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Parts of this were taken with permission from Essential Oils Overview and Reference Guide, published by: The Family Tree, 2008


Vitiligo on the handVitiligo is a condition where light patches (loss of pigmentation) appear on the skin.  The patches are irregular in shape, have well defined edges and usually appear on the hands, feet, elbows, knees, face and genitals. The condition happens with all skin colors.  It usually starts in one small area and grows over time, sometimes rapidly, other times slowly. Except for the coloring the skin is not affected, it is not an infectious disease and is not associated with any form of cancer. The discoloration can become a source of emotional concern for many that suffer.

About 1 in 100 people will encounter this and it appears to develop in early years, most commonly affecting those between 10 and 40. Male and Female are equally affected. The cause is not yet understood but the mechanism is that melanocytes, the cells of the skin that produce melanin, no longer produce this source of color in the skin.  Why melanocytes die or stop producing is not yet known but some suspect that it may be autoimmune related. It is reported to be associated with those suffering from Addison’s, Hashimoto’s or Pernicious Anemia.

Oils, blends & products recommended:

Oils & Blends:  BergamotC, Black Pepper, Essential Oil Cellular Complex , FrankincenseC

Essential oils based products: Massage Blend Technique, GI Cleansing Formula/Probiotic Defense Formula, Basic Vitality Supplements (LLV), Detoxifying Blend Detoxification Complex.

Also consider: MyrrhC, PurifyC, SandalwoodC, VetiverC, Detoxifying Blend

Note: to understand the E and C superscript go to Home and scroll to New Helps.

Suggested protocols:

Some have found success using topical application of Bergamot to the areas 1 -2 times daily.  Be caution about exposing the area to sunlight since Bergamot, like all citrus oil, is photosensitive.

Also, since there are some indications that vitiligo is an autoimmune disease, consider the basic suggestions for autoimmune diseases.

  LLV consistently, 1 capsule or 8 drops Essential Oil Cellular Complex 2 times daily

  2-3 drops Frankincense, 2 -4 time daily under tongue

  Cleanses such as GI Cleansing Formula/Probiotic Defense Formula and Detoxifying Blend (see Detoxification) and the Massage Blend Technique.

Scientific research points to compounds in Black Pepper being helpful but there are not yet any reported protocols using essential oils.

Experiences and Testimonials of others

Lori - My friend has vitiligo on his hands, white patches on his hands.  Any oil that will help it??

Brenda - Yes, I have a friend I am working with and had success however, I will explain. He is using the LLV, also doing the cleanses, then we sent him black pepper but he is using more bergamot than anything else.  He is having pink return to his skin and he has hair growing in.  He is so excited.  He looks like a little chia he said.  But, he was putting on the bergamot and he went out in the sun and got burned really bad.  He is not using anything right now except the LLV and cleansing until this clears up.


Kari - My friends little girl was just diagnosed with Vitiligo yesterday.  I looked it up in my book and told her what oils (...) recommends she uses and where she would rub them.  She is very leery about them.  But I talked her into coming to our class tonight and getting a free sample.  She asked me if she used this oil if the pigment would come back in her little girls skin?  Any ideas?  Let me know.  Thanks!

Brooke - I don't know much about it - but I remember Bergamot being suggested by Dr. Hill at last year’s convention for Vitiligo.  I don't know if it brings the pigment back, or if it stops the disease from spreading further - just from my notes.

Rob – Yes but be careful Bergamot is photosensitive.  Skin exposure to sunlight or ultra violet light that has Bergamot or other citrus oils can cause serious problems for up to 12 hours after being applied.  Because it is an autoimmune issue, I would suggest Lavender and Frankincense applied twice daily with a carrier or vitamin E if you like.  Try on a less conspicuous area initially.  As it might also be an immune issue that can be treated from the inside consider  GI Cleansing Formula or other cleansings.

Lori B. - Hi, I've had vitiligo since I was 18 and I'm now in my late 40's. Unfortunately I have not found an essential oil (or anything else for that matter) that has worked for this particular problem.  I did discuss this problem with Dr. Hill on one of his visits, prior to (...) introducing Bergamot, and he said that he had not found anything that would help vitiligo.  I have not tried the Bergamot yet because of the photosensitivity issue, also I'm not quite sure if I should use it just topically or internally. 

I know how frustrating vitiligo is since any contact longer than about a half hour with direct sunlight causes sunburn on the affected areas.  My husband just recently heard a study that mentioned how originally it was thought that vitiligo sufferers were more prone to skin cancer but the latest studies have revealed just the opposite.  Apparently there is something in our metabolism that helps us fight cancer!

I would encourage your friend to start treating this early because the longer you have vitiligo the more aggressive it seems to get.  I still have a lot of natural pigment in my skin but I know several people who have lost all of their pigment.  I wish that I knew when I first got vitiligo what I know now, I would have been very aggressive in treating it from the beginning.


Sunny - About a year ago I noticed light spots on my arms.  I suspected it was vitiligo but it was not officially diagnosed as such.  I remembered at the introduction of (...) Bergamot oil that Dr. Hill had mentioned it as a help for vitiligo.  About six weeks ago I began faithfully applying it topically to these spots every morning.  They are almost gone now.  By the way, I also use the Basic Vitality Supplements (LLV) regularly along with periodic GI Cleansing Formula and Detoxifying Blend cleanses.  Maybe it all has helped.

Protocols folks recommend for children



Diet and Nutritional complements to essential oils


What Science & Research are saying

Editor's note: the following articles describe the progress that has been going on wrt treatment of vitiligo using derivatives of black pepper.

OHSU Oregon Health and Science University, 4/9/2008

Oregon Health & Science University has licensed a family of compounds derived from black pepper extract – on which it owns the patents – to AdPharma, Inc. for potential pharmaceutical development. The compounds have shown potential in animal studies to be effective in treating vitiligo, a skin pigmentation disorder.

Vitiligo, which afflicts an estimated 100 million people worldwide, is characterized by the loss of pigment in affected areas of skin. It is the disease pop star Michael Jackson has publicly disclosed that he has. It is neither life-threatening nor contagious. But the sometimes unsightly white patches it causes produce emotional distress for many and often lead to social ostracism because of a widespread misperception that the condition is infectious.

An estimated 1 percent to 2 percent of the world’s population suffers from the malady. Current treatments, which rely on immunosuppression or ultraviolet radiation to stimulate repigmentation, are only partially effective, often producing a mottled appearance. Excessive ultraviolet (UV) radiation also poses the risk of skin cancer.

“Based on the animal studies we have done, these compounds, if proved safe in humans, promise far superior results in the treatment of vitiligo than current approaches,” said Amala Soumyanath, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurology, OHSU School of Medicine. “Vitiligo is a highly visible disease that can greatly affect patients psychologically and emotionally, even driving some to consider suicide. Any breakthrough in treating it would benefit a huge number of people around the world.”

Soumyanath and her collaborators reported on the effects of their compounds in animals in a paper just published in the British Journal of Dermatology. But development of the concept dates back more than a decade. Soumyanath discovered – in research on vitiligo that she initiated at King’s College London – that piperine, the alkaloid in black pepper responsible for its pungency, stimulated the proliferation of melanocytes in cell cultures. Melanocytes are the cells that produce pigmentation in the skin. The researchers then designed and tested many synthetic piperine analogs and identified a number that produced the same result.

The group subsequently found that piperine and two of its analogs – tetrahydropiperine (THP) and a cyclohexyl derivative (RCHP) produced light, even pigmentation when applied to the skin of a poorly pigmented mouse model. When combined with UV radiation, the skin grew significantly darker and showed none of the patchiness caused by UV treatment alone. Moreover, skin pre-treated with a piperine compound required fewer UV exposures, thus lowering the cancer risk, and it took longer for the pigmentation to fade again than when UV alone was used.


The Vitiligo Society
Piperine Breakthrough: Initial Research Funded By Vitiligo Society

by Jeff Corne - Trustee of the Vitiligo Society

It was eleven years ago, in “Dispatches”, that we published the preliminary results of research by one of our then trustees, Dr Amala Raman from Kings College London. During an investigation of traditional Chinese and Indian herbal remedies for vitiligo, she and her PhD student Zhixiu Lin had discovered one particular plant, an extract of which stimulated the proliferation of melanocytes in cell cultures.

Over the succeeding years this herb was revealed to be black pepper and the active ingredient piperine. This work was partly funded by the Vitiligo Society.

