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What is PABA? Why do we need it?

PABA is short for para-aminobenzoic acid. Although it is called an "acid," para-aminobenzoic acid is actually a type of water-soluble vitamin similar to the B vitamins. It is not considered an essential element.

Para-aminobenzoic acid has a protective effect on many parts of the body. It is used as an ingredient in various sunscreens to protect the skin against sunburn, aging, and some types of skin cancer that can be caused by excessive exposure to sunlight. It also aids in the production of red blood cells and folic acid, and is used in the metabolism of certain proteins. It is also believed to play a role in the fertility levels of males, although research on this subject has yet to be conducted thoroughly. There is also anecdotal evidence that oral supplementation with para-aminobenzoic acid can help restore gray hair to a darker color.

How much PABA should I take?

Most studies that have examined para-aminobenzoic acid have used dosages ranging between 300 milligrams to 12 grams per day. Any person taking amounts of para-aminobenzoic acid larger than 400 milligrams per day should consult a licensed health care provider.

What forms of PABA are available?

Para-aminobenzoic acid can be found in several types of grains and brans, along with wheat germ, molasses, yeast, and liver. It is also available as a nutritional supplement, but because it is mildly acidic, it can cause stomach irritation. A potassium salt version of para-aminobenzoic acid appears to be better tolerated in humans.

What can happen if I take too much PABA? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

While no serious side-effects have been noted in patients taking between 300 and 400 milligrams of para-aminobenzoic acid, larger amounts may cause low blood sugar, skin irritations, and in some instances, liver damage. Para-aminobenzoic may also call allergic reactions on the skin. Extremely large doses (more than 20 grams per day) may be fatal in small children.

Para-aminobenzoic acid appears to interfere with the activities of certain antibiotics known as "sulfa drugs." Therefore, it should not be taken when these medications are being used. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking para-aminobenzoic acid or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


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  • Worobec S, LaChine A. Dangers of orally administered para-aminobenzoic acid. JAMA 1984;251:2348.
  • 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.
  • 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.
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