Dermatitis - Eczema

Finding a good herbalist

Atopic Dermatitis - Eczema primarily from internal allergies
The most common type of eczema, typically starting in childhood

Contact Dermatitis - Eczema primarily from external allergies
From exposure to a substance that causes an allergic, inflammatory reaction

Toxic Dermatitis - Eczema primarily from bad blood
From toxins in the environment or from adverse drug-reactions to drugs.

Nervous Dermatitis - Eczema primarily from stress
When the symptoms begin during or soon after intense periods of stress.

Skin Infections & Skin Care
What to do when damaged skin has become infected

Steroid use

Discussing the difficult subject of steroids and how to use them wisely

Courage & Perserverance

Constitutional health note

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Atopic dermatitis: Eczema from internal allergies

  • Serum IgE (allergic antibody) levels are elevated in eighty percent of eczema patients
  • Many eczema patients eventually develop other allergies, e.g. hay fever and/or asthma
  • There is a family history of allergy in two-thirds of eczema patients
  • Many people with eczema improve with a diet that eliminates common food allergens

People who have atopic dermatitis or eczema that is primarily from internal allergies usually show a pattern of the problem starting in early childhood, often very early, and the skin rashes follow a physical pattern of being most prevalent behind the knees &/or elbows and then tending to spread from there.

Allergies play a huge role in many cases of dermatitis and, if the problem doesn't appear to be caused by exposure to toxins or intense stress then it can probably be assumed that they are the leading cause. The first job in this instance is to determine whether the allergies are primarily internal from the diet or external from the environment but this is not always obvious and often there is a mixture of factors.

I use the practical analogy of a bucket when I talk about this subject with my patients, the key point being that there is always more than one thing that fills the 'allergy bucket'. A genetic (constitutional) disposition may put it there in the first place but what can then fill the bucket to the point of overflowing and you getting symptoms is usually a combination of such things as pollens, pollution, dust-mites etc. and, often, at least part of the bucket is filling from adverse reactions to certain foods.

The following sections describe how I go about treating people of different ages when it appears that internal allergies are the primary driver. I have attempted to make all of this article as practically useful as I can because I realise that many people do not have an option in this matter but, as also mentioned at the beginning, if it is at all possible for you to find a good herbalist to personally assist you with a) getting the best quality herbs and b) helping you take a carefully guided holistic approach, then please go to any amount of trouble to find them; again some advice on how you might go about that is written up in a short article here.

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Babies & Infants: Atopic dermatitis (eczema primarily from internal allergies)

Many times in practice I have examined a baby who is getting eczema type skin rashes and found that they have had a history of badly disturbed digestion that preceded the itchiness and palpating the abdomen of these babies has shown a characteristic pattern of heat and stiffness over their liver. The liver is the hottest organ in the body, plus it has to learn to deal with an enormous number of different substances in the early months of life. I, and others in this work, believe that the root cause of atopic dermatitis, eczema, for many infants is a liver that is struggling to learn how to deal with the world and so, in an energetic sense, the excess 'heat' from its over-activity spills over into the skin and the itching and rashes etc. begin...

In these cases, it has been my frequent practice to conduct a trial of giving a very small dose of safe but potent liver and gut herbs directly to the baby or little infant. If this is the right approach then things usually start to improve quite rapidly, often within days. I vary my formulas according to each patient but the following is a fairly typical mixture by way of example.

Baby Eczema Formula

Dandelion root 25 mls
Chamomile 10 mls
Fennel 10 mls
Licorice root 5 mls

Click on the herb's name to learn a lot more about it. Dandelion root is, I believe, the key liver herb for babies and infants; it is both safe and effective. The other herbs in this mixture are to soothe the irritated & inflamed digestive tract that will be present with allergies and when the liver is under stress.


Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)

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Dosage is vital for the success of all herbal medicines and here we run into an immediate practical difficulty because herbal extracts come in different strengths and I am giving you this suggestion from my personal experience with the tinctures we make ourselves in our clinic but, again by way of example, I would typically give about 1 drop per month of a baby's age two to three times a day for at least three weeks to assess the benefit of this approach. In other words, a 3 month old would get 3 drops each dose, a 6 month old 6 drops and so on. You can help a baby through the mother's milk in other ways but I do not think it is effective to use liver herbs for a baby via giving larger doses to a breastfeeding mother.

