5-herb combo can control eczema, study says



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August 3, 2007  
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Reuters, CM NEWS – A mixture of five traditional Chinese herbs can help control and manage eczema, a study by researchers in Hong Kong suggests.

Considered a chronic condition, eczema is the inflammation of the upper layers of the skin that results in rashes, dryness, itching, flaking, even blistering and bleeding.

While there is no definitive cure for it in Western medicine, traditional Chinese medicine has long held that eczema can be countered by clearing heat and removing dampness in one’s body and strengthening the spleen.

In an article published in the August issue of the British Journal of Dermatology, doctors at the Chinese University of Hong Kong described how they ascertained the efficacy of the five Chinese herbs which have long been used to treat eczema.

The five herbs are jin yin hua (???, flos lonicerae), bo he (??, herba menthae), mu dan pi (or dan pi, ???, cortex moutan), cang zhu (??, rhizoma atractylodis) and huang bai (??, cortex phellodendri).

What are they?

jin yin hua: for treatment of respiratory tract infection, influenza, acute infection of the tonsils, acute infection of the mammary glands, lobar pneumonia, bacterial type of dysentery, acute appendicitis, and allergy reaction of skin.

mu dan pi: this herb has a variety of effects including: anti-bacteria, anti-inflammation, relieving pain, anti-sensitive, strengthening the immune system. Clinical tests prove that it can inhibit the penetration of capillary vessel, so as to diminish inflammation and remove swelling.

cang zhu: for treatment of yeast infection and dries dampness and flatulence; strengthens the digestion; expels wind-dampness; for diarrhea with vomiting; edema with fullness of the abdomen; induces sweating in patients unable to sweat; headaches, body aches, solar plexus pain, and pain in extremities due to wind-cold-dampness, and edema in lower limbs; headache of women due to deficiency, improves night vision and diminishing vision.

huangbai: for treatment in vaginal bacterial infection or yeast infection, bacterial infection of the bowel, and infectious jaundice, wet and smelly groin area; swollen knees, legs and feet; spermatorrhea; night sweating; boils and sores.

Between February 2004 and July 2005, they recruited 85 children suffering from eczema; 42 of them were given capsules containing extracts of the five herbs twice daily for 12 weeks, while the remaining 43 children were given placebos.

By the end of the treatment, the conditions of the children who were given the herbs improved and their use of corticosteroid creams and ointments was reduced by one-third, the researchers wrote.

Corticosteroids are a class of hormones that do not cure eczema, but are effective in controlling or suppressing the symptoms.

Ellis Hon, one of the researchers and associate professor with the Department of Pediatrics at the university, stressed that the herbs were not a cure.

“Such chronic diseases cannot be cured … But they can help some patients control and manage the problem. People like to think that there is something magical and mystical about Chinese herbs. But there’s no such thing,” Hon told Reuters.

“With this study, we are demystifying it and showing that herbs are effective.”

[Br J Dermatol. 2007 Aug;157(2):357-63. Epub 2007 May 14.]