Skin diseases need root treatment
Psoriasis is not a new condition, having been described in ancient Greek and Chinese medical texts. The name psoriasis derives from the Greek "psora", which means to itch. Modern medicine can offer some management of symptoms for mild to moderate psoriasis, but no cure. Common medical treatments include steroids, immunosuppressive therapies, UV treatment and retinoid compounds. Many of these carry the risk of serious side effects.
This is an acute, sudden manifestation of psoriasis, characterized by small red lesions, and it often follows strep throat. Forty percent of guttate cases heal on their own within 6 months, while the rest go on to develop into plaque psoriasis. It is usually very responsive to TCM herbal treatment. Herbs with broad antibacterial effect are used to clear any remnants of streptoccocal infection, with the addition of the usual repertoir of anti-psoriatic herbs, based on the TCM diagnosis.
This is the typical, chronic form of psoriasis, presenting with red, thickened patches, possibly covered with white or yellow scale. it usually covers the knees, elbows, trunk or scalp. it is well treated by TCM especially when it is red, rather than purplish, and has some ebb and flow of its own, i.e. it fluctuates in severity. fluctuation is generally a good sign, whereas unchanging, fixed and very rooted lesions are always more stubborn and require more time.
CHINESE HERBAL TREATMENT
Chinese Herbs offer the chance of a lasting remission for psoriasis. The practitioner will do a TCM diagnosis, in order to assess the severity and subtleties of each individual case. This is the key to success with TCM, the recognition that while 10 patients may all have "plaque psoriasis", they may show distinct variations in the presentation of their psoriasis. Noting these variations allows the herbal formula to be tailored exactly to the case at hand. Additionally, accompanying and seemingly unrelated symptoms are significant for the TCM diagnosis: general thirst level of the patient, sweating or lack thereof, constipation, history of strep infections, location of lesions and body type. Once all of these have been assessed, the practitioner is ready to assemble a formula composed of 10 to 16 herbs, each of which is directed at one or another of the above symptoms and signs. The herbs are administered twice daily for a period of weeks or months.
There are predictable markers of improvement that one can expect once treatment of psoriasis has started:
Eczema is a general term for several types of inflammatory skin conditions. "Dermatitis" is an interchangeable term, and one some doctors may use instead, such as "atopic dermatitis" versus "atopic eczema". All eczema is characterized by itching, scaling and possibly blisters, and redness.
The severity and duration of illness varies from a few weeks of isolated occurrence to a lifelong condition. Western medicine can manage some cases with steroid or immunosuppressive creams, but considers eczema incurable.
Atopic eczema is also called atopic dermatitis, and it's steadily increasing in industrialized countries. Currently one out of six babies develops it in the first year of life. Affected children or adults often present with an entire allergic "package" that includes asthma, hay fever and possibly severe nut allergies. The main diagnostic question for Chinese Herbal Treatment in atopic cases is whether it is a "hot-dry" type of eczema, without blisters, or a weeping, "damp" type. This is sometimes not as obvious as it sounds, especially if topical steroids are used and mask some of the symptoms. The treatment for "hot-dry" and "damp" types is obviously very different. Dry eczema needs cooling and moistening herbs while damp eczema needs drying and cooling herbs. In addition, many other herbs are considered for the prescription according to accompanying symptoms: sweating, digestive status, insomnia, amount of itch, etc.
This eczema may also be called discoid or microbial eczema, because of the coin shaped lesions it presents with. It tends to be a blistering, weeping type of eczema, with a tendency for secondary infection of the skin. This is not hard to imagine since the skin is always open. The urgent aim of treatment is to stop the weeping and close up the wounds. Many herbs with strong antiseptic action against viral and bacterial pathogens are used in the treatment of nummular eczema. This is a relatively easy eczema to treat.
POMPHOLYX (HAND) ECZEMA
This type of eczema affects the palms and sometimes soles, with very itchy small blisters, which may or may not rupture and crust over. It is a very inconvenient condition as it affects daily functioning, with patients unable to handle objects or tasks comfortably. For some, it is only a seasonal, (usually) late summer problem, while for many it becomes chronic and severe over many years. Western medical treatment for this condition does more harm than good, at least in chronic cases. While short term, seasonal flares may be cured by steroid cream applications, in chronic cases repeated application of steroid creams will thin the skin and actually worsen the condition. TCM treats pompholyx through a thorough diagnosis or internal organ function, as it considers this condition to be caused by poor digestion or liver congestion and "heat".
