Natural Treatments for Eczema
By Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Eczema (from the greek ekzema, meaning “to break out”) is a chronic inflammation of the outer skin layer. It is an allergic condition that occurs in bouts. During its active phase, eczema produces oozing, crusting blisters, redness, itching, and occasionally pain in the affected areas. As the blisters dry, moisture is lost, resulting in dry, itchy, scaly skin with the appearance of thick leathery patches. The dryness and constant itching- and scratching- may lead to ulcerations of the skin, making it prone to infections. Eczema affects more than 15 million people in the United States, particularly children under the age of five.
Eczema is exacerbated by exposure to environmental irritants such as household chemicals, laundry detergents, temperature changes, and dry weather. Food allergies and nutritional deficiencies can contribute to its development. However, eczema is not contagious. Recent studies have linked stress and anxiety with eczema. Currently dermatologists provide palliative solutions to relieve itching - usually corticosteroids or, in severe conditions, immunosuppressant drugs.
The skin is the largest organ in your body. It is a functional part of your immune system, and it is an interface with the environment with its millions of tiny pores through which substances exit and enter the body. With treatment in the form of diet, herbs, acupuncture and relaxation therapy, eczema can be resolved.
In Chinese medicine, the lungs govern the skin; they are responsible for the proper opening and closing of the pores and for proper nourishment of the skin. When the lung network is impaired, the skin manifests signs of the imbalance. The lung network includes the large intestine, which has the largest number of immune cells in the body. The digestive tract is responsible for removing impure substances from the body, preventing their buildup in the skin. When the bowels are sluggish, constipated, and unable to cleanse the body, toxic substances back up into the skin and show up as lesions representative of damp or toxic heat. In chronic eczema there is often an underlying condition of blood deficiency in which the blood is unable to properly nourish and moisturize the skin. This condition must be addressed.
I have seen many patients with eczema, especially children. One of my three children suffered a terrible case of eczema from one to two years of age. Imagine waking up in the morning to find your child bloody from head to toe from scratching through the night! I treated my child the same way I treat all of my patients. My approach is to first cleanse the body of toxins and residues. Then I work on improving digestive function and harmonizing the immune system to prevent allergic reactions. With strict dietary and nutritional therapies, acupuncture, oral and topical herbal preparations, and stress management, many of my patients have resolved long-standing eczema conditions. And, thank goodness, my child has been fine for seven years now - and in fact has the best skin of all of my kids.
Here are my recommendations.
HOW TO TREAT ECZEMA WITH DIET AND NUTRITION
What you eat eventually ends up in your skin. Many people consume foods without a second thought about what they contain. Chemicals and artificial ingredients can cause allergic reactions and irritate your immune system. Keep a diary of your meals and be attentive to your physical and emotional reactions to food. Soon you will discover whether you have allergic reactions that worsen your eczema. Avoiding problem foods can significantly reduce flare-ups.
- Water is essential for cleansing the body. People who drink at least 80 ounces of water a day tend to have better bowel habits and develop fewer allergic reactions.
- Eat foods that nourish the skin. Incorporate more broccoli, dandelion green, mung beans, lentils, split peas, chickpeas, black beans, lima beans, pinto beans, seaweed, pearl barley, oats, adzuki beans, water chestnuts.
- Incorporate more raspberries, papaya, pineapple, cherries, peaches, apples, pears, raisins, and grapes into your diet.
- Eat carrots, watermelon, brewer’s yeast, olives, and winter squash.
- Fish, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, can help nourish the skin.
- Eliminate foods that could trigger eczema such as: processed foods containing artificial additives, bleached white flour, sugars, soft drinks, and spicy, deep-fried, and greasy foods.
- Avoid dairy products, eggs, shellfish, wheat, corn, tomatoes, eggplant, peanuts, most nuts and citrus fruits.
- Eliminate caffeine and alcohol.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ECZEMA
- Raw potato for eczema: mash 1 small raw potato and apply it as poultice to the affected skin area, changing every 4 hours for 3 days, or until skin improves, to help moisturize the skin and heal the sores.
- calendula oil for eczema: moisturize your skin with calendula oil twice a day.
- Pearl barley and mung beans for eczema: boil 1 cup each of pearl barley and soaked mung beans in 8 cups of water for 1 hour. Drink 3 cups a day for 1 week, or until skin improves.
