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TCM and Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)
Chinese medicine has been proven over 2000 years to be effective in treating various diseases including eczema. Many clinical studies have been completed on the effectiveness of various Chinese herbal formulas in the treatment of eczema. Unfortunately, these studies are completed in China and therefore written in the Chinese language making them not accessible to modern medical doctors. [This is why I learned to read Chinese to access this vital information!]. However, because of the remarkable success TCM doctors in England were having in the treatment of stubborn cases of eczema that would not respond to many types of conventional treatment, various skin doctors started to take notice. Doctors have a natural antipathy towards anecdotal evidence and so there seemed little else to do but to set up a proper scientific study in English. Multiple studies were conducted and reported in British medical journals. All studies concluded that Chinese herbal medicine was an effective treatment for atopic dermatitis and there were no side effects to these treatments.
One of these research projects (placebo-controlled double-blind trial) was a one year study2 of 37 children suffering from eczema conducted at The Hospital for Sick Children, London, England. This study revealed that Chinese herbal medicine offered an effective treatment particularly for those children who failed to respond to modern medical treatments. At the end of the study, 18 (49%) had at least a 90% reduction in the severity of their atopic dermatitis after 8 weeks of treatment. Another 5 cases (14%) improved to a lesser degree during the same length of time.
In clinical practice, Chinese medicine is customized to the individual but for the sake of research, in the above study the treatment had to be standardized for each patient. To minimize the error introduced by prescribing identical medicine for all patients, only those cases with a particular type of eczema according to the Chinese pattern discrimination were selected for the clinical trial. Although not ideal from a holistic perspective, all patients received the same herbal prescription. The only allowance made for individuality was in terms of dosage. I believe the results would have been even better if the study allowed the practitioner to further modify the patient’s prescription based on their clinical presentation. Also it is important to remember the results obtained were spectacular given the circumstances and considering this study included only very severe cases of eczema.