International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology


Integrative remedies are usually not subjected to appropriate clinical trials and/or evidence-based criteria. Generally, once they have undergone such scrutiny, they become part of mainstream medicine.

Most integrative remedies are plant extracts or their derivatives and may even be useful for treating the skin; i.e. capsaicin for herpes zoster pain. Many of these herbal preparations have no important side effects, but others can affect the skin, particularly when there is skin surgery involved. Because many patients do not think of these so-called natural products as medicines, they do not disclose to their physicians what they are applying to the skin or taking by mouth. A few agents and their side effects are listed below.

Integrative Remedy


Aloe Vera

Contact dermatitis: burning and itching; Headache and dizziness

Gingko Balboa

Delayed wound healing due to platelet inhibition


Hypoglycemia, hypertension, insomnia, and erythema multiforme – like reactions


Acute allergic reactions with swelling of the face, tongue, and throat

Lemon balm

Burning and numbness at the site of application


Photosensitivity; nausea and dizziness

St. John’s wort

Photosensitivity complicating laser treatments, intense pulse light therapy, or surgery

Tea tree oil

Contact dermatitis, erythema multiforme – like reactions

Complementary medicine is also known as integrative medicine or “the other medicine”. Although complementary agents are used for the treatment or prevention of many conditions, they are not always innocuous.

Lawrence Charles Parish MD, MD (Hon)
Philadelphia, PA, USA
Joseph A Witkowski, MD
Philadelphia, PA, USA

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