Senna alata (akapulko) Extract versus Topical Antifungals for Treatment of Superficial Fungal Skin Infections: a Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

  • Erin Jane L. Tababa
  • Rowena Natividad S. Flores-Genuino
  • Charissa Mia D. Salud-Gnilo
Keywords: Senna alata, Cassia alata, akapulko, skin fungal infections, dermatophytosis, tinea versicolor, pityriasis versicolor, candidiasis, systematic review, meta-analysis


Objective. The study aimed to assess the efficacy and safety of Senna alata (akapulko) plant extracts compared with topical antifungals in the treatment of superficial fungal skin infections.

Methods. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that studied patients with diagnosed cutaneous tinea or dermatophytosis (excluding hair and nail), tinea versicolor, or cutaneous candidiasis, via microscopy or culture, and compared the efficacy and safety of S. alata (akapulko) extract versus topical antifungals. Two authors independently screened titles and abstracts of merged search results from electronic databases (The Cochrane Skin Group Specialized Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, EMBASE (January 1990 to December 2011), Health Research and Development Information Network (HERDIN), and reference lists of articles), assessed eligibility, assessed the risk of bias using the domains in the Cochrane Risk Bias tool and collected data using a pretested Data extraction form (DEF). Meta-analyses were performed when feasible.

Results. We included seven RCTs in the review. There is low certainty of evidence that S. alata 50% lotion is as efficacious as sodium thiosulfate 25% lotion (RR 0.91, 95% CI, 0.79 to 1.04; 4 RCTs, n=216; p=0.15; I2=52%) and high quality evidence that S. alata cream is as efficacious as ketoconazole (RR 0.95, 95% CI, 0.82 to 1.09; 1 RCT, n=40; p=0.44) and terbinafine cream (RR 0.93, 95% CI, 0.86 to 1.01; 1 RCT, n=150; p=0.09) in mycologic cure. For adverse effects, there is very low certainty of evidence of increased harm with S. alata 50% lotion compared to sodium thiosulfate 25% lotion (RR 1.26, 95% CI, 0.46, 3.44; 2 RCTs, n=120; p=0.65; I2=19%). Adverse effects were few and mild.

Conclusion. S. Alata 50% lotion may be as efficacious as sodium thiosulfate 25% lotion and is as efficacious as ketoconazole 2% and terbinafine 1% creams. There is insufficient evidence to compare the safety of S. alata 50% lotion with sodium thiosulfate 25% lotion


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