It is no surprise that eczema is the most frequently referred condition to the homeopathic hospitals. If you have suffered with eczema you will know that conventional medicine struggles to deal with this often very uncomfortable illness, and treatments are palliative rather than curative. Antibiotics, antihistamines and steroids are on offer to manage symptoms and these may help in the short-term, but can become ineffective over time or less well tolerated.
Eczema varies in severity from a few small patches of dry, itchy redness to an extreme skin condition which can cover most of the body. In acute cases there may be weeping, crusting and bleeding. Atopic eczema is the most common form. The genetic predisposition to develop allergic reactions to substances, or “atopy”, is known to run in families and atopic eczema sufferers will often have relatives who suffer with the condition too, and perhaps also have asthma or hay fever. Other types of eczema include contact dermatitis which is caused by environmental or occupational factors and seborrhoeic eczema, which occurs mainly on the scalp and face, often starting off in the form of dandruff which progresses to redness, itching and scaling.
There is evidence from both clinical trials and patient outcome studies to show that homeopathy can have great results in eczema. A recent study of 118 eczema patients published in Complementary Therapies in Medicine journal reported that homeopathy was as effective as standard conventional treatments in the short-term and more effective than them in the longer term. In addition, patients themselves have reported improvements in their condition after homeopathic treatment.
As already mentioned, eczema is frequently linked with other conditions and so it is valuable to spend plenty of time finding out about all the medical problems in the family. The consultation might involve going into detail about the pregnancy, birth and early years of the patient and finding out about significant events in their life.
A number of homeopathic medicines are known to have an affinity with the skin and there is a variety of approaches that can be used specifically in eczema. One of the most successful methods is to find and prescribe the “constitutional” remedy, that is, the remedy that fits the overall person – their mental and emotional state, their likes and dislikes, and what makes their condition (and themselves) worse or better – as well as their local skin symptoms. Sulphur, Natrum muriaticum and Arsenicum album are examples of homeopathic medicines prescribed in this way for the eczema patient.
Whilst finding the constitutional remedy for the patient is the optimum way to treat eczema, it is not always possible, especially in babies. Fortunately there are other therapeutic models in homeopathy that have great usefulness in eczema cases. Parents have often already made some link between an event in their child’s life and the onset or worsening of their eczema.
These can be significant events such as separation from a parent or carer, the birth of a new baby in the family, the introduction of new foods into the diet, a seemingly unrelated illness, or an accident. There is a range of homeopathic medicines known to be useful in these situations, so that when there is a clear link with the onset or worsening of symptoms, this approach is particularly successful.
As well as using these approaches it is useful to add localised treatments, because eczema can be such a distressing condition. These can be in the form of homeopathic medicines based on the presenting symptoms, rather than, or in addition to, the constitutional method. A remedy such as Graphites is useful for a crusty, cracking eczema which oozes a sticky, honey-coloured fluid. Sulphur might be indicated for a red, burning itchy rash, worse for heat and water. Localised treatments can also be applied directly to the skin, in the form of ointments, tinctures and creams. A combination of Calendula and Urtica urens is a really helpful mixture to soothe the skin.