Background: There is evidence reporting that many people are seeking and receiving herbal treatment for acne vulgaris (acne) in the UK. Acne is a common condition affecting about 80% of people between 11 and 30 years of age. Despite that, there is virtually no research on the common approach of western medical herbalists to treating acne.
Aim: To document, analyse and discuss, using qualitative methods, the practice, strategies, beliefs and clinical reasoning of western medical herbalists in relation to the treatment of acne.
Method: Purposive sampling was used to recruit three participants meeting inclusion criteria: members of a professional body (i.e. NIMH, CPP), had practiced for at least 10 years, having treated at least 20 patients with acne in the last 6 years. Qualitative semi-structured 30-minute one-to-one interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed and checked for accuracy by the researcher. Simple thematic analysis was used to analyse the data. The overall summary of the research findings was obtained after comparing and contrasting the summaries of each interview.
Results: The following three themes emerged from the thematic analysis of the data: i) herbal practice, ii) strategies to treating acne and iii) clinical reasoning and beliefs behind it. All practitioners addressed the eliminatory pathways (liver, lymph nodes, bowels), the diet, and the emotional state of the patient.
Conclusion: This project provides a preliminary exploration of WHM approaches to treating acne and highlights possible new directions for future research. The results demonstrate a consistent approach to treating acne between the three practitioners although there are slight differences in their beliefs and clinical reasoning.
Recommendations: Case studies and questionnaires could be used in a larger sample size that would represent the diversity of the profession. This would allow extrapolation of data and validation of this study’s results. To prove concepts a controlled intervention could be set up.