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    Can Chinese Herbs Relieve Eczema?

    Chinese Herbal Medicine May Offer Relief for Dry, Itchy Skin of Eczema, Studies Say
    By
    WebMD Health News
    Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

    March 17, 2009 (Washington, D.C.) -- Traditional Chinese herbal medicine may help to relieve the dry, itchy, scaly skin of eczema in children and adults, two new studies suggest.

    Other research shows that toddlers who have egg, elm, or cat allergies are at increased risk of developing eczema by age 4. Children whose parents have eczema are also at risk.

    All three studies were presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

    Chinese Herbal Medicine Safe, Effective in Children

    As many as 30% of patients with eczema have been prescribed traditional Chinese medicine, but there are still questions about whether it works and is safe, says researcher Julia Wisniewski, MD, of Mount Sinai Hospital in New York.

    There is clearly a need for alternative treatments for the skin condition, she says, because many patients with severe allergies continue to have flare-ups a decade after standard therapy with steroids and immune-suppressing agents.

    Wisniewski and colleagues studied 14 children with persistent eczema who were treated with traditional Chinese medicine at Ming Qi Natural Health Center in Manhattan between August 2006 and May 2008.

    All of them drank Erka Shizheng Herbal Tea twice a day and soaked in an herbal bath for 20 minutes daily. They also applied an herbal cream to their skin two or three times a day and had acupuncture treatment.

    At the start of the study, more than half of the participants had severe symptoms on a standard scale that doctors use to gauge eczema severity. After eight months of treatment, most had mild symptoms.

    “Improvement in symptoms and quality of life was seen as early as three months,” Wisniewski says. She showed before-and-after photos of several children to document their progress: Red, scaly feet and hands appeared normal six months into therapy.

    Participants also reported a reduction in the use of steroids, antibiotics, and antihistamines within three months of being treated with traditional Chinese medicine.

    The herbal treatments proved safe, with no abnormalities in liver and kidney function observed, Wisniewski adds.

    “Chinese medicine is a very good alternative to conventional therapy for children with eczema,” she says.

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