Complementary and alternative medicine in dermatology: an overview of selected modalities for the practicing dermatologist.
ABSTRACT According to survey data, 35-69% of patients with skin disease have used complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in their lifetime. A literature search on this subject reveals a number of studies on the efficacy of CAM treatment for dermatologic conditions, as well as a number of articles showing the growing prevalence of CAM use amongst patients suffering from these conditions. Given the consensus amongst these articles that dermatologists require increased education on CAM, this paper presents an overview of some of the most widely used systems of alternative medicine to serve as a tool for practicing dermatologists. Specifically, the history and theory behind psychocutaneous therapies, traditional Chinese medicine (including acupuncture), homeopathy, and Ayurvedic medicine will be described, along with current evidence for their efficacy and reports of their adverse effects. The authors conclude that more evidence and better studies are needed for each of the major CAM modalities before they may be considered as independent therapeutic options. Moreover, given the shortage of evidence supporting the efficacy and safety of CAM, dermatologists should obtain a thorough history of CAM use from their patients. In general, ingestible substances including most homeopathic, Ayurvedic, and traditional Chinese medicine herbal formulations that are not US FDA regulated should be viewed with caution as they may cause severe adverse effects such as arsenicosis and hepatotoxicity. On the other hand, less invasive techniques such as acupuncture and psychocutaneous therapies may be more acceptable given their low-risk profile. Ultimately, until the availability of more sound data, these treatments should primarily be used in combination with conventional treatment and rarely independently.