Since I was a little girl,I have used herbs, fruits, vegetables, seeds and the gifts that mother nature had to offer.
I was trained since very young by the indigenous people I grew up with, and my mother’s teachings to resource and be and alchemist, is a passion and my way of life.
When I connected with Tami my gut feeling immediately told me that she was the ideal match for us and after communicating with her my feelings were confirmed. She is a nature being that knows her work very well and I wish to introduce you to her and her gifts, with much gratitude for the opportunity to do so.
Tami Bronstein, BSc Phyt (Hons), MNIMH, AHG
Just Scratching the Surface:
Eczema and the Medical Herbalist’s Perspective
By Tami Bronstein, BSc Phyt (Hons), MNIMH, AHG
something we desperately seek when suffering. Skin, as the largest
organ of the body, can be an all-consuming suffering when Eczema is in the
picture. As adults, we learn to distract ourselves from discomforts to some
degree; children don’t understand, they simply succumb to the
overwhelming and all-consuming frustration of not feeling well.
That said, regardless of age, Eczema is deeply troubling for anyone who
At its worst, Eczema causes skin to chronically inflame, weep, crack and
bleed to the point of secondary widespread bacterial and fungal infection.
The skin is our barrier to resist opportunistic infective microbes of our
environment, and its integrity is compromised when chronically inflamed.
It goes deep.
Why the vicious cycle? Why won’t topical preparations work long-term?
The answer is deep. The answers are internal. The answers are complex
and unique to the Individual, and not simply solved with remedies found on
health food store/pharmacy shelves or in a conventional prescription tube.
These conventional topical preparations often contain petrochemical
ingredients, toxic preservatives, and related to a litany of potential and
common side-effects –of which cancer is included.
Plant-based crèmes and homeopathic preparations may ease the flare-ups
temporarily, but patches of Eczema stubbornly linger or return in shortorder.
So, what are we to do?
Certainly as we can observe, topical remedies ease and soothe the
symptoms of this condition, but they fall-short of getting to the causative
When I see an Individual for Eczema, I like to establish a foundation in
understanding the skin as an organ of the body and its basic physiology
(its functioning), on its own and as a part of the entire body. From the
basic concepts, I find it useful to explain the various factors that can
contribute to the condition.
The first take-away: Skin conditions such as Eczema are a symptom of
something more systemic, rather than simply a superficial dysfunction of
the skin itself.
That is to say, it indicates some other internal disruption that the skin is
reflecting, reacting or responding to. So, you can repeatedly apply any
crème or ointment you wish to manage the inflammation, itchiness, and
other unpleasant symptoms, but it will return until you address what is
going on at a deeper level of the brain and body.
The Organism and Neuro-Endocrine connection
Even if it seems like a foreign language and impossible for the Individual to
remember the details, I find that a general sense of the bigger picture
empowers a person with insight and more efficient management of
recurring flare-ups, should they occur along the way.
First we begin by seeing skin as a functioning organ, our physical barrier to
the external world, and one of the largest channels of waste elimination. It
is amongst other waste-management organ systems including:
• digestive (bowels)
• respiratory (lungs and sinuses)
• urinary (kidneys)
Skin acts to help regulate body temperature, excrete waste products of
metabolism/environmental exposure, and functions as a metabolicallyactive
envelope to contain/protect muscles, bones, organs and connective
tissues within our bodies as a functionally-integrated organism.
To help Individuals understand the role of skin as part of the integrated
picture, it is important to discuss the core collaboration between physical
function (physiology) and its nuances that regulate the entire body. We
look to the ultimate brain-body connection:
• Central Nervous system (brain) and
• Endocrine system (hormones/neurotransmitters)
This core collaboration coordinates the function of every cell in the body,
and fluctuates in response to being at-rest versus responding to the
demands of life. There is a feedback loop of information returning from the
body to the Central Nervous system to complete the circuit between brain
Let’s touch upon a few key realms we must explore in getting to the cause
of the Eczema in order to resolve the condition, keep the tendency at-bay
and/or manage what does surface.
Channel an inner Sherlock Holmes
Okay, I will admit to a personal fascination with the current television
series on Masterpiece Mystery of “Sherlock”, featuring Benedict
Cumberbatch. I also enjoyed the series “House, MD”, featuring Hugh Laurie
(which mirrored the Sherlock Holmes storyline, in its own clever way).
Getting to the cause of a dysfunction requires quite a bit of medical
detective work, and perhaps why these shows are compelling to me. This is
what makes my work uncommon, methinks; the conventional world dwells
upon symptoms, separating care of organ systems rather than seeing their
integration, and limiting insight to the bubbling source of the recurring
condition. Just like Sherlock, it is my job to be the detective and examine
every subtle (some seemingly insignificant) nuance that leads to the
If any two individuals who suffer from Eczema were to stand side-by-side,
the causative picture for each is different. Each Individual’s experiences
are the result of a unique mosaic -a woven tapestry- of factors discovered
when I am exploring a thorough medical history. Some exploration delves
back into their history by decades!
