Acupuncture for Eczema & Dermatitis

Eczema refers to skin inflammation with an underlying cause, whereas dermatitis is a reaction to the environment. There are several types of eczema, all of which are treatable by Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Atopic eczema is a condition seen in both children and adults and is often linked to childhood asthma. Recent research 1 shows that it affects at least 1 in 5 infants in Western countries, but onset may be delayed until later.  There is often a family history of allergic dermatitis.  Most patients have remission by puberty, although some may later relapse.  Seborrheic eczema mainly affects the hair-bearing parts of the body, where the seborrheic glands are most numerous: it occurs mostly in young and middle aged people. Other types of eczema include discoid or nummular eczema, characterised by multiple, coin shaped lesions which are extremely itchy and hand/foot eczema, the most commonly seen type.  This type of eczema can be classified into four types: weeping papules (small raised spots), dry, cracked and horny skin, chronic eczema with remission and infected eczema.

The orthodox treatment for eczema does not aim to cure, but to manage the symptoms.  Emollients to reduce itching, and topical steroids to reduce the inflammation, are the main types of treatment offered.

Diagnosis and treatment of eczema in western medicine is based on the management of symptoms at the time of presentation and will often include the use of steroids, whilst these may block the symptoms they do not treat the underlying cause.  In TCM, diagnosis and treatment of eczema and related conditions is based upon an in-depth consultation which involves identifying the causative factors of the condition. Treatment is based upon a number of factors including physical and emotional signs and symptoms. During a treatment, the practitioner will work with the patient to balance their body and mind. For example, much attention is given to the detail of the patient’s lifestyle, diet, exercise and previous history.  Other practices, such as Chi Kung and T’ai Chi, flowing forms of exercise, may also be recommended to help the patient’s symptoms and enable them to manage their health in a constructive way.

Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Eczema?

Much of the research undertaken into the efficacy of TCM and eczema has been done in China.  Good results have been reported using herbal treatments: acupuncture combined with herbs can be effective in dealing with other signs and symptoms. For example, 2 Zhao (2004) showed good results using acupuncture and moxibustion.  Using a different adjunctive treatment to acupuncture, 3 Wang et al demonstrated an 87% recovery rate in their patients.


1 Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Healthcare (2009) Eczema in children is increasing, but diet is not the cause,

2 Wang, Q., Atanassov, I, Zhao, H. (2004) Clinical observation on treatment of eczema by acupuncture plus collateral-pricking and cupping: a report of 54 cases Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, Vol. 2, No 1 p37-38

3 Zhao S M (2004) Treatment of eczema by acupuncture and moxibustion Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, Vol 2, No 1 p39


The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.

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