asiatica and vitamin C led to more improvement that vitamin C used alone.
In patients with diabetic wounds, Centella asiatica extract taken three times a day after a meal helped improve healing through shortening the healing time and decreasing scar formation. This is due to C. asiatica inhibiting the inflammatory process which may provoke hypertrophy in scars and improves the capillary permeability.
Is Tiger Grass Bad for Me?
Although side effects of tiger grass are rare, when used externally on the skin, some patients have developed allergic reactions and burning of the skin. When Centella asiatica is applied topically to the skin, the recommendation is to use it for up to 6 weeks then take a 2 week break prior to restarting the treatment.[5,16] No information is currently available regarding its drug interactions with other medications, pregnancy category, or safety for use in lactation. One study was performed on women 6 months postpartum that took an oral form of Centella asiatica for stretch marks. There were no adverse effects and marked improvements on their stretchmarks.
Some side effects have been noted with the use of the herb. When taken orally in a pill or capsule form, some patients noted indigestion, nausea, and headaches; overdoses can result in drowsiness and dizziness.
If you do find yourself compelled to try some of the new products on the market, be sure to test the product in a small area of skin before applying to a larger area.
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- Ling Y, Gong Q, Xiong X, et al. Protective effect of madecassoside on H2O2-induced oxidative stress and autophagy activation in human melanocytes. Oncotarget.2017;8(31):51066-51075; PMID: 28881630 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28881630.
- Qian Y, Xin Z, Lv Y, et al. Asiatic acid suppresses neuroinflammation in BV2 microglia via modulation of the Sirt1/NF-kappaB signaling pathway. Food Funct.2018;10.1039/c7fo01442bPMID: 29354820 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29354820.
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- Hu, S., Belcaro, G., Hosoi, M., Feragalli, B., Luzzi, R., & Dugall, M. (2018). Postpartum stretchmarks: repairing activity of an oral Centella asiatica supplementation (Centellicum®). Minerva ginecologica, 70(5), 629–634. https://doi.org/10.23736/S0026-4784.18.04254-5
- Haftek, M., Mac-Mary, S., Le Bitoux, M. A., Creidi, P., Seité, S., Rougier, A., & Humbert, P. (2008). Clinical, biometric and structural evaluation of the long-term effects of a topical treatment with ascorbic acid and madecassoside in photoaged human skin. Experimental dermatology, 17(11), 946–952. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0625.2008.00732.x