Nobody knows what causes lichen planus, a condition that results in mouth lesions and skin rashes. Physicians, however, strongly suspect that their patients’ own immune systems, or responses to foreign substances that produce an allergic reaction, are behind it. Traditional treatments include antihistamines, corticosteroids, numbing mouthwashes and soothing creams — all directed at easing symptoms. Now some researchers think that a handful of herbal remedies may someday join the list of symptom-relieving remedies for this disease.

The best estimate of how many people have lichen planus is a very rough one: about one percent of men and 1.6 percent of women; and most sufferers are middle-aged. While mild symptoms may not require treatment, there are plenty of people who would welcome a cure or better treatments for tender or painful mouth lesions or itchy skin rashes.

A review of the few research papers that describe experiments testing the effectiveness of herbs suggests that aloe vera, purslane and curcumin may have potential for healing mouth lesions associated with lichen planus. When the condition is associated hepatitis C infection, preliminary studies suggest that licorice might be worth a closer look in more controlled, scientific studies.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, lichen planus in most cases is not harmful and goes away by itself in 18 months or sooner. A sore in the mouth that lasts much longer than that should be treated aggressively because it can become malignant. Check with your physician if your symptoms linger, get worse or if the appearance of the sores or rash changes.