I thought to review a few of these clues that I sleuth in solving an
individual’s unique mystery.
This is evident as –if you have tried everything your friends, family, online
blogs or health food store clerks have recommended to no avail— I have
The Nemesis is typically a composite of factors, rather than one source. So,
let’s have a look at a few common areas that I must explore when
managing Eczema in an individual:
• Environmental Allergies : Airborne mold spores and general
seasonal allergies are a common trigger alongside other factors of
allergic eczema, and individuals often benefit from air filtration in
the home. Air filters on the central heating/air-conditioning units
can be found with HEPA qualification down to 3 microns, and must
be changed regularly, every few months. Additional stand-alone air
purifiers can be of use, as well. Frequent saline nasal flushing can
reduce allergens that affect mucous membranes of respiratory
system via allergic reaction, which compromises one of the 5 major
channels of elimination (lungs/sinus) and triggers skin dysfunction.
• Food Allergies and Leaky Gut Syndrome : Food allergies often
compromise lower bowel function; As one of the 5 major channels of
waste elimination having reduced efficiency, skin can react to bowel
inflammation and disruption.
Have your physician test for the major food allergy culprits, such as:
gluten, dairy, wheat, soy/legumes, citrus, shellfish, nuts, MSG
derivatives, etc (to begin with). Allergy testing can get fairly
overzealous at times with some practitioners, overwhelming an
Individual with limitations. Starting just with the most common
allergens reveals enough to make a difference and get a handle on
primary irritants. The best approach: eliminate the primary
irritating food allergens indicated via testing and vary daily food
choices, as much as possible; Eating the same foods day after day
can be problematic over time.
Leaky Gut Syndrome is often a result of chronic bowel inflammation
from concerns such as food sensitivities, repeated antibiotic use and
yeast overgrowth; once the bowel membrane lining is inflamed and
weepy, large protein molecules cross bowel walls into the
bloodstream, tipping-off a hyper-immune response. Reviewing bowel
function is a significant review point when I am going over the
(NOTE: To those gluten-intolerant, watch nutritional supplements as
the excipients [base ingredients] may contain fillers possibly
contaminated with gluten, such as some sources of xanthan gum;
some Individuals react to corn sugars in a similar way to gluten
• Chronic Constipation: Chronically sluggish bowel motility can trigger
skin issues as well, because the bowels can re-absorb toxins back
into the system while bowel movements await evacuation. This can
be most commonly due to poor dietary habits, lack of activity,
antibiotic use, Candida (yeast) overgrowth, excessive dairy intake,
unmanaged stress, and dehydration. Repopulating the bowels with a
refrigerated, enteric-coated Probiotic is helpful, even with a
significant gap of time since taking the antibiotics.
Candida (yeast) overgrowth from repeated use of antibiotics and
diets high in sugars can be a relatively silent contributor to the
picture, and must be considered.
[Note: non-organic foods contain pesticides like glyphosate, which
can disrupt the natural bacterial flora of the lower bowels,
contributing to digestive disorders; probiotics are useful in diets high
in non-organic foods]
• Chemicals and Heat : Unlike simple Contact Dermatitis reactivity to
irritating chemicals in laundry or body care detergents, many
typically benign body care ingredients that are synthetic can be
activated to irritate by the addition of heat and friction (exerciserelated
or in warmer seasons). Eczema tends to flare in skin folds
when the body heats up, so using commercial products with
synthetic ingredients and fragrances can set-up a perfect
environment for an extraordinarily troubling flare-up where the
body’s heat is concentrated. This includes the scalp, inside/behind
ears, eye folds, inside elbows, backs of knees, and underarms.
Carefully selected plant-based, chemical-free & hypoallergenic hair,
skin and body products keep potential irritants out of the picture.
Rule of thumb: Keep product use simple.
• Acid/Alkaline balance: Diets high in acidic or acid-forming foods
favors general inflammation in the body, which feeds inflammatory
skin conditions. I advise keeping a more neutral diet by increasing
alkaline foods, reducing all sugars (including fruit sugars),
minimizing dairy, reducing animal meats, avoiding processed meats
(such as smoked or cured) and eating more vegetables, whole grains
and raw or dry roasted nuts/seeds (as tolerated). Proper hydration
supports acid/alkaline balance, improves bowel function, and
sustains skin moisture.
