Alternative Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis: An Update


Atopic dermatitis (AD) is a chronic pruritic inflammatory skin disease in which management with topical anti-inflammatory agents during exacerbations remains the mainstay of treatment. With no cure in sight, a significant proportion of patients elect to incorporate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) as an adjunct to conventional treatment. Many clinicians find it difficult to provide recommendations as the field covers an extensive number of very disparate therapies, with limited quality evidence to indicate efficacy. Since publication of the last review on this topic in the Journal that compiled and analyzed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) on CAMs in 2015, several new studies have surfaced. This update aims to aggregate and review these new data. A literature search was conducted in the PubMed, EMBASE, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and Global Resource for EczemA Trials (GREAT) databases for RCTs on complementary and alternative therapies in AD from March 2015 through May 2018, resulting in 15 studies being included in this review. The preliminary results for many treatments such as vitamin E, East Indian Sandalwood Oil (EISO), melatonin, l-histidine, and Manuka honey show positive clinical effects, but there is currently not enough evidence to recommend their use in AD therapy. Future investigative efforts should focus on reproducing some of these studies with a larger sample size whose clinical characteristics and demographics are more reflective of the general AD population, and standardizing the process to produce reliable data.

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Fig. 1


  1. 1.

    PTQXT is composed of nine herbs: Radix pseudostellariae, Forsythia suspensa, Ramulus Uncariae cum Uncis, Medulla Junci, Herba lophatheri, Semen coicis, Rhizoma dioscoreae, Concha ostreae, and Radix glycyrrhizae

  2. 2.

    External herbal wash is composed of Rhizoma Polygonati, Flos Lonicerae, Radix Glycyrrhizae, and Herba Menthae


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Correspondence to Peter A. Lio.

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No sources of funding were used to prepare this review.

Conflict of interest

Katherine Shi and Peter A. Lio report no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this review.

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Shi, K., Lio, P.A. Alternative Treatments for Atopic Dermatitis: An Update. Am J Clin Dermatol 20, 251–266 (2019).

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