I understand a parent being worried about the tiny amounts of ethanol in herbal extracts but a) the amounts are so small that there is really no cause for any concern and b) it really pales into comparison to the agonies of eczema or the truly worrying spectre of the side-effects of the steroids that will undoubtedly be recommended if the condition doesn't improve another way. Very young children are remarkably adaptable to the taste of the herbs and it is rarely an issue to get regular and repeated doses into them. It is a certainty that a great many children can grow out of their allergies and they younger they are when you help them do that the better. The effects of this treatment will take time to build but it can be rather marvellous how much the whole condition quite rapidly improves when this is just the right approach.

If the baby or infant does not improve with this kind of treatment then I usually recommend that we go to a low allergy diet as the second step (I want to re-emphasise that the reason I don't do this as the first step is because, wherever possible, we want to firstly try to help the child grow out of their allergies). Studies support the position that breast-feeding offers significant protection against eczema and allergies in general but if infants who are breast-fed do start to develop eczema it may be the result of the transfer of allergic antigens in the breast milk. If this occurs the mother should first try to avoid the most common food allergens; milk, eggs, and peanuts, and to a lesser extent, fish, soy, wheat, citrus, and chocolate. Having the mother avoid these common allergens has seen a cure of the itchiness and rashes in many cases. In older, or formula fed infants, milk, eggs, and peanuts appear to be the most common food allergens that induce eczema. Further to this, if you think that food allergy or intolerance may be the key driver behind you or your child's skin problems then you should read the detailed article on this important subject here.


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Children: Atopic dermatitis (eczema primarily from internal allergies)

The definition of 'a child' could be anything from 18 months to about 18 years so what follows is only a general guide. In practice I still frequently find that the liver needs help for the reasons described above but after a certain age one can see that the immune system is also generally in much need of support. Really you have to closely follow the history of each person as the unique story it is but it can be seen that many children with atopic dermatitis also suffer from things like recurrent ear-infections, bronchitis, colds and flu. In any such cases I think the first imperative is to support the health of the immune system and again it can be seen that such an approach is often sufficient to help the child grow out of their allergies, whether they be to foods or environmental factors or both. The younger the child and the less time they have had the condition the less medicine you need to give for the less amount of time so what follows can only be the most general of guides but again I give you a typical formula I might use in such cases by way of example.

Child Eczema Formula

Echinacea root 60mls
Astragalus 40mls
Dandelion root 40mls
Barberry 20mls
Chamomile 20mls
Licorice root 20mls

This is a 200ml formula, click on any of the herb's names to learn much more about it. Echinacea and Astragalus are, in my view and others in this work, the two safest and most reliable immune tonics in the herbal kingdom. Dandelion is likewise an extremely safe and effective liver herb and the Barberry makes this formula that much more potent for a liver that is flagging in its ability to help the body cope with its allergic load. The Chamomile and Licorice are there to soothe the gut and make the medicine more palatable, which is now potentially much more of an issue than it was with the very young patient.

Younger children are generally excellent with taking herbal medicines and need a minimal amount of encouragement to get used to them. The older the child the harder it may get but, if their skin is bad enough they will be motivated to do whatever it takes to get well and a mixture like this is not really that terrible to taste, it is all largely a matter of habit. Again dosage is completely critical to the success of the treatment and in this case I would go for a 1ml per year of life per day in divided doses of twice a day. In other words, for a 4-year old I would give 2 mls twice a day. For a 6-year old 3 mls twice a day, an 8-year old 4 mls twice a day all the way up to the maximum dose of 9mls twice a day for an 18-year old. You should know that some herbalists would consider these to be quite high doses but I can assure you that I have had no bad reactions to this level of treatment but rather a great many extremely positive results. That said you must be prepared to be patient with a treatment that builds a healthy immune system and there may be other areas such as a healthier diet or getting enough vitamin D that will also need attention. This is all written up in depth in a general article on immune health here.

