Eczema - oh, the agony! I've suffered with this condition almost all of my life. I discovered the wisdom of Ayurveda many years ago and it has helped me tremendously with my eczema. Ayurveda is an ancient system of medicine that has been around for anywhere from 6,000 to 42,000 years. To many people, Ayurveda sounds strange and hippie-ish, but the advice is rather timeless and practical. In fact, the majority of the people who have posted on the eczema board have been using Ayurvedic remedies to clear their eczema, without even realizing it.
In ayurveda, the root of eczema is believed to be in the colon. I'm sure that most of you who are reading this are not surprised by this, because like me, you probably also have a known digestive disorder, weight problems, or slow/sluggish/incomplete digestion. It's not a surprise to me, reading through the posts on this site, that a lot of peoples' eczema responds positively to "cleansing" fasts. It is believed that when the body cannot handle digestion, toxins get released into the bloodstream, and these toxins are then eliminated through the skin, causing a variety of skin problems such as acne or eczema.
However, I see that some of the trouble that people are having is that they are not always using the correct remedies for their eczema "type". For example, one woman's son who has a kind of "vata" eczema (dry, scratchy, aggravated by cold and wind) was applying coconut oil (a cooling oil used to treat "pitta"/hot eczema) to it and not surprisingly, his condition was aggravated. But those who seem to suffer from "pitta"/hot eczema seem to have much success with coconut oil. I compiled this information for you in hopes that you will be able to correctly diagnose your eczema and use the correct Ayurvedic method for your eczema "type".
I have "pitta"/hot type eczema and can only give advice from my personal experience for people who suffer from that kind of eczema.
Ayurvedic approach to healing and treating eczema -
What is my Ayurvedic "type" of eczema? (Vicharchika)
Vata (cold, dry) type: The skin tends to be rough, dry, hard, itchy and scaly. There may be associated constipation, wind and distension, anxiety and insomnia. The skin is aggravated by cold, wind, dryness and stress and relieved by the application of oils, especially sesame.
Pitta (hot, burning) type: The skin is hot and inflamed; it is aggravated by heat and heating foods, exposure to the sun (heat rash) and application of most oils, reflecting a state of heat and toxicity in the body. There tends to be burning, redness, oozing, swelling and infection which can be associated with fever, irritability and feeling of heat. Pitta type eczema responds well to cooling oils, such as coconut oil.
Kapha (cold, moist) type: Kapha skin problems are often accompanied by mucous congestion, lethargy and sluggish metabolism. The skin tends to be cold, clammy, sticky, oozing, swollen and itchy, with a pale complexion. It is aggravated by cold, damp, application of oils and eating dairy products and sugar.
Eczema is more common with a Pitta imbalance as Pitta can overheat the blood (Rakta dhatu) and predispose to toxic conditions which are expressed through the skin. Factors causing such skin problems include poor digestion (low agni), toxins in the bowel (ama), incorrect diet, over use of sour, salty, or pungent tastes, heavy, sweet or oily foods, as well as over-use of cosmetics, perfumes, synthetic creams, etc.
OK, now I know my Ayurvedic eczema type. How do I treat it?
Vata type eczema: Follow a Vata reducing diet and lifestyle with sesame oil massage and castor oil laxative or enemas. Pungent, bitter and astringent tasting foods should be reduced, while sweet, sour and salty tastes are recommended. Nourishing and cleansing herbs for internal use include Triphala, Guggul, Shatavari, Bala, and Cardamom. Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Cardamom and Punarnava (Boerhavia diffusa). Triphala powder mixed in warm water, or Triphala guggul capsules, can be given before bed.
Medicated ghee (Indian clarified butter, can be found in ethnic food stores) can be used internally and externally. Useful herbs for medicating the ghee include Triphala, Musta (Cyperus rotundus), Manjishta, Gokshura, Chitrak, Neem, Guduchi, Cardamom, Punarnava, and Vacha (Acorus calamus) root.
Pitta type eczema: Follow an anti-Pitta diet, avoiding possible allergens such as dairy produce, vegetables from the nightshade family, as well as oranges, peaches and strawberries. Sour, salty and hot spicy foods are best avoided, while sweet, bitter and astringent foods are recommended. Drinking coconut juice/water (or taking up to 1 tbsp coconut oil internally per day) is helpful, along with coriander leaf juice. Exposure to sun and heat is best avoided.
Recommended herbs for internal use include bitter cleansing herbs such as burdock root (Arcium lappa), Neem, Guduchi, Manjishta, and laxative herbs such as Dandelion root (Taraxacum off. ) and Triphala can be helpful. Also recommended are Gotu kola, Sandalwood, Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa), Musta, Chirata (Swertia chiretta), Aloe Vera juice, and Amalaki.
Helpful therapies for external application include cooling and soothing rose water, coconut oil, Aloe Vera gel, coriander leaf juice, Gotu kola oil, and Bringaraj oil. Sandalwood in oils, creams, or the powder made into a paste, has a cooling anti-inflammatory effect. I use a cream that contains Sandalwood, Neem and Turmeric which is effective. Baths with herbs of Musta, Bakuchi (Psoralea corylifolia) and Triphala can be useful.
**My regimen for Pitta-type eczema**: If you have pitta-type (hot) eczema, the goal here is to cool down your body, improve your digestion and remove toxins from your blood. I recommend (and use) the pitta-reducing Blood Cleanse by Banyan Botanicals, which has manjista, neem, turmeric, guduchi, and burdock. I use in conjunction with Ayurcetics Triphala, 1 tablet right before bed helps elimination and cools and purifies the blood. When I have an eczema flareup, I apply Nutiva Coconut Oil (my favorite coconut oil on the market) to the inflamed areas, and I usually see a clearing up of my eczema within 30 minutes of application. I take 1 tbsp of coconut oil internally everyday, which helps prevent my eczema from recurring. I try to sleep in a cool room, and sometimes I will leave my hair wet, apply coconut oil or brahmi/amla oil to my hair and scalp (I use either the Nutiva oil or the Brami/Amla oil by Vadik herbs), wrap it in a towel, and sleep like that with my hair cold and damp. It keeps my head and body cool all through the night (no heat = no eczema flare up! ). I try to keep as little covers on me as possible as not to get overheated. I also drink aloe vera juice and coconut water, you can find both in Whole Foods or in Asian grocery stores. I prefer the sweetened kind of aloe vera juice (the big green bottles with chunks of aloe vera floating in it), because the non-sweetened kind tastes pretty nasty!! I also try to engage in cooling/calming activities such as yoga and meditation, and try to avoid aggravating "hot" emotions such as anger, resentment, or stress.
Kapha type eczema: A Kapha reducing diet and lifestyle is recommended by avoiding all heavy, greasy and oily food, particularly cheese and yogurt. Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods should be reduced, while pungent, bitter and astringent foods are recommended.