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  • Writer's pictureAku Energija

Eczema, Psoriasis, Dermatitis: Treating Skin Conditions with TCM

Skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis can be very annoying. While the itchiness and pain cause physical discomfort, the ill appearance of skin also affects the patient’s self-esteem and other psychological side.

It is common in the mainstream medicine to look only skin-deep when diagnosing and treating conditions afflicting the skin. However the root of such problems is often coming from deeper places – inside the body. With the holistic understanding of our body, TCM believes that all the changes on the skin is message reflected from the inside. So rather than being bothered and annoyed by recurraning skin condition, many people now look for effective alternative to manage the skin condition from its root cause with TCM. [Read more: TCM vs Western Medicine] [Read more: Your Body as a Garden]


Eczema is a generic term for inflammatory conditions of the skin, particularly with vesiculation in the acute stage, typically erythematous (reddened skin), edematous (swollen), papular (small raised bumps), and crusting; followed often by lichenification (a pattern of flattened papules resembling lichen on a rock), and scaling and occasionally duskiness of the erythema (red skin) and, infrequently, hyperpigmentation (darkened patches of skin); often accompanied by itching and burning; the vesicles form by intraepidermal spongiosis (intercellular edema of the epidermis, or swelling between skin cells).


Psoriasis is a non-contagious, common, chronic and incurable skin disease that occurs when faulty signals in the immune system cause skin cells (keratinocytes) to regenerate too quickly – every three to four days instead of the usual 28-30 day cycle. These extra skin cells build up on the skin’s surface, forming red, flaky, scaly and inflamed lesions that can itch, crack, bleed and be extremely painful. These lesions can be very disfiguring, causes others to stare and discriminate against people with psoriasis. The disease generally affects joints, limbs, genitalia and scalp, but it can appear anywhere and even cover the whole body.

Treatments on skin diseases

Due to the complicated pathological mechanisms on above skin diseases, there is very limited treatment options in conventional medicine. Corticosteroids, such as triamcinolone, methylprednisolone, prednisolone and dexamethasone, can effectively reduce inflammation, itching and pain through a wide range of physiological processes, including stress response, immune response, and regulation of inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism, protein catabolism, blood electrolyte levels and behavior. However, they are not curative and attempt to increase more adverse effects if with long time oral or injection use, including Cushing’s syndrome, hypertension, osteoporosis, cataract, colitis, ulcer, hypogonadism, hypothyroidism, amenorrhoea, and retinopathy. In other words, the “treatment” could be worse than the “disease” itself.

Many people know that conventional medicine is not enough, but why should you consider Traditional Chinese medicine?

As with most skin disorders, flare ups of skin conditions can often be associated with an increase in stress. However, simply trying to relax is not going to cut it as a treatment option. We need to understand the factors driving these inflammatory conditions in order to begin resolving these problems from the inside out.

It is my hope that you will be empowered through understanding a Classical Chinese Medicine perspective on these often challenging health conditions so that you can seek a path to healing and resolution rather than suppression.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective on Psoriasis and Eczema

Psoriasis is an outward expression of pathological heat emanating from the deep bone level of the body which is correlated with the Kidney system. Eczema, on the other hand, manifests as an allergic response to something either internal or external that initiates the skin reaction. It may be triggered by food or an environmental chemical that irritates the skin and causes the inflammatory reaction which can spread as long as the allergic reaction continues.

Both psoriasis and eczema can be disorders with hereditary predispositions that have been passed along genetically.

The origin of problem - excess fire/heat and accumulation of dampness

The red skin and oozing blisters typical with eczema are described in Chinese Medicine as trapped heat and dampness. The Dampness creates the clustering sores, and the Heat creates the Wind/itching, the redness and causes the condition to spread more rampantly.

If Dampness is present with eczema or psoriasis, this suggests that there is also some problem involving the bowels likely with excessive Heat trapped in the large intestine causing constipation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or colitis. Heat and Dampness can also get trapped in the bladder causing recurring urinary tract infections or interstitial cystitis that creates cramps and pain in the lower abdomen often following urination.

The way to resolve this imbalance is by choosing foods and herbs to drain and vent heat (without damaging the digestion by consuming too many cold, raw foods). From a dietary perspective, bitter foods like dandelion and other dark, leafy greens are fantastic for clearing heat and toxicity. Chinese herbal formulas are particularly helpful, because the multiple herbs in a formula can clear heat and dampness without creating more imbalance in your body. [Read more about dietary advice] [Read more: Cook your food - digestive system explained in Traditional Chinese medicine]

Digestive weakness

Digestive weakness refers to weak Stomach and Spleen Qi energy in TCM theory. Common symptoms may include gas, bloating, digestive allergies or sensitivities, constipation, diarrhea, poor appetite, fatigue, brain fog, or excessive worrying.

When it comes to eczema and other skin conditions, I almost always have found there to be a significant digestive component – even in the absence of digestive symptoms. This is because healthy digestion is at the epicenter of good health. When our digestive system is working properly, we get the necessary energy to repair and to clean. But if the digestive is weak, the body fail to deliver the good and regenerating energy to the damaged part, and the toxin build up due to poor circulation power that is supposed to be provided by the Stomach and Spleen.

The connection between skin and Lung system

TCM theory states that the Lung system doctrine the skin and work as the defensive guard in our immune system. The lungs control our body’s relationship to the external world. They govern the part of the immune system that keeps agents such as virus, bacteria and fungus from penetrating into our bodies to make us sick. This is why chronic sufferers of eczema or psoriasis become prone to secondary infections on top of their skin sores. Furthermore, since patients with either psoriasis or chronic eczema can develop weak Lungs, it is also common for these patients who chronically suffer from either of these skin disorders to develop asthma.

Studies suggest Chinese herbal medicines can relieve eczema

How long will it take to heal?

Treatment of chronic eczema has proven to be very difficult, both with standard medicine and with TCM therapies. The rule of thumb with using any holistic treatment is that for every year you've had a condition it takes about a month to treat. While this is only a loose guide, it will help you to set expectations.

Treatment times vary enormously and depend upon a number of factors: the severity of the condition, the length of time a patient has suffered from the condition and their individual response to the herbal medicine. During the course of their treatment, a patient can expect flare-ups from time to time. These can be caused by a number of factors (eg: stress, common cold, allergy). Gradually though, the improvement will be lasting and the flare-ups will be less severe and shorter lasting.

Though the healing process can be challenging and require lifestyle changes, with patience and perseverance, eczema and psoriasis can be treated safely and very effectively through Chinese Medicine.

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