Patients with chronic kidney disease could benefit from herbal baths – review

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(Natural News) Chinese herbal bath therapy (CHBT) is an ancient method of healing that has been used for thousands of years. Like modern herbal baths, CHBT involves mixing an herbal decoction or herbal extracts in warm bathwater. According to ancient Chinese records, CHBT is an effective treatment for internal diseases like osteoarthritis and skin itching (pruritus) associated with diseases like chronic kidney disease.

In a study published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers from the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine in China conducted a meta-analysis to evaluate the efficacy and safety of CHBT as a treatment for uremic pruritus (UP). They found that CHBT is a great complementary therapy to hemodialysis or hemoperfusion as it can help improve UP — the most common symptom of chronic kidney failure.

Chinese herbal bath therapy is effective against skin itching caused by uremia

For thousands of years, CHBT has been used by Chinese healers to treat a variety of skin diseases. Early published Chinese medical records prescribed CHBT to relieve pruritus in patients with uremia — a condition in which urea and other waste products build up in the body because the kidneys are no longer capable of eliminating them.

To assess the effectiveness of CHBT, the researchers searched seven databases for studies published since database inception until September 2018. They collected randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that evaluated the use of CHBT for UP. The researchers based their measurement of CHBT’s therapeutic effects on pruritus level (via the visual analog scale [VAS] or symptom score scale) and total effective rate.


The researchers included 17 articles involving a total of 970 hemodialysis patients in their meta-analysis. CHBT was administered to these patients by letting them immerse their whole bodies in a prepared herbal water bath. On average, treatment lasted for 4.7 weeks, and herbal bath prescriptions used for the studies consisted of 11 Chinese herbs, which are known to relieve itching, stimulate sweating, improve blood circulation and promote detoxification.

The researchers found that, compared with hemodialysis, hemoperfusion, sham CHBT, clear hot water bath, and the use of calamine lotion, the combination of CHBT and hemodialysis or hemoperfusion reduced the VAS score and the symptom score of renal failure patients. They also reported that CHBT plus either hemodialysis or hemoperfusion has a higher total effectiveness rate than any of the other treatments.

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that CHBT is a great complementary therapy for treating UP. They hope for more rigorously designed, multi-center, prospective RCTs to help further identify the efficacy and safety of CHBT.

Other natural remedies for skin itching

Skin itching is a condition that can negatively affect a person’s quality of life. Pruritus can deprive people of sleep and cause mental health problems like anxiety or depression. Skin itching can also be difficult to ignore, and too much scratching can result in wounds, scars, and skin infections. (Related: Study reveals surprising link between your skin, gut health and food allergies.)

If you are experiencing pruritus due to allergies, skin conditions like psoriasis or insect bites, here are some home remedies that you can try. (h/t to

  • Menthol essential oil — Known for its cooling effect, menthol essential oil can help relieve skin itching or irritation.
  • Cool compress — Cooling the affected area with a compress is a great way to reduce inflammation, which contributes to skin itching. Keeping your moisturizer in the refrigerator and applying it after a cool compress is also helpful.
  • Wet wrap therapy — Wrapping a water-soaked gauze or surgical netting can help soothe and rehydrate the skin to relieve itching. It also helps protect the skin against constant scratching.
  • Colloidal oatmeal — Colloidal oatmeal has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce skin itching. To prepare, dissolve the finely ground oatmeal in purified water or your water bath.
  • Apple cider vinegar — ACV contains acetic acid, a natural disinfectant and antiseptic. When diluted in water, ACV can also help relieve itching.

Skin itching can be disruptive and problematic, but you can prevent it from affecting your health and day-to-day activities. To get some much-needed relief without unwanted side effects, try herbal therapies or any of the home remedies listed above.

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