Skin conditions are often affected by the seasons and can become increasingly worse in the fall and winter months, so we figured this is a good time to write about this type of conditions while also taking the opportunity to wish you a Joyful Holiday Season and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!
Eczema, Contact Dermatitis, Atopic Dermatitis, or Psoriasis?
Eczema is a general term for several types of skin disorders, also known as dermatitis. The most common form is atopic dermatitis, which affects people of all age groups and is often due to an allergic reaction. Its sufferers may also have a predisposition to various allergies, hay fever, and asthma. Infantile eczema occurs in babies under 3 years old, but usually clears up within few years and should never be suppressed with steroidal creams. Adult seborrhoeic eczema is associated with yeast and fungal infections and occurs mainly between the ages of 20 to 40 years of age. There are several other classifications, such as xerotic eczema and contact dermatitis, which are related to allergic skin reactions, and so on. Some people notice that exposure to the sun, humidity, or ocean water help tremendously, while other not. Areas affected in adults are mainly the face, elbows, hands, knees and ankles. In infants it mainly manifests on the face, neck, scalp forearms, and legs. Of course, simply labeling the condition doesn’t help much in the long run if the underlining causes are not identified and addressed.
In conventional medicine the root cause of eczema is not clearly understood, but abnormal immune function and hereditary factors are thought to play a major role. Aggravating factors include seasonal changes, certain foods, environmental allergens, pet dander, soaps, detergents, some fabrics, hot water, and bodily sweat. Certain high allergy foods such as wheat, gluten, soy, corn, and dairy are believed be causes, but efforts to omit lots of items from the daily diet can be frustrating and almost impossible and may not make any difference in the long run. In any case, it is best to start with the basic guidelines offered here along with a well-rounded individualized Ayurvedic program, and over time take further measures with dietary restrictions if needed. In Ayurveda, psoriasis is a similar condition to eczema in that it has much of the same root causes, so herbal treatment and dietary and lifestyle recommendations are also similar.
The Ayurvedic Perspective on Eczema
In Ayurveda this condition is referred to as vicharchika and it is related to the vitiation of any of the three doshas affecting the skin and blood as well as accumulated metabolic wastes. In general, the main dosha involved is pitta or kapha, but all three can be involved. Below is a general description of how doshas influence the characteristics of this disease.
Vata types of eczema are characterized by extreme dryness, scaling, exfoliation, itching, and much pain and throbbing.
Pitta types of eczema are associated with redness, blisters, bleeding, burning sensations, and infection. Pitta individuals may be prone towards seborrhoeic and contact dermatitis due to excess heat, especially in the armpits and on the scalp.
Kapha types of eczema cause itching, oozing, and thickening of the skin. Kapha types may also be prone to seborrhoeic eczema, especially in between rolls of fats as well as other moist sweaty areas.
Tridoshic types are when all three doshas are involved and the various symptoms are mixed, which is common in many chronic cases.
For some people this condition can be acute and pass within a short period of time, while others experience lifelong symptoms. Though not a life threatening condition, it does cause psychological stress and extreme self-consciousness. Modern medicine believes there is no cure for this condition, but Ayurveda can safely manage and in many cases cure it over time. Treatment in Ayurveda is a holistic process with more than the just application of topical creams or oils. It requires great discipline, observance of diet and lifestyle, much patience, and a good method for stress management.
Herbal Treatment in Ayurveda
To treat eczema and psoriasis, it is essential to have the guidance of a skilled practitioner who can tailor an herbal and dietary program specific to your individual needs. Not all cases can be treated or respond to treatment in the same way, so follow-up care is necessary. Because these conditions can take years to treat successfully, having the care of a skilled practitioner also provides the necessary support and reassurance at the emotional level while the healing process takes place.
Cleansing from within is also a major factor in removing this type of condition, as accumulated toxins tend to surface on the skin. A progressively cleaner diet may be necessary to promote the healing process and allow proper digestion of food (to avoid further accumulating toxins in the body) along with the unique cleansing therapies Ayurveda has to offer, including Panchakarma for deep detoxification, and a stress management program that would include yoga and meditation to strengthen the body while calming your mind.
