Planta Med 2019; 85(07): 524-527
DOI: 10.1055/a-0850-0224
Biological and Pharmacological Activity
Georg Thieme Verlag KG Stuttgart · New York

The Wound Healing Properties of Betulin from Birch Bark from Bench to Bedside

Armin Scheffler
Niefern-Öschelbronn, Germany,
› Author Affiliations
Further Information

Publication History

received 30 October 2018
revised 28 January 2019

accepted 29 January 2019

Publication Date:
11 March 2019 (online)


With central European approval in January 2016 for a betulin-oleogel (Episalvan), used to accelerate wound closure in partial thickness wounds, the herbal active ingredient triterpene dry extract (betulin), from birch bark, was introduced into therapy for the first time. Clinical evidence of accelerated wound healing was provided in a new study design by means of intraindividual comparison of split-thickness skin graft donor wounds and burn wounds. Clinical results of a phase II study evidencing accelerated wound healing in the rare disease epidermolysis bullosa are also available, and a pivotal multi-centre phase III study is currently being conducted. The mode of action affects all three phases of wound healing (inflammation, migration, and differentiation), and it has been possible, in some cases, to shed light on this down to the molecular level. After temporary stimulation of the inflammatory phase, the keratinocytes migrate more rapidly to the wound closure and, finally, epidermal differentiation is stimulated. With this project, we have shown that scientifically founded new developments in phytotherapy are possible in Europe. The active ingredient is new and its indication is for the first time clearly proven in studies. Betulin-oleogel is the first drug of its indication and is patented until 2030. In addition, it is the first phytotherapeutic agent in surgery, and thus opens up a new therapeutic area for phytotherapy. The birch bark contains about 22% betulin in its cork tissue, meaning that the active ingredient is sustainably available from Northern Europeʼs wood-processing industry on a scale of several 100,000 t/a.

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