by Alakananda Devi (Alakananda Ma), M.B., B.S. (Lond.)
Skin inflammations are quite common conditions, with atopic dermatitis or eczema affecting 10-20% of all children and 1-3% of adults (1) and psoriasis affecting between 2 and 2.6% of the US population. The prevalence of atopic dermatitis has doubled or tripled in industrialized countries during the past three decades. The visible and often disfiguring nature of skin inflammations leads to far greater levels of distress and depression than would be experienced with a more severe but less disfiguring condition. (2) Because a number of patients are suspicious of cortisone creams prescribed for them by their family practitioner or dermatologist, they may frequently present for Ayurvedic care as an alternative.
According to Ayurveda, skin has seven layers, corresponding to the seven dhatus. Similarly, in modern physiology, skin has been found to have seven layers, stratum corneum, on the surface, stratum lucidum, stratum granulosum, stratum spinosum, stratum basale, the basement membrane and the dermis. (For a diagram of the seven layers of the skin, click here.) At the same time, the epidermis of the skin, as whole, is seen as an upadhatu of rasa dhatu, and the dermis as part of mamsa dhatu. Skin belongs to bahya marga, the external pathway of disease, and as such is very vulnerable to toxins carried by rasa and rakta dhatus during the prasara stage of disease, accounting for the relatively common nature of skin inflammations.