TCM therapies are structured to identify the underlying pathogenic pattern and then prescribe an herbal formula that addresses this specific pathogenic pattern. With eczema, many TCM scholars assert that it’s caused by dampness (manifests as edema, pus, crusting, etc.) and heat (manifests as redness, inflammation, etc.), but may also be caused by wind (manifests as dry skin, itching, etc.) and heat, or 3) dampness due to qi vacuity (lack of vital energy).
A recent research study examined the dampness and heat imbalance and the effects of two Traditional Chinese Medicine formulas on patients with this type of eczema. The first formula tested was TJ-15 (huang lian jie du tang), which is commonly used in TCM to treat noninfectious chronic inflammatory diseases. TJ-15 is an herbal compound made up of huang qin (scutellaria baicalensis root), zhi zi gardenia (jasminoides fruit), huang lian (coptischinensis), and huang bai (phellodendron amurense). The second formula tested was (wu ling san), which is a TCM herbal compound that has traditionally been used to treat edema, dysuria, and renal conditions. TJ-17 works by draining dampness, strengthening the spleen qi (vital energy of the spleen), and warming the body’s yang (active energy). TJ-17 is composed of ze xie (alisma orientalis root), fu ling (poria cocos), cang zhu (atractylodes lancea), gui zhi (cinnamomum cassia), and zhu ling (polyporus umbellatus).
Method: Sixty participants with the dampness and heat type of eczema were recruited into this study, but only 24 were eligible to participate. The participants were randomly split into two groups. Group 1 was asked to ingest 1.25 grams of TJ-15, and 1.25 grams of TJ-17. Group 2 was asked to ingest 2.5 grams of TJ-15. These compounds were to be taken 90 minutes after a meal, three times a day for four weeks.
Results: The results showed an improvement of eczema severity in both groups, and there were no adverse side effects from either treatment. After four weeks, Group 1 (who took TJ-15 plus TJ-17) showed a reduction of 27.2 points on the SCORAD (index for scoring atopic dermatitis) and 16.9 on the Eczema Area and Severity Index (EASI), while Group 2 (who took TJ-15 alone) showed a 24.9 reduction on the SCORAD and 10.4 on the EASI. While there was a difference in eczema reduction between the two groups, it was not large enough to be considered significant.
Conclusions: This study shows promising results in the efficacy of TCM therapies and the improvement methodology of TCM research. However, the study sample set was too small (24 is too few to be truly significant), and while both groups showed improvement in their eczema with the natural TCM treatments, there was no placebo group for comparison. That said, further studies on eczema with TCM pattern identification should include both a larger sample size and a placebo group to test the efficacy of TCM formulas for eczema.
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