Does Acai or Goji cure eczema?
January 26, 2010 9:54 PM   Subscribe

Will drinking Acai or Goji juice cure eczema? I have heard anecdotal evidence from many people that this works, but I am still skeptical. Also, would it be safe for a pregnant woman to start drinking these concentrated juices daily?
posted by roaring beast to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Here's a link to Pubmed. Pubmed is a database of scientific articles, mostly in the medical field. A quick search for your topic can be found here. Not surprisingly, there are no scientific, peer reviewed articles covering this topic. I have yet to see any reliable data anywhere in the medical literature that supports any of the claims made by any of the "miracle juice" people. Noni, acai, goji...the list goes on. All hype, no evidence.

Your best bet for finding eczema might be in one of the following articles. These are all recent pee reviewed Review, RCTs, Practice Guidelines, and Meta-analyses.
Sorry for the poor formatting. Just type the PMID # into pubmed and you can read the abstracts. MeMail me if you need help getting full-text of the articles.

1: Boyle RJ, Bath-Hextall FJ, Leonardi-Bee J, Murrell DF, Tang ML. Probiotics for
the treatment of eczema: a systematic review. Clin Exp Allergy. 2009
Aug;39(8):1117-27. Epub 2009 Jul 1. Review. PubMed PMID: 19573037.

2: Lawton S. Assessing and treating adult patients with eczema. Nurs Stand. 2009
Jul 1-7;23(43):49-56; quiz 58, 60. Review. PubMed PMID: 19634607.

3: Diepgen TL, Elsner P, Schliemann S, Fartasch M, Köllner A, Skudlik C, John SM,
Worm M; Deutsche Dermatologische Gesellschaft. Guideline on the management of
hand eczema ICD-10 Code: L20. L23. L24. L25. L30. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2009
May;7 Suppl 3:S1-16. English, German. PubMed PMID: 19522920.

4: Robertson L. New and existing therapeutic options for hand eczema. Skin
Therapy Lett. 2009 Mar;14(3):1-5. Review. PubMed PMID: 19585057.

5: Boyle RJ, Bath-Hextall FJ, Leonardi-Bee J, Murrell DF, Tang ML. Probiotics for
treating eczema. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008 Oct 8;(4):CD006135. Review.
PubMed PMID: 18843705.

6: Langan SM, Flohr C, Williams HC. The role of furry pets in eczema: a
systematic review. Arch Dermatol. 2007 Dec;143(12):1570-7. Review. PubMed PMID:

7: Chang C, Keen CL, Gershwin ME. Treatment of eczema. Clin Rev Allergy Immunol.
2007 Dec;33(3):204-25. Review. PubMed PMID: 18163227.

8: Eichenfield LF, Fowler JF Jr, Rigel DS, Taylor SC. Natural advances in eczema
care. Cutis. 2007 Dec;80(6 Suppl):2-16. Review. PubMed PMID: 18277662.

9: Diepgen TL, Agner T, Aberer W, Berth-Jones J, Cambazard F, Elsner P, McFadden
J, Coenraads PJ. Management of chronic hand eczema. Contact Dermatitis. 2007
Oct;57(4):203-10. Review. PubMed PMID: 17868211.

10: Buchanan P, Courtenay M. Topical treatments for managing patients with
eczema. Nurs Stand. 2007 Jun 20-26;21(41):45-50. Review. PubMed PMID: 17633342.

11: Roelofzen JH, Aben KK, van der Valk PG, van Houtum JL, van de Kerkhof PC,
Kiemeney LA. Coal tar in dermatology. J Dermatolog Treat. 2007;18(6):329-34.
Review. PubMed PMID: 17852640.
posted by cosmicbandito at 10:33 PM on January 26, 2010 [5 favorites]

For me, Elocon and Beta-Val works. (One's an ointment for the skin, the other is alcohol-based, and for the scalp.)

But it only keeps it at bay—ezcema has only ever ebbed and flowed with me, it's never receded entirely.

I've never had any experience with any juices at all, but I'm disinclined to think they'd have any significant effect.

I was once overtaken with ezcema though, and for some reason or another ended up taking some homeopathic remedy which seemed to kill it. It was graphite pellets, if I remember correctly, but then again, homeopathy is complete nonsense and there's no detectable amount of the substance in the remedies... What's strange is that the second remedy we tried was the one that had measurable results, but maybe it was just confirmation bias/post hoc ergo propter hoc/placebo effect.

Now it's down back to its manageable, chronic level. But I can use the meds sparingly enough, I don't know how comfortable I'd be with any amount of corticolsteroids in pregnancy. Consult your doctor on that count, and on the juice count, though juice is likely to be far lower a risk than steroidals.
posted by disillusioned at 11:22 PM on January 26, 2010

Berries are delicious, but imagine if someone told you eczema could be cured by raspberries. This incredibly persistent, irritating skin condition that people take steroids to deal with could be cured by raspberries; you'd laugh them out of the room.

