Eczema according to Chinese Medicine

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Eczema can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like eczema here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here eczema is often associated with fever, carbuncles and coughing in the pattern “Toxic-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause eczema.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of eczema we’ve identified three herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat eczema.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause eczema

In Chinese Medicine eczema is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Honeysuckle Flowers (Jin Yin Hua) is the king ingredient for Yin Qiao San, a formula used for Toxic-Heat

Toxic-Heat

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

In addition to eczema, other symptoms associated with Toxic-Heat include fever, carbuncles and coughing.

Toxic-Heat is often treated with Yin Qiao San, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Honeysuckle Flowers - Jin Yin Hua - as a key herb). Yin Qiao San belongs to the category of "external formulas for external disorders", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Disperses Wind Heat".

Read more about Toxic-Heat here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Damp Heat in the Liver

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Sticky coating, Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

This pattern is caused by excessive Heat in the Liver and Dampness due to Spleen Deficiency. Dampness can cause the formation of Phlegm.  Patients often have a feeling of fullness. It is often caused by bad diet and lifestyle, hot and damp environment and emotional stress such as anger.

In addition to eczema, other symptoms associated with Damp Heat in the Liver include sores, vaginal itching and vaginal discharge.

Damp Heat in the Liver is often treated with Long Dan Xie Gan Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including Chinese Gentian - Long Dan Cao - as a key herb). Long Dan Xie Gan Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat from the organs", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder".

Read more about Damp Heat in the Liver here

Three herbal formulas that might help with eczema

Huang Lian Jie Du Tang

Source date: 752 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Drains Fire. Resolves Toxin.

Why might Huang Lian Jie Du Tang help with eczema?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which eczema is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Toxic-Heat include fever, carbuncles and coughing.

Read more about Huang Lian Jie Du Tang here

Long Dan Xie Gan Tang

Source date: 1682 AD

Number of ingredients: 10 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat and Fire from the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears and drains Damp-Heat from the Lower Burner.

Why might Long Dan Xie Gan Tang help with eczema?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp Heat in the Liver' of which eczema is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp Heat In The Liver include sores, vaginal itching and vaginal discharge.

Read more about Long Dan Xie Gan Tang here

Qing Ying Tang

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Clears the Nutritive level Heat. Relieves Fire Toxin. Removes Heat. Nourishes Yin.

Why might Qing Ying Tang help with eczema?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Toxic-Heat' of which eczema is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Toxic-Heat include fever, carbuncles and coughing.

Read more about Qing Ying Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat eczema

Why might Goldthread Rhizome (Huang Lian) help with eczema?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat eczema and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat eczema as a symptom (such as Huang Lian Jie Du Tang for instance).

Goldthread Rhizomes is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Lower Burner. Eliminates Fire toxicity especially when there is associated Dampness. Acts as a sedative by eliminating Heart Fire. Eliminates Stomach Fire. Expel parasites

Read more about Goldthread Rhizomes here

Why might Phellodendron Bark (Huang Bo) help with eczema?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat eczema and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat eczema as a symptom (such as Huang Lian Jie Du Tang for instance).

Phellodendron Bark is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Bladder, the Kidney and the Large intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat in the Lower Burner. Clears Kidney Yin Deficient Heat. Applied externally or toxic Fire, especially associated with Dampness.

Read more about Phellodendron Bark here

Why might Chinese Gentian (Long Dan Cao) help with eczema?

Because it is both specifically indicated to treat eczema and also because it is an ingredient in herbal formulas known to treat eczema as a symptom (such as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang for instance).

Chinese Gentian is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Large intestine, the Liver and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Expels Damp-Heat especially in the Liver and Gallbladder Meridians. Clears Liver-Fire. Clears Liver-Wind.

Read more about Chinese Gentian here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with eczema?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat eczema as a symptom, like Bai Hu Tang or Sang Ju Yin for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Forsythia Fruit (Lian Qiao) help with eczema?

Because Forsythia Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat eczema as a symptom, like Yin Qiao San or Sang Ju Yin for instance.

Forsythia Fruits is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Heart, the Lung and the Small intestine.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat and toxicity from the Blood. Dispels External Wind-Heat. Reduces lumps, swollen lymph nodes and sores of a Heated nature.

Read more about Forsythia Fruits here