Eczema is a skin condition that has inflammation, dry skin, redness, scale, and blisters. There are many types of eczema which acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be used for.
Chinese medicine can help. In my 15 years of practice, I have helped many people with eczema through acupuncture and herbal medicine. I have also written extensively about Chinese medicine for atopic eczema. Many clinical research studies have shown Chinese herbs to relieve eczema.
What Causes Eczema?
Eczema frequency is rising rapidly within the last century. No one knows the exact cause of the increase in eczema, but factors include irritants, harsh soaps, over bathing, allergies, environmental pollutants, and diet.
Eczema develops because of an interaction between the person and the environment: someone has a genetic propensity for dry skin and allergies when contact with soaps and irritants trigger the development of eczema (1).
While the exact cause is unknown, eczema skin has distinct characteristics: dry skin, increased IgE production, a tendency for the overgrowth of staphylococcus aureus, higher skin pH, and a deficiency in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) (2).
Eczema in Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese Medicine refers to eczema as the “wind of four crooks” referring to the eczema rashes on the inside of the elbows and knees which are the common locations of the condition (3).
Chinese Medicine understands eczema as an imbalance of body’s energy which allows external pathogenic factors to attack causing itch, inflammation, as well as dry and red skin. Acupuncture and herbal therapy are customized to address the underlying imbalances. Heat, wind, dampness, toxins, or others are the most common for eczema. The determination of the underlying imbalance is important because it will govern which specific herbs therapy and acupuncture points are used.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Treatment for Eczema
Chinese medicine can bring about profound and lasting results. This is thought to be due to the immuno-regulatory effect of Chinese herbs, acupuncture, and topical emollients. Rather than suppressing the immune function acupuncture and Chinese herbs help to bring it back into a healthy state. Research has shown that Chinese herbal medicine is linked to a reduction in corticosteroid use in children (4).
To be effective the acupuncture and herbs must be customized to each individual’s condition. The right Chinese herbs and acupuncture help to relieve the inflammation causing the eczema.
Chinese herbs are prescribed in combination of 8-12 herbs called a formula. Each formula is tailored to address the cause of the eczema. Each type of eczema requires the use of different herbs which is why getting the correct diagnosis is very important. Topical herbal creams are important to nourish and balance the skin.
Personalized Acupuncture and Herbs for Eczema
As a Chinese medicine practitioner I am obsessed with treating the right symptoms and imbalances with the right herbs and acupuncture points. Creating the correct acupuncture point prescription and herbal formula matters.
Giving the wrong formula won’t work. Sometimes it can actually make the symptoms worse. For example, in eczema, you cannot use herbs for dry type eczema to treat damp type eczema.
This is also true with topical herbs. Topical herbs are very powerful for skin conditions, like eczema. In eczema, we have herbs that are effective for dry eczema, because the herbs will moisten the eczema. And other herbs that are more effective for damp eczema because the herbs will dry the eczema. Giving drying herbs to dry eczema will make the skin worse by drying it out.
In Chinese medicine, we speak about imbalances. But, the acupuncture and Chinese herbs are also affecting the underlying physiology causing the imbalance. It is possible that personalizing the formula and external herbs makes the treatment more powerful by focusing on slightly different inflammatory mediators and chemicals causing that particular type of eczema.
I would like to see the research explore the underlying physiology of personalized acupuncture and Chinese herbs for eczema.