Information about anthralin and its uses in the treatment of psoriasis, including short-contact therapy (SCAT) and information on side-effects, including staining and irritation.

Anthralin (also known as Dithranol or Cignolin) is a topical psoriasis treatment that has been used dermatologically for over a hundred years. It’s not as “popular” a treatment as, say, steroids, but many of those people who do use it find it very effective. The treatment is typically used in one of two forms. One is SCAT, or Short-Contact Anthralin Therapy, where a high-concentration form of the drug is applied for a matter of minutes and then washed off. The other form has no particular name, but is basically the opposite of SCAT, where a low-strength anthralin compound is left on the skin for long periods of time.

With either treatment, anthralin’s primary side-effect is staining of skin, clothes and just about everything else. This is one reason for SCAT, in which the medication is washed off after a short time, so that with luck, nothing will be discolored. Patients using long-term contact anthralin therapy, on the other hand, find that rubbing the drug into the skin very thoroughly may eliminate staining problems.

Anthralin may also cause irritation of the normal skin around plaques where anthralin is applied. Once again, SCAT is an attempt to minimize this possible effect, but simply by being careful about the drug’s application (“painting” it on with a cotton swab, for example) will also reduce the problems without the necessity of washing the medication off. This depends very much on the strength of the drug, however. High-strength anthralin products should probably always be washed off.

No long-term studies have been done into the questions of anthralin’s effects on pregnancy. A similar lack of studies exists regarding human skin tumors, although none have yet been reported (studies in mice have shown an increase in skin cancer when anthralin was applied, but it’s not known whether the results of those tests can be treated equally for human skin).

Please note that while the information here is, technically, unreviewed (to my own standards), none of the authors at the links here make any bizarre claims about this drug, really. Obviously, talk things over with your doctor, but I consider all the links here to be “safe.”

General Medical Information

Doctors and Clinics


Clearing of Resistant Psoriasis With Anthralin,” Weigand and Everett, Archives of Dermatology, 1967;96(5):554-559.


Ray W. Johnson, MDBroken Link has done anthralin research, as has Charles N. Ellis, MDBroken Link

A New England Journal of Medicine book review of Death of Medicine in Nazi Germany: Dermatology and Dermatopathology under the SwastikaBroken Link claims, parenthetically, that Eugen Galewsky was the doctor “responsible for introducing anthralin in the treatment of psoriasis.”