Vitiligo is a skin condition characterized by patches of poor skin pigmentation (hypopigmentation.) White patches appear on the skin due to the loss of melanin cells (melanocytes.) Half of the cases start before the age of 20. Many vitiligo patients have psychiatric problems as the result of the abnormal skin appearance from vitiligo. This is a review of the use of vitamins, herbs and nutrients to treat vitiligo.
A database search was done. Fifteen clinical trials were analyzed by the authors. Several clinical trials evaluated the use of l-phenylalanine. Phototherapy with UV light therapy plus l-phenylalanine shows promise. L-phenylalanine was beneficial in all of the trials. The doses ranged from 50 to 100 mg/kg. per day.
Many Chinese Traditional Medicines were evaluated and showed limited benefit. There was ‘moderate’ evidence for benefit when Ginkgo biloba was used alone in vitiligo. Ginkgo biloba has few side effects and is inexpensive to buy.
Several studies evaluated the use of a natural skin product, Psoralen. It is beneficial with the caution that it increases the risk of skin cancer. (Psoralen contains furocoumarins.)
Of the vitamin trials, only vitamin E, in combination with phototherapy, showed benefit in the treatment of vitiligo.
In general, the research studies were considered by the authors to be of poor quality. Controls were not used in many of the studies. Few studies were double blinded.
CONCLUSION: Psoralen and l-phenylalanine are beneficial in vitiligo treatment. Ginkgo biloba is moderately beneficial. More testing is needed in this problem which has frequent and extensive psychological complications.
NOTE: Vitamin D is reported to be of benefit in vitiligo. Read about reports of the autoimmune etiology of generalized vitiligo.
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