Eczema, or atopic dermatitis, is a condition that affects millions of people. It’s a general term for a set of inflammatory skin conditions that cause skin to become red, itchy, and sometimes to blister or weep. It sometimes results from a reaction to an irritant, but more often than not, there is no obvious external cause.
People who suffer from eczema spend months and years trying to find some relief for their irritated skin, only to have it flare up again with no warning. While traditional Western medicine seems to be at a loss, many people are finding relief for their eczema symptoms through Traditional Chinese Medicine.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM is one of the oldest healing systems on the planet. Rooted in natural law, it’s a medicine of the relationships between how everything functions at the deepest, invisible levels, and how it interacts with the surface, visible physical levels. Each practice, principle, and theory reflects and harmonizes with the relationships that exist within natural law.
Rather than looking simply at a list of symptoms or manifestations of a problem or condition and trying to cover them up — much like Western medicine does — TCM looks deeper to the root of problems and conditions and probes how our body systems are connected and dependent on one another to function as a whole. By paying close attention to the connections within the body, TCM practitioners are commonly able to help more than one illness at a time. It’s an essential part of Traditional Chinese Medicine that we treat the whole body, since organ systems aren’t independent of one another. Multiple levels are incorporated into prevention and treatment of illnesses and sicknesses by using a combination of diet, supplements, herbal therapy, topical therapy, energy manipulation, acupuncture, and more.
How Can Traditional Chinese Medicine Help My Eczema?
Many Western techniques use topical skin care products to help to soothe irritated skin and systemic steroids to ease some of the annoying symptoms, but these can often lead to unwanted side effects. A few changes in diet are recommended, mostly in regard to keeping inflammation at bay and avoiding known triggers.
With TCM, a completely holistic approach is taken, incorporating a combination of creams, baths, teas, and pills in order to calm the overactive immune system, but that’s not where it starts.
Many TCM practitioners believe that eczema is not the primary problem, itself, but actually the sign of a deeper issue. Treatment aims to address the underlying problems.
Eczema will frequently go away on its own once these problems have been identified and tended to.
Your skin’s health is a reflection of your inner health, including your internal organs. From a Chinese energy perspective, skin conditions develop from excess of ‘damp,’ ‘heat,’ or ‘wind.’ The ‘damp’ causes itching and generates ‘heat,’ which is synonymous with redness and inflammation. In chronic cases, this can also cause damage to the Qi, or the vital energy flow created along the pathways that connect to internal organs in the body, which then becomes deficient in its ability to nourish the skin. This deficiency also generates ‘wind,’ which causes dryness and itchiness. The ‘heat’ (in the form of inflammation) associated with many skin conditions, damages not only the skin’s integrity, but also depletes its defensive energy, making it more vulnerable to infection and pathogens.
The Role Stress Plays With Eczema in TCM
Though still a mystery, researchers have noted that there is a mental component to eczema, and stress is very often a major trigger for the condition. One of the first and most important treatment considerations is to employ good stress-relieving techniques. Massage, acupuncture, and daily meditation can have a profound benefit for the body, including a reduction of inflammation of the skin.
If alleviating stress and environmental triggers only provides some relief, using certain Chinese herbs can be more effective than traditional Western treatments. They’re most effective when taken internally, offering long-term relief from skin conditions.
Herbs like Tribulus, Wind Protector, and Japanese Catnip can help to relieve itching and dryness. Burdock is a key herb used to treat skin conditions in TCM to help clear ‘heat,’ resolve ‘damp,’ dispel ‘wind,’ and eliminate toxins. Westerners often use it for detoxification and as an anti-inflammatory. Astragalus helps to dispel from the skin and regenerate skin cells. Licorice root has immune regulating and anti-allergic effects. Dong Quai, White Peony, Rehmannia, and Fallopia are herbs that can nourish and invigorate the blood, restoring skin’s radiance and vitality. Coix seed, mung bean, dandelion, and portulaca have cleansing antibacterial properties that help the immune system get rid of metabolic wastes, toxins and pathogens by promoting proper circulation. They’re often paired with botanical extracts and natural oils that can complement and reinforce the effects of the internal therapy.
A Caveat of Traditional Chinese Medicine
So far, TCM isn’t recognizable as reimbursable by insurance companies. These therapies are known as supplements, not FDA pharmaceuticals, though they’re manufactured by reputable Chinese hospital pharmacies and tested for purity and consistency by approved laboratories.
Following the route of TCM isn’t necessarily for everyone, but if you’re looking for relief from your eczema symptoms, consider the bigger picture and take a holistic approach. Traditional Chinese Medicine can provide much overdo comfort.
Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare: TCM Meets Western Medicine
Father and son duo Steven Wang, MD and Gui Wang, LAc have over 60 years of combined experience helping patients utilizing both TCM and modern medicine. We believe that utilizing the knowledge of both worlds can lead to true breakthroughs in the field of dermatology. After years of focused testing, we are proud to offer a family of skincare products inspired by our love of holistic healing techniques. We offer a family of products which are natural, effective, and never tested on animals.