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Year : 2016  |  Volume : 37  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 56-61  

A single case study of treating hypertrophic lichen planus with Ayurvedic medicine

Department of Clinical Research, National Research Institute for Ayurvedic Drug Development, CCRAS, Kolkata, West Bengal, India

Date of Web Publication17-Jul-2017

Correspondence Address:
Kshirod Kumar Ratha
National Research Institute of Ayurvedic Drug Development, CCRAS, 4-CN Block, Sector-V, Bidhannagar, Kolkata - 700 091, West Bengal
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ayu.AYU_1_16

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Ayurvedic medicines are often considered effective for chronic and lifestyle disorders. Hypertrophic lichen planus (HLP) is a rare inflammatory skin condition and develops into squamous cell carcinoma in few cases. It has resemblance with Charma Kushtha mentioned in Ayurvedic classics. Conventional therapy used in this condition is unsatisfactory and is not free from side effects. A case of long-standing systemic steroid-dependent HLP is presented here which was intervened successfully with Ayurvedic modalities.

Keywords: Ayurveda, Charma Kushtha, Kshudra Kushtha, hypertrophicus lichen planus

How to cite this article:
Ratha KK, Barik L, Panda AK, Hazra J. A single case study of treating hypertrophic lichen planus with Ayurvedic medicine. AYU 2016;37:56-61

How to cite this URL:
Ratha KK, Barik L, Panda AK, Hazra J. A single case study of treating hypertrophic lichen planus with Ayurvedic medicine. AYU [serial online] 2016 [cited 2023 Mar 21];37:56-61. Available from: https://www.ayujournal.org/text.asp?2016/37/1/56/210941

   Introduction Top

Ayurvedic medicines are often considered effective for treating chronic and lifestyle-related diseases, and merely, few of them have been systematically evaluated for treating chronic illness.[1]

Hypertrophic lichen planus (HLP) is a subacute or chronic variant of lichen planus (LP) of unknown etiology.[2] It is an inflammatory disorder in which T-lymphocytes attack the basal epidermis, producing characteristic clinical and histological lesions. It occurs in middle age, and women are commonly affected than men.[3] It is characterized by epidermal hyperplasia in response to persistent itch and gets intense by stress.[4],[5] Squamous cell carcinoma, keratoacanthomas developing on the HLP of lower limbs have been reported.[6] Most recent conventional treatment of the HLP and LP disorders consists the use of topical and systemic corticosteroid, psoralen and ultraviolet A therapy, immunosuppressant, systemic retinoid, cyclosporine, and acitretin.[7],[8] All these drugs are proved to reduce the symptoms temporarily. In Ayurveda, this condition may be considered under Charma Kushtha, a type of Kshudra Kushtha (minor skin diseases), due to the similarity in signs and symptoms with HLP. Charma Kushtha is dominant of Vata Dosha and Kapha Dosha. In this condition, the skin over the patch becomes thick like the skin of an elephant (lichenification).[9] Herein, details of a systemic steroid-dependent HLP patient, effectively intervened with complex ayurvedic modalities, have been described. A substantial reduction in pruritus and improvement in the skin lesion were observed after a period of 4 months of regular treatment and 2-month follow-up. The improvement was observable through the follow-up photographs [Figure 1],[Figure 2],[Figure 3],[Figure 4].
Figure 1: Skin lesion (right leg) before treatment

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Figure 2: Skin lesion (left leg) before treatment

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Figure 3: Skin lesion (right leg) after treatment

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Figure 4: Skin lesion (left leg) after treatment

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   Case Report Top

Presenting concern

A 63-year-old male diagnosed with HLP by a dermatologist presented in the Outpatient Department (OPD) of National Research Institute of Ayurvedic Drug Development, Kolkata, West Bengal, India (OPD Regn. No. 3306/2014-15), with complaints of itchy, large verrucous lesions on medial malleolus of both legs for a long time. These symptoms were occurring off and on for the past 2 years and 5 months including a recurrence 2 months ago. He also had a history of hypertension and bronchial asthma and was on regular medication for it [Table 1].
Table 1: Timeline of the case

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Clinical findings

General examination

The general condition of the patient was good and without alterations in vital signs. He had a normal appetite, bowel and bladder habit, and regular sleep pattern. His Prakriti was Pitta-Kapha predominant, and he was assessed with mental stress on psychological evaluation.

