Study Finds Limited Evidence Regarding Herbal Remedies for Chronic Pruritus

Despite being one of the most common dermatologic conditions, the etiology of chronic pruritis is still unknown, and conventional medication may not always result in a good therapeutic response.

A new database review cited limited evidence-based studies regarding of herbal remedies and complementary medicine in the treatment of chronic pruritus and suggested that more studies be conducted to determine the therapeutic efficacy of these strategies.

Despite being one of the most common dermatologic conditions, the etiology of chronic pruritis is still unknown. Because of this, conventional medication may not always result in a good therapeutic response, and has led some investigators and patients to use herbal and complementary remedies for treatment.

However, limited data exist regarding the effectiveness of these treatments.

For the present study, an investigative team led by Mohammad Mahdi Parvizi, MD, PhD, of the Molecular Dermatology Research Center of Shahid Faghihi Hospital, reviewed clinical trials of where herbal and complementary medicine were used for the treatment of chronic pruritus.

The review study focused on clinical trials published during 2000 and 2020, and investigators combed through PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Google Scholar, SID, and Megiran databases for eligible articles.

Keywords included complementary medicine, herbal remedy, traditional medicine, natural remedy, herbal drug, and more.

Details regarding population and sample size were collected in addition to study duration and the tools used to evaluate the outcomes of the study. Results and probable side effects of featured products were also extracted.

After reviewing all eligible articles, a total of 17 clinical trials met the inclusion criteria of the study.

Among them, 11 articles related to the efficacy of herbal remedies while 6 articles evaluated the efficacy of manual therapies in the treatment of chronic pruritus.

Herbal remedies included turmeric, fumaria parviflora, avena sativa (with vinegar in one trial), capsaicin, sweet almond oil, peppermint oil, and clove oil. Massage with violet oil, aromatherapy, auricular acupressure, and acupuncture were also included in 4 of the eligible clinical trials.

Though few of the clinical trials featured any evidence of the efficacy of complementary and integrative medicine in the treatment of chronic pruritus, the findings of the study showed that some herbal remedies such as curcumin, peppermint, mint, capsaicin, and sweet almond, along with manual therapies such as massage could alleviate and improve chronic pruritus.

Additionally, in some studies a deduction in pruritus was seen in both the intervention and placebo groups,and it was found that the effect of complementary and alternative remedies was more effective in comparison with the control groups.

Notably, herbal remedies as well as manual remedies such as aromatherapy were effective in uremic pruritus – which was prominently featured in the eligible articles- yet the effects were not clearly defined.

Investigators noted the limitations of these studies, such as the high cost of treatment,small sample size, a lack of control groups, and a lack of proper randomization and blindness.

“Therefore, it is recommended that future studies in this domain should be conducted with adequate sample sizes, appropriate randomization and blindness methods, and use of standardized herbal product, in order to increase credible data for future systematic reviews and meta-analyses on this subject,” the team wrote.

The study, "Complementary and integrative remedies in the treatment of chronic pruritus: A review of clinical trials," was published online in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology.