Ayurvedic treatment for eczema
by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on Jun 15, 2020
Eczema is an inflammatory skin disorder that causes not just inflammation, but also drying and thickening of the skin, redness, and itching. In some cases it can also cause severe blistering. Although it is one of the most common skin conditions, the disorder is still not well understood and conventional treatment is primarily aimed at relieving symptoms with antihistamines and topical steroids. These treatments are effective at relieving the condition, as eczema is linked to a malfunctioning immune response, but they are also fraught with the risk of side effects. Moreover, such treatments only offer temporary relief but do not address the underlying causes of eczema.
This makes ayurvdic treatment for eczema preferable as they can reduce reliance on medications and offer more sustainable solutions. Ayurved is the best natural medical system for dealing with the condition as the discipline has a wealth of knowledge on the subject, accumulated through research and observations conducted over millennia.
The Ayurvedic Perspective of Eczema
Eczema can be of different types, but it most commonly refers to atopic dermatitis and contact dermatitis. The condition is regarded as chronic in mainstream medicine, with patients experiencing periods of relief interspersed with sudden flare ups in which symptoms are severe. In Ayurved, the main focus of eczema treatment is to correct underlying balances, which can prevent such flare ups from occurring in the first place, providing more permanent relief. These treatments emerge from the Ayurvedic understanding of eczema.
Ancient Ayurvedic texts describe eczema as Vicharchika, which is classified as a skin disease or kshudrakustha. The symptoms of this condition closely mirror those of eczema, including kandu or itching, shyava varna or discoloration, pidaka or blistering, and srava or discharge. Although precise causes of eczema are not described, Ayurvedic scholars recognized the underlying role of dosha vitiation. Charaka, the Ayurvedic sage, also regarded it as a predominantly kapha disorder, but believed that all three doshas play a role, requiring accurate diagnosis of the individual’s dosha imbalance. Detoxification and purification procedures are also regarded as important because of the role that the buildup of ama or toxins can play in skin disease and inflammation.
These goals are achieved through therapeutic procedures, the administration of herbal medications, and with diet and lifestyle modifications.
Ayurvedic Treatment of Eczema
The use of therapeutic treatments in combination with medicinal herbs is critical when dealing with severe eczema as this can help eliminate vitiated doshas, while also providing immediate relief from the symptoms. In cases of mild to moderate intensity, herbal supplements and home remedies alone may suffice.
Polyherbal medications with extracts from herbs such as harda, sunth, behada, amla, majistha, tulsi, and guggul among others are often used as the first line of treatment. Many of these ingredients work to optimize digestion and detoxification, so as to correct underlying imbalances, but some of these herbs also exhibit anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory, and antihistamine effects, which can all help to treat the condition and possibly relieve or prevent flare ups.
Abhyanga is a popular massage therapy in Ayurved and sarvanga abhyanga refers to whole body massage with massage oils. In the context of eczema, abhyanga is regarded as beneficial because of its detoxifying effects and nourishment for the skin. It provides benefits not just for the outer layer, but has deep penetration, cleansing the dhatus or tissues, hydrating them, and improving circulation. While this directly relieves eczema, abhyanga also benefits patients indirectly by lowering the risk of eczema triggers like stress. The practice involves the use of medicated oils containing herbs like haldi, kapoor, and nagarmotha with carrier oils like sunflower, til, and coconut.
Swedana is another panchakarma therapy like abhyanga that helps detoxify the body. It promotes perspiration to facilitate the elimination of wastes and any ama buildup in the body. This is basically sudation therapy and is regarded as therapeutic for eczema. This therapy is typically administered immediately after abhyanga in a steam chamber or sauna.
Another important panchakarma ritual involves detoxification through purgation, which is again induced through the use of herbal medications. This therapy is also administered in a clinical setting and virechana drugs are used to increase gastrointestinal motility to speed up and increase bowel movements easily. This is the final stage of cleansing and elimination of toxins from the body after which the patient can undergo other treatments.
After undergoing the procedures of detoxification and purification, diet modifications are important to ensure proper digestion and bowel functioning. For at least 3 days, all spicy foods should be avoided, with a focus on intake of bland and cooked foods. Regular foods may be introduced gradually after this, but processed food intake should be avoided or severely restricted, as should alcohol. Specific diet recommendations should be based on your unique condition and dosha balance.
Immediately after treatment with Ayurvedic therapies, skin lesions and wounds from blistering or scratching should be treated with medicated decoctions to fight the risk of infection and promote healing. Skin care products with herbs like aloe, haldi, mint, and neem are particularly helpful because of their anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and analgesic properties. Long term skin care is also best managed with Ayurvedic herbal skin masks and creams as cosmetic products can increase the risk of flare ups due to the presence of harsh chemicals that work as allergens.
Aside from the fact that physical activity and yoga can help to improve various bodily functions, improving dosha balance and reducing the risk of ama buildup, yoga and practices like pranayama and meditation also have proven stress reduction benefits. As stress is a major contributor to eczema flare ups, effectively managing stress can help to prevent or reduce the frequency of eczema flare-ups. Both yoga and pranayama also offer circulatory benefits, which not only improves waste elimination, but also ensures proper nourishment of all the dhatus as well as your skin.
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