Eczema (Atopic Dermatitis) is a very common skin disorder that affects adults and children. Although it can appear anywhere on the skin, it favors the inside of elbows, wrists, backs of knees, ankles, and occasionally, the chest and abdomen. Ranging from mild to severe, it presents with dry, red, itchy, skin that will often flake. It can be caused by a host of issues, including: allergies, chemicals, hot or cold exposure, soaps or detergents, viruses, bacteria, and stress.

Western medicine’s first line treatment is to calm the irritation, manage allergic response, and to kill any possible infection. This is mainly achieved through the use of moisturizers, antihistamines, steroids, and antibiotics. These medicines all carry risk of side effects, which range from mild to severe.

More recently in the West, immunomodulators have been used to decrease immune response in those who suffer from chronic eczema. This is a very troubling development since these substances carry the “black box label” that denotes toxic side effects – in the case of these drugs, they increase the risk of cancer.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views this type of disorder as Wind Heat in the skin. TCM practitioners recognize the same causes, but use a very different language when describing and treating eczema. Nonetheless, TCM is very effective without the potentially serious side effects that come with Western medicine’s approaches. As often as is the case in skin disorders in TCM, treatment is administered via acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet therapy, supplementation, and avoidance of irritants. Additionally, if asthma or allergies play a role, they will be treated too.

For acute presentations, it is often recommended to use Chinese medicine alongside Western approaches to most quickly achieve relief. Minus the use of immunomodulators, which normally wouldn’t be prescribed for acute cases, I very much agree with this approach when symptoms are severe.

If you suffer from eczema, I would encourage you to consider treatment with TCM. Consult with your local practitioner to see how it could bring you relief as TCM offers gentle and effective approaches with little risk.