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Chinese Medicine for Chronic Eczema – Kampo Toronto

Skin care

The appearance of our skin reflects our internal health. Treating the imbalances beneath the skin is the key to Chinese medicine’s solutions for skin health.

Chronic eczema is a typical condition that is linked to many parts of the body such as the digestive, immune and hormonal systems. This recent case of chronic eczema demonstrates the empirical approach that I applied using Chinese herbal medicine.

How does Western medicine treat eczema?

Western medicine looks at eczema as a skin inflammation disease. That is why “eczema dermatitis” is also known by other names, such as “atopic dermatitis,” and the most common type of eczema, “contact dermatitis,” an allergic type of eczema. Corticosteroid and hydrocortisone are the most commonly- prescribed? drugs that dermatologists use for symptom control.

For severe flare-ups, doctors would use system immune suppression drugs such as azathioprine, cyclosporine, methotrexate, pimecrolimus (Elidel), crisaborole (Eucrisa) and tacrolimus (Protopic). Doctors only prescribe these drugs when other treatments fail and only for a few weeks due to their side effects, which include digestive symptoms, more skin infections, and possibly another flare-up while weaning off the drugs.

A Case of Chronic Eczema with TCM Herbs and Acupuncture

July 27, 2022 First visit
Bella is an 17-year-old patient who has suffered from chronic eczema for 10 years. Her secondary complaints are acne and anxiety. Otherwise, her overall health is good.

Her eczema first developed on the arms and legs, and last year it spread to the head area. The affected areas have raised patches that are red and very itchy. She has been using a steroid cream that her dermatologist recommended but the condition is getting worse.

How Does Chinese Medicine Treat Eczema?

Mortar and pestle with fresh herbs, spices and virgin olive oil, ready for grinding. Includes basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, mint, parsley and bay leaves.

There are several types of eczema patterns in, as per Chinese medicine’s diagnosis. The most common ones are blood stasis, dampness, heat, dryness and wind type. Usually patients exhibit more than one type of pattern and require accurate diagnosis by TCM practitioners to address the underlying issues properly.

In this case, I first used a formula called “Shi Wei Bai Du Tang,” which is commonly used for chronic skin issues. I also added several herbs, including “Lian Qiao,” “Yi Yi Ren,” “Zhi Zi” and “Yin Chen Hao,” to further reduce the inflammation.

August 4, 2022 Follow-up
After the first batch of herbs, Bella’s eczema has gotten worse with more itching. She had to apply a steroid cream to control the symptoms.

I did another assessment and found the colour of her tongue to be dark red, which indicated there was blood stasis in the body; so, I added another formula to address the condition.

August 16, 2022 Follow-up
Bella’s condition has not improved after two batches of my herbal treatments. She was very tired and her skin was very dry and itchy. Yet, she was determined to continue with Chinese medicine to treat her skin naturally. This time, her sister, who is also my patient, mentioned that for the past few years, Bella has been feeling dizzy and lightheaded whenever? she gets up from a seated or lying position. This is a condition called Orthostatic Hypotension (OH). I reviewed her general health issues and noticed that she tends to have dry stools.

With these two new pieces of information, in addition to the fact that previous treatment that mainly focused on “heat” and “blood toxicity” wasn’t effective, I decided to adjust the direction of the treatment to address the deeper problem: blood dryness. This was indicated by the extremely dry skin, dry stools and blood deficiency (which manifested in the patient’s OH condition).

Based on this newly developed hypothesis, a more complicated treatment plan? was formulated. It combines two empirical Kampo formulas: “Lian Zhu Yin” and “Wen Qing Yin,” which can be further broken down into four smaller classic formulas: “Ling Gui Zhu Gan Tang”(4 herbs), “Xiao Chai Hu Tang”(7 herbs), “Si Wu Tang”(4 herbs) and “Huang Lian Jie Du Tang”(4 herbs), for a total of 17 different herbs in this formula(there are two herbs that are used in two different formulas). And again, I added “Lian Qiao,” one of my favourite herbs for skin and general immune regulation.

September 9, 2022 Follow-up
Finally, we made a breakthrough after 6 weeks in treatment. This time, overall Bella felt a lot better: she had more energy, her OH was gone, and her period cramps were also much better. However, her main complaint, eczema, was still not improving as much as other aspects of her health.

I was pretty sure the treatment was headed in the right direction. To see further improvement, all I needed was either more time or more accurate targeting of the root problems. I chose the latter.

Chinese medicine has a wealth of knowledge and formulas for practitioners to play with. Among the 200 classic formulas that were recorded 2000 years ago, there is one formula, “Da Huang Mu Dan Pi Tang,” that is used by Kampo doctors to treat chronic and stubborn skin diseases, especially when the progression hits a plateau. This formula has a strong and deeply detoxifying effect at the blood level. I added this formula to the previous batch, as well as another herb, “Yi Yi Ren,” (Dalu, see earlier note about capital or small letter for first letter of each word for this and other herbs) to reinforce the effect on the skin and body’s dry nature.

September 24, 2022 Follow-up

smiling middle aged woman and elderly woman

Bella was very happy. Her skin condition was a lot better, in addition to other improvements. Her skin looked smoother and there were fewer patches and less redness. She had very little itchiness and no dizziness. Her periods were also more regular and there was very little discomfort.

Why Is It Difficult to Treat Eczema?

Western medicine is very well aware that inflammation is the main pathology of eczema. Yet why are there not many effective and safe drugs that can treat it well? It is because inflammation is the end result of a complex physiological network that involves immune response, digestive function, endocrine function, live detox, blood coagulation, and many other body systems. Without properly identifying and addressing which parts of the network have gone wrong, simply taking anti-inflammatory drugs is not adequate to address the entire problem.

Applying Empirical Approach for Chronic Eczema with TCM

In this case, I didn’t hit a home run on the first pitch. However, TCM, particularly Kampo medicine, is an empirical medicine that provides an evidence-based system with a vast selection of herbal treatments,(delete,) and a scientifically-structured path that clinicians can follow to deal with complicated health issues.
In addition, I also used acupuncture as a supplemental treatment to help(improve?) Bella’s overall health and balance, and enhance the results with herbal formulas. Bella’s healing is still in progress but we are both confident that we have found the right treatment for her. It is just a matter of time before her skin fully heals.

If you suffer from chronic and stubborn skin conditions and have not found an effective solution, Chinese medicine may help to improve your situation. Feel free to leave your concerns in the comments section or reach out to us to book a Chinese medicine consultation for your skin health.

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