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Eczema from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

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. 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 –

  • Fatigue
  • Stress, irritability and mood swings
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Thirst
  • Poor digestive and bowel function
  • Insomnia
  • Poor concentration and focus

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.

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 to targets the root cause of the imbalance whilst resolving symptoms derived from it.

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 improve as well.

What ingredients do you use in the herbal medicine?

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 an effective anti-itch property. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, we have many other anti-itch herbs that are just as effective.

How does Chinese medicine help with getting off topical corticosteroids?

We would go through it very gently and slowly. Firstly, the potency of topical corticosteroids will be reduced while taking Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture treatment to help manage the symptoms. Over time, the use of topical corticosteroids will be reduced and be completely eliminated, then to be replaced with Chinese medicine and acupuncture. Going off topical corticosteroids 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, cardamom 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.

Where do we go 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, book online or call our friendly receptionist to make an appointment

Written by

Dr Jacqueline Heng
Dr Jacqueline Heng is an empathetic, thoughtful and calm practitioner with a holistic approach to the health of her patients.  Her quiet confidence and competent knowledge on areas of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine, especially in Women’s Health and Dermatology, stems from her extensive studies and clinical experiences and practice from her own private clinic. Jacqueline obtained her Bachelor of Health Science in Chinese Medicine from Southern School of Natural Therapies (Victoria)

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