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November 1955

Studies on Cowhage (Mucuna Pruriens) and Its Pruritogenic Proteinase, Mucunain

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Dermatology (Dr. Donald M. Pillsbury, Director), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

AMA Arch Derm. 1955;72(5):399-406. doi:10.1001/archderm.1955.03730350001001

Everyone that knows what cowhage, or cowitch, is must be sensible, that if the least particle of it comes in contact with the skin, it causes a most intolerable itching.1

William Chamberlaine, 1784

In 1688, the Duke of Albemarle, sailing from England to take command of Jamaica, had in his company a young physician who had a boundless curiosity concerning the New World. In Jamaica and the surrounding islands, this physician, Hans Sloane, made exhaustive surveys of the flora and fauna. The following spring found him returning to England with over 800 botanical specimens,2 among which was a bean plant which had the mischievous quality of producing itching in man. This very specimen has been preserved in the Sloane Herbarium of the British Museum in London, where it may be seen today as an example of "itch powder" 267 years old. Through the kindness of Gavin de

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