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Eczema Alternative medicines
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Eczema Alternative Medicine

Due to the fact that most forms of eczema are chronic and incurable, some people get disillusioned with conventional medical therapy and seek answers through complementary medicine. With the exception of Chinese herbal therapy, there is little evidence that complementary therapy is of any benefit for allergic/atopic conditions, including eczema. Some studies have suggested that homeopathic immunotherapy may help in asthma, but larger analyses have not shown a consistent benefit compared with dummy treatment (placebo). This does not rule out the possibility that homeopathy can help eczema, but at the moment there is not enough evidence to support its use.

Traditional Chinese herbal medicine

Traditional chinese herbal medicine has been practiced in the Far East for many centuries. It involves using mixtures of a dozen or so dried plant parts and herbs, Which are prescribed by the practitioner on an individual basis (one person's eczema treatment being different from another's). Although this sort of treatment has been found to work in atopic eczema, there are several problems:

  • Unpleasant taste! Traditional Chinese herbal therapy is drunk as a brew made by boiling the herbs for several hours. It has an unpleasant taste that most adults find unpalatable and children are unlikely to accept.
  • Safety concerns. Although it has been argued that Chinese herbal therapy has a longer track record than conventional medicine, there are still concerns about its safety as it has not undergone the rigorous testing that any conventional new eczema treatment has to face. Very little is known about how herbal medicines interact with other forms of medication. One particular concern is that Chinese herbal therapy has been found to cause liver abnormalities in a small number of people. Other forms of herbal treatment have been linked to kidney damage. In view of this, it is recommended that people taking Chinese herbal medication should be monitored closely with blood tests.
  • Availability. Chinese herbal therapy is not available from conventional medical doctors or through the NHS, and it can be expensive. In the 1990s, a granule formulation of Chinese herbs was available on prescription but this product was withdrawn. One of the main problems in producing it was maintaining quality control, ensuring that exactly the same balance of herbs was used in each batch.
  • Herbal creams and ointments are sometimes offered by people practicing traditional Chinese medicine. Although they are promoted as safe, some have been found to contain potent steroids. The sale of any product containing a potent steroid is illegal in the UK where they should only be available on prescription by a registered medical practitioner.
  • Aloe vera has been used as a herbal remedy for wounds and burns, and may help skin healing. However, there is very little evidence that it helps eczema and it is often used in gel formulations which can be drying.
  • Evening primrose seed oil (EPO) is used primarily to relieve the itchiness associated with certain skin conditions, including eczema. Results of studies regarding EPO for eczema are mixed. Similar to GLA (see Nutrition and Dietary Supplements section), an omega-6 fatty acid that is derived from EPO, whether EPO relieves the symptoms of eczema may be very individual. Talk to your healthcare provider to decide if it is safe and worthwhile for you to try EPO for your eczema.

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