In my own practice I will typically use a herbal approach first and, only if there is not a clearly positive response within 1-2 months will I go to the second stage of recommending allergy testing or excluding certain foods from the diet. If this is what needs to happen then the first thing to do is to gather information to help make the right choices and again, the important but complex subject of food allergy and intolerance is written up in detail here.


Echinacea angustifolia

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Adults: Atopic dermatitis (eczema primarily from internal allergies)

I have worked with literally hundreds of adults with absolutely terrible eczema who have had a health history of skin problems going all the way back into childhood and, in nearly every case, an equally long history of using the most powerful suppressive steroidal medications known to man to control it. These have not been easy cases by any stretch of the imagination and it certainly goes to prove that the earlier you can find a way to treat the cause of a problem the better! The above approaches where I will use herbs first and only after seeing what they can do to help do I work on the diet is not so commonly what I do with adults who have such a history. Now we are more likely to start excluding foods or doing food intolerance testing at the same time as using herbs to support the immune system and the liver. I often use more than one formula too! Depending on how bad a condition the patient is in and how much we need to give things a push to move them in a better direction we may have to use a comprehensive approach so again, and simply by way of a typical example as each case can be so different, I give the following formula to demonstrate

Adult Eczema Formula

Echinacea root 120mls
Astragalus 80mls
Dandelion root 80mls
Burdock root 80mls
Barberry 40mls
Celandine 20mls
Juniper berry 40mls
Licorice root 40mls

Click on the herb's name to learn more about them. This is a 500ml formula and a typical approach in my clinic would be to use 10 mls twice a day for a month and then review the case to see if we are clearly on the right track whereupon, so long as they were doing much better, I might drop the dose to once a day otherwise stay at the top end of twice a day for longer. The Echinacea and Astragalus are, in my view and others in this work, the two safest and most reliable immune tonics in the herbal kingdom. As you can see there are now a number of new herbs that were not present in the children's formulas, these are the famous 'blood-cleansing' herbs and in nearly every case of chronic adult eczema I have worked with they have formed an essential part of the cure. I talk about this subject in more depth in the section on toxic dermatitis a little further below but the key point to understand here is that you cannot take a lifetime of steroids, plus have long-standing liver stress, without needing to do a significant amount of cleansing to cure a chronic skin problem.

I will also often use a high dose of Omega-3 oils (i.e. anything from 3 to 8 grams a day!) and sometimes I will use an extra supplement of zinc, vitamin C &/or D if there are indicators that these things may be helpful. Please note that none of this is fixed in stone, each patient can vary and I go by a number of diagnostic signs (e.g. on the tongue, skin and nails) to know when or how much to emphasise this. At least as often as using extra nutritional medicines I may use extra herbs to help the immunity such as Reishi mushroom (more here) &/or Cordyceps (more here). In holistic medicine it is not the case that the more you do the better, far from it, if you give too much medicine you get as little benefit as you do from too little. It is an art that requires care, sensitivity and an open mind, and again I want to emphasise that, if it is at all possible, you to go to any amount of trouble to find a good herbalist to guide you on your way (more info on how to do that again linked here.

As well as taking herbs to support immunity and cleansing, the majority of my adult patients with atopic dermatitis need to work on an exclusion diet or do food allergy testing at the same time and, as this is such an important but complex subject in its own right I recommend you take the time to carefully study the article on allergy and intolerance here.


Juniperus communis (Juniper)

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Contact Dermatitis: Eczema primarily from external allergies

Remember that allergy is like a 'bucket' that, when overflowing gives us itching and rashes and that it nearly always takes more than one thing to fill that bucket.

Many people with eczema primarily on their hands or face have something they are exposed to in their environment as a key ingredient in their allergy-bucket . Dust-mite, pollens, animal danders, tin in jewellery and skin-care products being the most common triggers and they are discussed in sequence next.

If possible, get tested through RAST or skin-allergy testing to see what it is you are reacting to. If such testing is not available then you need to go through a process of exclusion to see what makes you better when you avoid it and worse when you don't.

