One of the first questions a new patient will ask is “How long will herbal medicine take to heal my eczema?”
This is a very hard question to answer with absolutes because it really depends on you. Here are the main factors that will come into play to answer this question for you.
What are Your Eczema’s Contributing Factors?
Chinese medicine practitioners look at eczema differently than allopathic physicians. While we agree on the diagnosis, Chinese medicine practitioners base their treatments on the contributing sources of your eczema.
For example, when eczema appears primarily on the upper body with diffuse redness, itchiness, lots of scratches that draw blood; we attribute the source to something different than when we see a lot of weeping, oozing and crusting of lesions. This is considered an even different source when there is lichenified, extremely dry skin.
In Chinese medicine, these different source subtypes are called patterns and each pattern requires a different set of herbs. While there are 7 major patterns of eczema, most people fall somewhere between a few patterns. Therefore, the more contributing factors, the more complicated your unique pattern becomes which then typically dictates how long it’ll take to resolve your eczema.
How Has Your Eczema Affected You Internally?
The Chinese see skin as a mirror of what is going on (or not going on!) inside your body. This does not mean your organs are broken and not performing, but rather that there are disharmonies or roadblocks that don’t allow the smooth and orderly flow of circulation, hydration, nutrition, etc. This is one of the reasons why an herbalist may ask many questions about your sleep, digestion, thirst, bowel movements, emotions or stress levels. The answer to these questions typically helps to better gauge how your whole system is operating. A safe rule of thumb is: the more systems affected, the longer it may take to heal.
Can Your Body Handle the Herbal Ingredients?
Some patients cannot handle the common herbs that are typically used to address a particular pattern. This can occur when one’s overall constitution is fragile, or one’s overall sensitivities have increased as the skin condition has deteriorated. Also, some patients are just outright allergic to some ingredients.
During the initial intake, we identify all possible allergens. But even after eliminating those ingredients, there can be a bit of trial and error to see what ingredients (and doses of that ingredient) your body can handle. The good news is that herbal medicine offers many herb choices for any specific condition, so substitutes can be made in internal formulas. Also, we have the flexibility to adjust the amount of every ingredient in your formula to match your individual needs.
In Chinese medicine, we often treat both externally with an herbal topical and internally with a herbal liquid formula. This 1-2 punch usually speeds up the healing process. However, topical formulas are premade with set ingredients. So, if a patient has an issue with an ingredient in a topical, we may not have options for topical treatment. This can make the healing process take longer depending upon the situation.
Consistency of Herbal Treatment
Some patients don’t bring their herbal formulas with them when they travel or get the flu during herbal treatment causing them to skip herbal doses for several days or weeks. Some patients just forget to take doses. Understandably, life happens. However, it goes without saying that healing just can’t progress as well without consistent treatment.
Also, herbal medicine for eczema often keeps flares from occurring as intensely or as frequently or even entirely. Without consistent doses, flares can return to full effect which then causes setbacks. Therefore, consistency of doses is one area that patients can completely control when determining the length of time it takes to heal.
How complex your condition is, how your body responds to the herbs and how consistent you are in taking the herbs will all factor into how long it takes your eczema and body to heal. But the good news is, if you’re diligently taking the right formula, you should see changes all along the way. It’s these milestones that keep patients motivated to continue with treatment.
Need Help with Eczema?
If you are looking for answers to eczema for yourself or a loved one, feel free to set-up a complimentary consultation where we can talk more about your specific concerns via video conference call.
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About the Author
Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, DACM, Cert. TCM Dermatology is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats eczema patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, is the Chair of the American Society of Acupuncturists Board of Directors, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Support Group sponsored by The National Eczema Association.