The cause of the irritation can be mechanical, such as products containing ground rose hips. Another common ingredient is Mucuna pruriens, a type of legume that produces seedpods coated with thousands of detachable spicules (needle-like hairs), the spicules contain an enzyme (mucunain) that causes severe itching, and they have been sold commercially as itching powder. Mucuna pruriens has been used to test the efficacy of anti-itch drugs.
The term "itching powder" is colloquial; there is no one specific source of the powder, though some gag companies do tend to have favourites. Two very common, accessible, and fairly harmless (though not entirely – itching powder can be very dangerous when abused) sources are maple samara and rosehips. These are used in home recipes popularized by sites that publish how-to guides such as wikiHow and eHow. For the safety of the maker and of the victim, gloves (dust mask, and glasses as itching powder is a mouth and eye irritant) and caution are strongly encouraged whenever handling the processed powder. Rosehips contain prickly hairs that are used as the active ingredient, whereas the body (rather than the wing) of the bigleaf maple samara is covered with spiny hairs that cause skin irritation, and are used to make itching powder.
- Albert MR. Novelty shop "itching powder." Australasian J Dermatology. 1998 Aug;39(3):188–89.
- "Itching powder prank affects dozens of Cobb County students". FOX5Atlanta.com. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
- G.V. Joglekar, M.B. Bhide J.H. Balwani. An experimental method for screening antipruritic agents. British Journal of Dermatology. Volume 75 Issue 3 p. 117. March 1963
- "Epidemiologic Notes and Reports Mucuna pruriens- Associated Pruritus – New Jersey". Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 6 December 1985. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
- Phytopharmacy: An Evidence-Based Guide to Herbal Medicinal Products. John Wiley & Sons. 27 April 2015. p. 324. ISBN 9781118543566.
- Hebda, R. "Plant profile: Acer macrophyllum" (PDF). NPSBC, menziesia. Native Plant Society of British Columbia. p. 14. Archived from the original (pdf) on 26 January 2007.
- "Itching Powder". MicrolabNW Photomicrograph Gallery. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
- "Maple Seed Hair". MicrolabNW Photomicrograph Gallery. Retrieved 15 July 2018.
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