Chinese Medicine offers effective and natural practices to resolve eczema.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, also called dermatitis, is a group of skin conditions that can affect all age groups. The severity of the disease can vary. In mild forms, the skin is dry, hot, and itchy. In severe forms, the skin can become broken, raw, and may even bleed. Eczema is a non-infectious, non-contagious, and chronic skin disorder, for which no cure exists. Experts believe that eczema is caused by the skin’s inability to retain moisture, but do not know why or how this inability occurs on certain people’s skin.
Types of Eczema
Above all the many types of eczema, two are most common. Atopic eczema has the highest rate of occurrence. It tends to develop in childhood, sometimes just after birth. This type tends to run in families and is more likely to occur if someone also has other atopic conditions such as asthma or hay fever.
The second most common type is contact dermatitis, which usually affects adults. It is caused by contact with something that a person may be allergic to, like nickel, or that irritates the skin, as some detergents often do. Many other common substances cause contact eczema, such as soaps and perfumes.
There is currently no cure for eczema in Western Medicine. The treatments available can only provide temporary symptom relief and are not without side effects. Some of the most common include emollients and topical & oral steroids.
- Emollients reduce water loss from the skin, preventing the dryness normally associated with eczema. Emollients are only temporary and will not work if the eczema is inflamed.
- Antihistamines only provide temporary relief when severe itching is present.
- Topical steroids are used during flare-ups when the skin becomes inflamed. Steroids act by reducing inflammation and are used in most types of eczema. Unfortunately, they have side effects and only provide temporary relief.
- Oral steroids are prescribed in severe cases when topical steroids have been found ineffective. These not only have severe side effects but if discontinued, the eczema will recur.
What is involved in Chinese Medicine?
Chinese Medicine consists of Chinese Herbal Medicine, Acupuncture and Nutrition/Food Cures mainly. Chinese Medicine has been used for over 3,000 years and has been successful in treating eczema and many other dermatological disorders. One of the main advantages of Chinese Meidicine setting it apart from Western Medicine is that it treats the root cause of an illness and is not just temporary symptom relief. Chinese Medicine is also free of side effects when administered by a qualified practitioner. Based on the individual patient’s Chinese medical diagnosis (the root cause of their eczema), different treatment modalities will be discussed on the first visit. Chinese Medicine involves a highly distinctive diagnostic approach which allows each patient to be treated on an individual basis. This provides extremely successful results.
Chinese Medicine’s Perspective on Eczema
Eczema is caused by a number of different factors, most commonly:
- Hereditary deficiency of the lung and kidney systems (more in Atopic Eczema).
- Stress, anxiety, tension, frustration, and long term bottled up emotions that stagnate the liver.
- Inappropriate diet (excessively hot & spicy foods, deep fried foods, refined sugars, etc.) and irregular eating, which damages the spleen and stomach and creates excess dampness in the body.
- Over-intake of medications that are toxic to the liver and/or antibiotics that create an overgrowth of yeast (candida) in the body.
There are many patterns of diagnosis for eczema in Chinese Medicine. In Chinese Medicine terms, the symptoms of eczema are a mixture of heat, dampness, and wind (redness of the skin, itching, crusting & scaling, and blisters filled with liquid). Therefore, the prescribed herbs and acupuncture points work by clearing away heat and dampness through the bowels, urine, and/or skin, relieving wind, and detoxifying the body. Chinese Medicine also reduces allergic reactions and is beneficial to the immune system, improving the body’s physiology, and relieving emotional problems such as stress and anxiety. The organs treated most commonly are the lungs, kidneys, liver, spleen, and stomach.
Dietary Therapy (Food Cures)
A person’s diet is very important to the Chinese Medicine Doctor because consuming an imbalance of food types and quantities may also contribute to an imbalance in the body. Included in the first visit are thorough inquiries into the patient’s diet, where detailed nutritional recommendations will follow. Eczema patients are commonly advised to take essential fatty acids for example, but Chinese Medical doctors go beyond these general recommendations. They get specific on exactly which foods are to be avoided or included in the diet based on the patient’s Chinese medical diagnosis. In most cases no more than one patient will ever receive identical dietary recommendations (just like no more than one patient will be given the same herbal medicine) because the root causes for their eczema will be different. It is generally advisable for eczema patients to avoid or limit foods (including drinks) that have natures of heat and/or dampness, like spicy/greasy deep fried foods.
Acupuncture for Eczema
Acupuncture is very powerful for relieving stress and clearing heat and toxicity from the body that is often involved in patients with eczema. It is great at calming the itchiness of the skin and bringing down inflammation.
Research: There are several studies suggesting acupuncture to be significantly helpful in the treatment of eczema. One study in New York revealed that within an average of nine treatments, 50% of patients had complete or nearly complete clearance of skin lesions, and 75% experienced two-thirds clearance!