I have an alert setup so that anytime a new study on PubMed mentions acne, I get a notification. Today the virtual mailman delivered a new anti-acne study to me.
Iranian researchers studied the effect of extract of dried fruit of Berberis vulgaris(barberry) on teenage acne patients. This was a really simple study. They took 49 12-17 year old teenagers with moderate to severe acne, and gave them a daily dose either 600mg of dried barberry extract or a placebo 4 weeks.
They showed about 45% reduction in acne in the barberry treated group, pretty impressive result.
But we should keep in mind that studies like this (the only study on the topic, not that many participants and unclear research methodology) tend to be positively biased. For several reasons, such as ideological bias of the researchers and positive studies are more likely to get published than ‘negative’ studies.
Dr. Mark Crislip at Science Based Medicine blog says he discounts these findings by 50% to get a ballpark estimate of the real world effectiveness. Note that he’s talking about this in the context of drug trials, but we can equally apply it to alternative and natural medicine studies.
Other studies have showed barberry can suppress inflammation, and it’s been historically used for rheumatic and other chronic inflammatory conditions. Given how acne is linked to systemic inflammation it’s plausible that barberry, or other antioxidant supplements, can help with acne.
So what to make of this? Well, not much from this study alone. But in the context of everything we know about acne and inflammation, it’s one more piece to strengthen the evidence.
Image by buttersweet @Flickr