Karina Hilterman

For her Masters of Science degree, Karina completed a thesis titled “Actinic Keratoses and Herbal Medicine Interventions”. Her talk presents the results of a survey of herbalists, (which found a general lack of understanding of AKs), and a systematic review “Efficacy and Safety of Herbal Treatment of Actinic Keratoses”, she will also recommend some additional herbs for which there is a tradition of use and evidence of efficacy. Karina is a keen gardener and currently the president of the Herb Federation of New Zealand.

For her Masters of Science degree, Karina completed a thesis titled “Actinic Keratoses and Herbal Medicine Interventions”. Her talk presents the results of a survey of herbalists, (which found a general lack of understanding of AKs), and a systematic review “Efficacy and Safety of Herbal Treatment of Actinic Keratoses”, she will also recommend some additional herbs for which there is a tradition of use and evidence of efficacy. Karina is a keen gardener and currently the president of the Herb Federation of New Zealand.

Actinic Keratoses: What do herbalists know about them, and are there safe and effective herbal treatments?

Background: Actinic keratoses [AKs] are a common form of sun-induced skin disease developing after years of sun exposure. An AK may progress to become a non-melanoma skin cancer [NMSC]. They were only named as such in 1958; limiting specific references to modern literature. World-wide, New Zealand and Australia have the highest incidences, and current medical treatments have adverse side-effects. There is recorded history for treating skin disease, yet little research has been undertaken to validate historical and traditional claims of use, efficacy, and safety.

Aims: With the review; to assess and evaluate the published research; for the survey of herbalists and naturopaths, it was hoped these lesions were well recognised.

Methods: A review was undertaken to determine what clinical research had been conducted and to discern the efficacy and safety of herbal treatments for AKs. In addition, an anonymous online survey of New Zealand and Australian herbalists and naturopaths was undertaken.

Results: For the review, all were topical treatments; the dosages and treatment durations varied considerably; due to the diversity of herbal treatments meta-analysis could not be performed; the results were assessed by comparative, descriptive, and narrative methods. With the survey of herbalists, only eight percent (8%) were confident in identifying an AK and only four percent (4%) stated that they would always treat an AK, whereas 52% would never treat them. In addition, many respondents lacked an understanding of AKs—of those who would treat, a diverse range of treatments was revealed.

Implications: The findings support the need for further research to be conducted on herbs which have the indicated constituents and therapeutic actions required for treating AKs. A gap in training was identified with the survey; this indicates scope for continuing practitioner education and a review of student curriculum content. Further professional protocol development for treating this common skin condition is required. In addition, herbs with a tradition of use for skin treatments, or having therapeutic actions indicated for treating sun-induced skin lesion were selected for presentation.

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