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Treating Dermatitis with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

By: Vanessa Vogel Batt L.Ac. MSOM

Oozing, blistering, crusting, irresistible urges to scratch, unfortunately these are all suitable words to describe the symptoms of dermatitis. Eyelids, armpits, stomach, hands, lips, ears, even between the toes, are all areas of the body vulnerable to these skin conditions. As a matter of fact, virtually no part of the body is immune from potential symptoms of dermatitis.

Types of Dermatitis

Dermatitis describes different conditions of skin inflammation. There are many kinds but the most common ones are atopic, contact and seborrheic. All three of these types manifest differently on the skin, and for different reasons.

Atopic Dermatitis
Also known as eczema, an atopic dermatitis problem area typically reddens and becomes itchy.  When scratched, the skin oozes, dries, and eventually a crust forms. It usually first appears during infancy or in young children. It often arises in the folds of the skin, where air doesn't easily reach and the temperature may be slightly higher. The face, particularly the cheeks, may also present with symptoms.

Contact Dermatitis
An irritation of the skin that pops up when the skin makes contact with an irritating substance. The skin usually feels itchy, looks red and may blister. An irritant can be anything from jewelry to pollen blowing in the air. A common example is the rash from poison ivy. It can be intensely itchy and take on an awful appearance, but ultimately disappears after 2-4 weeks without having done major harm. Recognizing and avoiding the irritant is sound advice in this case.

Seborrheic Dermatitis
This variety of dermatitis might be described as a persistent case of dandruff.   The persistant flakiness, scaly patches, redness, and itchy skin usually occur on the scalp, but may also spread to the upper chest, back, and face. When occurring in babies, this condition is known as cradle cap. The cause is a fungus which thrives in body parts inhabited by oil-producing glands. A hair rinse made from a liter of water, mixed with 5-10 drops of tea tree oil, may help reduce skin flaking and itchiness.

Causes of Dermatitis

Due to the variety in the different types of dermatitis, it is important to receive a proper diagnosis from a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Treatment may include a dual approach. Not only will any problems on the skin need immediate attention, but it may well be that the immune system is weak and needs strengthening.

Many of the skin manifestations of dermatitis indicate an excess of heat, plus the presence of dampness or dryness. Some basic signs and symptoms of heat are redness, pain and itchiness. If a rash is weeping or oozing, dampness also prevails, and the diagnosis is damp-heat. Skin devoid of moisture that sheds, and has a scaly looking appearance indicates a condition of dry-heat.

Treating Dermatitis with Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

A good start to treatment could involve reducing heat from the body and addressing damp or dry symptoms at the same time.  For example, a patient suffering with weeping sores from eczema, utilizing points belonging to the spleen channel, can improve symptoms on the inside and the outside of the body. A channel is the set pathway that allows energy, called Qi, to flow throughout the body. In this case, dampness originates internally, but symptoms manifest externally, on the skin, as the body tries to force the pathogen out through the pores.

To initiate this process, the acupuncture point Spleen 9 can strongly transform dampness into a more manageable substance. This fluid can now easily exit the body during urination. Excess heat is also given a chance to leave by way of the urinary system. Urine may take on a cloudy appearance when draining dampness, and appear dark yellow in the presence of heat.

To help speed up the process, another acupuncture point called UB40, is an excellent partner for Sp9. UB40 is a versatile point that works on a variety of skin issues. Whether the underlying pathogenic factors are damp, dry or heat, needling this point can reduce inflammation on the skin. This is even true for acne on the upper back and face. Another property is its ability to address pain, as it sets off an analgesic effect for the body.

Foods to Support Acupuncture Treatment for Dermatitis

When food is properly transformed by the stomach and spleen, there is a reduction in the amount of dampness created. Reducing or eliminating its production means less of a battle with symptoms at the skin level. The inconveniences and pain from messy rashes starts to abate when digestion improves.  To support the acupuncture treatments, it is best to avoid complicating the digestive process and keep meals simple.

Congee is a traditional Chinese recipe that calls for between 5-8 cups of water per 1 cup of rice. Ideally, the porridge simmers for up 2 hours in order to reach a consistency that is very easy to digest. Try adding some vegetables in, such as carrots, cabbage, seaweed or mushrooms for a richer taste. For garnish, finely chopped green onion or radishes, which make for great digestive aids. Sprinkle some soy sauce on, or add a little salt, and your meal is ready.

To learn more about acupuncture and Oriental medicine for dermatitis and skin health, contact a practitioner near you today!

About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.

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