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Treat stubborn skin disease with Chinese herbal medicine

​Dermatology is a strong specialty in TCM for two reasons: we treat with herbs internally, at the root, and the prescriptions are individualized to each patient's skin presentation. For example, no two eczemas are alike - some are dry, some are weepy. Some are widespread and active, and some localized and mild. Each of these will require different herbal approaches. One size does not fit all.

On this page, read more about TCM treatment for 6 common skin diseases including psoriasis, eczema, acne, vitiligo, fungal & yeast infections, and perioral dermatitis.

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Psoriasis 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.

Eczema Treatment

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.

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Acne Treatment

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.

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Vitiligo is a stubborn disorder of skin de-pigmentation. The cause is unknown, although an autoimmune presentation is suspected -- antibodies wrongly attack the pigment (melanin) producing cells of the skin. It is prevalent in all races and affects approximately one percent of the population. Interestingly, the incidence goes up in war zones, indicating stress as a possible co-factor. Chinese medicine aims for two outcomes: stopping the progression of the disease, and re-pigmenting  as many areas as possible. This is most likely in recent cases (up to 3 years duration). Children typically respond better than adults. Longstanding cases may achieve some re-pigmentation, especially on the face.  When treatment is successful, re-pigmentation starts within 4- 8 weeks of treatment with internal as well as external herbal preparations.

Fungal & Yeast Infections

In these conditions, fungal or yeast organisms colonize the skin and produce various symptoms of blistering, cracking, itch and redness. The most well known are athlete's foot and ringworm. Excessive sweating often provides a friendly environment to fungus and yeast, and makes such patients more likely to catch an infection that persists. While antifungal creams from a conventional doctor often do the trick, if the infection recurs or is resistant, it is an indication that internal herbal treatment is needed, in order to make the patient's skin less attractive to the invaders. Topical herbal creams are also used to attack the problem for both sides. These are straightforward conditions to treat, and a cure is expected in every case.

Perioral Dermatitis

This is a relatively recent disorder which has only been defined and diagnosed since the 1950s. It primarily affects women, with red bumps appearing around the mouth and nose and sometimes the eyes. There is a strong hormonal connection in most cases, with accompanying symptoms of a disrupted menstrual cycle such as irregularity, PMS, etc. Consequently, a side benefit of treatment with Chinese herbs is that the menstrual cycle will normalize along with the skin clearing. Treatment results are extremely reliable for this condition. Perioral dermatitis is very negatively reactive to cosmetics, the best thing to do is to use absolutely nothing other than water on the face until symptoms are completely gone.

On the blog: Learn more about the root causes of skin disease

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