I was recently contacted via Twitter by a prominent eczema care company (@eczema_company) and asked to contribute as a guest to their blog site to speak to how Traditional Chinese Medicine can help treat the condition.  Subsequently, they have put together another post of questions they and their readers had for me following my post, along with my answers to those questions, which has been published today at itchylittleworld.wordpress.com.

The following is a re-post of the original blog on my own site to give my interested readers access to the information.   As mentioned, the follow up Q & A article published today on the Itchy Little world website will be re-posted to my site shortly for your convenience.

It is heartbreaking to see an infant suffering through a flare-up of eczema, especially for the child’s parent.  Eczema, otherwise known as atopic dermatitis, is the most common skin disease in children, affecting nearly 25% of children worldwide.  Over 2 million Canadians and 15 million Americans suffer from eczema.  Since 1970, the prevalence of eczema has nearly tripled.

More common in children who have family members with asthma, allergies and/or eczema themselves, eczema often begins in babies when food is first introduced or when new foods are introduced. The current treatment by modern medicine helps control the eczema, but is not curative.  The corticosteroid creams used to treat it have adverse effects over the long-term.

The lives of those affected by eczema are further challenged by the complications of loss of sleep, and commonly they lack confidence and have low self-esteem.

Many studies have shown the effectiveness of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s herbal formulas in treating eczema.  Often these studies are not accessible in North America because they are performed in China, and translation is slow in bringing us the information.  However, many studies have been conducted and reported in British medical journals.  One such research project (placebo-controlled double-blind trial) was a one-year study1 of 37 children suffering from eczema conducted at the Hospital for Sick Children, London, England.  At the end of the study, 18 children had at least a 90% reduction in the severity of their eczema after 8 weeks of treatment.

The beauty of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it gives the trained practitioner the ability not only to treat the condition, but also to understand why the condition is there, such that we can then address and treat the cause of the symptoms.  We call this “treating the branch (symptoms) while also treating the root (cause of the symptoms)”. The digestion always plays a role in causing the symptoms associated with atopic dermatitis and so treatment involves regulating the digestion.

The practitioner is able to differentiate between the various ‘TCM Patterns’ involved in the condition of eczema in order to select the most appropriate herbs to back out the pattern.  Not only is TCM treatment effective, it is quite rare to experience any adverse effects from the medicine.

Administration of the herbal medicine through an eyedropper is the common method in treating infants.  The use of an oral syringe is the most common approach for young children.  As children reach the age of 3-6 years old, they become able to consume the tea as a drink.

It is often also necessary to use topical herbal creams to bring the acute symptoms under control.  It is highly important to stop the itch/scratch cycle, especially at night when the patient will scratch unconsciously during sleep.

Effectiveness of the treatment will be contingent on the skill of the practitioner and the ability of the patient to be compliant in taking the medicine regularly.  Typically amelioration of the symptoms will occur within the first few weeks of treatment.

Due to the drastic improvement in a patient’s quality of life, and in the quality of life of the patient’s family members, I find it extremely fulfilling to treat eczema, and am happy to educate the public on how effective TCM can be in resolving such conditions.

Reference: 1: Sheehan, M.P., Atherton, D.J., One-year follow up of children treated with Chinese medicinal herbs for atopic eczema.  British Journal of Dermatology (ENGLAND) Apr 1994, 130 (4) p488-493.

***The Itchy Little World website is a wonderful resource for information on the care and treatment of eczema.  Please pass it on to those you know affected by the condition.***