These berries are no different to any other berries, except they're less famous. Eczema, asthma, colitis; these are often viewed as immune disorders from an overactive immune system. Unless the berry has a) anti-inflammatory, b) anti-histamine, or c) dilatory properties (it has none of the above), it's most unlikely to help your condition. If it did, I would be eating those bad boys like grapes.
posted by smoke at 12:54 AM on January 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

The thing with eczema is that it comes and goes without rhyme or reason. You might get a really bad couple of months, where you can't sleep and have to take cold showers to stop the itching, or have hands that crack and bleed every time you move your fingers. And then within a few weeks it's like you never had eczema in your life.

So it's really easy to ascribe curative properties to whatever it was you were doing just before the latest flare-up ended, whether you were drinking a particular fruit juice or doing meditation or smoking weed or taking salsa classes... or whatever. Correlation is not necessarily causation. So no, these are not cures; I wish they were.

There are all sorts of products that may help alleviate the symptoms of your eczema. Personally I find that a particular wash containing tea tree oil is much less irritating than other soaps and shower gels. Some people find some benefit in products containing aloe vera or urea or propolis. It's worth doing some research if you're looking to expand your arsenal of creams and potions, but examine your sources carefully. Look for proper medical studies which show statistically significant benefits. Anything else is hearsay and should be treated with healthy suspicion.

Of course, there's always the placebo effect. If you drink these juices and really believe that they'll work, you may experience some positive effects. But it's hard to turn belief on and off like that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:10 AM on January 27, 2010

And no, you should probably avoid using corticosteroids to treat your eczema during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Some good info here about that.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:12 AM on January 27, 2010

Agreeing with the first few posts here:

There are plenty of naturally occurring compounds out there that have some medical benefit. But, when they are actually shown to work, doctors tend to start using them and they stop being "alternative" medicine. It's a myth that doctors are reluctant to suggest natural remedies (depending on the doctor, of course). If anything, they probably tend to push them well before they show any benefit whatsoever. Doctors are just as susceptible to marketing hype in health food magazines as anyone else, and they don't necessarily know jack about interpreting scientific studies. It's certainly true that they push prescription drugs or surgeries before they're shown definitively to have any value.

There are no studies showing Acai does anything at all. It's pure marketing hype by the alternative medicine industrial complex. MAYBE it has benefits, but no one has shown that it does.

You can't have it both ways. Natural remedies either have no effect whatsoever, or they're powerful enough to treat conditions man-made medicines have trouble with, in which case they must have side effects that are every bit as dangerous as what prescription drugs have. Would you take a medicine that had unproven benefits and unstudied side effects?

From the Wikipedia article on Alternative Medicine:
Later in 2009 the complaints of critics were vindicated by the highly publicized negative results of ten years of big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (formerly OAM):

Ten years ago the government set out to test herbal and other alternative health remedies to find the ones that work. After spending $2.5 billion, the disappointing answer seems to be that almost none of them do...

posted by paanta at 5:55 AM on January 27, 2010

I should have said: "Would you take a medicine that had unproven benefits and unstudied side effects while pregnant?"
posted by paanta at 5:57 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

I know I am going up against SCIENCE here but I had chronic eczema for years which was sort of controlled by corticosteroids - by which I mean the outbreak would be shortened from around a month to around two weeks. I started taking evening primrose oil (1500 mg / 2x a day) a few years ago and the eczema is completely gone for the first time in ten years. I have recommended this to others and some have had the exact same experience - chronic to gone - and some have seen no effect, so YMMV.
posted by shothotbot at 6:01 AM on January 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

shothotbot, you're not really going up against science. There have been quite a few studies of evening primrose oil as a treatment for eczema. The results have been pretty mixed on the whole, but that doesn't mean it isn't effective to some degree.

A lot of evidence points to eczema being caused by a combination of food sensitivities and mineral and vitamin deficiencies. Zinc, Vitamin B6 and Magnesium deficiencies are often noted in eczema sufferers.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 6:26 AM on January 27, 2010

I'm a mod on a forum and, judging by the volume of new-member registrations we get that end up being Acai berry/juice spammers, my vote would be that the supposed benefits are bogus (that is to say, the claimed benefits beyond the fairly universal benefits of consuming juices)
posted by Thorzdad at 6:31 AM on January 27, 2010

I don't have any idea whether acai would help with eczema. (Though I kinda doubt it would.)

It is, however, super-crazy delicious (imho), so I still recommend it. I can't imagine that it would be harmful during pregnancy -- people in parts of Brazil seemed to consume it essentially all the time, without apparent ill effects. I didn't notice pregnant women steering clear of it.

On that note, actually: given how big a part of the diet it seemed to be in the Amazonas region, I might expect any purported eczema-curing powers of acai to show up as a low incidence of ezcema in that population. At very quick glance, there doesn't seem to be a significantly lower incidence of eczema in Amazonas, so maybe consider that as more grist for the mill.
posted by chalkbored at 6:44 AM on January 27, 2010

Probably not, but what have you got to lose in trying? These are pretty healthy things filled with antioxidants and they taste great too. Do it for the taste and see if you get any secondary benefits.
posted by caddis at 7:41 AM on January 27, 2010

In fact, they're likely quite beneficial during pregnancy (and at other times). Berries, particularly Açai, are loaded with folates. Folates have been found to be really good for prenatal development, especially for health nerve and brain growth. You absolutely won't go wrong with eating more berries or juices. In general, the more intense the colour, the better they are for you and your sprogling.
posted by bonehead at 8:00 AM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the feedback. My thoughts are along the same lines, that there is little proven evidence. But then after hearing a lot of personal success stories I wonder if like caddis says, it wouldn't just hurt to try it.

