The C.A.M. Report
Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Fair, Balanced, and to the Point
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    This blog is intended as an objective and dispassionate source of information on the latest CAM research. Since my background is in pharmacy and allopathic medicine, I view all CAM as advancing through the development pipeline to eventually become integrated into mainstream medical practice. Some will succeed while others fail. But all are treated fairly here.

  • About the author

    John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.

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    The material on this weblog is for informational purposes. It is not medical advice or counsel. Be smart, consult your health professional before using CAM.

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Acne: Recommendations are easy; data, scarce

Herbalists recommend more than a dozen herbal remedies for acne and scarring, according to a recent article.

Unfortunately, only 1 of these herbals is supported by the results of a study in patients.

First, the details.

  • The study was of 5% topical tea tree oil gel.
  • 60 patients with mild to moderate acne vulgaris were randomly assigned to 45 days of treatment.
    • 5% topically applied tea tree oil gel
    • Placebo
  • Response to treatment was evaluated by counting the acne lesions and the acne severity index.
  • Neither the patients nor researchers knew the treatment given — double blind.

And, the results.

  • Tea tree oil gel was significantly superior to placebo in reducing the total acne lesion count — 3.55 times more effective.
  • There was significantly greater improvement with tea tree oil gel vs. placebo in acne severity — 5.75 times.
  • Side effects to both treatments were relatively similar and tolerable.

Here’s a list of commonly recommended herbals that lack support based on the findings of PubMed literature searches of patients with acne.

  • Black currant seed oil
    • 500 mg capsules 3 times daily for 3 months or until acne is diminished.
  • Evening primrose oil
    • 500 mg capsules 3 times daily for 3 months or until acne is diminished.
  • Teas from a combination of echinacea, tea tree oil, goldenseal, nettles, or calendula.
  • Teas from lavender or chamomile
    • To reduce acne-causing stress.
  • Chinese herbs
    • Cnidium seed
    • Honeysuckle flower
  • Teas from cumin, coriander, and fennel
    • Steeped for 10 minutes in hot water and consumed 3 times a day after meals.

The bottom line?
It’s surprising how detailed the treatment recommendations are considering the lack of evidence that these herbals make a positive contribution to the management of acne.

4/19/09 21:17 JR

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