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Itching powder is a skin irritant that usually causes inflammation and itching on the affected area. Almost all itching powders are made from natural ingredients that many may find outside their home. The most common ingredients are maple tree seed pods, rosehip, and mucuna pruriens, among other plants. Itching powder also goes by the names "tickling powder" and "pranking powder." It is normally used by children for pranks and practical jokes.
The mildest itching powders are usually homemade and contain irritants that are generally readily accessible. The hairs from the seed pods of maple trees are one such ingredient. Children usually rub the pods together and gather the hairs that fall. They can be used as they are, or crushed to make a fine powder.
Rosehip or dog rose is another common ingredient in homemade and store-bought itching powder. It is stronger than maple seed pods, but is still not the most severe. Like the maple tree seeds and other natural itching powders, it is the seed of the rosehip that carries the fibers causing a person to itch.
Perhaps the strongest of the ingredients used in itching powder are mucuna pruriens, which are tropical seeds with orange hairs. Like the others, the hairs are dried and crushed into a powder form. The itching is so severe that it may have long-term effects, mostly due to the excessive scratching that most people have.
Other things used in itching powder include enzymes found in okra pods, which cause severe irritation, and the hairs on the London plane leaf. The hairs on prickly pears are also occasionally crushed to make the powder. Usually, no other ingredients are used in the powder beyond the natural ingredients.
Itching powders react differently on the skin. One way it works is by inducing an itching sensation once it is rubbed against the skin. This means scratching usually worsens symptoms as it only rubs the powder on the skin more, and the only way to relief the itching is by washing. This is called mechanical irritation. Maple seed pods are one such irritant.
The ingredients in other itching powder cause contact dermatitis. This is the standard name for a skin rash with itching and inflammation caused by an irritant. In most cases, the itching caused by the ingredients is mild and will disappear after the area is washed. Some irritants, however, such as the mucuna pruriens cause severe itching, which may also require the use of an anti-itch cream.