Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs Can Help Eczema

Eczema is a chronic skin disorder which causes intense itching.  Eczema is often said to be “the itch that rashes” because the itch precedes the rash and inflammation.  Scratching the itch then leads to inflammation.

Eczema is best understood as a group of skin conditions that have similar types of inflammation.   Eczema rashes are often dry and the skin may thicken from scratching.  Eczema is also prone to becoming infected.

For thousands of years, Chinese medicine physicians have used acupuncture and herbs to help different types of  eczema. The therapy is targeted to stop the itching and regulate the inflammation.

Types of eczema

There are many types of eczema which acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help.  Here is a list of the most common.

  • Atopic eczema, or atoptic dermatitis, is the most common form of eczema.
  • Pompholyx eczema
  • Stasis eczema
  • Nummular eczema
  • Lichen Simplex

Chinese Medicine Approach

Chinese medicine takes a holistic approach to diagnosing eczema, considering physical, emotional, and environmental factors. By taking the pulse, asking in depth questions, and observing the tongue and the skin, the acupuncturist will diagnose the what particular imbalance is causing the symptoms.

Too much “heat” is a common cause of eczema, which leads to the itch, redness, irritation, swelling, and vesicles.  The acupuncture and herbs help to clear the heat from the body.

Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs Treatment

The treatment goal is to correct the root cause of the condition, which can lead to long term benefits, even long after the treatment has stopped.  The treatment and diagnosis are tailored to each person’s symptoms.  Depending on the severity of the condition, treatment may involve acupuncture, Chinese herbs, or both.  Some conditions will clear rapidly, but others may take longer.  In general, a treatment course is three to six month

Every person is individually diagnosed to for their specific imbalance which is causing their symptoms.  Most often, focusing on clearing heat, boosting the energy, and promoting circulation will help clear the lesions and stop the itching.  This can help to treat the root of the disease as well as help resolve the symptoms.  Clearing heat usually will include the acupuncture points of Large intestine 11, 5, and 4.    Because the lungs are so often related to eczema, lung 5 and lung 6, on the front of the elbow are often added.  Spleen 6 and Spleen 10 are effective at moving the blood.

Chinese herbs focused on clearing heat are effective such as sheng di huang (rehmannia) and jin yin hua (honey suckle) may be used to clear heat.  If damp heat is present, often long dan cao is effective.  Ku shen (sophora) is helpful for itching.   The goal of the treatment is to clear heat, dispel the wind and dampness, and move the blood to stop itch and promote healing.  External herbal creams are very effective at decreasing inflammation and stopping itching.

Clinical Research

A number of studies in England have shown that a Chinese herbal formula is effective in treating eczema.  One double blind randomized crossover study treated 40 adults with chronic eczema with an herbal formula (in later studies, this formula is entitled Zemaphyte).  This study concluded that the herbal formula was effective for reducing skin lesions, redness, itching, and helped the patients sleep better.  This same formula later showed to have immune system regulatory effects.

Read more about acupuncture and Chinese medicine and the Immune System

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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