Ayurvedic Treatments for Eczema | Remedy | 3 Stages of Treatment
It’s estimated that one in ten people will develop eczema during their lifetime, which is most common in childhood but often lasts into (or emerges during) adulthood. From severe itching to painful dryness, eczema can be an uncomfortable condition to live with – but Ayurvedic principles can help to identify the root causes and, often, provide relief.
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What is Eczema
Eczema is one of the most prevalent skin conditions globally, affecting 40% of the population (or one in five children and one in twelve adults in the UK alone). ‘Eczema’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekzein’, meaning ‘to boil out’.
Healthy skin cells are plumped up with water, fat and oils, forming a protective barrier against infection and helping our skin to retain moisture and maintain body temperature. If you have eczema, your skin is less able to retain water and produces less fat and oil, allowing bacteria and irritants to pass through more quickly. There is a flare-up, with the skin becoming itchy, irritated, cracked and inflamed.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema symptoms include itching, dryness and even chronic lesions, most commonly on the hands, face and legs (although it can spread across the body). Eczema can worsen in hot or cold temperatures, after sweating, on contact with irritating chemicals (like harsh laundry detergents), during stress or when allergens are in the air.
There are several types of eczema, the most common being atopic dermatitis. Others include seborrhoeic dermatitis (eczema resulting from dandruff), contact dermatitis (resulting from contact with a skin irritant), xerotic eczema (characterised by extreme skin dryness), and more.
What is Eczema according to Ayurveda?
Ayurveda describes eczema as ‘Vicharchika’, with symptoms including intense itching, blisters and boils, pigment changes, dry or rough skin, and secretion.
Ayurveda recognises the skin as consisting of three essential layers, each governed by one of the three doshas. The outer layer (known as ‘Apicharma’) is in constant contact with the outside world and tends to get dry and irritable. People predominantly Vata dosha are likelier to suffer from skin disorders at this superficial layer, such as dry eczema and dandruff. The second layer of skin is warmer, consisting of connective tissue and blood vessels. Pitta people are more prone to inflammatory eczema here, rosacea, and other inflammatory skin conditions. The third layer comprises connective tissue, fat and blood, containing the most moisture. Disease at this layer is less common and often more chronic, such as Psoriasis and wet eczema, and tends to affect Kapha people the most.
Most skin conditions originate from deeper bodily imbalances, excessive heat and toxicity, exacerbated by stress and seasonal changes. Ayurvedic practitioners can address these using holistic treatments to radically improve a patient’s quality of life.
Causes of Eczema
According to Ayurveda, eczema is thought to occur when your doshas are out of balance. This can be caused by several things, stretching across diet and other lifestyle factors, as well as emotional stress and genetics. Some dietary factors that may cause eczema include:
- Eating too much fatty, oily or salty food (particularly junk food).
- Eating food that is difficult to digest, such as dairy products.
- Eating too much seafood.
- Eating a lot of sesame.
Some lifestyle factors that may cause eczema include:
- Too much stress over an extended period of time.
- Poor levels of personal hygiene.
- Suppressing the natural needs of our body, as well as our feelings.
- Performing intense physical activity frequently.
- Showering with cold water after a day in the sun.
- Eating when we are still full from a previous meal.
- Frequently sleeping during the day.
Ayurvedic medicine believes that any or a combination of the activities above can cause the doshas to become aggravated, causing skin dryness and inflammation.
Ayurvedic Treatments for Eczema
Ayurvedic treatment for eczema will usually start by determining whether the skin condition is Vata, Pitta or Kapha dominant. While any of the dosha can be dominant, Pitta is almost always a factor in eczema as it governs the liver, blood and digestion – all of which affect the texture and health of the skin.
Once the root imbalances have been determined, an Ayurvedic practitioner will determine a treatment path, including healthy food and lifestyle changes to support ‘Brahmacharya’: energy management. In Ayurveda, Brahmacharya is the third pillar of life. The word derives from ‘Brahma’, meaning God, and ‘Charya’, meaning conduct. In that way, Brahmacharya means ‘conduct motivated by the search for God’. In other words, Brahmacharya is about staying connected with ourselves and our environment to make the best choices for our entire being.
Ayurvedic practitioners often recommend that you avoid spicy, oily, sour, fried and fatty foods, including red meat, coffee and alcohol, and instead eat a plant-rich diet, choosing a cooling and astringent food and drink to pacify Pitta. For severe itching (suggesting Kapha involvement), a practitioner may also suggest reducing sugar and dairy. Vegetables from the nightshade family, such as tomatoes and aubergine, can also contribute to inflammation.