Common Ayurvedic Herbs Used to Treat Eczema
Ayurveda offers many traditional and custom formulations that are specific to the various forms of this condition, but these can only be selected once a full evaluation is made by an Ayurvedic practitioner. Below is a general list of some of the most commonly used herbs to treat eczema, psoriasis, and related skin conditions.
Neem clears the heat and toxins from the liver and blood and relieves itching.
Manjista balances pitta in the skin, calms itching, and purifies blood.
Guduchi relieves all three doshas, especially pitta, reduces burning and systemic inflammation.
Punarnava is good for pitta and kapha related skin diseases.
Turmeric detoxifies, reduces inflammation, and relieves itching.
Aloe juice cools the blood, promotes healing of the skin, cleanses intestines, calms itching and burning sensations.
Licorice calms and sooths tissues, balances bitter herbs used to treat this condition, pacifies vata and pitta.
Shatavari cools blood, calms pitta in the GI tract and throughout the entire body.
Triphala cleanses the entire GI tract, promotes healthy digestion and absorption, and improves the tone of the skin.
Gotu Kola cleanses the blood, reduces the effects of stress, and calms the nerves and mind.
Jatamansi calms the mind, replenishes the nervous system, supports, cleanses blood, balances all doshas.
Ashwagandha reduces effects of stress, calms vata in the mind and nervous sysytem.
Tikta Ghrita (bitter medicated ghee) purifies the blood, cleanses and regulates proper liver function.
Cleansing and Rejuvenation for Eczema
One of the most important aspects of eczema treatment includes seasonal detoxification with Panchakarma. This allows for the removal of deep-seated toxins and metabolic wastes, and also helps to weaken the tendencies for bad habits that stand in the way of the healing process. This type of cleansing process is tailored to your individual needs to help remove excess dosha and toxins, calm your mind and nervous system, and uproot the underlying causes of this condition. Gentle home cleansing may also provide relief if a full Panchakarma program cannot be done, but only under the guidance of a trained practitioner.
In infants with eczema deep cleansing is not indicated and the treatment is usually given through the mother, especially in the case of a breastfeeding baby. Usually, in such cases simple home remedies and diet and lifestyle tips are given for both mother and baby. A daily teaspoon of Aloe Vera juice mixed with any liquid and given to the infant can do wonders to relieve symptoms and rejuvenate the skin. If the condition persists after 3 years of age, internal herbs may be given.
Traditional Ayurvedic warm oil massage, herbal steam bath, and Shirodhara are very beneficial in most eczema cases and can be performed as often as desired to promote lymphatic circulation, gently cleanse the system, calm the body and mind, and overcome fear and insecurity around the issue.
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for Eczema Types of Skin Conditions
* Periodically remove something from your diet or environment to identify allergen triggers
* Use natural soaps and detergents free from perfumes and harsh chemicals
* Avoid frequent, long, hot showers or baths.
* Pat dry after bathing rather than rubbing too vigorously
* Bathe after exercising to wash off sweat
* Avoid wearing wool that comes in direct on the skin.
* Wear natural fibers rather than synthetic ones.
* Avoid wearing cheaply made metal jewelry (favor silver as it is cooling)
* Live in a humid environment or make your environment moist
* Manage anger and stress with activities such as exercise, yoga, tai chi and daily meditation
* Donate blood periodically to promote blood rejuvenation and ease symptoms
* Wear clean clothes every day
* Drink 6-10 glasses of water a day
* Introduce ghee (clarified butter) and omega 3 oils from vegetarian sources into your diet 2 times daily (avoid fish oil as it is too pungent)
* Resist the urge to scratch legions to avoid the spreading and aggravation of surrounding areas
* Keep finger nails clipped short to minimize damage from scratching
Foods and Drinks to Avoid with Eczema
* Hot and spicy foods like chilies, raw onions and garlic
* Excess fermented foods like pickles, curds and yogurt
* Excess salt intake
* Red or sweet wine and hard alcohol
* Sour fruits
* Deep fried foods
* Ice cream and cold drinks
* Strong tea (tea should not be steeped for more than 2 minutes)
* Over consumption of nuts (soaked nuts are ok, seeds like sunflower or pumpkin are lighter and easier to digest)
Helpful Ayurvedic Remedies for Eczema:
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