Eczema: How TCM Can Help

Tired of having itchy skin? Had enough of this annoying skin condition that never goes away? Read on to find out more about eczema and how to deal with it the TCM way!  

What is eczema?

Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is a chronic disorder of the skin that results in an itchy rash. It is the most common skin condition in Singapore, and the occurrence of eczema in Singapore is one of the highest in the world.

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What causes eczema?

Modern medicine shows that there are several factors behind the formation of eczema.  Genes play an important role as eczema often runs in families, but there are other conditions such as skin barrier defects, immune dysfunction and environmental factors.

Cause of Eczema from a TCM View

spleen graphicOn the other hand, TCM believes that eczema is mainly caused by a body consitution called Wind-Dampness-Heat. People with this irritable body constitution tend to over-consume spicy, pungent, oily foods which are more likely to weaken their Spleen and Stomach. 

The Spleen and Stomach governs the digestive system and the conversion of food and drinks into the essence that nourishes our body. When a malfunctioning Spleen and Stomach fails to convert all the food and drinks into essence, Dampness-Heat will arise. With Wind invading from the outside, and Dampness-Heat accumulating beneath the skin, the two forces will combine and result as an itchy rash.

Stages of Eczema

Eczema can be differentiated into three stages: acute stage, subacute stage, and chronic stage.

Eczema & TCM2.2

The stages are meant to describe the severity of the skin lesions rather than progression, as eczema’s progression through the stages isn’t always linear. For instance, it may start at the subacute stage and move to the acute stage. The same rash may cycle through the stages many times. A rash may also start and stop at nearly any stage.

How can TCM help with Eczema?

The main principle behind Chinese medicine treatments for eczema is to clear heat, eliminate dampness, and relieve the itch. The following are the most common TCM treamtment methods for eczema

Herbal prescription

chinese herbal medication in powder formDepending on which TCM syndrome the skin lesions belong to, different herbal medications will be prescribed.

Acute stage eczema is equivalent to the dampness heat syndrome in TCM, hence herbs that can clear heat, eliminate dampness, and relieve itch are often used.

When the eczema reaches subacute stage, it typically represents spleen deficiency cum dampness syndrome, hence herbs are used to tonify spleen, eliminate dampness, and relieve itch.

For chronic stage eczema, more blood-tonifying and wind-dispelling herbs are used as it is usually symptomatic of blood deficiency cum wind syndrome.

Topical medication

Various TCM-based concoctions, ointments, or lotions can be applied on the skin lesion. The prescribed formula would depend on the patient’s eczema stage.


At later stage when the wound leakage decreases, apply ointment that contain anti-inflammatory substances, such as 黄连膏 (Huang Lian Cream) 、紫云膏 (Zi Yun Cream).

Subacute stage eczema: 紫云膏 (Zi Yun Cream) can be used to apply on the skin lesions.

Chronic stage eczema: Various types of ointments or lotions can be used. Some contain anti-itchy substances.

acupuncture treatment


Acupuncture for eczema involves inserting hair-thin needles at acupoints and around the skin lesions to: 
– Improve Qi and blood circulation
– Remove heat
– Eliminate dampness, and
– Relieve itching.
Additionally, Plum-blossom needles relieve itch effectively and can also be used at the skin lesion sites. 

If you would like to explore TCM treatments to improve your eczema condition, we can help. Book your appointment with a PULSE physician today. 

Skin Care Tips for Eczema

The following are the important skin care tips for people with eczema:

  1. Avoid scratching, rubbing and picking the skin. This aggravates the eczema and may also lead to unsightly pigmentation, open wounds, infections and scars.
  2. Avoid irritants like soaps and detergents. Use gentle soaps or soap substitutes instead.
  3. Do not wash the skin using hot water (>40°C), this will cause the water on the skin to evaporate faster after the shower and cause transepidermal water loss.
  4. Moisturise the skin frequently. Normal moisturisers (non-steroids) do not cause thinning of the skin and should be applied liberally and frequently throughout the day. Remember to apply moisturisers after swimming.
  5. When in a dry and cold environment, it is important to keep the skin well moisturised to prevent flare-upsof the eczema.
  6. Certain clothing materials such as wool and linen tend to irritate the skin while materials like cotton are more comfortable for sensitive skin.
  7. Avoid consuming some foods that might worsen the skin condition. For example: spicy food, seafood, beef, mutton, and spices, such as coriander, chives, celery, ginger, onion, garlic, etc.

Topical steroids can be effective upon eczema flare-ups. However, topical steroids should not be used without supervision. Do consult doctors for guidance before using them. Ask for medical advice if you are planning on stopping the usage of topical steroids anddo not stop the treatment suddenly.

Eczema: a marathon

Having eczema may be tiring, and managing this skin condition may require a lot of time and effort to see results. However,with an appropriate therapeutic approach combined with good lifestyle habits, it is definitely possible to manage this skin condition effectively for a better quality of life.

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.