Dust-mites

Dust-mites are especially problematic as they feed on dead human skin flakes and of course a person with bad eczema makes a lot of these!

Dust-mite has finally been recognised as a major issue for the health of many people, especially those suffering eczema and asthma, so there are many commercial products now available on the market to help that I suggest you take advantage of where finances and availability permit.

If you have carpet in your bedroom then you can be certain that this will be the number one source of any dust-mites that may be coming out at night and filling up your allergy bucket, in this case:

a) investigate products or services that can eradicate or at least greatly reduce dust-mite in your carpet

b) think hard about getting someone to get rid of your bedroom carpet (or only consider pulling it up yourself whilst using good quality gloves and a high-grade mask) and instead using cleanable rugs on hard surfaces

c) thirdly and I know this is going to sound most odd, but it is very effective to use the binding tannins in black tea to suppress the ability of dust-mite to migrate from your carpet into the bedroom atmosphere. The simple method to achieve this is prepare some undrinkably strong black tea by putting a few bags or tsps. of tea into hot water and leaving the mixture to literally 'stew' until it cools. You then strain the mixture into the kind of spray bottles that are used to mist the leaves of indoor plants. Then, before going to bed, you spray a fine mist of the tea over your carpet.

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Animal-danders

Animal-danders can be the hardest of all contact allergens to deal with because in many cases they are coming from a much loved family member, usually the cat but sometimes the dog!

If you know you have an allergy in this area then at least one thing must be non-negotiable and that is that your bedroom must be made a pet-free zone because the night time is when the immune system is at its most active and you will see the worst reactions happening when there is something that is perceived as a threat in the bedroom environment.

Remember to be sure to keep the bedroom door closed during the day-time if your pet is inside and you are out of the house. This can be a hard step for everyone involved but you simply must put your health first and if they understood this then they would want you to do that too.

Jewellery

Reactions to jewellery are especially common in eczema on the hands. In most cases the offending substance is tin, which is almost always present to at least some degree even in high quality rings, bracelets etc.

If tin or some other metal or alloy is suspected as a cause then the obvious solution cannot be put aside in favour of sentiment. All jewellery near an area of contact dermatitis has to be removed until the skin is completely better.

If things get better but the condition returns when the jewellery is worn again then it's time to think about who to give you jewellery to and how much you might have to save to get something in pure silver or gold!

Products

Skin-care and hair care products clearly cause a great deal of contact eczema. Most people work this out for themselves and stop using the products they can see have caused them to have negative reactions,

What can be puzzling is why a person who has had a reaction to a product continues to develop a skin rash long after they stopped any exposure to the substance involved. In such cases the best course of action may be to look into some internal cleansing as discussed next.

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Toxic Dermatitis: Eczema primarily from bad blood

A diagnosis of toxic dermatitis with a subsequent focus on detoxification may be appropriate when

a) the person has no particular childhood history of eczema or allergies
b) the rash tends to be quite wide-spread and non-specific to any particular body part
c) examination of the life or work history shows the problem starting after an exposure to drugs or environmental toxins

The use of diet and medicines to promote cleansing and detoxification has been the key approach from traditional herbal medicine for many thousands of years for chronic skin problems. It is understood that, as an eliminative organ itself, the skin is especially vulnerable to showing problems when the liver, bowel or kidneys are struggling to cope with their own work in keeping the body 'clean'.

You can see that many of the herbs recommended in the sample formulae above for atopic dermatitis come from the cleansing class of remedies. This is because, even when we don't suspect an expsoure to toxins as being the main trigger for the eczema, we still know that keeping the liver healthy and the blood clean will vastly improve the chances of a cure.

Key cleansing herbs include Burdock, more here, Dandelion, more here, Red Clover, here, and Cleavers, here. It is common to combine all these herbs, and others if indicated, into one formula of teas or tinctures that a person with chronic eczema might take once or twice a day for weeks or even months while working on the cure.

As mentioned at the beginning, if it is possible to find a good herbalist to help you in this area then you should try to make it happen. However, if this is not practical or possible then a simple, inexpensive but still highly potent cleansing treatment is to use the combo of Juniper berry and Celandine in a certain method described in detail here.