Nummular eczema is the easiest to treat, followed by pompholyx and atopic. The duration of treatment in all cases depends on the duration of illness. A case that has been active for decades will take many months, whereas one of very recent onset will clear up within 3 or 4 weeks. For all types of eczema, the practitioner can assess several factors to "predict", to some degree, whether or not the case will be difficult. One such factor is whether the eczema presents typically or not. For instance, atopic eczema is usually present on the inside of joints, ie the elbows, knees, wrists. This is considered typical, and indicates a good prognosis. If, on the other hand, a patient has it on the outside of these joints, it will be a more difficult case, and both practitioner and client should have patience. On average, successful treatment of all chronic, long term eczemas will take between 8 and 24 weeks.
Acne is one of the most common diseases of the skin, occurring most frequently in puberty. The extent and severity varies greatly, and it tends to diminish naturally by age 20. In women, however, it can flare again or anew in the 20s and 30s as a result of hormonal irregularity. Rarely, acne will persist for decades.
Lesions begin with a sebum plug in the follicles of the face, chest or back. Sebum is the oily material supplied by the sebaceous glands, and it provides lubrication and water repellency in the skin. Production of this substance increases in adolescence, probably as a consequence of the activity of androgen, the male sex hormones.
As plugs of sebum become trapped in the follicles, they subsequently become inflamed by production and multiplication of bacteria. This leads to the typical red pustules and papules of common acne. Combinations of blackheads, white heads, painful nodules under the skin and cysts are frequently seen.
This is the easiest type of acne to treat with Chinese Herbs. Herbs which clear Heat (i.e redness, inflammation) and Fire Poison (i.e. pus, whiteheads), are used. Results usually come by week 3, and a cure (i.e. 85% reduction of pimples) by week 8 to 10, depending on the severity and duration of each case.
There is often a digestive component to this type. If food is not properly broken down and bowel function is abnormal (i.e. constipation, diarrhea), then toxins are absorbed into the blood stream. Secondarily, excess mucus may be clogging the gastrointestinal tract. The skin may be trying to eliminate all of this build up through painful, big, pustular acne which often erupts on the cheekbones and temples. This is the trajectory of the Stomach meridian. TCM treatment focuses on the digestive dysfunction. Results will be seen by about week 5, with total treatment lasting up to 12 weeks.
Many women are familiar with acne outbreaks that flare just before menstruation, or around ovulation. And as many have observed, such acne tends not to respond to any "cleansing" type of treatment. This is because there is really no accumulated toxin or Fire Poison to speak of, it is rather caused by hormonal fluctuations and imbalances. Chinese herbs with a broad hormone regulating effect are the mainstay of treatment. As such, not only can the acne be cured, but often menstrual pain, PMS and other hormonal manifestations are cured as well.
This is the most complicated type of acne, consisting of very large, nodular lesions under the skin, very slow to resolve and likely to cause scarring. TCM considers these to be accumulations of Phlegm, Stagnated Blood and Fire Poison. Treatment is much slower, as it takes time for herbs to break down these tenacious substances. Successful treatment can take 6 months or more, and patience and consistency are vital.
Rosacea is characterized by reddening and flushing of the face, and often accompanies acne, although it can appear on its own. Initially the flushing comes and goes, and at this stage it is easiest to treat, with herbs that "clear Heat" from the face. After some time, the redness is present all the time, without fluctuation. Congested capillaries may be visible on the skin. Severe cases may also present with papules, i.e. red bumps. At this stage, treatment is based on clearing Heat as well as assisting blood circulation in order to clear the congestion. Results with TCM treatment are very good. The milder, fluctuating form of rosacea might be cured in as little as 6 - 8 weeks, whereas the more severe forms, possibly accompanied by acne and pustules, takes from 10 to 16 weeks to treat completely.