Local examination

Cutaneous examination revealed solitary, well-circumscribed, slightly moist skin lesion measuring 9 cm × 6 cm, 6 cm × 4 cm seen over medial malleolus of the right and left leg, respectively. Few keratotic crusts appeared on the lesion of the left leg. The surrounding skin showed thickening and hyperpigmentation. The surface consisted of the slough and papillated excrescences closely grouped, aroused from the surrounding surface. No local tenderness or bleeding on manipulation was elicited, and no inguinal lymph nodes were involved. The mucous membranes were unaffected. No sign of varicose vein was observed on any of the legs. No such lesions of LP were found elsewhere on the body. However, hypopigmented lesions of vitiligo were seen on legs [Figure 1] and [Figure 2].


Previously done biopsy report of the lesions from dermatopathologist revealed the presence of hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, hypergranulosis, irregular downward elongation of the rete ridges, and foci of damage (liquefaction) to basal cell layer. The dermis was densely infiltrated by chronic inflammatory cells without any evidence of malignancy. The report was compatible with LP hypertrophicus.

Case conception and selection of ayurvedic treatment

Since the patient was told by the dermatologist about the prognosis of his condition and also became aware of the disadvantages of corticosteroid from some other sources, he had chosen Ayurvedic intervention for his condition. As there was no established Ayurvedic treatment available particularly for HLP, he was also explained about the uncertainty of the treatment.

Charma Kushtha is a clinical condition described in Ayurveda which resembles HLP. Ayurvedic perspective of this particular case presenting with pruritus and verrucous lesion can be established with clinical presentation. Itching, hyperkeratosis, sliminess, and thickness, all are the features of Kapha dominancy. Acanthosis (Karshnya) is the feature of aggravated Vata. On the basis of symptomatology, the disease can be equated with Kapha-Vata Kushtha. The etiology (Nidanam) of Kushtha is Visha (autoimmune), usually results from exposure to certain environmental factors or due to consumption of incompatible foods. Stress also plays a significant role in the case as excessive mental stress vitiates the Rasa Dhatu and Rasavaha Srotas, which is responsible for Kapha Dushti. The autoimmune nature of disease along with Kapha Dushti initially started as itchy lesion (Kandu) on both malleolus, which is Kapha predominant. Hence, the primary Dosha is Kapha when it involves the Rasa Dhatu and causes Kandu (Kapha Dushti), moist skin (Kapha Dushti), keratotic crust (Kapha-Vata), and thickening of skin (Shopha of hard form due to Vata-Kapha Dushti). Association of Rakta Dhatu leads to hyperpigmentation and acanthosis, and finally, moist skin (Srava) results from connection of Lasika. Varicosity of veins of lower limbs was not found in this case; however, medial malleolus affection is common due to poor vascularity. This all finally resulted into verrucous lesion (Vranam) which is also been told as complication of Kushtha.

The principle of management in the different stages of the Kushtha (skin diseases) includes eliminative procedures (therapeutic emesis, purgation, etc.), vein puncture, local applications, and internal administration of drugs.[10] Considering the involvement of Dosha and Dushya (pathognomonic factors) and analysis of causative factors (Hetu) of the disease, the patient was recommended a comprehensive Ayurvedic modalities, consisting of Aushadha (compound Ayurvedic formulations), Ahara (dietary modification), and Vihara (lifestyle modification) at OPD level. The drugs with Kapha Vataghn a (Doshahara) properties, along with Vishaharam, Kandughna, Kushthaghna, and Vranashodhanaropanam (Vyadhihara) properties, were chosen and prescribed at different stages in the case [Table 2].[11], [22], [23], [24], [25], [26]
Table 2: Ayurvedic drugs prescribed to the hypertrophic lichen planus case

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The patient was advised to report at an interval of 15 days or report as and when required for assessment. He was also advised to taper off the corticosteroid (prednisolone) dose over a period of 1 month in consultation with an allopathic doctor and also directed to continue the medications for hypertension and bronchial asthma as such [Table 1].

Follow-up and outcomes

Picture of the affected skin was taken at the time of initiation of the treatment and subsequently on every visit as per the methods used by Rastogi and Chaudhari [Figure 1],[Figure 2],[Figure 3],[Figure 4].[12] The subsequent observations were also noted [Table 1]. The patient was assessed clinically on every fortnight visit. The consecutive photographs were taken after each follow-up visit when compared with the before treatment status were able to exhibit the changes in the skin lesions [Figure 1],[Figure 2],[Figure 3],[Figure 4]. This shows a considerable improvement in the skin lesions following the therapy to the before treatment status. No adverse effect pertaining to the prescribed drug was also reported. On follow-up for 6 months, there was no recurrence of the lesions.

