Special thanks to Mind Body Green for publishing my article sharing tips to naturally manage eczema.
Our thanks go out to the Zoe Report for featuring us in their article: The Traditional Chinese Medicine Guide to Skincare
In my herbal dermatology practice, I see a lot of patients who are grappling with the challenges of skin conditions. People with severe acne can also have anxiety and social challenges, people with dermatitis on the face worry about their work and social life. I had a skin condition myself when I was pregnant where the itching was so bad it would drive me out of my mind!
But nothing compares with the challenges a family faces when a baby has eczema. Many babies scratch incessantly, struggling to break out of swaddles and mittens to try to get at the itch. They’ll rub their heads against the crib mattress to alleviate itching of the scalp, often leading to little bald spots at the back of the head. Most of the time, babies and small children with eczema are unable to sleep. This means the parents are sleep deprived, too. With everyone’s nerves frayed, it can be near impossible to analyze and understand the things that are actually triggering eczema episodes. I’ve had parents tell me they cry every day just watching their baby suffer.
I focus on a holistic approach, using herbal medicine to address each baby’s eczema according to the precise look of their skin and their overall constitution. In most cases, I start out only using topical herbs in the form of teas that are added to the bath, followed by an ointment or cream. We have over 300 herbs in the clinic, and I’ll put together herb blends that are extracted into teas that are prepared into vacuum-sealed pouches. Parents simply open the pouches and add the liquid to the bath. After the bath, herbal creams, balms or salves are used. In severe cases, I recommend herbs to be taken internally in addition to this topical protocol.
In addition to telling you about our approach with Chinese medicine, I’d also like to point out a few other things that may be helpful when approaching healing eczema naturally.
For eczema that oozes or weeps, I prescribe topical herb powders – or baths, washes or compresses followed by a bland cream. Be careful not to put any thick, occlusive ointments on oozing eczema – it will only make things worse. Home treatments can be done by making calendula or chamomile tea and using that as a wash. Chamomile is a ragweed, so do not use this method for babies with ragweed allergies. And be sure to spot test absolutely anything that goes directly on your baby’s skin by testing a small area first.
For eczema that’s red, dry, and flaking, it’s essential to moisturize as frequently as possible using natural, botanical emollients. Emollients provide insulation from water loss and should be used frequently throughout the day. Sunflower oil is one of my favorite oils as a broad recommendation. It is very well tolerated by most babies, and is a good option for eczema. Research studies have shown that olive oil and virgin coconut oil reduce staph infections in eczema patients. In these studies, the oils were applied directly on the skin with nothing else added. I also recommend oils like evening primrose oil and borage seed oil, because of the benefit of their essential fatty acids.
Topical products with mineral oil and petroleum should be avoided. These substances damage the microbiome of the skin, as they prevent oxygen from getting to the deeper layers of the skin.
For many, but not all of my eczema patients, I recommend creams rather than oils or ointments. The benefit of creams is that they penetrate more deeply into the dermal layer of the skin. The drawback is that they need to be made with preservatives in order to prevent mold. Pure oils don’t get moldy – but as soon as you mix water-based ingredients with oils to make a cream, preservatives are a must. In some cases, they can be irritating to the skin. Which leads me to my next point…
My best advice regarding at-home topical treatments is to start out using the most simple and bland oils first. Once you get a sense for oils your child tolerates well, then you can start introducing bland creams. The next step would be to incorporate creams with more active ingredients like herbs or essential oils. It’s the nature of eczema to be constantly changing and evolving – with periods of flares and remissions. So it can take time to accurately assess the best approach to treating eczema topically.
You can learn more about our Chinese medicine approach to treating babies with eczema here.
For more information on things you can do at home, check out more of my articles on the topic…
In this video, Toni describes the healing journey of a patient who turned to Chinese herbal medicine when other treatments stopped working. Although her case was more severe than most, many of her struggles are universal to people suffering from chronic herpes.
Herpes is a condition that not a lot of people want to talk about. It’s not uncommon for me to see a patient who tells me that they’ve never talked about their genital herpes before or never told anyone that they have it.
For me it can be very upsetting to see how this particular virus can wreak so much havoc – both physically and emotionally – for those who suffer with it. Every new flare can cause bouts of anxiety – and the more anxious people get, the worse the flares become. Some people go into a depression, socialize less, and stop dating. Even oral herpes which hasn’t been sexually contracted can cause feelings of shame and embarrassment for a lot of people. This is where holistic medicine shines. In any condition where the emotions are a trigger for physical symptoms – or when physical symptoms cause emotional pain and trauma, it’s always best to treat the whole person.
Not surprisingly, it’s my belief that Chinese herbal medicine offers the best holistic treatment for herpes. Herbal formulas can be made up of anywhere between 12 and 18 herbs – each one chosen to match the individual person it’s being prescribed for. Many herbs have anti-viral properties, but different anti-viral herbs would be used for genital herpes than I’d prescribe for oral herpes. Each persons herpes symptoms may vary – with some people experiencing sharp pain, and others burning or itching. Some people have active blisters, others may have flat, pin-point lesions. I choose different herbs for all these different scenarios.
In addition, I include herbs to address emotional symptoms. For some of my patients who have constant herpes flares, they live in fear of when the next outbreak will come. And when it does come, it sends them into a complete downward spiral emotionally. Herbs can’t make these feelings go away, but they can be very calming and grounding. They also help to prevent flares from happening when there’s an obvious link where stress and anxiety are the cause of the flares.
Another strength of holistic medicine is that herbs will treat other physical symptoms that may seem completely unrelated to herpes. So if there are problems with low energy, digestive complaints, or difficult periods, the herbal formula takes all of that into account to treat the whole person. Some women have painful or irregular periods that are totally unrelated to herpes outbreaks. And for others, outbreaks happen every month with the start of the period and there’s a clear connection. Either way, the herbal formula targets each person’s unique patterns to bring balance and healing.
For many of my patients, the standard pharmaceutical medicines they’ve been prescribed haven’t worked well at all, or they were effective for a time and then stopped working. Other patients simply prefer natural treatment approaches to being on long term medications. Regardless of why they’ve chosen herbal medicine, it’s very common that they see great results – even when other methods have failed.
This is likely because each formula contains multiple anti-viral herbs, and these herbs change over time. Also – when the herbs are cooked together as a decoction, there’s a synergy that happens in the cooking process that improves the efficacy of the formula. Also, in using whole plants (rather than extracting specific constituents) the effect of each whole herb is greater than the sum of the component parts.
Many people are concerned that they will need to be on herbs “forever” since the herpes virus is never completely eliminated from the body. This is absolutely not the case. Most patients will need to take herbal tea daily for around two to four months. This varies based on the severity of the case and their overall constitution an healing. After that, they may take herbs preventively by doing a 3-week round of tea once every 3-4 months. Some of my patients will have a follow-up round of tea once per year. Others are able to stop the teas altogether. Although the herpes virus remains in the body, it is possible to send it into remission where people are no longer experiencing any outbreaks.