Eczema is a condition that affects an estimated 15 million people in the United States. It is characterized by dry, scaly red patches of skin that are accommodated by intense itching. There are many standard medical treatments that are aimed at decreasing inflammation and itchiness. The typical medication includes using corticosteroids which can have some serious side effects that include cataracts, glaucoma, gastrointestinal effects, hypertension, osteoporosis and weight gain. Those seeking a natural alternative to medical therapy may be able to find the solution utilizing acupuncture therapy.
A German study took thirty people with eczema and treated them immediately following exposure to allergens such as dust mites and pollen. These allergens intensify the condition and cause flare-ups. The goal of this study was to provide relief from itching. All patients went through three different test conditions. The first treatment condition was "point-specific" acupuncture. In this treatment, targeted areas designed to treat itchy skin were utilized. These are the Quchi and Xuehai acupuncture points. The second treatment condition was the "placebo-point" treatment. The points selected during this phase of the study were not those used to treat itchy skin. The third and final test condition was no treatment following the allergen exposure.
When the subject's experiences were compared, all thirty participants reported lower levels of itchiness after receiving the point-specific acupuncture versus the placebo acupuncture or no treatment at all. In addition, some interesting reports showed that when the participants were exposed a second time to the allergen after the point-specific acupuncture, they indicated that the flare-ups were less severe.This finding indicates that there could be sustained improvement after just one point -specific acupuncture treatment. The researchers concluded that acupuncture at the correct points showed a significant reduction in type I hypersensitivity itch in patients with atopic eczema.
In a study similar to the one conducted in Germany, an Israeli study looked at the effectiveness of herbal medicine combined with acupuncture in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema. In that particular study, twenty patients between the ages of 13 and 48 were given a combined treatment that included herbs and acupuncture three times daily for twelve weeks. The study participants were assessed at weeks 3,6,9, and 12. At the end of the 12 week study, patients reported their itch had improved by 45 percent. In addition, they reported that their quality of life had improved by 39%. Given their findings, the Israeli study concluded that combining acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine do indeed have a beneficial effect on patients with the most common form of eczema.
These findings show a direct link between herbal and acupuncture practices and reduction of itch in eczema patients. The results shed light for those suffering from the condition and provide a secondary option to potentially harmful prescription medications. Having scientific results to support the use of natural therapies like acupuncture allow eczema sufferers to make an informed decision about their healthcare and what options are best for them.