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Atopic Eczema – When Can I Stop Herbal Treatment?

Atopic eczema of wristSomeone who has suffered atopic eczema since childhood recently contacted me with a great question.  Surely many of you have wondered the same thing, so I am sharing my answer here.

Question:

“I had eczema as a child and it reappeared 2 years ago. It’s been pretty severe at times and I tried many different treatments. I discovered Chinese herbs 3 months ago. My skin cleared up very quickly with the herbs so I was told that my eczema was gone and that I could stop taking them. Recently it appeared again, the herbs are helping but it seems to be a slower process this time.  When do you know that you can stop the herbs? Is it common for the eczema to come back after a course of herbs and can I be hopeful that it will go away for good eventually?”

My Response:

Your practitioner stopped treatment too soon. Treatment should be 3-phase to reduce risk of symptoms returning when the herbs are stopped:

1. Get symptoms under control (reduce inflammation).
2. Restore correct function to the skin.
3. Stabilize (Strengthen the underlying weaknesses to reduce imbalances from getting out of control again).

In the beginning, the herbs are doing the work the affected skin can’t do on its own – they are straight up anti-inflammatory. But if treatment is stopped just when the symptoms appear to be gone visually (or itching has stopped), not enough has been changed about the internal environment, so the symptoms will return as soon as the herbs are discontinued. We must restore proper function to the skin and the immune system. And finally, we need to Tonify (strengthen/nourish) any underlying deficiencies (weaknesses in the body) to stabilize everything. This step is vital! If we do not do this step, then these small underlying imbalances will get worse in time and the skin will begin to have dysfunction and symptoms will eventually return.

In atopic eczema, it is possible to get symptoms gone in 3 months, but it is highly unlikely that phase 2 and 3 can be completed in this amount of time. Most of my atopic eczema patients need treatment for at least 6 months to ensure the skin is stable enough to discontinue herbs (sometimes longer). We don’t want you dependent on herbs; we want your body to be able to function correctly WITHOUT the help of outside medicine constantly.  So once symptoms have been resolved and the skin remains clear for a month or so, then I write a final stabilization formula.  The patient takes this last formula at half dose for a few weeks and then we can stop internal herbal treatment.  Often topical creams are still applied to help keep the skin soft and supple after internal herbs are stopped.

In many cases, the results I obtain last years. But in atopic eczema, the skin will always be vulnerable (to some degree) and may require a short round of herbs (2 to 4 months) if future flares occur. Sometimes the skin remains stable for many years and I do not need to treat a patient again, so long as they care well for their skin. But that’s because we do all the work necessary up front to set the patient up for long-term success. It is not always easy to stay the course when you have to take herbs for many months. But it is worth it!

For a list of skilled Chinese Medicine Dermatology practitioners click here.

To learn about how we treat skin conditions in our Colorado clinic click here.

Tags: atopic dermatitis, Chinese herbal medicine, dermatology, eczema, holistic dermatology, holistic skincare, traditional chinese medicine

Topics: Chinese Medicine, Eczema

Publish Date: August 17, 2020     *Articles may include updates since original publishing.

About the Author ()

Diana Hermann is a licensed acupuncturist and board certified in Chinese Herbal Medicine. She received her Master Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in Portland, OR and trained in China at the Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Diana treats patients in her Fort Collins, Colorado clinic and hand crafts herbal skin care products for her company Zi Zai Dermatology. In 2015, she completed the Diploma In Chinese Medicine Dermatology program from Avicenna in London, UK. She completed the program for a second time in 2019 in Chicago.

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