Background: Atopic Dermatitis (AD) is a chronic relapsing dermatosis associated with itch,
sleep disturbance and poor quality of life. Treatment of AD includes the use of emollients, and topical
and systemic immunomodulating agents. Many patients also use complementary and alternative medicine
Objective: This article reviews the pathophysiology of AD, clinical trials and recent patents involving
various modalities of CAM in the treatment of AD.
Methods: A Medline/Pubmed search was conducted using Clinical Queries with the key terms “Chinese
Medicine OR Complementary and Alternative medicine” AND “Eczema OR Atopic dermatitis”.
The search strategy included meta-analyses, Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), clinical trials, reviews
and pertinent references. Patents were searched using the key term "atopic dermatitis" from
www.google.com/patents, www.uspto.gov, and www.freepatentsonline.com.
Results: Only a few RCTs evaluated the efficacy of Chinese medicinal herbs in treating AD. There was
some evidence for other modalities of CAM. Integrative Medicine (IM) usually refers to the various
forms of CAM that combine conventional western medicine and Chinese medicine. Supporting evidence
for the efficacy of IM in the treatment of AD is presently lacking. Integration is difficult. Western
medicine practitioners are often ignorant about CAM and IM. Parents are concerned about the potential
side effects of Western medicine and will tend to be non-compliant with the conventional Western
component of IM. Recent patents on CAM and IM are reviewed. Most CAM patents are herbal
compositions, evidence on their efficacy is generally lacking.
Conclusion: AD is a complex disease. The psychodynamics of the child and his/her family is the reason
for the often suboptimal outcomes. Both Western and CAM practitioners should collaborate to
create a mutually encouraging environment for the advances of IM. CAM and IM publications and
patents are reviewed. Evidence of their efficacy is generally lacking. Further research is needed.