Complementary/alternative medicine in dermatology: evidence-assessed efficacy of two diseases and two treatments

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2002;3(5):341-8. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200203050-00006.


The objective of this article is to provide a brief, but critical, overview of the evidence related to complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) use, and to offer valid and useful information for dermatologists in clinical practice. Systematic literature searches were conducted on these databases: Medline, EMBASE, The Cochrane Library, CISCOM and AMED (until October 2000). Where appropriate, the evaluation of the published literature was based on systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials. After scanning the literature it was decided to focus on a selection of two conditions (atopic dermatitis and chronic venous insufficiency) and two treatment modalities (aloe vera gel and tea tree oil). Data for the life-time prevalence of CAM use by patients with dermatological disease ranges between 35 to 69%. The most popular modalities include herablism and (other) dietary supplements, while atopic dermatitis is one of the conditions most frequently treated with CAM. For patients with atopic dermatitis the evidence relates to autogenic training, hypnotherapy, diet, herbal medicine, and dietary supplements. Compelling evidence of effectiveness exists for none of these therapies. However, some promising data have been reported for those with a psychological component: autogenic training, biofeedback and hypnotherapy. For chronic venous insufficiency there is relatively convincing evidence for the effectiveness of oral horse chestnut seed extract. The data for aloe vera gel and tea tree oil indicate that for neither is there compelling evidence of effectiveness. The use of CAM treatments is not free of risk; direct and indirect risks associated with CAM must be considered.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Chronic Disease
  • Complementary Therapies* / adverse effects
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / therapy*
  • Dermatology
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Leg / blood supply*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Venous Insufficiency / therapy*