Itchy Skin – Skin Itching

brown bear on green grass during daytime

Itchy Skin

Although skin itching – itchy skin –  is on the outside of your body, so is not usually serious, it can drive you mad. Which can be serious!

Skin diseases are a big subject in both Western and Chinese medicine. On this page we’re just describing the usual causes – in Chinese medicine – of itchy skin, not how Chinese medicine, including acupuncture, explains and treats various kinds of eczema or rashes or skin eruptions.

By the way! After injury to your skin, such as from scratches, cuts, wounds and as your body mends ulcers, some itching is normal as your skin heals! There’s nothing wrong and no point treating it. Just try not to scratch it!

How does itching arise and what can you do about it?

If you’re only interested in what Western medicine says about itchy skin, click here – the page lists some of the obvious causes, ranging from allergies to scabies, stings and bites, also fungal infections and hormonal triggers.

For these, Western medicine has powerful treatments like anti-histamines and steroid creams. However, these can have undesirable side-effects.

You may find that Chinese medicine has other, milder solutions, usually without the side-effects. So, even if you think it impossible for a given skin itch to be improved with acupuncture or Chinese medicine, (yes even if it’s from scabies or a fungal infection), you may be surprised. (Of course, you should avoid the causes of your condition too!)

For how Chinese medicine explains itchy skin, read on!

With most itches you see a rash, or some kind of skin ‘eruption’.

But not all!

Some kinds of itch seem to have no eruption or rash causing them. What then? Western medicine might say it was psychological, not physical. But Chinese medicine suggests that there may be a ‘physical’ cause, even for this.

However, if you’re not used to Chinese medicine the ideas it uses are very different, and getting your head round them isn’t always easy.

For most of these ideas you’ll find links to other pages which explain them in more detail.

Once you grasp the underlying ideas, applying them is often common sense.

The great thing about Chinese medicine is that once you understand the cause you can usually work out how the problem began and what to do about it.

One more thing! You can have a combination of syndromes, which complicates things but your acupuncturist should be able to work out which to concentrate on first from knowledge of the 8 principles.

Itchy Skin from WIND

How does the WIND behave? Your experience may be different from mine, but where I live, the wind is seldom the same all the time. It changes in intensity and direction. It blows over our dustbins. When I move the dustbins somewhere else, it soon finds them and blows them over again! Also, often it’s a cold wind and then sometimes it’s what Scotland likes to believe is a warm wind.

two toddler pillow fighting
Excitement – also anger – can lead to Skin Itching

Often, I notice, children are excited by the wind. Also, but don’t tell her I’ve noticed, sometimes my wife gets cramps in bed which are worse in windy weather. (Yes, we’ve got a page on calf cramps.) On those nights, if I shut the window, her cramps occur less.

How do you know it’s windy? Look at the leaves on trees! They twitch and flutter in the breeze. (But just remember that image because there’s something called internal wind which I’ll explain later.)

Remember that almost all waves at sea are caused by the wind, and they can be enormous and highly destructive. We need to take the Wind seriously – it’s a major cause of disease. To find out more about the Chinese concept of the Wind click WIND.

Itching – itchy skin –  from WIND behaves like this:

  • Intense itching
  • Can be in one place on body or head or …
  • Itch may move around from place to place
  • Often worse in windy or highly changeable conditions
  • Often worse when emotionally upset, angry, tense or frustrated
  • The typical rash associated with WIND is dry and/or scaley and/or a rash
  • Sometimes there is no rash
  • Scratching is irresistible and the skin easily bleeds from scratching, but heals quickly

 

Both in theory and practice, the underlying susceptibility for itch caused by ‘wind’ is often Blood deficiency, particularly Liver Blood deficiency. Click on that link for more about it and how you get it.

But not always! You can develop susceptibility to Itching from Wind from several other syndromes, including:

 

Itchy Skin from BLOOD HEAT

What happens if you sit for too long in the sun? You get hot. Eventually you burn and produce a rash. The rash is red and can be very itchy, even painful.

Itchy skin from sunburn is often Blood Heat in Chinese medicine

  • Intense itching
  • Itchy Red rash
  • Inclines you to anger, irritability.
  • Can be all over the body or in just one or two places
  • Read more about itching from Blood Heat here.

 

Blood Heat can come from underlying Liver syndromes, including Liver Qi stagnation, and also from Stomach Heat, which is made worse from eating hot spicy foods, or food that has a heating effect on you. (See more under Hot foods.)

Itching from BLOOD DEFICIENCY

Here the itch occurs because the skin is not properly nourished. Consequently it is dry, and often scaley. Some forms of psoriasis fit with this. There is often a psychological aspect to this kind of itching, not because it is caused by the psychological or mental problem but because both the itch and the mental side have the same root: Blood deficiency.

  • Itching is not usually intense but it can still be distracting
  • Itch can be all over or along specific acupuncture channels. If along channels, this may suggest avenues for treatment and/or (if you know about the Five Element nature of the channels involved – and  other stuff!) from where the cause of the itching arose
  • Because in Chinese medicine the mind (Shen-Mind) rests in the Blood, if the Blood is deficient the mind cannot rest easily, so the symptoms are often worse at night – see insomnia

Another way to understand this Blood Deficiency type of Itching is this.

