Preparation H is a popular brand of medications used in the treatment of hemorrhoids. It was originally packaged in a tube like toothpaste, with a similar consistency. Wyeth, the maker of Preparation H, has also released the product in a suppository form, which is not as popular as the cream.
Preparation H dates from about 1935. The company now named Wyeth was incorporated in 1926 as American Home Products, or AHP, and "one of AHP's earliest prizes was the acquisition of a sunburn oil in 1935 that the company transformed into Preparation H, which became one of the world's best-selling hemorrhoid treatments." AHP changed its name to Wyeth in 2002.
Preparation H products come in a variety of formulations. Some are water based gel; some are petroleum jelly based. They range from simple moisturizers with witch-hazel astringent to preparations containing pharmacological ingredients such as phenylephrine, pramoxine and hydrocortisone. Some also contain ingredients of uncertain properties such as aloe vera, shark liver oil and yeast extract. Formulations available also vary with country.
An active ingredient in some Preparation H products is phenylephrine in a 0.25% concentration, a drug which constricts blood vessels. This drug is more commonly used as a decongestant in cold medications since restricting blood flow in the sinuses will reduce the amount of mucus they create. Since hemorrhoids are caused by inflamed blood vessels, this can reduce their size. Preparation H with hydrocortisone has only hydrocortisone as its active ingredient, in a 1% concentration. A witch hazel medicated wipe is also available under the Preparation H brand.
The Canadian formulation of Preparation H includes a yeast extract called BioDyne which has been removed from the formulation sold in the United States. This yeast extract is believed by many to remove wrinkles from skin and heal dry, cracked, and irritated skin. Thus the Canadian formulation has acquired a market in the United States as a skin cream.
Although much has been written against this practice, Preparation H is sometimes recommended as part of tattoo aftercare. The thought is that same properties that help soothe anal irritation also make it useful for calming the skin of a freshly implanted tattoo. Some claim it is less damaging to the tattoo than Petroleum jelly, which can have a tendency to pull ink out of a fresh design. There is no supporting evidence that either is true. For formations containing vasonconstrictor, this property reduces the amount of bleeding, by narrowing the blood vessels that supply the surface of the skin. It is also said to help prevent the formation of scar tissue when the tattoo heals. Dr. Jeff Herndon, resident assistant professor at the Dept. of Medicinal Chemistry at Virginia Commonwealth University's Medical College - referring to the formulation containing yeast extract and shark liver oil - says Preparation H should NOT be used for tattoos.
Plastic surgeons suggest Preparation-H can be used on the healing skin to prevent itching, because if you scratched the new skin before it heals into place, you could tear it loose.
In the 1960s Preparation H used the slogan "Effective even in cases of long standing".
For years it was rumored that Preparation H was the most shoplifted item in US supermarkets, because customers were embarrassed when getting to the cash register.