Proposed Treatments in Scleroderma

The supplement PABA has been suggested as a treatment for scleroderma.1,2 A 4-month, double-blind study of 146 people with longstanding, stable scleroderma failed to find any evidence of benefit. However, half of the participants in this trial dropped out before the end, making the results unreliable.3

The herb gotu kola has a long history of use for various skin conditions; for this reason, it has been tried as a treatment for scleroderma.4 However, as yet there is no meaningful evidence that it is effective. Other herbs and supplements proposed for treatment of scleroderma (but that do not have any significant supporting evidence) include boswellia, thymus extract, MSM, antioxidants (e.g. the antioxidant vitamins vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, and the mineral selenium, which supports the body’s own antioxidant defense system), and danshen root. (One study failed to find vitamin C helpful for the treatment of Raynaud’s phenomenon associated with scleroderma.5

One highly preliminary study suggests that acupuncture might have value for this condition.6

Finally, several herbs and supplements have shown promise for treating the individual symptoms of scleroderma. For more information, see the articles on Raynaud’s phenomenon, rheumatoid arthritis, and esophageal reflux.

Herbs and Supplements to Avoid in Scleroderma

Combination therapy with the supplement 5-HTP and the drug carbidopa has reportedly caused skin changes similar to those that occur in scleroderma.7–9 Furthermore, L-tryptophan, a supplement closely related to 5-HTP, has been taken off the market because it caused numerous cases of eosinophilia-myalgia syndrome, which is sometimes regarded as a close relative of scleroderma. It is thought that this outbreak was due to a contaminant in a certain batch of the supplement, but some controversy about this explanation remains.

Finally, various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to prevent or treat scleroderma. For more information on this potential risk, see the appropriate individual drug articles in the Drug Interactions section of this database.