Pruritus (Itchiness)

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-05-08 (EDT)

Itchiness, also known as pruritus, is a skin sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch. It itself is not a condition, but a symptom of many other conditions. Skin that is itchy is often dry as well. Treating itchy, dry skin often involves addressing the underlying associated conditions.


Causes Food Reactions, Hygiene, Infections, Stress, Personal Care Products, Environmental Chemicals
See Also Dermatology / Skin Conditions, Dry Skin, Eczema, Psoriasis, Urticaria, Type II Diabetes, Cholestasis, Menopause, Polycythemia, Hepatitis, Kidney Diseases, Liver Disease
Books Books on Skin Diseases
Articles Articles on Dermatology / Skin Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

The assessment of itchiness is typically based on a person's symptoms and on observation of the skin.

Causal Factors

Itchiness can either be due to something external that is irritating the skin, like a contact dermatitis reaction, or it can be a symptom of an internal condition or physiological imbalance. Assessing the cause of itchiness requires a detailed medical and lifestyle history and often an extensive look at the chemicals and products that one is exposed to.


  • Frequent bathing is a common cause of itchiness and dry skin.
  • Shaving can irritate the skin.


  • Stress can cause or aggravate itchiness of the skin.


  • There are a number of different infections that are associated with itchiness such as parasitic infections, pinworms, body lice, head lice and pubic lice.
  • Itchiness can be an initial sign of a sunburn.
  • Allergic reaction to certain allergens such as poision ivy or poison oak.
  • Insect bites and stings


  • Household Products
  • Reaction to chemicals or other toxins in household products or cleaning products.

Medical Interventions

  • Prescription Medications and Supplements
  • Many prescription medications have itchiness as an adverse reaction, such as morphine and other opiates, and chloroquine.
  • Vitamin A supplementation

Common Questions

Your naturopathic doctor will examine your skin and inquire about the following:

  • When did the itchiness develop?
  • Is it acute or chronic?
  • What makes it better or worse?
  • How does it change throughout the day.
  • What are your hygiene habits?
  • What do you do in response to the itchiness and what other treatments have you used.
  • What other symptoms are associated with the itchiness?
  • What impact does it have to your health and activities of daily living?
  • What are your other health concerns?

Diagnostic Testing

Related Symptoms and Conditions

Other conditions that have pruritus, or itchiness as a common symptom include:


  • Skin that is itchy is typically dry, yet at times itchiness will occur with no visible skin lesion or dryness.
  • The itchiness may occur all over the whole body or it may be localized to a single area.
  • The sensation of itchiness may be due to a release of histamine which is an allergic response.
  • Itchiness is often one of the first signs of a skin condition yet it can occur for a number of other reasons as well.
  • The healing process of the skin is typically associated with a sensation of itchiness or irritation.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The naturopathic treatment for itchiness involves addressing dietary factors, supporting the elimination or toxins, providing symptomatic relief and addressing other causal factors. It is always important to identify any underlying conditions that are contributing to the symptoms.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:


  • Keep baths and showers short. Reduce the frequency of bathing. Use warm(not hot) water. When having baths add alkaline salts to the water. Pat your skin dry, avoid rubbing the skin too much.
  • Use as little soap as possible. Limit its use to face, armpits, and genitals as much as possible.
  • Use a humidifier if the skin is also dry.
  • Apply cool compresses to dry itchy areas.

Personal Care Products

  • Ensure that all personal care products, household products and cleaning products are free of irritating chemicals.
  • Apply natural, chemical free body oils, creams or lotions when the skin is still damp to increase their absorption.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Dietary recommendations
  • Modify the diet to eliminate or reduce foods that are dehydrating, including caffeine, sugar, pop, dried fruit.
  • Increase the amount of fruit and vegetables in the diet. Any fruit or vegetables that grow on a vine, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, melons etc, have a higher water content and are more hydrating to the body.
  • Identify and elimiate food allergies or intolerances.
  • In colder months, or if the dry skin is severe, eliminate cold and raw food as they add to the problem.
  • Ensure you drink adequate water.
  • Exercise
  • Exercise is beneficial in improving blood flow to the skin. Although exercise is often beneficial in decreasing the severity of dryness and itchiness, it may also aggravate indicating more of an internal condition which needs to be addressed.

Naturopathic Therapies

The prescribing of naturopathic therapies requires the guidance of a naturopathic doctor as it depends on a number of factors including the causal factors, a person's age, prescription medications, other conditions and symptoms and overall health. It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor prior to taking any natural therapies.

Naturopathic Therapies for dry skin include:

  • The following TCM herbs may also be beneficial: Hua She Jie Yang, Hua Tuo Gao (ointment)) and Lian Qiao Bai.


Typically itchy skin is a benign symptoms, yet there are times when it is necessary to seek immediate naturopathic medical care such as:

  • If you feel itchy without a visible rash.
  • If the dryness or itchiness are preventing you from sleeping.
  • You have open sores or cuts due to scratching.
  • Your dryness or itchiness does not appear to be getting better, especially in older adults.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. UK Food Guide,
  2. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul Richard, Barlow Kerry, Gilbert Cyndi, Gowan Matthew, Smith Fraser 2010 Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Vol 1: Botanical Medicine Monographs, CCNM Press, Toronto
  3. Boon Heather, Smith Michael 2004 The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs, Robert Rose, Toronto
  4. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  5. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing