Can Acupuncture Ease Eczema?

Hundreds of Eastern and Western medical studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can help alleviate pain and treat ailments. In very basic terms, this more than 2000-year-old practice involves inserting tiny needles in precise places of the body in order to release and promote a healthy flow of energy.

Western medicine defines eczema (atopic dermatitis) as a skin irritation that's often accompanied by hay fever or asthma. Typical treatments include applying corticosteroid creams to the irritated area and taking antihistamines or antibiotics for more severe reactions or infection. Traditional Chinese medicine regards eczema as an imbalance in both external and internal factors, like excessive indulgences in spicy food or alcohol, excess body fluid, and a propensity to develop allergies.

Acupuncturist Monica Pierce advises that "The location of the eczema on the body, as well as what factors exacerbate it (heat, cold, stress, etc.), are important questions. We might consider what acupuncture meridian it happens to be near or on and if it is on the upper or lower part of the body. So the treatment would be aimed at harmonizing what imbalances we see in the person's presentation that may be contributing to the issue. Also one would not needle into a disturbance in the skin; there are other systemic and distal points that would be used."

A recent German study sought to test how acupuncture would impact the skin of atopic eczema sufferers.

When researchers treated skin with acupuncture soon after they exposed it to an allergen, it soothed some of the itching and irritation. When they re-exposed skin to an allergen soon after the acupuncture was administered, the reaction was less severe. While this study wasn't conducted in a real-world setting where triggers and acupuncture would be more than minutes apart, it sets the stage for more research and proves acupuncture's positive impact at easing eczema's itch.

While still classified as an "alternative therapy," acupuncture is virtually painless, side-effect free, and covered by many insurance policies. Pierce also notes that "In the case of eczema or most conditions the acupuncturist will still look at the whole of the person's presentation--the eczema is part of a larger picture that includes diet, digestion, sleeping habits, thirst, the person's tendency to hot or cold, feelings, emotions and medical history." This may be why so many people without specific medical problems undergo routine acupuncture treatments to improve their general health and well-being. Eczema sufferers should consider this promising alternative to traditional treatment.



Monica Pierce, acupuncturist