Acne is prevalent among adolescents and adults with significant psychological effects. Standard oral and topical therapies can have significant side effects including skin irritation, gastrointestinal upset, and the development of drug-resistant bacteria. The use of botanicals and phytochemicals in dermatological products is increasingly popular, and many patients are turning to these alternative therapies for treatment of acne. This study aimed to systematically review clinical studies that have investigated the use of botanical agents in the treatment of acne. PubMed and Embase databases were searched in March 2013 for trials assessing botanical therapies in the treatment of acne vulgaris. Data from these trials are presented, and methodology of each study is assessed. Twenty-three trials met inclusion criteria. Interventions included plant extracts, herbal formulations, and phytochemicals. All studies reported favorable results, and several showed equal or superior treatment to standard therapies. No serious adverse events were reported. Few studies were methodologically rigorous. Each botanical was studied in only one or two trials. Botanicals are promising therapies for acne vulgaris although further research is warranted, especially with regard to severe acne and acne resistant to conventional therapy. There is a need for standardized methods for grading acne and assessing therapeutic effects.
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