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Internet Sensation: Yiganerjing

As an administrator for a large psoriasis group on Facebook, I’ve read my fair share of testimonials. I log in every day to moderate member feedback on prescription creams and oral medication, or the latest diet that has helped, or even how everyday products can be used creatively for psoriasis (yes, I too use Vicks® Vaporub® to combat itchy spots every now and again!). But if you’ve frequented any psoriasis sites in the last two months, there is one particular product that everyone seems to be talking about. It’s called Yiganerjing, and it’s a Chinese Herbal Cream (CHC) claiming to treat everything from psoriasis and eczema to hemorrhoids and athlete’s foot. Curiosity piqued and skepticism suitably engaged, I took to the internet to find out more.

What’s in Yiganerjing cream?

As a scientist wanting to understand how this cream could be effective so quickly (with some members claiming plaque clearance in as little as two days) the first obvious place to look was the ingredient list. But which one? Because the ingredient list seems to be different depending on where you’re looking. Popular distributors like Amazon.com and Aliexpress.com list different ingredients for the same product, and even member’s screen captures of their product inserts are not consistent. One obvious source of confusion is the translation from the traditional Chinese herbal names into English, which is sure to lead to errors (my favorite being the ingredient “unicorn,” which could be a mistranslation of a Chinese plant with no English equivalent… or a very endangered horse). More worrying perhaps than these inconsistencies, however, is the fact that the ingredient lists end with “etc.” or “and so on.” Yes, really.

Research and Chinese Herbal Creams

So what ingredients could be hiding in that et cetera? Given the dramatic claims of results, some people suspect steroids, and it would not be the first time CHCs were found to contain unlisted steroids. In 1999, a team of researchers found that 8 of 11 CHCs they tested contained an unlisted but potent steroid, dexamethasone.1 A study in 2003 revealed the same worrying results,2 and in both studies the patients using these herbal creams were completely unaware they contained steroids, using them liberally on their face and skin folds. Although fines are sometimes laid against Chinese herbalists selling these adulterated creams,3 testing CHCs for steroids is not standard practice and a complex and costly procedure when it is performed. Unlike prescription creams, CHCs may not have undergone rigorous safety testing, clinical trials, or dosing experiments, and without these quality controls in place, it’s impossible as a consumer to know what you’re buying. As a final precautionary note, CHCs may also contain banned substances or other unlisted drugs that could lead to serious medical complications.4,5

Should I be concerned with the ingredients?

Now, none of that is to say that Yiganerjing has any of these unlisted ingredients. In fact, some of the listed ingredients have demonstrable actions, like menthol as an anti-itching agent. Most of the listed plant species also claim anti-inflammatory properties in Chinese herbology, and so the inclusion of ingredients like Pseudolarix amabilis, Cortex Dictamni, Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae, and Cnidium monnieri make sense for a topical preparation to treat an inflammatory skin disease.

All this taken together, the takeaway from this opinion piece is that all new treatments should be discussed with your Dermatologist prior to use, especially if you plan on using them in sensitive areas, or on broken skin. Even some of Yiganerjing’s listed ingredients, like Cnidium monnieri, should be used with caution and only on the advice of a medical professional.6

Always remember to be vigilant with your health, medications, and safety.

(and so on…)

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The PlaquePsoriasis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Analysis of Chinese herbal creams prescribed for dermatological conditions BMJ 1999; 318 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7183.563 (Published 27 February 1999). Accessed online at https://www.bmj.com/content/318/7183/563
  2. Herbal remedies and clinical biochemistry. (2003). Annals of Clinical Biochemistry, 40(5), 489–507. https://doi.org/10.1258/000456303322326407. Accessed online at https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1258/000456303322326407#articleCitationDownloadContainer
  3. The Economist. (September 1st, 2017) Why China’s traditional medicine boom is dangerous. Accessed online at https://www.economist.com/china/2017/09/01/why-chinas-traditional-medicine-boom-is-dangerous
  4. Matthews, Stephen. February 28th, 2018. The Daily Mail accessed online at https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-5445279/Officials-urge-patients-stop-using-dangerous-cream.html
  5. Gavura, Scott. December 17th, 2015. Science-Based Medicine. What’s in your Traditional Chinese Medicine? Accessed online at https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/whats-in-your-traditional-chinese-medicine/
  6. Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis association (PAPPA). November 25th, 2018. Warning on Yiganerjing Cream. Accessed online at http://www.papaa.org/news/warning-yiganerjing-cream

Comments

  • kytrex
    2 years ago

    This article reveals nothing about the potential risks of the CHC in question. At not time was I given any info to that would help me make a decision to purchase it one way or another. Discuss it with your dermatologist? Thank you for the obvious.

  • VickiN moderator author
    2 years ago

    Hi kytrex, thank you for your thoughts 🙂 I’m actually the author of the article, so I can speak to the ambiguity!

    I’ve been trying (unsuccessfully, I might add) for about 18 months now to get the cream tested by a laboratory for steroids. In the article I mention a study from the 90s that tested a variety of creams. I actually contacted those researchers and sent them a sample to test. They didn’t guarantee any results and I haven’t heard back. I also reached out to the NPF to see if they could fund the testing, but it was outside their scope. There are an assortment of third party testing sites in the U.S., but the steroid mass spec costs upwards of $3,500 USD, which is more than I can fund, lol.

    The article does not make the recommendation one way or the other to use yiganerjing, because my intent wasn’t to make anyone’s decision for them. I simply wanted to provide what information we had on yiganerjing (which is still limited). But, now you know that I have spent quite a bit of time trying to get more info! Hopefully I have more luck in the future.

    I can say personally that I would not use yiganerjing, as I highly suspect it contains steroids. Without knowing what kind or strength, I just wouldn’t roll the dice. I have used steroid creams in the past, but only ones that are approved by Health Canada (or the FDA, if you’re from the US)

    Thanks for your thoughts,
    -Victoria, Community Moderator

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