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Collins Alternative Health Guide
Related terms: Pimples
Principal proposed natural treatments: Niacinamide Gel, Zinc
Other proposed natural treatments: Ayurvedic Medicine, Burdock, Chromium, Gugulipid, Red Clover, Selenium, Tea Tree Oil, Vitamin E
The blackheads and sometimes painful pimples that we know as acne occur most commonly during adolescence, but they may persist into later life as well. There is much we still don't understand about what causes acne. We do know that during adolescence and other times of hormonal imbalance, such as around menopause, glands in the skin increase their levels of oil secretions. A combination of naturally occurring yeast and bacteria then breaks down these secretions, causing the skin to become inflamed and the pimples to eventually rupture. In severe cases, acne can lead to permanent scars.
Conventional treatment, which usually is quite successful, consists primarily of oral or topical antibiotics, cleansing agents, and chemically modified versions of vitamin A.
Note: Do not rely on any of the natural treatments discussed in this article to treat severe acne in which scarring is a possibility.
Principal Proposed Treatments for Acne
Studies suggest that people with acne have lower-than-normal levels of zinc in their bodies. This fact alone does not indicate that taking zinc supplements will help acne.
Several double-blind, placebo-controlled studies have found zinc more effective than placebo but less effective than antibiotic therapy.
Inone of these studies, 54 people were given either placebo or 135mg of zinc as zinc sulfate daily. Zinc produced slight but measurable benefits. Similar results have been seen in other studies using 90 to 135mg of zinc daily, although others failed to find that zinc helped.
Relatively weak evidence suggests that a lower and safer dose, 30mg daily, may also be helpful.
A large double-blind trial (332 participants) compared 30mg daily of zinc against a tetracycline-family medication often used for acne (minocycline at 100mg daily). The results showed minocycline is more effective than zinc. Tetracycline taken at a dose of 250mg daily, appears to be no more effective than zinc, but when taken at 500mg daily it seems to be considerably more effective.
Keep in mind that the dosages of zinc used in most of these studies are much higher than daily requirements and have the potential for causing toxicity. Indeed, case reports indicate that people have made themselves extremely ill by taking zinc in hopes of treating their acne symptoms.
For more information, see the full zinc article.
In a double-blind trial, 76 individuals with moderately severe acne were treated with either 4% niacinamide gel or 1% clindamycin gel (a standard antibiotic treatment). Niacinamide proved to be just as effective as the antibiotic over an 8-week trial period. However, because this study lacked a placebo group, its results are unreliable.
Other Proposed Treatments for Acne
Ayurvedic medicine has shown some promise for acne. One study evaluated the potential benefits of an herbal combination containing the following constituents: Aloe barbadensis, Azardirachta indica, Curcuma longa, Hemidesmus indicus, Terminalia chebula, Terminalia arjuna, and Withania somnifera. In this 4-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 53 people with acne, combined topical and oral use of the herbal preparation significantly improved acne symptoms. Oral treatment alone was not effective.
Another controlled trial compared an extract of the Ayurvedic herb guggul against tetracycline for the treatment of acne and found them equally effective. Unfortunately, the study report does not state whether this trial was double-blind and, for this reason, the results are not reliable. (For information on why double-blinding matters, see Why Does This Book Rely on Double-blind Studies?.)
Tea tree oil has antiseptic properties and has been suggested as an alternative to benzoyl peroxide for direct application to the skin. One study that compared the two treatments found benzoyl peroxide significantly more effective; tea tree oil also improved symptoms but, due to the absence of a placebo group, this trial cannot be taken as evidence that tea tree oil is effective. Other commonly mentioned natural treatments for acne include chromium, vitamin E, selenium, burdock, and red clover. There haven't been any well-designed studies examining these treatments, however.
Herbs and Supplements to Use Only with Caution
Various herbs and supplements may interact adversely with drugs used to treat acne. For more information on this potential risk, see the individual drug article in the Drug Interactions section of this book.
Related terms: Bronchitis (Acute), Chest Cold
Principal proposed natural treatments: Essential Oil Monoterpenes (Oral), Pelargonium sidoides
Other proposed natural treatments: All Treatments Used for Colds or Asthma, Elecampane, Essential Oils (Inhaled), Ivy Leaf, Licorice, Marshmallow, Milk Avoidance, Mullein, Primrose-root and Thyme, Slippery Elm, Vitamin C, Yerba Santa
The term bronchitis refers to inflammation of the major air passageways in the lungs, the bronchi. There are two principal types of bronchitis: acute bronchitis and chronic bronchitis. The latter is closely related to emphysema and is discussed in the article on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Acute bronchitis, the subject of this article, is a condition that frequently develops during the course of a common cold. Symptoms may include cough (dry or productive), sensation of heaviness in the chest, and difficulty breathing.
In recent years, it has become clear that, in many cases, symptoms of bronchitis represent temporary asthma brought on by a respiratory infection. For this reason, anti-asthma drugs are now commonly a major component of treatment. Antibiotics may be used as well.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
Essential Oil Monoterpenes
A fixed combination of essential oils has been extensively evaluated as a treatment for respiratory problems. This mixture, called essential oil monoterpenes, consists of cineole from eucalyptus, d-limonene from citrus fruit, and alpha-pinene from pine. Numerous double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, many of substantial size, indicate that essential oil monoterpenes can aid recovery from sinusitis, bronchitis, and other respiratory conditions.
One large study evaluated the effectiveness of essential oil monoterpenes for acute bronchitis. In this 2-week, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 676 people with acute bronchitis, participants received either placebo, essential oil monoterpenes, or one of two antibiotics. The results indicate that the essential oil mixture was significantly more effective than placebo and at least as effective as antibiotic therapy.Collins Alternative Health Guide. Copyright © by Steven Bratman. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.