Scleroderma, technically called systemic sclerosis or SSc, is a disease of unknown cause that affects the connective tissues of the skin and various organs. Common symptoms include thickening and tightening of the skin (beginning with the extremities), Raynaud’s phenomenon (a condition characterized by an exaggerated reaction in the fingertips to cold exposure), joint pain (especially in the fingers and knees), esophageal reflux (heartburn), calcium deposits under the skin, and telangiectasias (mats of enlarged small blood vessels). Scleroderma can lead to serious complications, such as fibrosis of the lungs, heart, and kidneys; for this reason, medical supervision is essential. There is no cure as yet for scleroderma, although drugs may be used to alleviate the various individual symptoms of the disease.

The supplement PABAhas been suggested as a treatment for scleroderma.1,2 A 4-month, double-blind studyof 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 kolahas 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 acupuncturemight 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.