Extraction and Purification of Urushiol from Botanical Sources

Catherine Yang (Inventor)

Research output: Innnovationinnovation



Poison ivy is one of the most medically problematic plants, and is responsible for causing allergic contact dermatitis in humans. Moreover, urushiol is an oily organic allergen found in plants in the family Anacardiaceae, that includes cashew, mango, pistachio, poison ivy and poison oak. While the chemistry of the allergen and the immunologic mechanism of the reaction are different, both clinical experience and animal studies suggest  hat poison ivy, like respiratory allergy to ragweed, should be responsive to injection immunotherapy. Currently, there are no known studies to validate human injection immunotherapy or identify safe and effective treatment doses and schedules for poison ivy allergies. As such, there is a significant unmet need for immune therapy for poison ivy allergies. Moreover, improved methods for extraction of urushiol from plant materials at concentrations and purity levels suitable for immunotherapy or other treatment of hypersensitivity are necessary. The technology disclosed relates to methods for preparing urushiol and related compounds from plants  including poison ivy or poison oak. The methods include extraction of shredded plant material followed by a solvent extraction using substantially immiscible solvents with substantially different polarities. The method can include further purification using a thiazole-derivatized silica gel chromatography medium.


Potential Application

The extracts can be used in immunotherapeutic methods, such as desensitizing individuals who normally develop allergic contact dermatitis attributable to various urushiol bearing plants including poison ivy or poison oak. The high concentration of urushiol that can be prepared using the disclosed technology facilitates immunological treatment of people who exhibit moderate or low sensitivity to poison ivy or poison oak. Using high concentration urushiol preparations, vaccines can be prepared that are suitable to induce tolerance in patients with significant clinical disease, but with relatively low levels of pre-treatment patch-test sensitivity.



The global allergic contact dermatitis (ACD) market is projected to experience rapid growth with increasing prevalence of the diseases and frequently changing lifestyle. Moreover, the global pruritus (itching) therapeutics market is expected to reach $16.38 billion by 2025. Rowan University is looking for a partner for further development and commercialization of this technology through a license.

Original languageEnglish (US)
StatePublished - Oct 2018
Externally publishedYes


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