Because of a lack of resources and the departure of Amala to the US, work on this project has been in abeyance for some time.  However, another team at King’s College has taken up the challenge and the results of their work is to be published shortly in the  British Journal of Dermatology. A press release from the British Association of Dermatologists states, “They have discovered that  piperine - the compound that gives black pepper its spicy, pungent flavour - and its synthetic derivatives can stimulate pigmentation in the skin especially when combined with UVR treatment.” The researchers compared the effects of piperine and its analogues tetrahydropiperine (THP), cyclohexyl analogue of piperine (CHP) and reduced CHP (rCHP) when applied to the skin of mice, either alone or followed by UVR. Treatment was also interrupted in certain groups to see how long-term the effects would be. While CHP did not show significant results, piperine, THP and rCHP did induce pigmentation in the skin. Used alone, the compounds stimulated pigmentation to an even, light brown colour within six weeks. However, by accompanying the use of piperine or THP with UVR, the skin became significantly darker, and within only seven weeks. Furthermore, the pigmentation was even, compared to the patchy pigmentation caused by UVR treatment alone.

The researchers also found that for skin treated with a piperine compound, just four exposures of UVR were sufficient to significantly darken the skin. Again, when using UVR alone, more than 10 exposures were needed to produce a similar but less even response. The results also took longer to fade in those treated with both a piperine compound and UVR, and did not disappear completely. By contrast, there was no remaining detectable pigmentation within the same timeframe for skin treated only with UVR. Additionally, when treatment was resumed, results were noticeably faster in the group treated with piperine compounds. The team believe that their remarkable findings are due to piperine stimulating the production of the skin’s pigment cells, called melanocytes.

Professor Antony Young, Photobiologist at St John’s Institute of Dermatology, Guy’s Hospital, London, and one of the study’s authors, said: “We have shown that topical treatment with piperine stimulates even pigmentation in the skin. Combining this with UVR  significantly enhances the pigmentation with results that are cosmetically better than conventional vitiligo therapies. This provides strong support for the future clinical evaluation of piperine and its derivatives as novel treatments for vitiligo.”

Nina Goad of the British Association of Dermatologists said: “These findings could potentially lead to the development of treatments that not only provide improved results, but could also reduce the need for UV radiation in vitiligo treatment, in turn lowering the risk of skin cancer.

A word of caution. Despite the length of time that it has taken to get to what is an early stage of possible drug development, it will take many years of further research and development before any successful treatment could be available for general use.


by Roy Palmer - Consultant Dermatologist and Member of the Society’s Medical and Scientific Advisory Panel.

This was a study of a potential novel approach to the treatment of vitiligo, and it had exciting results. However, there are two major hurdles that need to be overcome before piperine (or one of its analogues) can be used to treat the condition. Firstly, the safety of piperine needs to be considered; anything that stimulates melanocytes may conceivably increase the chance of melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Secondly, this study used an artificial ‘model’; it is obvious that there is a big difference between mice with an unusual genetically programmed pigmentary abnormality, and vitiligo in humans.

Nevertheless, if the issue of safety is satisfied, then a clinical trial of piperine applied to the skin of people with vitiligo, probably in association with phototherapy (eg. narrow-band ultraviolet B therapy), would be very exciting. It takes a long time for treatments to move from the laboratory bench to becoming routinely available to treat patients; if piperine does turn out to be a useful therapy then this process will take many years.


From: British Journal of Dermatology, Original Study by King’s College London

Vitiligo is estimated to affect about one in 100 people. Current treatments include corticosteroids applied to the skin, and phototherapy using UV radiation (UVR) to re-pigment the skin.  However, less than a quarter of patients respond successfully to corticosteroids.  And UVR causes a re-pigmentation that is spotted and patchy and in the long-term could lead to a higher risk of skin cancer.

The King's team examined the effects of piperine, and its synthetic derivatives, when applied to the skin of mice, either alone or followed by UVR.  Used alone, piperine and two of its derivatives stimulated pigmentation to an even, light brown color within six weeks.

Combination therapy.

Combining the treatment with UVR the skin became darker still. The effect was achieved much faster than using UVR treatment alone, and lasted longer.  In addition, the combined therapy gave a much more even pigmentation than UVR alone, which can often result in a patchy appearance.

The researchers believe that piperine stimulates the production of the skin’s pigment cells, called melanocytes.  Researcher Professor Antony Young said: "We have shown that topical treatment with piperine stimulates even pigmentation in the skin.  "Combining this with UVR significantly enhances the pigmentation with   results that are cosmetically better than conventional vitiligo therapies."

Nina Goad, of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: "Vitiligo is a highly visible disease that can greatly affect patients psychologically and emotionally. Any breakthrough in treatments of this disease is most welcome."

"These findings could potentially lead to the development of treatments that not only provide improved results, but could also reduce the need for UV radiation in vitiligo treatment, in turn lowering the risk of skin cancer."


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