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Controversies in Neurology
September 2005

Use of Complementary and Alternative Therapies in EpilepsyCause for Concern

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: Department of Neurology, Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC.



Arch Neurol. 2005;62(9):1472-1475. doi:10.1001/archneur.62.9.1472

The use of complementary and alternative medication (CAM) in the United States has skyrocketed in the past decade. One does not have to search obscure or dated editions of the lay press to discover evidence of this trend in the healing arts.1 The medical community has an obligation to respond to this trend in an evidence-based and constructive manner. The position of the Epilepsy Foundation (Landover, Md) is that alternative therapies are acceptable as long as the patient continues with the traditional therapies, and the alternative and traditional therapies do not conflict.2 While this position appears reasonable, its premise depends on the presence of evidence for efficacy of alternative therapies in the treatment of seizures and acceptable safety without excessive toxic side effects. This standard applies to all therapies in medicine and should not be abrogated on behalf of alternative medicines. Several questions require further analysis before applying this principle into practice: (1) What is the status of CAM in the treatment of epilepsy? (2) What are the data for efficacy against seizures? (3) What are the risks of such therapies? (4) What is the basis for potential conflict between alternative and traditional therapy?