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para-amino benzoic acid (PABA)
growth factor for micro-organisms. It forms part of
the molecule of
folic acid and is therefore required for
the synthesis of this vitamin. Mammals cannot
synthesize folic acid, and PABA has no other known
function; there is no evidence that it is a human
Sulphanilamides (sulpha drugs) are chemical analogues of PABA, and exert their antibacterial action by antagonizing PABA utilization.
Also indexed as: Para-aminobenzoic Acid
The most well-known property of PABA is as an effective sunscreen, when used topically. Oral PABA supplementation has not been shown to possess any sunscreening properties.2
An isolated trial published in 1942 reported that 12 of 16 infertile women were able to become pregnant after supplementing with 100 mg of PABA taken four times per day for three to seven months.3 The effect of PABA on fertility has not been studied in modern research.
Researchers have attempted to discover whether large amounts of PABA would be helpful in various connective tissue disorders. Although preliminary studies have reported that PABA (12 grams per day) was helpful to people with scleroderma,4 5 6 a double-blind trial found that supplementation with PABA did not lead to improvement.7
Older published reports of uncontrolled investigations suggest that PABA may be helpful in a variety of conditions, including dermatomyositis,8 Peyronie’s disease (accumulation of abnormal fibrous tissue in the penis),9 pemphigus (a severe blistering disease),10 and vitiligo (a disorder in which patches of skin lose their pigmentation).11 However, PABA was reported to cause vitiligo in one report.12
Older preliminary reports found that PABA darkened gray hair in a minority of elderly (but not younger) people.13 In these trials between 200 and 600 mg of PABA was taken per day for several months, in some cases accompanied by other B vitamins. However, at least one other study found that PABA did not darken gray hair.14 Therefore, the evidence supporting the use of PABA as a way to return gray hair to its original color remains very weak.
PABA has been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a
substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
An herb is primarily supported by traditional use, or the herb or supplement has little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
No interactions between PABA and other nutrients have been reported. However, PABA interferes with sulfa drugs (a class of antibiotics) and therefore should not be taken when these medications are being used.
Are there any drug interactions? Certain medications may interact with PABA. Refer to the drug interactions safety check for a list of those medications.
1. Wiesel LL, Barritt AS, Stumpe WM. The synergistic action of para-aminobenzoic acid and cortisone in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. Am J Med Sci 1951;222:243–8.
2. Willis I, Kligman AM. Aminobenzoic acid and its esters. The quest for more effective sunscreens. Arch Dermatol 1970;102:405–17.
3. Sieve BF. The clinical effects of a new B-complex factor, para-aminobenzoic acid, on pigmentation and fertility. South Med Surg 1942(March);104:135–9.
4. Zarafonetis CJD. The treatment of scleroderma: results of potassium para-aminobenzoate therapy in 104 cases. In: Mills LC, Moyer JH eds. Inflammation and Diseases of Connective Tissue. Philadelphia: W. B. Saunders Co. 1961, 688–96.
5. Zarafonetis CJD, Dabich L, Negri D, et al. Retrospective studies in scleroderma: effect of potassium para-aminobenzoate on survival. J Clin Epidemiol 1988;41:193–205.
6. Zarafonetis CJ, Dabich L, Devol EB, et al. Retrospective studies in scleroderma: pulmonary findings and effect of potassium p-aminobenzoate on vital capacity. Respiration 1989;56:22–33.
7. Clegg DO, Reading JC, Mayes MD, et al. Comparison of aminobenzoate potassium and placebo in the treatment of scleroderma. J Rheumatol 1994;21:105–10.
8. Grace WJ, Kennedy RJ, Formato A. Therapy of scleroderma and dermatomyositis. NY State J Med 1963;63:140–4.
9. Zarafonetis CJD. Treatment of Peyronie’s disease with potassium para-aminobenzoate. J Urol 1959;81:770–2.
10. Zarafonetis CJD, Curtis AC, Shaw JM. Treatment of pemphigus with potassium para-aminobenzoate. Am J Med Sci 1956;231:30–50.
11. Sieve BF. Further investigations in the treatment of vitiligo. Virginia Med Monthly 1945(January):6–17.
12. Hughes CG. Oral PABA and vitiligo. J Am Acad Dermatol 1983;9:770 [letter].
13. Gaby AR. The story of PABA. Nutr Healing 1997;March:3–4, 11 [review].
14. Zarafonetis CJD. Darkening of gray hair during para-amino-benzoic acid therapy. J Invest Dermatol 1950;15:399–401.
15. Kantor GR, Ratz JL. Liver toxicity from potassium para-aminobenzoate. J Am Acad Dermatol 1985;13:671–2.
16. Hughes CG. Oral PABA and vitiligo. J Am Acad Dermatol 1983;9:770 [letter].
17. Worobec S, LaChine A. Dangers of orally administered para-aminobenzoic acid. JAMA 1984;251:2348.
18. Zarafonetis CJD, Grekin RH, Curtis AC, et al. Further studies on the treatment of lupus erythematosus with sodium para-aminobenzoate. J Invest Dermatol 1948;11:359.
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