Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin that can have many causes, including allergy or infection. Many types of dermatitis are more commonly known as eczema. Some classifications include atopic dermatitis (related to an allergy), contact dermatitis (related to an allergy or irritant), and seborrheic (related to irregularities of the sebaceous, or oil, glands).

Traditional Chinese Medicine for Dermatitis

With dermatitis, traditional Chinese medicine aims to correct imbalances in the total body, not just in the skin. The menu of treatments can include herbal medicine, acupuncture, and dietary recommendations.

A traditional Chinese physician tailors the therapy to the needs of each dermatitis sufferer; that is, two people with the same condition won't necessarily take the same herbs or follow the same exercise regimen.

Researchers in London showed that traditional Chinese herbal therapy benefits both adults and children with atopic dermatitis. In one trial, adults were given either a daily mixture of ten herbs that had been simmered in water or a placebo. Contrary to the medicine's philosophy, which usually prescribes medicine on an individual basis, these researchers gave the identical herbal formula to all study patients. Nonetheless, after two months, those taking the herbs experienced significantly less redness, scaling, and other symptoms than the subjects taking the placebo.

A dermatitis treatment might call for a daily herbal tea, made by boiling and then simmering dried herbs for an hour and a half. The tea could include the following traditional Chinese herbs:

  • Clematis armandii
  • Dictamnus dasycarpus (bai xian pi)
  • Glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice)
  • Ledebouriella seseloides (fang feng)
  • Lophatherum gracile (dan zhu ye)
  • Paeonia lactiflora (red peony)
  • Rehmannia glutinosa (di huang)
  • Schiaonepeta tenuifolia
  • Tribulus terrestris (ci ji li)

Because traditional Chinese medicine's remedies are individualized, it is necessary to contact a qualified practitioner to obtain an accurate diagnosis and a specific prescription for your condition.

Nutritional Therapy for Dermatitis

According to nutritional therapy, certain foods can be one of the triggers of dermatitis, especially in children. Removing the perpetrators from the diet can give the body more tolerance for other triggers, such as stress, dust mites, or animal dander. Dairy products, eggs, and wheat are common culprits.

Dermatitis patients may not necessarily test allergic to the foods whose elimination helps their skin condition. For this reason, some practitioners prefer to use the terms "food intolerance" or "food sensitivities" instead of "food allergies."

Dermatitis sufferers may also benefit from adding essential fatty acids, which promote healthy skin. In one study, a group of Italian researchers treated two- to four-year-old children suffering from atopic eczema with daily doses of evening primrose oil (rich in essential fatty acids). After four weeks, the children's symptoms dramatically improved. These young patients continued the treatment for 20 weeks with the same results and experienced no adverse side effects. Other studies have also confirmed these positive findings.

Supplementation with vitamin A, vitamin E, and zinc can also be useful in some cases of atopic dermatitis.

To see if any foods are related to your skin reaction, a nutritional practitioner may suggest an elimination diet. Cut the following items from your diet for two to three weeks:

  • milk
  • cheese
  • eggs
  • pork
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • nuts
  • all fruit (including tomatoes)
  • wheat
  • yeast

Keep note of the changes in your skin condition. If there's been an improvement after two to three weeks, the practitioner may suggest a food challenge: Reintroduce the foods one at time, starting with the one you used to eat most often. If none of your symptoms return in a day or two, keep that food in your diet. Naturally, if the redness and inflammation resurface, eliminate the culprit from your diet for good. Continue to reintroduce other foods every two to three days and keep track of the results.

Herbal Medicine for Dermatitis

Herbal medicine practitioners think that some parts of the body -- such as the liver or the nervous system -- may need strengthening and tuning to head off a case of dermatitis. Several herbs can assist in cleansing the body and getting rid of toxins. Burdock, for example, is a liver tonic; when the liver is working well to filter toxins from the blood, the skin is generally healthier. Similarly, red clover is a very effective blood purifier.

Other herbs can directly ease the pain of itchy, inflamed skin. For example, preparations made from licorice root, calendula (marigold) flower heads, and especially ginkgo all have potent anti-inflammatory effects when used topically.

Here's a tip to soothe inflamed skin:

  • Dip a chamomile tea bag in comfortably warm water.
  • Hold on the lesion for a couple of minutes.
  • Reheat and repeat if desired.

In cases where the dermatitis covers a large area, chamomile extract in a cream form may be easier than using the tea bags.

Other Dermatitis Therapies

  • Acupuncture for Dermatitis -- Treatments can correct any imbalances in vital life energy (perhaps along the lung, large intestine, or liver system meridians) that may be triggering skin inflammation.
  • Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Dermatitis -- The skin reveals any upsets or impurities inside the body, so detoxification therapy is helpful.
  • Homeopathy for Dermatitis -- Specific remedies must be tailored to the individual, but common prescriptions include graphites, rhus toxicodendron, and sulphur.
  • Hypnotherapy for Dermatitis -- Hypnotic trances can give the subconscious mind suggestions regarding stress reduction and the healing of the inflammation.
  • Meditation for Dermatitis -- Regular meditation is useful for stress reduction and deep breathing, both important to a well-rounded dermatitis treatment program.

For more information on dermatitis and alternative medicine, see: