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Acupuncture for Eczema

April 4, 2014

Eczema is the term used to describe a variety of recurring skin problems, including dryness and particularly recurring skin rashes that have a single or multiple symptoms such as bleeding, oozing, cracking, blistering, flaking, crusting, dryness, itching, swelling or edema, or redness.

The rash can develop on any part of the skin, but unlike psoriasis, the rash usually develops on the flexor, inner, softer surfaces of the skin. Also, unlike psoriasis, there is absence of build-up of scaly plaque.

Diagnosis of Chinese Medicine

A Chinese diagnosis is made of skin rashes based on the qualities of the lesions. The condition may be caused by blood deficiency if the skin shows dryness. If the skin looks red, the patient may be suffering from inflammation (heat) in the blood- the more red the skin, the more heat is in the blood. This condition usually worsens in hot weather. Overwhelming cases of eczema are due to inflammation (heat) in the blood.

The skin condition may mean blood stagnation if the lesions show a purplish color. Heat may be present is there is any itching and the more itching is felt, the more heat is present in the body. A skin that shows oozing or blisters signifies that the patient is suffering from a damp condition according to Chinese medicine.


Studies have revealed that acupuncture can help relieve the itch caused by eczema. One particular crossover, placebo-controlled,  randomized, blinded trial demonstrated the effectiveness of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch as well as the flare and wheal reactions in adults suffering from atopic eczema. The researchers compared no acupuncture, placebo acupuncture and true acupuncture (at traditional acupuncture points) and discovered that when using the correct points, acupuncture provided a substantial decrease in type I hypersensitivity itch in subjects with atopic eczema. Over the course of time, the preventive point-specific effect lessened vis-à-vis the subjective itch sensation, and at the same time inhibiting skin-prick reactions.

Chinese Herbal Therapy

Chinese herbal medicine is considered the main form of treatment used by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners for eczema.  Formulas are customized for the patient in question, since no two cases have the same exact combination of blood stagnation, blood deficiency dampness or heat. A certain formula may be composed of herbs added to offset the degree of heat, etc. manifested by the patient.


Based on both modern research and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), dairy products fats, eggs and animal flesh are the primary promoters of eczema. Atopic skin disorders can be caused by food allergies so it is wise to undergo a food allergy test. Gluten in kamut, spelt, barley, rye, wheat and related grains can cause skin rashes in some individuals. Animal products though, are the more typical triggers.

Too much consumption of processed vegetable oils and sugar can lead to inflammation, so limiting thee items are recommended.  Acupuncturists and other TCM practitioners recommend a low allergen diet consisting of nuts, seeds, legumes fruits and vegetables. Thee foods have anti-inflammatory attributes and skin-healing nutrients such as healthy fats, zinc, and vitamin A.


Dr. Jack Handlin is an experienced acupuncturist, Chinese herbalist and oriental reproductive medicine specialist at Tree of Life Acupuncture & Chinese Herbal Medicine in Bellevue, WA.