People with eczema need to stay hydrated, consuming plenty of water alongside liquorice tea and aloe vera juice.
Nutrients including zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C and essential fatty acids can help to ease symptoms, along with herbs including cardamom, turmeric, Triphala, neem and Indian sarsaparilla. Tea tree oil and neem oil can also help to relieve itching and reduce redness, while aloe vera gel and coconut oil can soothe dry lesions.
Alongside these dietary changes, an Ayurvedic doctor might suggest other lifestyle adjustments, such as daily exercise, meditation and breathing exercises to relax the nervous system, avoiding daytime naps, and maintaining good personal hygiene. To avoid further irritating the skin, gently dry after washing using tapping movements and wear loose clothes made of natural fabrics. Some practitioners recommend consuming ghee butter daily to reduce toxins and soothe skin problems.
One of the core treatments for eczema (as well as other skin conditions like acne) in Ayurvedic medicine is Panchakarma therapy, cleansing and rejuvenating the mind and body.
Panchakarma is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘five actions’ or ‘five treatments’. The system balances the three doshas (Tridosha), removes toxins and supports the immune system. Usually, the body can efficiently process and remove waste materials, including the vitiated doshas. However, bad habits like poor eating or exercise patterns can disorganise the metabolic system and hormones. This, in turn, can lead to an accumulation and spread of toxins, which cause disease (this is called ‘Ama’).
Panchakarma is a bio-cleansing regimen intended to eliminate toxins from the body and increase the effectiveness of therapeutic regimens like Rasayana (Rejuvenation) and Vajikarana (Aphrodisiac). Thus, Panchakarma therapy is believed to prevent the development of disease-causing factors and maintain dosha equilibrium.
There are three steps to doing Panchakarma.
- Preparatory procedure (purva karma )
- Operative procedure (pradhana karma )
- Post-operative procedure (paschat karma)
The first stage is Purvakarma, where oleation therapy (a full-body massage with ghee, herbs and oils) and intense sweating loosen excess doshas and toxins accumulated in the body.
During the second stage, specialised treatments are administered to expel impurities and revitalise the system. These include
- Vamana (medicalised vomiting)
- Virechana (purging focused on the small intestine)
- Nasya (nasal purging)
- Vasti (colonic irrigation)
- Raktamokshana (bloodletting)
The final stage of the treatment process is Paschathkarma, where a rehabilitation plan is prescribed, including a nourishing diet, rest, relaxing therapies and lifestyle modifications.
Panchakarma has many benefits, including:
- Helping you to maintain mental and physical hygiene and balance.
- Improving your overall health and wellness
- Strengthening your immune system
- Slowing down your ageing process
- Enhancing your strength, energy and mental clarity
- Helping you to relax deeply
- Opening blocked channels in the body.
- Improving the strength of your digestive juices.
- Rejuvenating your tissues and helping you lose weight.
How an Ayurveda Retreat can help
Not everyone responds to conventional Western methods of treating eczema using topical steroid creams; sometimes, these treatments can have adverse side effects. When administered by practised Ayurvedic doctors in a relaxing retreat environment, such as Sen Wellness Retreats, Ayurvedic natural healing therapies can support your body to rebalance and heal fully without any lingering side effects.
At the Sanctuary, each guest is welcomed into a personalised care plan designed by our in-house Ayurvedic doctor following a private consultation. This individualised plan, tailored to suit your unique constitution and existing imbalances, encompasses a variety of treatments and herbal medicines. Our proficient Ayurvedic therapists, equipped with the expertise to carry out various traditional treatments, are on hand to cater to your specific health requirements, including skin disorders such as eczema.
In the realm of Ayurveda, these therapies and supplements are designed to work in harmony with a balanced diet, the practice of yoga, and meditation. This is the essence of the Sanctuary’s holistic approach that promotes overall well-being, focusing on balancing your entire being. A vital aspect of this approach is the inclusion of specific treatments and routines that help manage and potentially alleviate conditions like eczema. Furthermore, we provide long-term guidance, enabling you to sustain this enhanced health and harmony according to your personal constitution.
The Final Word
Eczema can affect the mind as well as the body, causing sufferers to feel even more anxious and stressed, which in turn makes their symptoms worse. Ayurveda aims to provide holistic support in line with individual needs by removing toxins, releasing stress and restoring balance. This, in turn, can radically improve a patient’s quality of life.
In the words of Sen Wellness practitioner Dr Harnika: “Never be ashamed of your skin; it simply means you were stronger than whatever stress or tiredness hurt you. Do not allow your skin to turn you into a person you are not.”