Remember the leaves fluttering in the wind from earlier? In Scotland we get plenty of rain. Rarely do we get a drought. If the leaves flutter it is from wind, because the leaves are green and healthy and the tree is rooted deep in the soil and stands firm against the wind, so the leaves fluttering dissipates the force of the wind.

But sometimes we do get a drought. 1976 for example.

Dryness causes Blood deficiency, a major cause of itchy skin.
Itchy skin from Dryness

Wardens came round to check that no taps were dripping from faulty tap washers.

After many weeks, the trees were running out of water deep in the soil and their leaves were turning brown and dry, long before autumn. In Charlotte Square, an important location in Edinburgh, as the lorries passed, they shook the earth, and the leaves fluttered – not because of the wind, but because the earth couldn’t hold the tree roots steady, and lorries passing made the roots shake in their tunnels. So a lack of moisture led to instability In the leaves which trembled at the least stimulus.

This is like itchy skin from ‘Internal Wind’.

That’s the situation with Blood deficiency skin itch.

Blood deficiency produces symptoms in many ways. Insomnia – in this case from itching – is just one of them. Blood deficiency has many mental aspects – read about some of its symptoms under Heart Blood deficiency. But there are other kinds of Blood deficiency which may affect you, for instance:

 

How do you get Blood deficiency?

Read those pages linked above for more information, but fundamentally the most common cause is poor food choices and/or poor digestion. This isn’t always easy to solve quickly and you may need help. Again – Chinese medicine has many ways to help both with advice about foods to eat or avoid and with acupuncture to regulate your metabolism and cravings.

‘Most common cause’ in that last paragraph means that there are other causes and Blood Stasis is one of them. It’s a big subject so click on the link for more, but you see it in older people whose bodies are ‘running down’. Even if they eat well, their bodies can’t turn the nourishment into good healthy blood and energy. So they get cold, blood circulates slowly and can’t nourish their flesh, which dries out, leading to signs of Blood deficiency and itching. But young people can get Blood statis too, depending on their circumstances – for example, if they’ve been ill from trauma or illness.

Because your Blood and your Heart (in Chinese medicine) are so closely related, if having acupuncture for this kind of itch – from Blood deficiency – your acupuncturist may also use points to harmonise or stabilise your Heart energy.

Also, read our page on Dry Skin – Skin Dryness.

If – for any homoeopaths reading this – your best homoeopathic remedy only goes some way towards helping your patient, do consider remedies for the mind and heart to consolidate other improvements! The patient’s constitutional remedy may not be enough.

Itching from DAMP

This tends to happen in the body’s Damp places. Where do you find them?

  • Axillae = armpits
  • Groin
  • Under the breasts
  • Genital areas
  • Sweaty areas, like the feet, eg between the toes or soles when wearing socks in warm conditions
  • Often has fungal-like appearance, as with athlete’s foot
  • Also often has pus in vesicles or pustules:
  • When scratched, the skin breaks and oozes fluid which can vary between white and yellow. If white, it suggests the problem is Damp-Cold. If yellow, probably Damp-Heat. They have different symptoms, solutions and causes.
blue yellow and green bird
Birds get itchy too, sometimes from Damp!

For more, check our page on DAMP, but briefly, with Damp you may get a whole range of other symptoms which if present help you reach the correct diagnosis:

  • Itching can be intense
  • You feel tired and heavy
  • Chest and abdomen feel blocked and full
  • Head feels fuzzy, like stuck in a cloud or cotton-wool
  • Reduced appetite
  • Not much thirst
  • Urine and other body fluids are often cloudy or ‘dirty’
  • Pulse is described as ‘slippery’
  • Tongue covering is ‘sticky’

 

Clearing Damp, if that’s the kind of itch you have, is difficult. You must pay attention to what you eat and do. Of course, there are good acupuncture and herbal treatments for it: you may need these as to Do It Yourself is complicated and time-consuming.

Regarding what you eat , here are several pages to get started with:

Itching and Itchy Skin from Toxic Heat

  • Intense itching
  • Usually comes with boils (furuncles) or pus-filled septic ulcers
  • Often starts with eczema that gets infected from injury or scratching
  • Pus may contain blood
  • The swelling and pus show the presence of Damp. For more, read Damp-Heat.

 

brown and black abstract painting

Here your body has moved the battle on vigorously, aiming to kill the infection with heat and from rolling out its white blood cell killer troops. Your doctor prescribes antibiotics and actually, Chinese medicine does much the same, only it uses herbal prescriptions that have a somewhat similar effect, without killing off all the good bugs in your gut, like antibiotics.

I think here, if you go down the Chinese medicine route, you do need herbs to treat it. Acupuncture may help with the general distress and itch: however, there is the danger of more generalised infection so I advise, in Western countries or where Chinese herbs are not quickly available, see a doctor. (You don’t find that advice often on this site!)

However! Doctors are finding that antibiotics are less effective than they used to be,  so if neither Western nor Chinese medicine is available, you might find that the correct homoeopathic remedy will clear it up.

For that, you’ll need a homoeopath, but they are often far and few.

 

 

 

Jonathan Brand colours

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