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Oral Lichen Planus Alternatives

March 23, 2012 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Oral lichen planus (OLP) is an inflammatory autoimmune disease that, as it’s name implies, affects tissue in and around the oral cavity – the esophagus, gums, palate and tongue. In most cases, it is a chronic condition that manifests itself in patches, rashes or sores that may or may not be accompanied by burning, pain and/or sensitivity. While uncomfortable, it is not contagious. In terms of long term complications, OLP may increase the risk of a specific form of cancer (squamous cell carcinoma) and, if present in the esophagus, could cause difficulty swallowing. As with many other autoimmune diseases, OLP is often managed with the judicious use of corticosteroids or other immunosuppressive medications. However, a growing body of research also points to several natural and safer alternatives.

The February 2012 edition of the journal Inflammation Research suggests that green tea may provide a dietary approach for taming the inflammatory process associated with OLP. The authors of the paper comment that green tea is known to inhibit T-cell activation, migration, proliferation, and modulates “the imbalance between transforming growth factor-B and interferon-y, all of which are involved in the pathogenesis of OLP”. The concluding remarks of the preliminary examination states, “our hypothesis is that green tea consumption may decrease OLP incidence and provide a neoteric, nontoxic and inexpensive therapeutic strategy for OLP”. What’s more, they go on to explain that green tea may also serve as a possible chemoprotective agent in relation to squamous cell carcinoma.

Four dietary supplements are also worthy of consideration: aloe vera, curcumin, Ignatia and lycopene. At least two studies reveal that orally applied aloe vera reduces pain, promotes remission and improves quality of life in patients living with OLP. Curcumin, the spice-derived antioxidant, has likewise benefited those with oral lichen planus. The studies to date indicate that higher dosages of curcumin (up to 6,000 mg/day) help a significant number of OLP patients control their symptoms with only minimal side effects – occasional gastrointestinal discomfort. It’s important to note that smaller quantities of curcumin (>2,000 mg/day) have failed to provide relief.  Ignatia, the homeopathic remedy, is yet another, all-natural and gentle alternative. An Iranian study from 2009 reports that Ignatia 30C (a measure of homeopathic potency) effectively decreased lesion size and pain measures as compared to a placebo. Finally, a tomato extract rich in lycopene, is the latest nutraceutical to show promise in the battle against OLP. Supplementing with 8 mg/day of lycopene reduced burning sensation by 84% and lowered oxidative stress in an 8 week placebo-controlled trial. Previous research indicates that those with OLP often have lower than normal serum levels of lycopene.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Green Tea Consumption: An Alternative Approach to Managing Oral (link)

Study 2 - Efficacy of Topical Aloe Vera in Patients with Oral Lichen Planus (link)

Study 3 - The Efficacy of Aloe Vera Gel in the Treatment of Oral Lichen Planus (link)

Study 4 - Use of Curcuminoids in a Cohort of Patients with Oral Lichen Planus(link)

Study 5 - High-Dose Curcuminoids are Efficacious in the Reduction in Symptoms (link)

Study 6 – Possible Action Mechanism for Curcumin in Pre-Cancerous Lesions (link)

Study 7 - A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Double-Blind Clinical Trial of (link)

Study 8 - Ignatia in the Treatment of Oral Lichen Planus (link)

Study 9 - Lycopene in the Management of Oral Lichen Planus: A Placebo (link)

Study 10 - Serum Antioxidant Micronutrient Levels in Oral Lichen Planus (link)

OLP Affects Approximately 2% of Adults – Mostly Middle-Aged Women

Source: BMC Res Notes. 2010 Jun 3;3:157. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Dental Health, Nutritional Supplements

10 Comments & Updates to “Oral Lichen Planus Alternatives”

  1. Sylvia Stewart Says:

    As a newly discovered sufferer of OLP, I find this information very interesting! Thanks so much for delving into alternative treatments to treating this irritating condition!

  2. JP Says:

    Thank you, Sylvia!

    I hope this information helps you improve your OLP symptoms and avoid further irritation!

    Be well!


