What Is Vitiligo?
Vitiligo is a pigmentation disorder where melanocytes, the cells responsible for providing the color of our skin, hair, and eyes, are destroyed. The result is white patches of skin intermingling with normal skin tones. It may resemble the random pattern and patchiness of a severe sunburn when the skin peels.
Often, it affects more visible areas like the face, neck, hands, elbows, knees, and feet. But, it can appear anywhere on the body. Vitiligo is not contagious and it’s non-infectious; however, it may have hereditary or genetic markers. Researchers are still examining causes, risk factors, and effective treatments.
There are three recognized types of vitiligo:
Generalized Vitiligo. White patches of skin progress symmetrically on both sides of the body, affecting the same body parts at the same time.
Segmental Vitiligo. Typically appears in younger children where the white patches appear only on one side of the body.
Localized Vitiligo. The white patches appear in one or two areas of the body, progress and spread for a short period of time, and then stop.
Somewhere between 0.5 and 2.0 percent of the global population has vitiligo, a disorder that affects the pigmentation of the skin. With this condition, the cells that make the skin’s pigment, called melanocytes, are destroyed. This results in white blotchy patches.
For some, vitiligo may occur on the face, neck or hands, causing a dramatic and traumatizing change in appearance. For others, it may strike mucous membranes like the mouth, nose, and genitals, as well as the retinas. If a patch appears on an area with hair growth, the hair will turn white or very light gray.
While researchers have not pinpointed a universal cause, autoimmune disorders seem to be the most prevalent vitiligo cause; however, a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals, as well as exposure to some industrial chemicals, also can cause this disorder.
Finding the right vitiligo treatment therapy takes time; even the most common conventional treatments can take weeks, months, or even years before appearance improves. Conventional vitiligo treatment such as topical creams, light therapy, photochemotherapy, permanent depigmentation treatments of healthy skin, surgery, and cosmetics are often prescribed. And they all come with some significant adverse side effects.
Vitiligo Signs and Symptoms
The hallmark of vitiligo is white patchy areas of skin; however, other areas of the body may be affected too:
- Premature whitening or graying on the scalp
- White or gray eyelashes or eyebrows
- Whitening of a beard
- Loss of color in the mucous membranes
- Loss of color in the retinas
Tackle white skin patches caused by vitiligo with natural remedies. Herbal remedies like Ginkgo biloba, fern extract, and kutki can help. So can applying black cumin oil, bakuchi oil, fig leaf juice, and black pepper extracts. Improve your intake of nutrients like zinc, vitamin B 12 and folic acid.
Are white patches on your skin leaving you worried and self-conscious? Patches from vitiligo commonly develop on the face, hands, and neck due to the loss of a pigment known as melanin which gives your skin color. This is believed to occur in some people when the immune system mistakenly turns on melanocyte cells which form melanin and attacks them. Oxidative stress has also been found to destroy melanocytes.
Make Sure You Get Enough Zinc
Some experts suggest that zinc can also be useful in treating and preventing vitiligo. Zinc plays a role in the formation of melanin and may help prevent the death of melanin-forming cells or melanocytes. It may also inhibit the production of free radicals which lead to oxidative stress and the destruction of melanocytes. Moreover, some research indicates that people with vitiligo have low levels of zinc. So tank up on zinc-rich foods like oysters, poultry, nuts, seafood, and whole grains.
Try Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba is an ancient herb valued for its many medicinal properties. Research shows that it can help halt the progression of vitiligo as well as encourage repigmentation. One study found that the active progression of vitiligo significantly ceased in people who took a ginkgo Biloba extract thrice a day. A greater number of people who took the extract also experienced marked or complete repigmentation when compared to people who took a placebo. As we have seen, oxidative stress plays a role in the pathogenesis of vitiligo and the antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties of this herb may be responsible for its beneficial effect in people with this condition.
Have Foods Rich In Vitamin B12 And Folic Acid
Vitamin B12 and folic acid can help improve the repigmentation of the skin. One study found that more than half the participants who combined sun exposure with supplementation with these nutrients experienced clear repigmentation. This treatment also stopped vitiligo from spreading in 64% of the participants. Although how these remedy works aren’t definitively clear, experts suggest that vitamin B12 can downregulate the formation of homocysteine, an amino acid that is implicated in depigmentation.
