Robert J. Signore, DO
Dr. Signore is in private practice, Tinley Park, Illinois.
Dr. Signore reports no conflicts of interest in relation to this post.
Homeopathic medicine (HM) is one of the most widely used forms of complementary medicine in the world.1 It is a low-cost nontoxic system of natural healing used by millions of people worldwide.2 According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, US adults spent $2.9 billion out-of-pocket on the purchase of HMs in 2007.3 Homeopathic medicine differs from herbal medicine in that HM does not contain substantial pharmacologic amounts of active substances in commonly used dilutions. Hence HMs do not interact with conventional drugs.1 Homeopathic medicines are regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration as drugs per the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.4 The mechanism of action of HM is unknown.
But the world of medicine revolves around scientific research! Are there any clinical studies to support the use of HM in modern dermatology? Homeopathic medicines have been reported to be effective for recurrent minor aphthous ulcers, prevention of acute radiation dermatitis, oral lichen planus, pediatric eczema, atopic dermatitis, psoriasis, pruritus, and edema.6-17 In some cases, patients were able to reduce the amount of conventional dermatologic treatment.
Modern dermatologists have every right to be proud of our therapeutic milestones and achievements. However, these studies suggest that HM also could be helpful to dermatologists. Homeopathic medicine is commonly used by homeopathic practitioners to reduce antibiotic usage in acne vulgaris. Nondermatologic conditions may improve during homeopathic treatment. Because HM is helpful in treating hyperhidrosis, it can be used for patients who cannot afford botulinum toxin injections. Homeopathic medicine also can be used for treating dermatoses for which there are no effective treatments (eg, lichen striatus).18 Homeopathic medicine might benefit dermatologists on medical missions, as homeopathic remedies are inexpensive, easy to transport, and do not require refrigeration. Could HM help prevent acute allergic contact dermatitis in poison ivy–sensitive patients?
Homeopathic training is available through conferences19 and distance learning courses.20 Homeopathic medicine courses could be offered during dermatology training as they are in Romania (C. Nwabudike, MD, written communication, 2012). Homeopathic medicine could provide opportunities for resident research. Further studies are needed to define the role of classical HM in modern dermatology.
Have you tried the classical homeopathic approach in treating your dermatology patients? Have you found it helpful in the management of common dermatoses? The future of dermatology is fraught with many obstacles and hurdles. We have many greatly effective, albeit expensive, therapies that our patients need but are not paid for by Medicare, Medicaid, and third-party payers. Homeopathic remedies cost $10 or less for a 20-day supply. Might HM be an economical alternative, perhaps even for a small portion of our dermatology patients? As time goes on, topical and systemic antibiotic resistance to Propionibacterium acnes continues to increase. Shortages of antibiotics, such as tetracycline, are becoming commonplace. Old standbys such as plain benzoyl peroxide wash or gel have become hard to come by or markedly expensive. Could HM provide an inexpensive alternative to help even some of our acne patients reduce their usage of topical and system antibiotics? I welcome your thoughts and comments.
1. Chung Y, Dumont RC. Complementary and alternative therapies: use in pediatric pulmonary medicine. Pediatr Pulmonol. 2011;46:530-544.
2. Goldberg B, ed. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide. Tiburon, CA: Future Medicine Publishing, Inc; 1999:272-280.
3. Nahin RL, Barnes PM, Stussman BJ, et al. Costs of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and frequency of visits to CAM practitioners: United States, 2007. Natl Health Stat Report. 2009;18:1-14.
4. US Food and Drug Administration. CPG Sec. 400.400 conditions under which homeopathic drugs may be marketed. http://www.fda.gov/ICECI/ComplianceManuals/CompliancePolicyGuidanceManual/ucm074360.htm. Updated January 12, 2010. Accessed October 13, 2012.
5. Mousavi F, Mojaver YN, Asadzadeh M, et al. Homeopathic treatment of minor aphthous ulcer: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Homeopathy. 2009;98:137-141.
6. Natah SS, Konttinen YT, Enattah NS, et al. Recurrent aphthous ulcers today: a review of the growing knowledge. Int J Oral Maxillofac Surg.2004;33:221-234.
7. Pommier P, Gomez F, Sunyach MP, et al. Phase III randomized trial of Calendula officinalis compared with trolamine for the prevention of acute dermatitis during irradiation for breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2004;22:1447-1453.
8. Mousavi F, Sherafati S, Mojaver YN. Ignatia in the treatment of oral lichen planus. Homeopathy. 2009;98:40-44.
9. Keil T, Witt CM, Roll S, et al. Homeopathic versus conventional treatment of children with eczema: a comparative cohort study. Complement Ther Med. 2008;16:15-21.
10. Itamura R, Hosoya R. Homeopathic treatment of Japanese patients with intractable atopic dermatitis. Homeopathy. 2003;92:108-114.
11. Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Willich SN. Homeopathic treatment of children with atopic eczema: a prospective observational study with two years follow-up. Acta Derm Venereol. 2009;89:182-183.
12. Witt CM, Lüdtke R, Willich SN. Homeopathic treatment of patients with psoriasis—a prospective observational study with 2 years follow-up. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2009;23:538-543.
13. Signore RJ. Classic homeopathic medicine and the treatment of eczema. Cosmet Dermatol. 2011;24:420-425.
14. Nwabudike LC. Atopic dermatitis and homeopathy. Our Dermatol Online. 2012;3:217-220.
15. Cavalcanti AM, Rocha LM, Carillo R Jr, et al. Effects of homeopathic treatment on pruritus of haemodialysis patients: a randomised placebo-controlled double-blind trial. Homeopathy. 2003;92:177-181.
16. de Paula-Coelho C, D’Almeida V, Pedrazzolli-Neto M, et al. Therapeutic and pathogenetic animal models for Dolichos pruriens. Homeopathy. 2006;95:136-143.
17. dos Santos AL, Perazzo FF, Cardoso LG, et al. In vivo study of the anti-inflammatory effect of Rhus toxicodendron. Homeopathy. 2007;96:95-101.
18. Signore R. Treatment of lichen striatus with homeopathic calcium carbonate. J Am Osteopath Coll Dermatol. October 2012:43.
19. The Canadian Academy of Homeopathy. Live courses & seminars. http://www.homeopathy.ca/livecourses.shtml. Accessed October 14, 2012.
20. British Institute of Homeopathy International. Courses. http://www.bihint.com/courses.php. Accessed October 14, 2012.