  3. Donna Loux Says:

    My oral lichen planus has responded very well to high doses of vitamin D3 and magnesium. So far, it surpasses any of the steroid prescriptions I’ve been given or any other remedies I’ve tried. It took a while to figure out the right dose where I could remain symptom free, but I am taking 12,000IU/day D3 and 1000mg/day magnesium. Since starting this protocol two years ago, I have had only one minor flare up that was easily back under control with a day or two of my Rx steroid rinse. I have tried green tea, and the lycopene, but not the curcumin. But I do have a lot of that in my daily diet.

  4. JP Says:

    Hi Donna,

    That’s very interesting information. Thank you for sharing it with us!

    When researching this topic, I did examine the potential of Vitamin D. Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything in the medical literature. But, that just means you’re ahead of the curve. :)

    The magnesium is something that didn’t even occur to me. Very interesting indeed.

    I wish you continued success! Be well!


  5. Holly W. Says:

    Thank you for a comprehensive and informative article.

    Where can I obtain aloe vera gel for the gums to help treat OLP ?

    I tried Kenolog dental paste for one month which cleared up the blisters but not the gum leisions. Upon discontinuing it I had a rosacea flare.

    Do you know of any nonsteroidal lotions for the itching skin that accompanies OLP? I have used 100% Aloe in the past. My skin is dry and irritated.

  6. JP Says:

    Hi Holly,

    You can find high quality aloe vera gels on the Internet and at many health food stores. I suggest looking for one that is intended for oral use – rather than topical use. If you can acquire one that’s organic and free of preservatives all the better.

    As far as the itching skin is concerned, you might consider (all-natural/gentle) moisturizing creams, intended for the face, which contain Vitamin B12 and/or Vitamin D. Now Foods has a few reasonably-priced products that fit the bill:



    Be well!


  7. RAM Says:

    Thank you SO much for putting all this information together in one place. Finding science-based recommendations for addressing OLP is shockingly difficult to find. And most doctors/dentists I\’ve consulted have been pretty useless.

    As someone who has had to deal with oral cancer (likely due to OLP combined with use of high-alcohol Listerine), I recommend doing whatever possible to keep the condition under control. And regular ENT visits are a very good idea as well.

  8. JP Says:

    I’m happy it was of value to you, RAM! Thanks for letting me know. :-)

    Be well!


    PS – I added a few updates below.

  9. JP Says:

    Update: Turmeric may be of value …


    Natl J Maxillofac Surg. 2013 Jul;4(2):198-201.

    Turmeric – A new treatment option for lichen planus: A pilot study.

    Turmeric is dried rhizome of the perennial herbs curcumalonga. It is called Haldi in Hindi, turmeric in English, ukon in Japanese. It has been used in Asian Medicine since the second millennium BC. It’s utility is referred to in the ancient Hindu script the Ayurveda. Pathogenesis of the OLP should be taken in consideration for the treatment point of view. The Cell mediated immunity to secondary antigenic change in oral mucous membrane is thought to play a major role in its pathogenesis modified keratocyte surface antigens are the primary target for cytotoxic cellular response. Curcumin also been shown to have immune modulatory effect involving activation of host macrophages and natural killer cells and modulation of lymphocytes mediated function.

    Be well!


  10. JP Says:

    Update: Aloe vera gel appears to be another effective and safe option …


    Quintessence Int. 2012 Oct;43(9):793-800.

    Randomized trial of aloe vera gel vs triamcinolone acetonide ointment in the treatment of oral lichen planus.

    OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of aloe vera gel in the treatment of oral lichen planus when compared with triamcinolone acetonide.

    METHOD AND MATERIALS: A randomized, double-blind, clinical trial was designed. The study sample constituted 40 patients (23 males and 17 females) who were randomly divided into two equal groups. Group A patients received aloe vera gel, while group B patients received triamcinolone acetonide.

    RESULTS: Forty patients were included in the study. Most of the sample presented with erosive (n = 18) and atrophic (n = 14) variants of oral lichen planus. When clinical signs and symptoms were observed after 8 weeks of therapy, it was determined that aloe vera gel was more effective than triamcinolone acetonide in the treatment of oral lichen planus.

    CONCLUSION: Aloe vera gel can be considered a safe alternative treatment for oral lichen planus.

    Be well!


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