Interview With Denise Rankin-Box

Skin Science Reporter was fortunate to secure an interview with Denise Rankin-Box, this year’s winner of the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Complementary Medicine’ 2010 Award, from the Institute for Complementary and Natural Medicine.

Skin Science Reporter: Denise how did you first come to develop an interest in Complementary & Alternative Medical (CAM) therapies?

D R-B: I originally trained as a Nurse and upon qualifying, travelled to Australia to work for the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) caring for Aboriginal peoples & their children, as well as miners and people living in the Australian Outback.

After this, I was fortunate in undertaking voluntary mobile medical work in the Chimbu Highlands in Papua New Guinea. This was fascinating. We were put up in village ‘guest houses’ and in return for medical care, food was left outside our hut each morning! Whilst I was there, it became  apparent that many of the tribes-people we worked with, used local  indigenous plants and herbs to successfully treat a number of conditions, which were sometimes more effective than the medicines we had to offer and my interest in Complementary medicine was born!

S S R: How did you progress this interest when you eventually arrived back in England?

D R-B: When I returned to the UK I went on to take a degree in Sociology, focusing on anthropology and medical sociology and also trained in Shiatsu and Hypnosis. As a result I became curious about many therapies labelled as Complementary and Alternative (CAM) and subsequently wrote a number of books looking at the research evidence to support certain health care claims - which has been such an interesting journey!

S S R: Have you come across any therapies that are effective for skin conditions?

D R-B: Yes. As you know, Dermatology covers a broad range of skin conditions. However, there are a number of CAM therapies that are effective in treating specific skin problems. For instance, some skin conditions can occur from dietary deficiencies, stress, anxiety, or allergies. Acupuncture in particular, can be very effective at treating some of these problems. There are a number of oils such as Aloe Vera, arnica which are very effective in helping to heal burns. Other oils work can be valuable in managing eczema and acne. Another lesser known herb called Oregon grape (mountain grapes) can be useful for skin diseases such as psoriasis and acne where is can be applied topically.

S S R: The medical & scientific community have concerns about the misuse of traditional remedies and their possible interaction with conventional drug based therapies?

D R-B: One of the key issues to be aware of is interactions might occur between a prescribed treatment and a CAM therapy you are keen to try. With this in mind, Professor Elizabeth Williamson and I co-wrote a book specifically looking at a whole range of CAM therapies, herbs, oils and so on to review the research evidence behind them and any potential interactions that might occur if you are already on a treatment. This also covers many skin conditions. This has proved to be really helpful for so many people. It is a handbook you can dip into to, to check things out. (Complementary Medicine: A Guide for Pharmacists by Denise Rankin-Box & Elizabeth M. Williamson: Churchill Livingstone 2006).

S S R: Denise, many thanks for your insights and congratulations on your recent award from the ICNM.