To learn more about this area in general read the article called 'what is detoxification' found here.

If you need to go through a process of internal cleansing, then firstly you must use a special class of herbal medicines, such as those mentioned above but there are a great many others available all over the world, to activate and sustain the process. Secondly you must keep to a clean and healthy diet along the way and this is written up in practical detail here.

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Nervous dermatitis: Eczema primarily from stress

A diagnosis of nervous dermatitis with a subsequent focus on treating stress as the primary cause may be appropriate when

a) the person has no early childhood history of eczema or allergies
b) the eczema primarily affects visible body parts i.e. the hands, face and neck
c) the health history shows the eczema starting after periods of intense stress

Where this subject gets more complex is that eczema can cause a great deal of its own stress because it makes the skin an uncomfortable place to live and it can also cause acute embarrassment because it shows there is something visibly wrong with you.

We do have to be very careful not to overemphasise stress management at the expense of doing necessary work on things that may be equally, or even more important, such as immune health, cleansing, low allergy diet etc. That said, if you believe that nervous tension is the primary cause of your eczema then don't let anyone tell you different. Only you can live in your body and know what makes you better or worse.

If excess stress is where you need to direct your primary attention, then carefully study the article on anxiety that goes into practical detail on those herbs and strategies that best help a person to unwind the kind of deep tension that can cause the skin to break down; it's here.

Further to that, if you think that you or your child might benefit from learning some relaxation exercise, you may get some help from the page on music and relaxation here.

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Infection & Skin Care

A huge challenge with eczema from any cause is secondary infection because skin that has been damaged by inflammation and scratching becomes highly vulnerable to micro-organisms. This is what can take what might have never become more than a small patch of eczema somewhere on the skin to something that spreads like wildfire over large areas of the body.

Clean Fingernails!

Scratching spreads infection so one of the most important things you can do to is to keep you or your child’s fingernails very clean and very short!

If I am working with a child, particularly a boy, I often use a magnifying device to show them what's underneath their nails. The inevitable dirt, debris, dried skin etc. that you can suddenly see in graphic detail looks impressively disgusting and can be just the motivator they need to get their nails short, well-scrubbed and clean.

We don't want to make our children compulsive hand-washers but two good nail-brush scrubbings every day along with keeping the nails trim will go a long way to prevent skin infections.

Hold the Soap!

As much as we might naturally assume that the more the skin is broken or infected the more it needs to be cleaned with soap it is a simple fact that, for many people who suffer from eczema, soap is a substance with the potential to make things much worse.

Our skin produces natural oils from numerous tiny sebaceous glands just under the surface, this oil serves to keep the skin nourished, stop it from drying out, and helping prevent infection from the millions of bacteria that are constantly around us.

Soap strips away oil, that is why we use it, but a person with widespread eczema may be best to take what has been called an English shower, to avoid removing the very oil that they need to heal and protecct their skin The term 'English shower' presumably comes from the times where hot water was in scarce supply in what was a rather cold and crowded country.

You part-fill a bucket or basin with hot water and carefully wash the parts of you that especially need to be cleaned but leave the rest of your skin alone! It is ok to use some soap for your underams etc. avoid putting any soap on damaged skin that needs to heal. So long as you do it right, you should find that this approach will not have you being smelly or dirty, but rather your skin can heal much faster with its natural oils intact.

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Anti-microbial options

If the skin is badly infected then I will be the first person to recommend my patients to get on to a strong course of antibiotics and stay on them until the prescription is completed. The skin is the biggest organ in the body and if enough of it gets infected then the results can be truly catastrophic.

Fortunately, it very rarely comes to that and in nearly all the cases I have worked with in person we have been able to clear the infection through a holistic approach that treats both internally and externally.

Internal medicine for Infected Skin

Once again we come to the great immune tonic herbs Echinacea and Astragalus. If there is an acute infection then I may well use a lesser known but highly potent immune stimulant called Boneset as well as the great Elder berry, both of which need to be used in doses that are high enough to see a rapid effect but not too high to cause a gastric disturbance. This is the kind of formula we typically use to help with an acute infection.

