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Complementary and Alternative Medicine at a Glance
  • Complementary medicine is a holistic approach to diagnosis and treatment.
  • Many dermatologic therapies developed in ways similar to the complementary approach and were subsequently scientifically validated.
  • Attention to the environment and its impact on the patient is a fundamental principle of complementary dermatology. This means our world dermatology organizations have an obligation to speak out about what is harming the skin, health, as it is related.
  • Herbal therapeutics, supplements, diet, and digestive system aid are four of the primary interventions used in holistic dermatology.

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in dermatology encompasses a wide variety of methods of diagnosis and treatment that either supplement or substitute for conventional dermatologic practice. It is also referred to as holistic dermatology because it considers and addresses the entirety of the individual, including the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of the individual's life, as appropriate. Holistic dermatology draws on an expanded knowledge base that includes CAM, conventional practice, and the latest research findings. Its diagnostic and therapeutic choices are made by combining these three knowledge bases, in what might also be termed integrative dermatology.

The alternative healthcare systems considered by holistic dermatology may include time-honored practices such as ancient traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, American folk medicine, homeopathy along with more recently developed techniques from chiropractic, energetic medicine, functional medicine, and psychosomatic modalities. Furthermore, holistic dermatology includes any other technique that works or makes sense based on science or observation.

Increasingly, patients are using CAM methods in addition to conventional dermatological treatment as cosmeceutical, nutraceutical, and even pharmacological manufacturers more routinely offer these products. CAM practitioners and dermatologists are being called upon to respond to their patients’ expectations, preferences and demands for therapeutic modalities and treatments that avoid or minimize use of prescription drugs, and are safe, natural, and effective.

Alternative medicine often embraces treatment that not only presages but also may ultimately be incorporated into conventional practice. Good CAM practice is rooted in basic science, clinical experience and good medicine, but it often lacks the sanctioned level of proof we have come to demand for scientific, allopathic dermatology. Further, CAM practices arise and are developed differently from conventional practices. For example, when a growing body of anecdotal experience is supported by the understanding of underlying mechanisms of pathology, particular CAM approaches to illness are employed, even before the methods are validated in the usual ways. Many of these methods are difficult to study or assess using conventional research methods because they relate to the individual rather than to the disease or condition itself.

Many CAM methods and practices have slowly been incorporated into more conventional practice and some have gained widespread acceptance and use. Examples include the increasing use of probiotics, which had its tentative beginnings in the 1980s, to counter Candida overgrowth in the gut, which was later shown to enhance barrier ...

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