   Discussion Top

Charma Kushtha is a type of skin disease mentioned in Ayurveda under the classification of Kshudra Kushtha. The classical sign of Charma Kushtha is thickening of the skin like the skin of an elephant.[13] It is verrucous lichenification of skin and usually develops in patients with psoriasis, dry eczema, and LP. Treatment of Kushtha including all type Kushtha consists of purification therapy (Samshodhana),[14] internal and external administration of the drug (Samshamana).[15] Dietary and lifestyle modification also play an important role in the management of Kushtha.[16] The patient was suffering from a Kapha-Vata dominant Kushtha complicated with a Vranam (verrucous lesion). The association of HLP with vitiligo in the case may be due to a common autoimmune etiology. Coexistence of lesions of Becker's nevus along with vitiligo and LP was also reported.[17]

LP has a strong association with anxiety, stress, and diabetes.[3] In the presenting case, though the onset of disease can be linked with stress, the connotation of bronchial asthma in the case may due to common immunological linkage. HLP and few varieties of long-standing, erosive LP develop into Bowen's disease, a premalignant condition, and squamous cell carcinoma. Although the disease is diagnosed from its clinical features, biopsy is often recommended to make the diagnosis and to look for cancer. The current conventional treatment involves topical and a long course of oral steroids, calcineurin inhibitors, retinoid, acitretin, hydroxychloroquine, methotrexate, azathioprine, and phototherapy. Various studies had shown the use of indigenous medicines in oral LP.[18],[19] There are also limitations for the use and drawbacks of topical steroids and systemic glucocorticoids because of suppression of hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and other systemic side effects.[20] Ayurvedic principles have shown potential to be used in noncommunicable and lifestyle disorders. These are convenient, safe, and least expensive in compare to the conventional method of treatment.[21] Herein, the drugs, dietary, and lifestyle modifications were chosen [Table 2] on the basis of Nidanam (causative factors of disease), involvement of dominant Dosha (Kapha-Vata), and nature of the disease (Vyadhi). Formulations having Kaphavataharam, Vishaharam, Kandughna, Kushthaghna, and Vranashodhanaropanam properties were used. Blood-letting (Rakta-Mokshana) is also one of the effective treatments.

Aragwadhadi Kashayam used in the case is Kushthaghna, Vishaghna, and having Shamanam (pacificatory) properties. It is effective in Kandu, Prameha and acts as Dushta Vranavishodhaka. Patolamuladi Kashayam is also Kaphahara, Kushthahara, and Vishahara. It is used for Shodhana (purification and bowel cleansing). Triphala is Shotha-Kleda-Vranahara and Vishahara. Jatyadi Ghrita used in the case, intend for Vranashodhanaropanam (cleansing and healing of wound). Tutha (CuSo4) being its one of the ingredient, it has cleansing action on slough. Major ingredients of Arogyavardhini Vati are Gandhaka (Sulfur), Katuki (Picrorhiza Kurroa), Nimba (Aristolochia indica), which are the versatile drugs for all type of skin diseases. It also contains Tamra (Copper), which has scrapping (Lekhana and Vranashodhana action) and acts on Lasika. Further, Arogyavardhini Vati is a panacea by its name and a good medicine for liver. It is helpful in Pachana (metabolism) of Ama Visha and corrects the production of vitiated Rasa Dhatu in the body.

The modalities adopted in the case may be applied to the similar case too. However, a trial with one or two formulations may be proposed to assess further role of Ayurveda. The post treatment biopsy could not be done to compare with the baseline data is the limitation of the study. Further to validate the therapy for HLP, the trial may be performed in an adequate number of patients along with a comparison of biopsy at the baseline level and after completion of therapy.

   Conclusion Top

HLP is a rare and difficult skin condition to cure. It is notorious for its recurrence and has also the possibility to develop into squamous cell carcinoma. The conventional treatment options available are also not satisfactory and are not free from systemic side effects. This observation endorses a step toward the practice of Ayurvedic intervention in HLP.


We are thankful to the participant for providing informed consent to publish the result of the study. We are also grateful to Dr. S. Choudhury, Consultant Pathologist, Kolkata, for critical revision of the case presentation and discussion portion of the manuscript.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

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  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3], [Figure 4]

  [Table 1], [Table 2]

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