Shingles As a Sequela of Contact
Dermatitis With Rhus toxicodendron

E. F. Block
May 2010


A 67-year-old male patient secondarily acquired liver-wind type shingles as a result of contact with Rhus toxicodendron while cutting brush. The sequela with shingles occurred approximately 3 days post contact with Rhus toxicodendron. Pinkish-red wheals occurred in the skin regions according to the area of initial contact. Subsequently, liver-wind type wheals occurred within the dermatomes and along the meridians associated with the points of contact with the symptom of moderate to severe itching.


A volatile toxicodendric acid and the poisonous toxicodendrol, a non-volatile oil, are the agents of cause for the contact dermatitis. Patients manifest many symptoms according to TCM as pathogenic wind, heat and damp (or a combination) in the body. The patient's constitution and reaction to the toxic substances will determine the signs and symptoms resulting. The patient has an astrological natal chart that has 5 Fire signs, 4 Air signs, 3 Water signs and 2 Earth signs. Thus, it is no wonder that expressed symptoms are of the Wind-Heat type.

The patient routinely takes a warm shower after working a few hours. He noticed that he exhibited contact wheals at these locations: left arm - within 0.5 cun lateral to Pc6, Ht4; right arm - LI7; left flank - Lv13, Sp16 and right flank - Lv13, Sp16 on the second day post exposure. On the third day he exposed all sites of contact with very warm water for about 10 minutes as this made the itching feel quite pleasurable and stopped the itching for a time. Overnight, liver-wind wheals started to appear within the areas of the dermatome associated with the contact points and subsequently through the week along the meridians associated with the acupuncture points. Liver-wind wheals eventually appeared at left leg GB34 to GB 35, right leg at Sp10, left and right flank from Lv13 to GB25. Eventually after a week, wheals appeared at the PC & Ht He-Sea points.

There were no symptoms of pain and no weeping lesions during the course of the symptoms. Diagnosis was determined to be Wind-Heat in the channels and collaterals. Treatment was to remove wind and heat from the channels/body. The tongue was red at the tip with a yellow coating at the back. Pulse was moderate. Warm water & yang type foods (especially oils) exacerbated the condition and cool water & yin type foods ameliorated the condition.

Treatment consisted of an herbal formula made up of equal portions of ju hua and Hibiscis sabdariffa (15 grams each in 24 ounces of water boiled for 10 minutes, cool and split into 3 portions) taken tid for 3 days. Also the homeopathic remedy Ranunculus balbosus 6C was prescribed, due to the symptoms described by the patient, qid for seven days. Acupuncture points prescribed for treatment once every 3 days for 3 treatments were: LI4 x2, Lv3 x2, LI11 x2, Ht4 right, Sp10 left.

Lesions abated by the 9th day and all itching stopped by the 12th day.

It appears that the combination of contact with the Rhus toxins and the externally applied very warm water was sufficient to cause a shift in the body-field that allowed the Herpes zoster virus to become active and cause the peripheral neuropathy. It is also interesting that the wind-heat condition traveled across the body and symptoms manifested only within the cutaneous region. The successful use of the homeopathic remedy, Ranunculus balbosus 6C, also suggests body-field involvement. This interesting example shows the combination of biochemistry and bio-field interactions upon the body-field and the eventual physical symptomology of the patient.


It is most likely that the addition of external heat to the channels and the body exacerbated the case of contact dermatitis to cause the onset of shingles. The patient is in good health, eats healthily, gets sufficient rest and otherwise is in good physical condition. There is no reason to suspect a poor immune condition existing during the period of outbreak, as the patient very rarely gets ill. The combination of herbal, point and homeopathic treatments appear to work quite well.

Journal of Informational Medicine