A Pilot Study Of Alternative Medicine Used For Psoriasis Treatment In Malaysia


Dr. Ruban Nathan, Nathan Skin & Laser Center , 1st Floor Wisma PKNS, Jalan Raja Laut, 50350 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


1st International Conference & Exhibition on Women's Health & Asian Traditional (WHAT) Medicine




psoriasis, alternative and complementary medicine, Malay traditional medicine , traditional Chinese medicine, Indian traditional/ Ayurvedic medicine, homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy


Psoriasis is a chronic auto immune skin disease, commonly seen as erythematous well- demarcated silvery scaled plaques over any part of the body including the scalp.  It occurs throughout the world affecting all age and ethnic groups. No cure is currently available leaving most to rely on western medicine as suppressive therapy. It is known that 36% of adults in the US use some form of alternative and complementary medicine.  This paper aims to seek information on the alternative medicine use in dermatology with special reference to psoriasis based on a population of psoriasis patients in Malaysia. The alternative medicines used include:-Malay traditional medicine (mtm), traditional Chinese medicine(tcm), Indian traditional/  Ayurvedic medicine(itm) and other treatment therapy (ott) which includes homeopathy, naturopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy and other unspecified therapy. A single dermatologist interviewed 77 psoriasis patients (from 3 clinics), for a quality of life study from November 2004 to July 2005. The demographic parameters, clinical history, treatment choice and response of the patients involved were recorded. The 77 patients were mostly adults, comprising 23 Malays (13M/10F), 19 Chinese (14M/5F), 33 Indians (19M/14F) and 2 males of other ethnic origin. There were 48 males and 29 females in the population. The mean age of this population was 39.2 with a minimum of 13 and a maximum of 75 years old. From this base population, 29 patients were reported to have used alternative medicine for treatment of the skin disease. Among this selected sample, 11 (6M/5F) were Malays, 7 (4M/3F) were Chinese, and 11 (5M/6F) Indians. Altogether, there were 15 males and 14 females.  The mean age for this sample was 37.5 (range from 13 to 65) years old. Based on the above data, there were 37.7% (29/77) alternative medicine users. Among the ethnic groups, Chinese patients appeared to have the highest percentage (47.3%) of alternative medicine users compared to the Malays (39.1%) and the Indians (33.3%). There was also a female bias in using alternative medicine. Female alternative medicine users occupied 48% (14/29) while the male was 31.3% (15/48). Statistical significance for the above comparisons however was not demonstrated. The preferential use of alternative/ traditional medicine specific to the respective ethnic origins was noted. Chinese patients (77.8%) preferred to use Chinese traditional medicine, Malay patients (33.3%) used Malay traditional medicine while the Indian traditional/ Ayurvedic medicine was adopted by the Indian patients (70%). The remainders of the above patients had chosen other forms of alternative medical therapy as defined above.   The treatment response to the alternative medicine used was noted to be fairly similar in all the ethnic groups. The Malay and Chinese patients recorded 22.2% positive response while the Indians 20% positive response to the alternative medicine used As the above results were obtained from a relatively small sample size the information obtained can only be used as a guide. It would be interesting to study a larger population to substantiate the above findings while at the same time to investigate the efficacy of specific alternative medicine used and their impacts on the quality of life in these patients.