You can get vitamin B12 from beef liver, clams, meat, fish, eggs, and milk, while green leafy vegetables, dried peas and beans, and citrus fruits are good sources of folate. You could also talk to your doctor about supplementation.
Apply Black Cumin Oil
Another natural remedy that can help tackle vitiligo is black cumin (Nigella sativa) oil. One study looked at the effect of applying black cumin oil for six months on people who had vitiligo. It was found that, over time, skin color improved and depigmented areas reduced. A compound known as thymoquinone which is present in black cumin seeds is thought to be responsible for this effect. Thymoquinone protects against oxidative stress. It can also stimulate a neurotransmitter called acetylcholine which can cause melanin release and skin darkening.
Have Ghee Infused With Black Pepper Or Apply Piperine Ointment
Piperine, which is a compound present in black pepper, has a strong effect on melanocyte proliferation. According to a study, the topical application of piperine along with narrowband ultraviolet B treatment resulted in significantly better repigmentation than narrowband ultraviolet B treatment alone.
Interestingly, an Ayurvedic preparation containing black pepper, dried ginger, leadwort root, and pippali fermented in cow’s urine is also used topically for treating vitiligo. Some ayurvedic experts also suggest taking ghee or clarified butter infused with pepper. To prepare this ghee, simmer 10 peppercorns in 10 gm of ghee for a few minutes, remove the pepper, and have the ghee along with meals.
Dab On Bakuchi Oil
A medicinal oil known as a bakuchi oil which is prepared from sesame oil and the dried fruits of the babchi plant (Psoralea corylifolia) is often used in Ayurveda to treat vitiligo. The topical use of bakuchi oil can stimulate melanocytes when exposed to ultraviolet light and promote pigmentations thanks to its psolaren content.
Interestingly, one study also found that applying an ointment which contained babchi seed powder significantly improved levels of pigmentation in small white vitiligo patches. A paste of babchi seed powder is also commonly applied to remedy vitiligo.
Apply Fig Leaf Juice
The juice of fig leaves has been used to treat vitiligo topical in traditional medicine. Sometimes, a paste of the fresh juice of the leaves and powdered roots is applied. So how does this remedy work? Research shows that fig leaves contain bergapten and psoralen, which are bioactive compounds that can boost pigmentation and treat vitiligo.
Try Fern Extract
Another remedy from the plant kingdom for treating vitiligo is the fern (Polypodium leucotomos). This plant has antioxidant and immunomodulatory properties which help it tackle this skin disorder. One study found that patients who consumed an extract of Polypodium leucotomos thrice a day and received narrowband UVB phototherapy twice a week for 25 to 26 weeks showed much better repigmentation than patients who took a placebo. The research seemed to indicate that fern extracts may have a more pronounced effect in people with lighter skin.
Have Bairesi Complex
Here’s a herbal remedy for vitiligo that comes all the way from China. A formulation known as Barresi complex which consists of the hot water extract of 5 herbs, namely, Psoralea corylifolia, Brassica juncea, Vernonia anthelmintic, Plumbago zeylanica, and Nigella glandulifera, is used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat this condition. Studies have found that this medicinal formulation promotes melanin formation and repigmentation. A traditional Chinese medicine practitioner should be able to guide you on usage.
Kutki or Picrorhiza kurroa is a herbal remedy used in Ayurveda to treat vitiligo. Studies show that taking the root powder of this plant alongside photochemotherapy led to better repigmentation than photochemotherapy alone. This herb has immune-modulating and antioxidant properties which may account for its effectiveness in treating vitiligo.
Foods to Avoid
Any foods that irritate your digestive tract, cause sensitivity or discomfort, or that you are allergic to, should be avoided. Foods that have been shown to cause problems in some vitiligo patients include:
- Citrus fruits
- Carbonated drinks
- Processed foods
- Artificial sweeteners
- Fruit Juices
Of course, your “avoid list” must be tailored to your specific conditions and how your body reacts to individual foods. Wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and lamb, and tomatoes may benefit some people while hurting others.
Foods to Enjoy
- Green leafy vegetables like kale, spinach, Swiss chard, and Brussel sprouts
- Wild-caught fish
- Grass-fed beef and liver
- Cottage Cheese
- Nutritional yeast
- Dark chocolate
- Blackstrap molasses
- Raw Dairy