From medical herbalism to phytotherapy in dermatology: back to the future

Dermatol Ther. 2003;16(2):106-13. doi: 10.1046/j.1529-8019.2003.01618.x.


Plant-based therapeutic preparations are cyclically returning to complement dermatologic therapy. They serve as therapeutic alternatives, safer choices, or in some cases, as the only effective treatment. Folk medicine tradition provides different indicators for use than the medical disease model. Advantages of multiple synergistic components of crude extracts are discussed, as well as herbs already used in dermatology. Bitter digestive stimulants are used for vitiligo. Bioflavinoids from buckwheat and horse chestnut are used for varicose veins, and silymarin is used for liver protection. Gotu kola and sarsaparilla are used for inflammatory skin conditions. Oregon grape root has synergistic antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and bile-stimulating properties which make the crude extract useful in acne. Philosophical differences in herbology compared to medicine exist in the application of science toward improving elimination and strengthening the host as opposed to destroying the vector or manifestation of the disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Herbal Medicine
  • Humans
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use*
  • Plants, Medicinal*
  • Skin Diseases / drug therapy*


  • Plant Extracts