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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Skin Conditions and Complementary Health Approaches: What the Science Says

August 2016

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 
Skin Conditions and Complementary Health Approaches

Skin Conditions Alternate

Atopic Dermatitis

Mind and Body Practices

There is some limited evidence that relaxation techniques may help improve symptoms of atopic dermatitis, particularly in the pediatric population, although most clinical studies are not methodologically rigorous. There is currently no evidence that acupuncture has any beneficial effects in the management of atopic dermatitis in adults or children.

Natural Products

According to the American Academy of Dermatology’s clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of atopic dermatitis, there is inconsistent to no evidence to recommend the use of fish oils, evening primrose oil, borage oil, multivitamin supplements, zinc, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamins B12 and B6 for the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Further, the guidelines state that the use of probiotics/prebiotics for the treatment of patients with established atopic dermatitis is not recommended because of inconsistent evidence.


There is some evidence that fish oil, Dead Sea climatotherapy, and the topical herbs Mahonia aquifolium and indigo naturalis may be beneficial for the treatment of psoriasis.


According to the American Academy of Dermatology’s clinical practice guidelines for the treatment of acne, there are currently very limited data regarding the safety and efficacy of herbal and other complementary therapies to recommend their use.


There is insufficient evidence to either recommend or dismiss herbal treatments for impetigo, including tea tree oil, garlic, coconut oils, tea effusions, and Manuka honey.


Although some natural products have shown promise for improving symptoms of rosacea, there is insufficient evidence to support the use of many of these products for rosacea.

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH’s Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.


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