Eczema, also known a dermatitis is a debilitating skin condition that affects 1 in 3 Australasian (Eczema Association of Australia). Eczema can occur in any stages of life starting as young as early childhood from the ages of 2 to 6 months and in adulthood. There are many types of eczema ranging from atopic eczema, to phomphylox eczema, seborrheic eczema and so forth.
Eczema can present in many different forms and symptoms. There may be -
Moderate to severe itchy skin
Red rash occupied by either dry, patchy, weepy, thicken, cracked skin, bleeding and/or scales
Papules, vesicles, crusting
Areas that are commonly found are on the flexors of the knees and arms however, it can occur on the hands, feet neck, face and any parts of the body
Accompanying symptoms are -
Stress, irritability and mood swings
Depression and Anxiety
Poor digestive and bowel function
Poor concentration and focus
Chinese medicine perspective -
What cause eczema?
In Chinese medicine, any skin condition is an indication of an imbalance of yin and yang in the body. The principle of yin and yang is to create an equilibrium between these two polar opposites within the body to function harmoniously. In the case of eczema, there is no one definitive answer to what cause this debilitating skin condition, rather the answer lies within the presentation of the individual itself. The cause of eczema from Chinese medicine perspective are Wind Heat, Damp Heat, Toxic Heat and/or Blood deficiency causing Dryness and Wind.
How do we diagnose eczema?
The body, especially the skin is an amazing diagnostic tool. In Chinese medicine, there are four method of diagnosis - observing, questioning, listening and palpating. We observe for signs and symptoms of the skin condition and ask detail questions into the body’s health. This will give us clues to what is out of balance in the body through observation and gathering of information. Therefore, helping us form a holistic diagnosis of the root cause of eczema. For example, itchy skin from Chinese medicine perspective can be caused by Heat, Wind and/or Dryness as a result of an internal imbalance of the body. In addition, we look at what levels the eczema is presented. For example, if the eczema is presented with mild itching with pinkish tones, it would be at a superficial level (Qi level). If the eczema is red, angry, weeping and intense itching with bleeding, it would be at the deeper level (Blood level). We also look at the tongue and perform pulse analysis as part of our diagnostic tool to determine the condition of the body. Thus making it a holistic treatment.
How do we approach eczema?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach from Chinese medicine perspective. Each person presented with eczema will most likely be looked at differently in terms of acupuncture and herbal medicine. In eczema, herbal medicine is often prescribed as the symptoms are a result of an internal imbalance. Herbal medicine targets the root cause of the imbalance whilst resolving symptoms derived from it. External application such as ointment or salve made from Chinese herbs may be recommended to aid the skin condition symptomatically. There is a short Youtube at the end of the blog by renowned Chinese medicine Dermatology practitioner, Mazin Al-Khafaji discussing the ways we approach and, the strategies we employed to address different types of eczema in Chinese medicine.
When will I see some results?
Generally, it will take 3-6 months. The duration often depends on the severity of the eczema. However, the skin will see some form of improvements such as reduction of flare ups, itchiness and redness within 3 months of consistent acupuncture and herbal medicine. In addition, accompanying symptoms listed above will greatly improved as well.
What ingredients do you use in the herbal medicine and topical products?
Majority of the Chinese herbs we use are derived from roots, twigs, leafs and flowers, and occasionally we may use the shells of cicadas which are collected after the cicadas had shed them naturally (the insect is not used). The shells of the cicadas have a effective anti-itch property. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, we have many other anti-itch herbs that are just as effective. For external application, we source natural, neutral and organic where possible carrier oils and cream base in which Chinese herbs are added to help relieve symptoms of eczema (products sold here). However, some skin may be very sensitive and are advised to test patch a discreet area before application.
How does Chinese medicine help with getting off topical corticosteriods?
We would go through it very gently and slowly. Firstly, the potency of topical corticosteriods will be reduced while taking Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to help manage the symptoms. Over time, the use of topical corticosteriods will be reduced and, be completely eliminated, then to be replaced with Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Going off topical corticosteriods abruptly will cause an intense flare up therefore, to manage these flare ups a cautious and sensitive approach is adopted.
What can you do to help yourself?
Majority of eczema sufferers find that by avoiding certain types of food and using a natural skin care product can help reduce the severity of their skin condition.
Foods to consider avoiding are gluten, sugar, dairy, alcohol, processed food, deep fried and greasy food. Warming spices such as turmeric, ginger, cloves, cinnamon, cardamon should be used minimally to avoid adding Heat to the body. Part of the approach and strategy to eczema in Chinese medicine is to clear Heat from the body. Redness and inflammation are seen as Heat. Heat can dry out fluids that moisturise the skin, therefore causing dry, cracked and itchy skin.
Natural skin care are recommended to keep the skin moist. As there are many natural skin products available in the market today, it is important to read the ingredients used in the product. Ingredients such as shea butter, jojoba oils are good at moisturising dry skin. Avoid any synthetic scent which can cause irritation to the skin, this include perfume and cologne. It is best to go scent free if possible however, some essential oils derived from plants such as chamomile and lavender can be added to sooth the skin, which also has a calming affect on the mind.
Where do we from here?
Chinese medicine approach and strategy to addressing eczema is to look at each presenting symptoms individually. There is no “one-size-fits-all” approach. If you would like to find out more about how Chinese medicine and Acupuncture can help with your eczema, we have a Complimentary Consultation or simply BOOK ONLINE. We look forward to hearing from you.
Al-Khafaji, M. (2018). Eczema in Chinese Medicine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcdYB6ry0R0&t=9s