Berberine hydrochloride (BRB) is an isoquinoline-alkaloid derivative that can be isolated from medicinal herbs such as Hydrastis canadensis (goldenseal), Cortex phellodendri (huangbai), and Rhizoma coptidis (huanglian) (1). In the Chinese Pharmacopoeia, huangbai and huanglian are described as heat-removing agents for fever reduction (2). BRB, the major ingredient of these
herbs, possesses antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, as well as against other microorganisms
(3, 4). BRB inhibits the growth of streptococci and appears to prevent them from adhering to host cells (5). BRB also exhibits
antimalarial, antisecretory, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer activities with relatively low cytotoxicity to human cells
Topical and transdermal products are important classes of drug-delivery systems, and their use is becoming more widespread.
The purpose of topical dosage forms is to deliver drugs conveniently to a localized area of the skin (7). Topical creams (e.g.,
cold cream), which are oil-in-water (O/W) emulsions, are less greasy and more acceptable to patients. Patients generally prefer
creams for the treatment of mild or short-duration conditions (8).
Many topical antifungals are now available, but not all are equally effective. Only a few topical antibiotics are available
for treating skin diseases (9, 10). The authors investigated cream formulations of BRB because it possesses antifungal, antibacterial,
and anti-inflammatory activity.
Apifil (PEG-8 Beeswax, Gattefossé, St. Priest, France) and Plurol Stearique WL 1009 (polyglyceryl-6-distearate, Gattefossé)
were selected as O/W emulsifiers. Both emulsifiers can be used to formulate creams with various concentrations of the oil
phase without phase inversion. At higher concentrations (e.g., 5–15%), they form stable creams with a firm texture and a smooth,
glossy appearance. The agents emulsify vegetable oils by as much as 15% are particularly well-suited to the emulsification
of short-chain or fatty-acid esters. They perform well with other fatty-acid esters, silicone oils, mineral oils, and their
The authors attempted to develop safe topical formulations of BRB that could deliver the drug locally in an effective concentration
for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. The effectiveness of the cream formulation would likely depend on the
nature and concentration of the emulsifier used, on the concentration of BRB, and on the storage time of the cream formulations.
The authors designed an experiment to investigate the effects of these variables on the formulation of BRB as a topical drug-delivery
Materials and methods
BRB HCl powder (90% purity) was received as a gift from Yucca Laboratories (Mumbai) and used in the study without further
The authors chose the emulsifiers Apifil and Plurol Stearique WL 1009 for formulating the BRB creams. Both emulsifiers were
obtained from Gattefossé. The formulations were based on aqueous cream BP (British Pharmacopoeia). The formulation for 100 g of aqueous cream BP was the following:
- Emulsifying Ointment BP (30 g)
- Phenoxyethanol BP (1 g)
- Boiled and cooled purified water (100 g).
Emulsifying ointment BP consists of emulsifying wax BP (30%), white soft paraffin BP (50%), and liquid paraffin BP (20%),
and acts as a hydrophobic vehicle, structural-matrix former, and emulsifying agent. Menthol BP was used as a permeation enhancer.
The detailed composition of different cream formulations is shown in Tables Ia and Ib.
Table Ia: Composition of topical cream formulations of BRB prepared without permeation enhancer (%w/w).
Two microorganisms, Staphylococcus aureus (MTCC 96) and Candida albicans (MTCC 227), were chosen to test the effectiveness of the BRB cream formulations.