Herbal Medicine and Eczema

It is estimated that over 10 million people in the U.S. suffer from eczema, a skin disorder that is often difficult to treat.  Although conventional treatments in the form of medications are often prescribed to relieve the symptoms of eczema, many individuals opt to use natural remedies, such as herbal medicine, either as an alternative or complementary treatment to more conventional methods.

What is eczema?

Eczema is a skin disease classified as dermatitis.  It is characterized by the inflammation of the epidermis or top layer of the skin.  It is often manifested in the form of small, multiple red rashes that may crack, blister, flake, scale, or ooze.  Because rashes can sometimes be dry and itchy, scratching can sometimes cause them to bleed.  The tearing of the skin can then lead to scarring and skin discoloration.

The first time eczema appears in individuals is when they are still infants.  Rashes often appear on knees, elbows, and certain areas of the face.  In many cases, this skin disease resolves by itself and fails to cause any problems in adulthood.  However, eczema can persist in certain individuals, usually triggered by a bout of allergies to certain irritants such as chemicals or food ingredients.  It can also appear suddenly on people who suffer from frequent stress.

Are individuals predisposed to eczema?

Very often, people who have eczema have members in their family who also have the skin disease.  They may also suffer from hay fever, asthma, and/or other forms of allergies.

Natural Remedies for Eczema

Herbal medicines are commonly used as natural remedies for the treatment of eczema.  Herbs have been used for hundreds of years to treat various ailments, a practice that was and still is prevalent in China.  In Oriental and traditional Chinese medicine, eczema is not a skin disease but a symptom of another illness.  If a person suffers from eczema, something isn’t right with his or her overall health.  As a result, treatment of eczema using natural remedies focuses on improving the general health of the person and not just eliminating the skin disorder.

To treat eczema with natural remedies, there are several methods that can be used.  These include:

Cold Compresses

A decoction of several Chinese herbs such as ku shen, bai xian pi, cang zhu, gan cao, and huang bai is prepared and used as a cold compress.  It is then applied directly onto the affected areas.  This natural remedy is effective for mild to moderate cases, and can help relieve symptoms of itching and swelling.

Herbal Drink

Drinks made from Chinese herbs are also commonly used to manage or eliminate eczema.  The combination of herbs will usually vary, depending on the severity of the skin disease or the suspected root cause.  Some of these herbs include fang feng, tian men dong, gan cao, shi gao, yi yi ren, ku shen, sheng di huang, zhi mu, and mu dan pi, among others.  Herbs such as chuan xiong and huang qin may also be used to treat scalp eczema while long dan cao may be added to treat ear/facial eczema.

Are Herbs Safe?

As with any alternative method in treating a skin disease or disorder, it is important for patients to carefully discuss their options with a medical professional or with a licensed and experienced herbalist/traditional Chinese medicine practitioner.  Some herbs have a high level of toxicity and while effective, may still lead to health complications if not used properly.

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