Skin reactions linked to traditional medicines

Posted 27 July 2023

Researchers in India analyzed individual case reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) database (VigiBase) from between January 2016 and June 2021 describing adverse skin reactions linked to plant-based and animal-based products in natural form (described as traditional medicine).
Reference: Barvaliya MJ, and others. Suspected cutaneous adverse drug reactions reported with traditional medicines: Analysis of data for United Nations Asia region from WHO VigiBase. Frontiers in Pharmacology 14, May 2023

A total of 5,686 reports (19.9% of all adverse reaction reports) involved 8,588 skin-related reactions. Out of those reports, 3,523 involving 5,761 suspected skin-related reactions had sufficient information to be considered in the final analysis. The analysis revealed:

  • the most common skin reactions were itching (29.6%), rash (20.3%), and hives (18.9%)
  • the most common traditional medicines implicated in skin reactions were:
    (a) Artemisia argyi Lév. and Vaniot. with 856 reports, (14.9% of reactions),
    (b) Ginkgo biloba (5.1%), and
    (c) combinations of Clematis + Prunella vulgaris L. + Trichosanthes kirilowii (4.8%)
  • almost 7% of skin reactions linked to traditional medicines in the WHO database were reported as serious

Commenting on the study, Dr. Edzard Ernst concluded:
Herbal remedies have a reputation for being time-tested, gentle, harmless, and benign. Reports such as this one might make us doubt this cliche. More importantly, they should force us to ask whether the remedy we are tempted to try truly does generate more good than harm. In most instances, I fear, the answer is not positive.
Reference: Ernst E. Herbal remedies often cause dermatological side-effects some of which are serious., June 26, 2023

Source: Consumer Health Digest #23-30 July 23 2023

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