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Complementary and alternative medical therapies

Schachter, Steven C

doi: 10.1097/WCO.0b013e3282f47918
Seizure disorders: Edited by Jerome Engel Jr

Purpose of review Complementary and alternative medical therapies include herbs, acupuncture, and mind–body therapies. This review highlights the findings of recently published studies of complementary and alternative medical therapies and epilepsy, and provides an update of the US Food and Drug Administration's role in regulating herbal products.

Recent findings Complementary and alternative medical therapies are often tried by patients with epilepsy, frequently without physician knowledge. Many modalities have been evaluated in patients with epilepsy, though methodological issues preclude any firm conclusions of efficacy or safety. Some herbal medicines have been shown experimentally to have mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy and promising actions in animal models.

Summary There is currently a paucity of credible evidence to support the use of complementary and alternative medical therapies in patients with epilepsy. Herbal medicines traditionally used for epilepsy and compounds isolated from them, as well as other herbal medicines and their constituent compounds that have been shown experimentally to have mechanisms of action relevant to epilepsy, should undergo further preclinical evaluation with a view towards clinical development under the new US Food and Drug Administration guidelines. Additional studies of other, nonherbal complementary and alternative medical therapies are also warranted based on anecdotal observations or pilot studies that suggest a favorable risk–benefit ratio.

Osher Research Center, Harvard Medical School; Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence to Steven C. Schachter, MD, Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Director of Research, Department of Neurology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, 330 Brookline Avenue, K-478, Boston, MA 02215, USA Tel: +1 617 667 4460; fax: +1 617 667 7919; e-mail: sschacht@bidmc.harvard.edu

© 2008 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.