Resolving Eczema with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Resolving Eczema with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

by Inger Johnson, L.Ac. Acupuncturist at Alliance Healing Arts

On May 19, 2017, a 40-year old female came to see me with a primary complaint of eczema. She had been suffering “on and off” for ten years. At the time of her visit, the eczema was presenting at two distinct areas: just slightly above each scapula on the right and left sides of her upper back. The eczema was extremely itchy, and because of its accessible location, the patient was scratching it often. She reported that the itching increased with stress. The area was hot to the touch and better when she applied a cold pack. Some additional points: she felt a sensation of heat at night with occasional night sweats, her sleep was often interrupted (once or twice a night), and she was smoking one to two cigarettes a day.

After a comprehensive Chinese medicine intake—asking ten standard questions related to the patient’s health, palpating the channels and abdomen, checking the pulse, and looking at the tongue color and coating—I concluded this was a case of Heat presentation with both Dampness and Wind, all generated in this case by the Liver. Chronic presentation of Damp-Heat and Wind generates dryness, deficiency, and stasis of both Blood and Yin.

I prescribed acupuncture, regularly for several weeks, in addition to a daily Chinese herbal formula in tablet form. The following three photographs illustrate the progression of treatments. (Note: I did not use a flash for the first and the last photos but did for the second photo, which explains why it is lighter.)

The first photograph below is from the June 14 visit. In this photo, you can see the patient has been itching the affected area indicated by the bloody crusting and erosion. The area has red fluid-filled scaling skin (representing Heat and Damp) and the itching, scaling skin also indicates Wind/Dryness. The Dampness is shown by the edematous, fluid-filled plaques. You can see the eczema covers most of the scapular region of her upper back.

The patient saw me regularly for acupuncture and for refills of her Chinese herbs from June to October. During these sessions, she reported a significant decrease in the desire to itch and that the size of the plaques had decreased.

At the October 6 visit, the patient reported an increase in stress levels that led to itching for the previous two days. Even so, it was evident the plaques had still decreased in size, covering less surface area than in the previous photo, and the coloration had changed from red to pink-white, indicating that the Heat presentation had dissipated. However, there was still the presence of dryness and scaling.

Treatments continued for about a year with both acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which the patient took daily. In addition, I prescribed a Chinese herbal salve that the patient applied topically when the itching became severe.

Acupuncture with Chinese herbs can be effective in treating dermatological cases. The patient must commit to taking Chinese herbs for a period of six months to one year or more, depending on the case and the condition’s duration. However, the payoff is that the dermal condition is actually resolved and quality of life is restored.

One year later, October 8, 2018, the eczema is almost completely resolved. Only a small number of plaques remain and there’s evidence of a little bit of scratching, but the patient’s condition has significantly improved.

If you would like to see me for an appointment for a dermatological condition, please contact Alliance Healing Arts at (206) 632-5500.


~Inger Johnson, L.Ac.

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