Eczema is an itchy, red rash that varies in size from a small patch of affected dry skin to larger portions of the body. Originating at any age and capable of persisting into adulthood, eczema is one of the most chronic skin conditions.
Eczema is an allergic reaction that manifests as an inflammation of the upper layers of skin. Allergens that trigger eczema range from cold, grass, pollen, and chemical agents to insect bites, certain foods, perfumes, and medication. Eczema may appear abruptly on any part of the body and can produce a red skin rash, flaking, severe itching, dry, thick skin, serum oozing, and bleeding. The primary allopathic treatment for eczema is corticosteroid ointments applied topically.
In a study appearing in the August issue of the British Journal of Dermatology, doctors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong describe how they have ascertained the effect of five Chinese herbs that traditionally have been used to treat eczema. Between February 2004 and July 2005, they recruited 85 children suffering from eczema; 42 of them were given capsules containing extracts of the five herbs twice daily for 12 weeks, while the remaining 43 children were given placebos.
By the conclusion of the treatment, the conditions of the children who were given the herbs improved and their use of corticosteroid creams and ointment was reduced by one-third, the researchers determined. Corticosteroids are hormones which are effective in suppressing symptoms but do not provide a cure. "Such chronic diseases cannot be cured. But Chinese herbs can help some patients control and manage their condition," says Ellis Hon, one of the researchers and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The five herbs are Flos Ionicerae (Jinyinhua), Herba menthae (Bohe), Cortex moutan (Danpi), Rhizoma atractylodis (Cangzhu), and Cortex phellodendri (Huangbai).