Skin Infection Formula

Echinacea 80mls
Astragalus 60mls
Boneset 20mls
Elder berry 20mls
Licorice root 20mls

This makes 200mls and a typical dose could be 8mls three times a day for an adult with an acute skin infection, maybe half that for a child. Please note that these are the amounts I use from tinctures we manufacture in our clinic so they can only be a general guide to what might work best from a different source of supply.

The person should feel start noticing a positive effect from the medicine within about 48 hours and the effects will continue to build up over the 8 or 9 days it takes to complete the course. This is the time fram in which the skin should be considerably improving if what you are doing is sufficient.. It is ok to repeat the treatment so long as it is clearly helping and you are winning the battle against infection.

External Medicine for Infected Skin

It must be understood that, once there is a bacterial or fungal infection that has become established in the skin that putting on creams and ointments may do nothing more than give the bugs more food!

It is generally recommend to only use herbal creams or ointments when the skin is dry to the point of cracking. If the skin is broken, or infected, you are much more likely to get healing and relief from using herbal compresse and/or washes.

External Compress for Damaged or Infected Skin

Take a small handful of any one or combination of herbs that you can obtain such as Calendula, Nettles, Sage, Thyme, Plantain, Comfrey leaf or Chickweed, pour over a sufficient amount of freshly boiled water, cover your tea-pot, coffee-plunger, saucepan or other container and allow to steep until the water has cooled.

Then soak a suitable cloth (e.g. a hand-towel, a tea-towel, a handkerchief etc.) in the resulting tea and apply it to the affected areas when it is 'wringing wet' i.e. so soaked that if you at all squeezed it a lot of liquid would easily come out. Place this compress over the skin and relax whilst the herbs do their work and the skin absorbs the beneficial medicine along with the water.

If your skin is not especially hot then you may prefer to use the compress at room temperature. If for any reason you think you might do better with a warm compress or just want to try and see then don't reheat the tea but rather put a dry towel over the wet compress and then place a heat source such as a heated wheat bag or hot-water bottle over the dry towel.

If your skin is very hot and irritable then refrigerate the tea and apply the compress when it is cold. As it warms up to your skin temperature it will draw a lot of heat out of the skin at which point oyu might want to re-apply a fresh cold compress in the same manner. This treatment that can be repeated as often as desired.

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External Wash for Infected Skin

Especially when large areas of the skin have become infected a simple wash of Tea-tree or Lavender essential oil that has been well-diluted in water may be the most helpful approach.

'Well-diluted' is typically something like 10 drops of Lavender or Tea-Tree to a small cup of water. Apply over all the affected areas and allow to dry naturally or pat dry with a small towel.

This is a treatment that should be done at least twice and even three times a day to have a good chance to hold back the spread of infection. Lavender is very good and safe but Tea-tree is even more potent against skin infections. However, you must be aware of the potential for the Tea-tree to cause some sensitivity in the skin so if you are at all concerned then stop using it or just go with the Lavender oil.

As a side note for the science-minded; an alteration in the immune systems of eczema sufferers has been identified through research. It involves a defect in the 'alternate complement pathway', which is an immune mechanism important in destroying bacteria and foreign particles. Interestingly, the historic use of eczema ‘cleansing’ herbs has been shown to strongly activate this alternate-complement pathway and in turn this is primarily thought to be because of a substance called ‘inulin’ present in large amounts in such herbs such as Burdock & Dandelion roots.


Lavandula officinalis (Lavender)

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Steroids

All the things we do to treat the causes of eczema as described above take time to work, so if you will undertake this kind of journey then you must not let your skin get too out of hand on the way!

The biggest immediate challenge when approaching this problem from a non-conventional medicine viewpoint is the issue of steroids because almost all children and adults are given steroidal creams for their eczema and many go on to use steroids internally as well.

It has been well established that there is a limited time frame in which steroids can help before they a) become much less effective and b) their side-effects start to outweigh their benefits. The hope in the pharmaceutical treatment of eczema is that it will sort itself out before the steroids stop working or start causing unacceptable side-effects.

