Eczema according to Chinese Medicine

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 sores, vaginal itching and vaginal discharge in the pattern “Damp Heat in the Liver”. 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 two 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.

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

Water Buffalo Horns (Shui Niu Jiao) is the king ingredient for Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a formula used for Heat in the Blood

Heat in the Blood

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu)

Tongue color: Red

Heat in the Blood (or Blood-Heat) refers to a condition whereby Heat, as a so-called "Pernicious Influence", entered the Blood. This invasion tends to accelerate Blood flow (leading to a faster pulse) and to manifest itself in various types of bleeding as well as other symptoms.

In addition to eczema, other symptoms associated with Heat in the Blood include fever, restlessness and insomnia.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Heat in the Blood is associated with health issues such as Early Menstruation, Abnormal Uterine Bleeding or Heavy Menstruation.

Heat in the Blood is often treated with Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a herbal formula made of 4 herbs (including Water Buffalo Horns - Shui Niu Jiao - as a key herb). Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that clear nutritive-level heat", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system".

Read more about Heat in the Blood here

Two herbal formulas that might help with eczema

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

Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 4 herbs

Key actions: Treats severe fevers and Heat in the Blood system. Removes Blood Stagnation.

Why might Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang help with eczema?

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

Other symptoms characteristic of Heat In The Blood include fever, restlessness and insomnia.

Read more about Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat eczema

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 Unprepared Rehmannia (Di Huang) help with eczema?

Because Unprepared Rehmannia is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat eczema as a symptom, like Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang or Long Dan Xie Gan Tang for instance.

Unprepared Rehmannia is a Cold herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Expels Heat by Cooling Blood. Tonifies Yin by promoting Fluid production. Soothes the Heart by calming Blazing Fire. Cools and nourishes.

Read more about Unprepared Rehmannia here

Why might Water Buffalo Horn (Shui Niu Jiao) help with eczema?

Because it is a key herb in Xi Jiao Di Huang Tang, a herbal formula indicated to treat the pattern 'Heat in the Blood' (a pattern with eczema as a symptom)

Water Buffalo Horns is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter and Salty. It targets the Stomach, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Cools the Blood, drains Fire and stops reckless movement of Blood. Clears Heat and Fire and stops tremors and convulsions. Cools Fire and expels toxins.

Read more about Water Buffalo Horns here

Why might Stephania Root (Fang Ji) help with eczema?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat eczema as can be seen on Stephania Root's page.

Stephania Roots is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Bladder and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination. Allays pain and dispels Wind-Damp painful obstruction (Bi Pain).

Read more about Stephania Roots here

Why might Gold Coin Herb (Jin Qian Cao) help with eczema?

Because it is a herb specifically indicated to treat eczema as can be seen on Gold Coin Herb 's page.

Gold Coin Herb is a Cool herb that tastes Salty and Sweet. It targets the Bladder, the Gallbladder, the Kidney and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Drains damp-heat. Promotes urination. Cools heat and disperses swellings. Cools blood and dispels toxicity.

Read more about Gold Coin Herb here