• Chronic inflammation: By-products of inflammation add to general
metabolic wastes that the lymphatic system must work to drain for
excretion out of the body. Extended, repeated periods of
inflammation place an ongoing load on the lymph glands to drain the
tissues bogged-down with waste products, and must be supported in
expediting the healing of Eczema flare-ups.
The lymphatic system is not only part of waste removal, but also a
primary immune system contributor. Lymph glands produce
immune cells to fight infection, and when inflammation of the skin
compromises its integrity as a barrier to germs, lymph glands
activate to mount an immune response toward invading viruses,
bacterium and fungus. Chronic environmental and food allergies are
in-fact excessive or hyper-immune responses to allergens, and so
demands on the lymphatic system are consistently elevated during
Eczema flare-up. Immune support becomes a focus, but rather than
stimulating an already over-stimulated immune system, we look to
modulate immune activity. This is a largely misunderstood but
critical variation between stimulating and modulating immune
functions when working with chronic or autoimmune conditions.
• Adrenal fatigue : Chronic stress, lack of restful sleep, excessive
scheduling of activities, corticosteroid use, excessive sugar/caffeine
intake, and additional factors play-into adrenal gland depletion. A
constant state of “fight or flight” and excessive activity drains the
adrenals of its hormonal output. This affects all inflammatory
conditions, as adrenal cortisol manages inflammation.
When we consistently withdraw from the resource “bank” of the
adrenals without putting those funds “back in the bank”, we are
unable to properly respond to new stresses and demands for
It is important that children are not over-scheduled with physical
activities such as sports, and to watch sugar & caffeine intake as all
of these deplete tiny bodies with already-rapid metabolisms.
• Anxiety : Anxiety contributes as an ongoing source of adrenal
depletion via increased demand for “fight or flight” output.
Sometimes an individual can experience more anxiety when
adrenals are depleted; Equally, anxiety can exist and be a primary
source of adrenal fatigue.
Ideally, we sort the cause and manage situations as they happen;
however, those with generalized anxiety disorders may require
some minor ongoing support, to avoid affecting endocrine balance or
managing endocrine balance to avoid worsening anxiety.
With any mood disorder, we must seek to reduce chemical load of
food flavor enhancers (such as monosodium glutamate and its
derivatives), chemicals, preservatives, synthetic fillers, coloring,
artificial flavorings, neuro-excitotoxins as aspartame (Nutrasweet)
and pancreatic disruptors such as corn syrup.
Anxiety must be managed, as it alters pH (acid levels increase) in
the digestive system, favoring inflammation and constipation;
Irritated, frazzled nerves as a result of Chronic Anxiety on quality of
sleep feeds Eczema flare-ups.
• Puberty and Menopause: Permanent hormonal transitions at
certain stages of life can trigger Eczema, as the Neuro-Endocrine
balance is challenged to find a new norm. We can work to minimize
the effects of these transitions.
The detective deduces…
I see many people who fill their cupboards with various pricey
supplements that are randomly or partially used. It is an
experimentation process much like throwing spaghetti against a
wall and seeing which noodles stick. There is a more direct and
methodical road to recovery. While it may take a bit more time than
popping a corticosteroid pill, with attention to subtle influences,
Individual compliance, consistency of dosage and reformulation of
herbal medicines as the body evolves, we can use whole plants to
give the body what it needs to normalize itself.
The role of the Medical Herbalist is to explore all subtle and overt
influences of the condition, taking great time and care to listen and
mind even the smallest details that truly do matter to healing and
recovery. Following a full medical history review, herbal medicine
formulations (fluid extracts, syrups, teas, powders) are typically
compounded by-hand (although some practitioners do send the
formula out to a compounding dispensary elsewhere), and follow-ups
are booked to monitor progress. Changes in the formula(s) are made
as the body evolves along the way until resolution. Some individuals
require ongoing support depending upon medical history details, but
ultimately we seek the cause to resolve symptoms.
Meanwhile, if you have found some plant-based topical preparations
that give you temporary soothing relief, keep up with it. Internal
therapy with Herbal Medicines take some time, as we work together
to peel back the layers of contributing factors; it is helpful to know
there is something on-hand to soothe the steadily retreating
symptoms as we go.
I enjoy donning my proverbial Sherlock Holmes hat and getting to
the bottom of solving a well-care mystery.
Tami Bronstein is a Medical Herbalist, qualified in East Sussex and
London, England (UK). Her ongoing post-graduate work with doctors
from Paris, France focuses on plant remediation following the
evaluation of neuro-endocrine (hormonal) sources of disease and
imbalance, known as Endobiogenic Medicine. She consults
individuals cross-country privately by phone and in-person from her
organic dispensary in Highland Park, NJ. Tami can be reached at
908.915.1998 and firstname.lastname@example.org with more
information at: www.sundancewellness.com