Complementary and alternative therapies (CAT) are popular with many people who have eczema. CAT treatments for eczema may include acupuncture, mind-body practices, massage, herbal preparations, and nutritional supplements.
If you choose to try one or more CAT treatments, it is important to maintain the traditional drug regimen established by your doctor. These treatments have been proven effective in rigorous, scientific trials. It is also vital to check with your doctor before beginning a CAT regimen so that they can warn you about any potential interactions and correctly interpret any side effects.
What does it involve?
Several CAT treatments have shown potential for improving eczema symptoms in clinical trials.
Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice that has been used for thousands of years to treat a wide range of illnesses. During an acupuncture treatment, you will lie still on a table. A trained acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will insert fine needles into the skin or connective tissue just beneath the skin. The needles are left in the skin for up to 30 minutes. Different regions of the skin are targeted during acupuncture depending on the condition being treated. The practitioner may gently twist or move the needles. Heat or electricity may be applied to the needles. Acupuncture is usually painless.
Acupressure makes use of the same pressure points targeted in acupuncture. Instead of inserting needles, a TCM practitioner will press firmly into your skin with their fingers, elbows, feet, or special tools.
Stress is a major eczema trigger for many people. Mind-body techniques can assist with stress reduction and help reduce the number, severity, and length of eczema flare-ups in some people. Popular techniques for stress reduction include hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, and prayer. Hypnosis involves entering a deep state of relaxation during which you can let go of stress. Hypnosis can be led in person by a trained professional or practiced at home with the aid of a soundtrack. Meditation can be seated or moving, guided or solitary. Biofeedback involves visiting a special clinic where you wear special sensors on your head that monitor your brainwaves. You view a visualization of your brainwaves and attempt to change the pattern in ways that control or lessen symptoms. Prayer may take many forms depending on the spiritual tradition you follow.
Massage may relieve stress by relaxing muscles.
Some people try herbal preparations to reduce symptoms of eczema. Licorice gel and St. John’s wort have shown some potential in clinical studies for soothing eczema when applied topically. Some people have also experienced improvement when taking evening primrose oil orally.
Vitamin supplements, either taken orally or applied to the skin, have also benefitted some people with eczema. The most promising examples are oral vitamin D supplementation and topical vitamin B12 application.
Some people claim that one CAT treatment or another reduces their eczema. However, most CAT treatments have not been studied in rigorous clinical trials to establish their safety and effectiveness.
Some topical or oral CAT treatments can cause interactions with medications. Some treatments may exacerbate other health conditions.
Health insurance may not cover CAT modalities. Some CAT treatments can be expensive.
Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to travel to an acupuncturist, biofeedback clinic, or massage therapist.
For more information, visit:
Complementary and Alternative Treatments – National Eczema Association
Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Atopic Dermatitis: An Evidence-Based Review – American Journal of Clinical Dermatology
Alternate Routes: Acupuncture, Acupressure and Eczema – National Eczema Association
Topical herbal medicines for atopic eczema: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials – British Journal of Dermatology
Hypnotherapy as a treatment for atopic dermatitis in adults and children – British Journal of Dermatology