- Sea salt wash for eczema: dissolve 1 teaspoon sea salt and 1 teaspoon borax in 1 cup of lukewarm water. Wash the affected area 2 or 3 times a day with the solution to prevent skin ulceration and infections.
- Natural sulfur bath for eczema: to relieve itching and to help healing, soak the affected areas in natural sulfur springs, if possible, or by adding 1/3 cup each of sulfur powder, Epsom salts, and olive oil to a lukewarm bath at home.
HERBAL THERAPY FOR ECZEMA
- Burdock, red clover, licorice, chamomile, and calendula are traditionally used for treating eczema.
- Our Exquisite Skin Chinese herbal formula helps to support healthy skin function and reduce itching from eczema. It contains siler, caltrop, schizonepetae, astragalus, peony, dong quai, Fo-Ti, rhubarb, and licorice.
- For topical relief from itching, mix 10 drops of Tonic Oil (containing wintergreen, eucalyptus menthol, and other herbs) with fresh aloe vera gel and apply liberally and frequently.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR ECZEMA
- Supplementing with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA; 800 milligrams) can help modulate inflammatory response. Evening primrose oil and borage oil can deliver substantial amounts of GLA to help regulate the immune inflammatory response.
- Taking probiotics such as acidophilus (3 to 5 billion organisms) is helpful for removing toxic substances and supporting healthy immune response.
- Taking 15 to 30 grams of zinc picolinate a day can help heal skin conditions.
- Supplementing with quercetin (500 milligrams) can reduce eczema flare-ups.
- The antioxidants selenium (200 micrograms) and vitamin C (1,000 milligrams) can help heal the skin.
- Taking MSM (1,000 milligrams), a sulfur-based nutritional supplement, can reduce inflammation and help healing.
TAI CHI MOVEMENTS FOR ECZEMA
Stress and anxiety can trigger eczema attacks, so it is important to implement stress reduction exercises in your regular workout routine. Tai chi and qi gong are great for reducing stress and calming the emotions, in addition to their physical benefits.
The General Cleansing Meditation below is designed to help with circulation and promote opening of the pores. It should be done indoors and not too vigorously.
• Sit comfortably or lie down on your back. Slow your respiration to deep, abdominal breathing. Say the word “calm” in your mind with every exhalation.
• In the three pathways below you will be visualizing your body parts, relaxing and releasing tension with every exhalation.
- First, down the front:starting at the top of your head, inhale, and then exhale while visualizing your scalp muscles relaxing. Say “calm” in your mind. Repeat this, saying the word as you move down through your face, throat, chest, abdomen, thighs, knees, calves, ankles, and feet. After you’ve relaxed your feet, visualize all the tension in your body leaving through your toes in the form of dark smoke.
- Second, down the sides: start at the temple region of your head. This pathway focuses on the sides and upper extremities. Inhale, then exhale while visualizing your temple muscles relaxing. Say “calm” in your mind. Repeat this, saying the word as you move down through your jaw, sides of the neck, shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, and hands. Once you’ve completely relaxed your hands, visualize all the tension leaving your body through your fingertips in the form of dark smoke.
- Third, down the back: the final pathway begins at the back of your head. This pathway relaxes the back of your body. Repeat this breathing-visualization-word routine, as above, as you go from the back of your neck down to your upper back, middle back, lower back, back of thighs, calves, and then heels. Then focus on the acupoint Bubbling Spring at the soles of your feet for 1 minute.
Practice this exercise for at least 15 minutes twice a day.
SELF ACUPRESSURE TREATMENT POINTS FOR ECZEMA
- First: acupressure point between thumb and index finger: locate the acupoint Valley of Harmony (LI-4), between your right thumb and index finger. Apply steady pressure with your left thumb until you feel soreness. Hold for 2 minutes. Repeat on the left hand.
- Second: acupressure point at the base of your skull: locate the acupoint Wind Pond (GB-20), in the natural indentation at the base of your skull on either side of your neck. Press and lift up toward the base of your skull with your thumbs and lean your head back. Use the weight of your head against your thumbs for steady pressure on the acupoint. Hold for 5 minutes, breathing deeply and slowly.
ECZEMA: ADVICE ON WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid exposure to temperature changes, cold or hot water, and detergent use.
- Avoid dehydration and constipation, and keep your skin moist.
- Avoid alcohol, smoking, and caffeine; they are irritants that can worsen eczema.
- Avoid stress, anxiety, and emotional turmoil, which can initiate flare-ups.
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©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
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