More and more people are leaning towards alternative therapies for eczema (atopic dermatitis) because of encouraging results discovered by various studies. Many patients are eager to try Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and acupuncture.
Many patients with skin conditions, such as eczema, have tried acupuncture and reported to experience tremendous improvement and benefits. They see their itchy rash improving without any need of steroids.
However, some skeptics have suggested that benefits seen with acupuncture may be due to placebo effect, meaning that acupuncture does not really do anything.
So who is right? Does acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine work for people with eczema and other skin rash?
We looked at two great clinical studies. The results are enlightening...
TCM and Acupuncture Treatment On Children
In one study conducted in 2009, 14 children, averaging around five to six years old, with diagnosed persistent atopic dermatitis took a decoction of Erka Zhizheng two times a day. They took daily herbal baths for 20 minutes, applied herbal creams, and participated in acupuncture sessions for two to three times per week.
After three months, 13 out of 14 of these patients showed 60% to 90% reduction in their SCORAD (score system that is used to measure severity of eczema). The same 13 patients showed a 50% improvement in their Dermatology Life-Quality Index in less than two and a half months, meaning these people felt their quality of life has improved as their eczema improved. .
This study is highly encouraging, but of course there are some points to consider:
- The regimen required is complicated and not easily replicated.
- It is not known which regimen was most effective due to the number of activities required. Is it the cream, the bath or the acupuncture?
- It is difficult to balance the cost, effectiveness, and the quality of life for this approach compared to a standard eczema treatment.
These factors should in no way derail the results of the approach. These studies show that the result of acupuncture combined with TCM is positive. Other studies show acupuncture’s benefit as a single therapy for people with eczema.
TCM and Acupuncture To Control Itch In Eczema Patients
In another study published in the Allergy Journal, allergen stimulus, such as house dust, was applied to 30 eczema patients before and after two acupuncture experiments. One group received real acupuncture treatment and the other received placebo (noO treatment.
Itchy rash was stimulated in the subjects by applying allergen stimulus to the patients in both group. Using a visual analogue scale, the itch intensity was recorded and symptoms such as wheal, skin perfusion, and flare skin were also noted.
The two groups received either real acupuncture or sham treatment. After the treatment, the itch level and skin symptoms were recorded again. The participants in both groups also answered the Itch Questionnaire
The results showed:
- The mean itch intensity was lowered significantly by 35.7 points (with a degree of accuracy of +/- 6.4) for those who received the real acupuncture.
The reduced itch index indicates that acupuncture can reduce histamine-medicated itch; however, we must note that histamine-medicated itch will not necessarily result to eczema.
Acupuncture Treating Itch in People With Poor Kidney Function
Another study conducted with 40 patients who have refractory uremic pruritus (itch due to poor kidney function). These patients randomly received acupuncture for three times per week. When compared to the patients who did not receive any acupuncture treatment, those who had acupuncture had improved itch scores after one to three months of treatment.
Conventional medicine such as using steroids is widely prescribed treatment modality for people with atopic dermatitis. Acupuncture and TCM hold promising results. Clinical studies have demonstrated that there is great benefits for patients when these alternative treatments are delivered by the skilled practitioners. However, because there is wide variations between the styles, training, and knowledge levels of practitioners, it makes difficult to determine the true efficacy of acupuncture treatment for eczema.
So the bottom line is this alternative treatment can help but you need to find a good and knowledgeable TCM provider. Have you ever tried acupuncture? Does it help? Let us know.