Steroids clearly do help with the inflammatory 'fire' of eczema but, usually because nothing is being done to treat the root cause of the problem, all too often the cycle of inflammation repeats and each subsequent wave of steroidal creams or pills can require a longer treatment or a stronger dose. We often meet patients who have been in this cycle for so long that they feel their steroids have stopped working altogether and their skin can be in a terrible condition.

Middle ground

We need to take great care when things have gotten very bad on the skin; it is our biggest organ and when its surface has been significantly broken we need to be especially mindful of the very real risk of an overwhelming infection and how dangerous this could be.

My approach to all my patients who are on strong drugs for any reason is usually to advise them to not change their medications in the early stages of our treatment program but rather to wait until they see and feel a palpable and obvious benefit from what we are doing and only then to look at coming off their drugs.

Even when we are ready to stop, there is a significant risk of something called steroidal-rebound. In such instances the best way can be to find a middle-ground of as little steroids as possible but not necessarily none at all. An all-or-nothing approach is unlikely to be a wise one.

Less is more

Something about steroids that is not well understood by many people is that the more you use them the less they work and if you use too much for too long they simply stop having much of an effect at all.

You can think of eczema as being like a literal fire in the skin. Steroids are the fire-brigade in this analogy and you can and should call them when you need them to come and spray chemical retardant on a fire that is burning out of control.

However, don't kid yourself that keeping them around to give you a spray every day is going to do you any lasting good. They are there specifically for the emergency situation when the fire has gotten too strong for your own body to handle it and so it is clearly spreading or worsening.

A much better way to keep getting the benefit from streroids when you need them is to use them more sparingly and also to take regular breaks. For example, rather than using larger amounts, take a smaller dose and rub it well into the afffected skin until it is well absorbed. Also, rather than keeping using steroids day after day where you simply must expect diminishing returns, rub the cream in twice a day for for only two or three days and then to take a break for at least 2, or even 3 days, more if you can see that your own system is winning the battle.

The longer you work on the internal and holistic approach the less you should need to call in the fire-brigade but don't lose heart if it still happens from time to time!

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Courage & Perserverance

I have treated many hundreds of people with eczema, and have truly had a great many successes along the way, but the hardest overall challenge in getting well from eczema is that it simply takes time.

When a person has a problem that is causing them great discomforrt or acute embarrassment, they want it gone, immediately, and this is why of course nearly everyone turns to steroids, at least at first.

The other major selling point for steroids is that you hardly have to do anything, just put some cream on or take a tiny pill each day and that's it. Compare this to having to drink a strange herbal formula twice a day for weeks if not months on end, make big changes to your diet, put wet compresses on your skin etc. etc!

The point that most people are ready to start the kind of work described iin this article is one of despair. Their steroids are no longer working, or their skin is simply too thin to keep tolerating them anymore, and here they are, what can I do to help?

As you can imagine it is no easy prospect working with such cases and, if nothing else, it has certainly shown me whether or not this approach truly does or doesn't work.

It does work but it takes time and there have also been plenty of people who gave up when things didn't improve quickly enough or, as frequently happens, they did start getting better but then took a turn for the worse...

Progress can be expected to be slow with natural healing but, so long as it is happening, then you must keep going. You also should anticipate that there may be some setbacks along the way and, if this happens, you must carefully think about what was happening beforehand to learn from it. Did you stop using any of your treatment, did you eat something different, did you get overly stressed?

Each person with eczema has their own pattern of what factors make things better or worse, To truly get welll you must learn what those factors are, then use what helps and avoid what harms.

Eczema is a tough, chronic health condition but there is a way out of it. For your peace and happiness, for your health, you must find that path and do whatever it takes to get better. I hope that some of this information will help you and I wish you courage and perseverance along the way, good luck!

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, there are many other old ways of healing from Nature that you might like to learn more about and if so, then a good place to start would be to learn about your constitution to help better understand how eczema became an issue in your health as well as what kinds of foods, herbs etc. may best help you in other ways.

There is a brief introduction to this subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd