Integrative medicine as adjunct therapy in the treatment of atopic dermatitis--the role of traditional Chinese medicine, dietary supplements, and other modalities

Clin Rev Allergy Immunol. 2013 Jun;44(3):242-53. doi: 10.1007/s12016-012-8315-1.


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is becoming increasingly prevalent in the pediatric population, with rates reportedly as high as 18-25 %. Westernized medicine has traditionally used a combination of emollients, antihistamines, corticosteroids, and immunomodulating agents to combat this often frustrating disease. Of late, integrative medicine has become the subject of more research as concerns grow regarding prolonged use of corticosteroids and their side effects in pediatric patients. Probiotics have been extensively studied to define their role in the treatment and prevention of AD in children. Unfortunately, results are varying showing significant improvement in some patients but not all. With regard to prevention, studies show that the use of probiotics during pregnancy does decrease the incidence of AD in children. Prebiotics and synbiotics are also a conceivable option for prevention of AD. A number of studies on Chinese herbal medicine have been performed, with a collective result of symptom improvement and decreased levels of inflammatory cytokines. However, there were reports of asymptomatic transaminitis in a few patients that warrant further testing. While the herbs tested in more recent randomized clinical trials were free from corticosteroids, a previous study showed high levels of dexamethasone in unlabeled herbal eczema creams. Vitamins and minerals have also been suggested as an alternative treatment of AD. Studies however have not yet demonstrated improvement of AD with vitamin or mineral supplementation. Topical vitamin B(12) is the exception to this; however, no topical vitamin B(12) preparation is available for use. Finally, relaxation techniques are also being investigated as adjunctive methods of treatment, but well-designed scientific studies are lacking.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / etiology
  • Dermatitis, Atopic / therapy*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine*
  • Medicine, Chinese Traditional / adverse effects
  • Probiotics
  • Synbiotics