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Snakeskin

Snake skin

While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Keratin, snake slough.

Background

  • Snake skin has scales that serve various functions and change over the life cycle of the snake. Snake skin and scales help to retain moisture, serve as a form of camouflage, and are used for traction. The scales contain keratin, which makes them hard and shiny; keratin is also found in the hair, hooves, and horns of mammals.
  • Snake skin is traditionally used for various skin disorders, such as abscesses, acne, boils, itching, and sores. Human research is limited.
  • Snake skin, in combination with other traditional Chinese herbs and injections of sodium iodide into the eye, has been examined as a treatment for corneal opacity, a condition in which the cornea (the transparent structure of the eye) becomes opaque, meaning light may not pass though efficiently. Studies employing snake skin alone are necessary in order to determine if it has any effect on this condition.

Scientific Evidence

Uses

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.

C Eye disorders (corneal opacity)

Snake skin has been used as part of a combination of other traditional Chinese herbs and an injection of sodium iodide in a study examining its effect on corneal opacity (a condition in which the transparent structure of the eye becomes opaque). Additional research is needed before a firm conclusion can be made.

*Key to grades:

Tradition

The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.

  • Abscesses, acne, anticonvulsant, boils, carbuncles, hemorrhoids, itching, psoriasis, skin conditions, sore throat, sores.

Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is a lack of safety or efficacy information regarding the use of snake skin in adults.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is a lack of safety or efficacy information regarding the use of snake skin in children.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to snake skin or its constituents.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • There is currently a lack of information on adverse effects associated with snake skin.
  • High levels of heavy metals may be found in snake skin. Use only snake skin from trusted sources.
  • Use cautiously during pregnancy and lactation, due to insufficient safety evidence.
  • Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to snake skin or its constituents.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Use cautiously during pregnancy and lactation, due to insufficient safety evidence.

Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

  • Insufficient available evidence.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Insufficient available evidence.

Author Information

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

  1. Baby, A. R., Haroutiounian-Filho, C. A., Sarruf, F. D., Tavante-Junior, C. R., Pinto, C. A. S. D. O., Zague, V., Areas, E. P. G., Kaneko, T. M., and Velasco, M. V. R. Stability and in vitro penetration study of rutin incorporated in a cosmetic emulsion through an alternative model biomembrane. Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences (Revista Brasileira de Ciencias Farmaceuticas) 2008;44:233-248.
  2. Burken, R. R., Wertz, P. W., and Downing, D. T. A survey of polar and nonpolar lipids extracted from snake skin. Comp Biochem.Physiol B 1985;81(2):315-318. View Abstract
  3. Burken, R. R., Wertz, P. W., and Downing, D. T. The effect of lipids on transepidermal water permeation in snakes. Comp Biochem.Physiol A Comp Physiol 1985;81(2):213-216. View Abstract
  4. Haigh, J. M., Beyssac, E., Chanet, L., and Aiache, J. M. In vitro permeation of progesterone from a gel through the shed skin of three different snake species. International Journal of Pharmaceutics 1998;170(2):151-156.
  5. Harada, K., Murakami, T., Kawasaki, E., Higashi, Y., Yamamoto, S., and Yata, N. In-vitro permeability to salicylic acid of human, rodent, and shed snake skin. J Pharm.Pharmacol. 1993;45(5):414-418. View Abstract
  6. Itoh, T., Xia, J., Magavi, R., Nishihata, T., and Rytting, J. H. Use of shed snake skin as a model membrane for in vitro percutaneous penetration studies: comparison with human skin. Pharm.Res 1990;7(10):1042-1047. View Abstract
  7. Jones, D. E. and Holladay, S. D. Excretion of three heavy metals in the shed skin of exposed corn snakes (Elaphe guttata). Ecotoxicol.Environ.Saf 2006;64(2):221-225. View Abstract
  8. Kang, L., Park, M. O., and Jun, H. W. Two-phase melt systems of ibuprofen for enhanced membrane permeation. Pharm.Dev.Technol. 2004;9(4):349-357. View Abstract
  9. Ngawhirunpat, T., Panomsuk, S., Opanasopit, P., Rojanarata, T., and Hatanaka, T. Comparison of the percutaneous absorption of hydrophilic and lipophilic compounds in shed snake skin and human skin. Pharmazie 2006;61(4):331-335. View Abstract
  10. Ngawhirunpat, T., Opanasopit, P., Rojanarata, T., Panomsuk, S., and Chanchome, L. Evaluation of simultaneous permeation and metabolism of methyl nicotinate in human, snake, and shed snake skin. Pharm.Dev.Technol. 2008;13(1):75-83. View Abstract
  11. Pongjanyakul, T., Prakongpan, S., Panomsuk, S., Puttipipatkhachorn, S., and Priprem, A. Shed king cobra and cobra skins as model membranes for in-vitro nicotine permeation studies. J Pharm.Pharmacol. 2002;54(10):1345-1350. View Abstract
  12. Rigg, P. C. and Barry, B. W. Shed snake skin and hairless mouse skin as model membranes for human skin during permeation studies. J Invest Dermatol. 1990;94(2):235-240. View Abstract
  13. Wang, Z., Itoh, Y., Hosaka, Y., Kobayashi, I., Nakano, Y., Maeda, I., Umeda, F., Yamakawa, J., Nishimine, M., Suenobu, T., Fukuzumi, S., Kawase, M., and Yagi, K. Mechanism of enhancement effect of dendrimer on transdermal drug permeation through polyhydroxyalkanoate matrix. J Biosci.Bioeng. 2003;96(6):537-540. View Abstract
  14. Yuan, X. and Capomacchia, A. C. The binary eutectic of NSAIDS and two-phase liquid system for enhanced membrane permeation. Pharm.Dev.Technol. 2005;10(1):1-10. View Abstract
  15. Zhang, R. J., Zhao, Y. W., Tang, F. U., Sheng, S. S., and Zhou, Y. Y. Clinical effect of traditional Chinese herbs combined with sodium iodide in treatng corneal opacity. International Journal of Ophthalmology 2007;7(1)

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.