But on the other hand I'm also wondering if there could be any potential negative effects for pregnancy, especially since people recommend it in the highly concentrated form (drinking just a few ounces per day).

Also, not to mention it's pretty expensive. Any more ideas or personal experiences would be great. Thanks!
posted by roaring beast at 9:27 AM on January 27, 2010

I was once overtaken with ezcema though, and for some reason or another ended up taking some homeopathic remedy which seemed to kill it. It was graphite pellets, if I remember correctly, but then again, homeopathy is complete nonsense and there's no detectable amount of the substance in the remedies... What's strange is that the second remedy we tried was the one that had measurable results, but maybe it was just confirmation bias/post hoc ergo propter hoc/placebo effect.

I have forgotten the details but a friend once took some homeopathic remedy for a minor skin condition (cold sores or some such thing) and it seemed to work better than any of the other OTC creams. Turns out that while there was indeed no detectable amount of the substance they listed as the active ingredient, they also listed as a non-active ingredient a form of vitamin that actually had been shown in studies to be effective in reducing symptoms. It's possible the same was true of your "homeopathic" remedy.
posted by Authorized User at 9:47 AM on January 27, 2010

Can you wait until after the baby is born to try drinking these concentrates? There are a lot of unknowns here. Even something as seemingly innocuous as too much Vitamin A can cause birth defects.
posted by Knowyournuts at 9:51 AM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: Knowyournuts, that is the kind of thing I am wondering about. Do you know anything (vitamins, etc) in the juices that might also be dangerous?

Not doing it now is probably the safest thing, but the eczema has gotten much worse during pregnancy, which leaves us looking for a remedy.
posted by roaring beast at 11:27 AM on January 27, 2010

I feel for you! My husband has eczema and it is so persistent.

While I can't find published studies that look at the effects of acai and goji on the fetus (likely it would be tested in a rodent model), there is one study that found mutagenic effects of concentrated acai. It used a common test for mutagenesis with yeast as the model. Yeast cells are more like human (both eukaryotes) than they are like bacteria (prokaryotes), but this still doesn't mean acai would for sure cause cancer in humans.

A Big However: Lots of dietary supplements are contraindicated in pregnancy. Things that are safe for our adult, fully developed bodies, can interfere with the formation of organs in a fetus. Most dietary supplements are not well-studied in this light. They contain all sorts of natural chemicals that have medicinal uses. (I'm sure you have even heard of accidental miscarriages caused by certain herbs.)

Overall, acai and goji don't seem to carry any warnings of this nature. But when you are drinking a concentrated juice, there might be a big asterisk depending on how concentrated it is.

Here is some text you might find interesting:

"Virtually no medicinal herb has been established as safe in pregnancy or breast-feeding, and even herbs that might seem safe because of their wide use in cooking could cause problems when they are taken in the form of highly concentrated extracts. For example, based on food use, it is unlikely that cooked garlic presents much risk; however, garlic supplements contain certain rather potent and potentially toxic ingredients present only in raw garlic. Few people eat large quantities of raw garlic on a regular basis, and therefore there is no long history of use to reassure us.

Some herbs are definitely known to be toxic in pregnancy, such as blue cohosh and pennyroyal. Other herbs that are traditionally regarded with caution during pregnancy include andrographis, boldo, catnip, essential oils, feverfew, juniper, licorice, nettle, red clover, rosemary, shepherd's purse, and yarrow, along with many others.

Modern research has raised concerns about many other herbs, as well. For example, the herb chasteberry has shown a theoretical potential for inhibiting milk supply. In addition, herbs with estrogen-like properties make scientists worry about possible effects on the fetus; these include soy, isoflavones, red clover, flaxseed, lignans, and hops.

There are also theoretical concerns that high intake of green tea could increase risk of birth defects by interfering with folate levels.

Further health concerns exist with traditional Chinese herbal combinations and Ayurvedic herbal combinations. These products have been found on occasion to contain toxic heavy metals, poisonous herbs, or unlabelled prescription drugs. For example, in one case report, a brain-damaged child born to a mother using an Ayurvedic formula was found to have the highest bloods levels of lead ever recorded in a living newborn. Analysis of the formula revealed a very high lead content, along with toxic levels of mercury. In general, it is probably accurate to say that no herb can be regarded as definitely benign."

You would probably not be surprised to know that one evolutionary theory for "morning sickness" is to keep the mother from eating anything dangerous during the baby's most fragile developmental stages.
posted by Knowyournuts at 12:07 PM on January 27, 2010

FWIW I have a bottle of "blended Acai berry juice" in the fridge. On the label it says " If pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications, consult your health care professional before taking this product".

Their website is;
posted by Taurid at 10:31 PM on February 9, 2010

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