Skip to content

Healing Eczema with Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine (Guest Post)

Acupuncture Point Model

We have dabbled in treating Tristan’s eczema with acupuncture, but it didn’t go so well. He was three years old and was not at all ok with the needles (that were very tiny and disguised as stickers) being applied to his body. So, we didn’t get through enough treatments to see a difference. BUT, I will say that I’ve heard of many adults who saw great results with treating their eczema with acupuncture. One primary reason is that acupuncture is great for treating stress, and we all know that stress can play a big part in eczema flare ups. So, I certainly believe acupuncture is worth a try if you can find a great practitioner with a good reputation in your area.

- Jennifer

Healing Eczema with Acupuncture and Eastern Medicine  

By Rebecca Ong-Sutherland (See bio below)

Eczema affects millions of Americans in varying degrees.  From mild unnoticeable cases to uncomfortable and unsightly skin irritations, people have been looking to Western medicine to heal this condition for decades. Countless medications and products have emerged that offer temporary relief, but few provide lasting results.  There’s hope in an often overlooked and underutilized resource in skin care – traditional Eastern medicine.

Eczema – The Basics

People with eczema have patches of skin that become inflamed, red and itchy. These patches can appear anywhere on the body and range in severity from mild irritations to skin that can become extremely dry, cracked and painful.  The most common type of eczema is Atopic Dermatitis.  This type of eczema is a genetic condition that’s triggered by allergens and is often seen in people who also suffer from asthma. The correlation between eczema and allergies is very strong, and children that are born with Atopic Dermatitis are much more likely to develop allergies as they grow.

Acupuncture Point Model

Acupuncture Point Model

Other types of eczema

  • Contact Dermatitis is a condition where eczema is caused by contact with irritating chemicals or allergens like soaps, cosmetics or poison ivy.
  • Dyshidrotic Dermatitis is specific to the hands and feet, and can cause painful blisters.
  • Nummular Dermatitis, most common in men over fifty, which arises as coin-shaped red marks that usually show up on the legs, arms, hands and lower back.
  • Neurodermatitis is caused by excessive scratching.
  • Seborrheic Dermatitis is dandruff.
  • Stasis Dermatitis is caused when leg veins don’t properly support circulation.

Most commonly, people treat any eczema with a variety of oral and topical medications. Cortisone steroids are often used to relieve painful symptoms and reduce inflammation, but they do little to heal the skin and virtually nothing to prevent further irritation.  Temporary relief from discomfort can be achieved but when medication is stopped, symptoms return or worsen.

What causes this irritating condition?

Eastern medicine’s approach to eczema is based in its understanding that the body is a holistic system.  Everything from the conditions in your gut (caused by diet) to the flow of energy (Qi) through the body’s energy channels (the meridian system) affects the health of the skin.  For example, the lungs are primarily in charge of the skin’s health.  Excess heat and dampness in the lungs are common causes of skin irritations like eczema. When the Qi of the lungs is in harmony they can regulate the amount of heat and dampness that builds up in the skin. Because the lungs’ energy channels lead directly to the skin on the face and chest, they can help to regulate skin eruptions by effectively opening and closing the pores, releasing heat and dampness that causes problems.  The spleen and stomach play similar roles in managing levels of heat and dampness on the skin. Also important is the liver as it regulates the detoxification of blood.  When blood has high levels of toxins, red itchy patches will become more inflamed. Through acupuncture, the Qi of these organs is gently guided to flow more harmoniously. When they work together, surface skin problems dissolve without medications or negative side effects. In addition to disruptions in Qi and toxin build-up, it’s important to note that an unhealthy or inappropriate diet contributes to skin problems.  The health of the gut is very strongly correlated to the skin.  One option for eczema sufferers is the Paleo diet, which eliminates the unnatural level of inflammation in the body that can be caused by a typical Western diet.  Any kind of processed food and foods containing grains, white potatoes and rice cause an inflammatory response in the body.  When these foods are removed from the diet and inflammation is reduced in the gut, the result will be healthier skin.  Many people with eczema have reported that certain foods seem to trigger their condition, while others can eat these foods without any obvious negative consequences. But commitment to a healthier diet of whole foods based largely on fruits, vegetables, meats and seafood can make a big improvement in skin and overall health.  Learn more about the Paleo diet here.

Creating a plan

If you’re having trouble with your skin, the first thing we’d do if we meet or if you meet with another acupuncturist is evaluate the problem and get a clear understanding of how your diet and lifestyle may be impacting your overall health.  From there, evaluating which areas of your Qi need strengthening will help in formulating an acupuncture plan that will boost Qi where needed. Sometimes, Chinese herbal medicines can also be incorporated into skin care regimens.  Dietary recommendations will be made.  A plan for regular acupuncture combined with herbs and dietary changes, if necessary, can provide lasting relief to skin that’s been suffering from eczema.

Rebecca Ong-Sutherland

Rebecca Ong-Sutherland

Bio: Rebecca Ong-Sutherland Lic.Ac., MAOM  runs a successful practice in Boston, Boston Alternative Health. Rebecca received her Master’s Degree in Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture and is licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine. Rebecca studied Chinese and Japanese-style acupuncture as well as Chinese Herbal Medicine, a combination that few practitioners in the country possess. She has many clinical hours of experience treating digestive disorders, pain, injuries, stress-related conditions, allergies and Women’s Health concerns. You can find Boston Alternative Health on Facebook.

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. This post is interesting as I have recently thought about doing acupuncture. I am more skeptical about chinese herbal medicines due to many accounts of being given steroids without being informed reported in the media and due to lack of relief to my eczema last time I tried them.

    Acupuncture is common in the UK but noone I know had ever tried it to give me feedback so anyone who has had it done, it would be great to hear from you!

    December 19, 2013
    • Hi Selina – We have not personally tried it either, but I believe it can work really well for adults for at least relieving stress which is so often at least one of the triggers plaguing so many eczema sufferers. So, in my opinion it really cannot hurt to get treated at least for stress, and you may see improvement that way. But if you can find a practitioner that has experience treating eczema as well, I’d highly recommend you give it a try for stress and eczema. Jennifer

      January 6, 2014
      • Thanks for the tip. I am a major stresser and worrier so it might be good. Just finding a good practitioner near me stopping me now. Have to do my research. Thanks for this post though. I’m currently trying the 10 day headspace challenge to see if meditation can help

        January 6, 2014
      • A tip for finding an acupuncturist – find a natural health group in FB that is based in your area. You will be surprised at how many FB groups there are. I’d ask them for recommendations. And also go to your local health food stores and ask for recommendations too.

        January 6, 2014
      • Thanks for the tips. Will try this

        January 6, 2014

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: