Natural remedies for Eczema (Dermatitis)
Eczema is a problem for 10% of the population. The name is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil’. What an apt description of a skin rash which is inflamed, red, itchy and possibly weeping and scabbed. Many opt for corticosteroid creams which promise short term relief, but are worried about the undesirable side effects.
The truth is that there is no quick easy cure. However there are natural options that you can use as part of your recovery programme.
Read on for ideas and recipes to try at home using natural alternatives…
What is eczema?
Eczema is a common skin condition affecting one in ten people. The name is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to boil’ and is an apt description of a skin rash which is inflamed, red, itchy and possibly weeping and scabbed. Conventional corticosteroid creams promise a quick solution from the itching and inflammation, but they do not address the underlying causes so the rash persists and even worsens. In addition there are side effects including stunted growth, weakened bones and suppressed adrenal glands to consider.
Unfortunately there is no quick easy cure. Long term recovery needs you to make lifestyle changes to nutrition, clothing, skincare products, household cleaning products as well as learning to deal with the emotional issues that aggravate the condition.
It is said that lungs, skin and digestion are related and a skin condition is a symptom of a deeper underlying respiratory or digestive condition. People with atopic eczema tend to have more allergies, hay fever, asthma, a drier skin unable to retain moisture, higher levels of histamine and an inability to kill off bacteria effectively resulting in itching, scratching and broken dry skin with a susceptibility to infection. (Savona & Holford)
Many natural practitioners advocate looking at a combination of methods including baths, fasting, herbs, compresses/poultices, creams and diet. The diet theory is based on the acid/alkaline balance and avoiding common allergens such as cow’s milk, eggs, peanuts, citrus, wheat, chocolate and soy. In addition, fried or refined foods, and sugar should be avoided. Rice, millet, fruit and vegetables and non processed organic meat can be eaten instead of the allergens. Rice or almond milk make tasty alternatives to cow’s milk. Good gut health is integral in controlling eczema, ie pro-biotics such as acidophilus. Kineseology provides a non invasive method to identify which foods need to be removed from or added to the diet for those who prefer not to do blood tests.
Supplements for eczema
Any vitamin, mineral or essential fatty acid deficiency is likely to manifest itself in the skin before any internal organ as the body prioritizes which organs are essential for life. Essential Fatty acids are needed to replace moisture in the skin so supplementing with evening primrose, borage or flaxseed oils. These can be rubbed directly into the skin of children. Eating oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel and pumpkin sunflower sesame and hemp seeds. A good multi vitamin and mineral to ensure sufficient zinc, magnesium, B3, B6 vitamin C, biotin. Vitamin A and E can help dry skin. A cream made with Niacinamide can help too. And if you have the budget, a bespoke cream
Supplements of flavonoids esp quercetin. Berries, onions, fresh carrot, white cabbage salad, green teas, legumes, citrus (if not sensitive), grape seed extract, bilberry , blueberry, grapefruit and ginkgo biloba.
Dr Vogel recommends a change to a natural diet in his book The Nature Doctor. His creams include herbs such as Chamomile, Wild Pansy, Nettle and St John’s Wort.
Homeopathy and eczema
Self help homeopathic remedies include Hepar sulph 4x for oozing pus, Rhus tox 4x for oozing, burning, blistering rash or acidic body, Arsenicum alb 4x for dry and oozing eruptions which burn and irritate especially at night, or alternating Calcea carb 4x with Lycopodium 6x if the patients has a tendency to rheumatism or gout. Nat Mur Tissue salts are useful when the eczema is at the borders of the hairline.
It would be wise to consult a practitioner of natural health who can take a holistic look at your diet and lifestyle and offer support in changing habits that may have been contributing to your eczema.
Hydrosols for eczema
A skin spray can be made with hydrosols to rebalance the acid mantle of the skin. Hydrosols are acid to varying degrees and witch hazel, chamomile and yarrow have a history of success for skin conditions. To prepare your own spray, sterilize a spray top bottle then add 50 percent hydrosol with 50 percent with distilled or spring water and shake well.
Hydrosols to consider are chamomile, lavender, yarrow, witch hazel and rose. Chamomile will not be suitable for you if you have a ragweed allergy.
Suzanne Catty provides a recipe to bring some relief to sufferers of eczema using hydrosols in her book Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy: she reminds readers that skincare issues and respiratory conditions are considered ‘brother and sister’ and skin issues are considered symptoms of an underlying condition often related to the respiratory tract. For itching, yarrow hydrosol is sprayed or poured over the area for dramatic relief. For healing she suggests compresses of sandalwood or rosemary CT verbenone hydrosol to promote healing of the raw skin underneath so it is less painful when the top layers come off. She provides a recipe using hydrosols of eucalyptus or elecampane and Melissa to assist the respiratory system in recovery.
Plant oils for eczema
There are many safe and natural vegetable oils which can be used on eczema to soothe, moisture and feed the skin valuable nutrition:
Evening Primrose, Sea Buckthorn and Rosehip oil are soothing and provide valuable Fatty Acids.
Calendula and Jojoba are mild and gentle and suitable for everybody over the age of six months. These can be used singly or in combination as an all over body oil after bathing.
Shea Butter, Argan, Pomegranate and Amaranth heal inflammation in dry and sensitive skin and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Safflower and Sunflower oils can be used for massage and as salad dressing.
Herbs for eczema
Chickweed herb and Calendula petals can be used in creams, drunk as a tea or applied as a wash to the itchy skin. Both of these can be easily grown at home and dried for personal use. These two herbs will soothe the itch and help skin repair.
Other herbs that one can obtain from a herbal shop that are useful include Wild Pansy, Comfrey Root and Lady’s Mantle. These can be prepared as a tea or applied to the skin as a compress. Burdock, Root, Nettle, Yellow Dock and Red Clover have been used traditionally as detoxifying and blood purifying herbs.
Emotions and eczema
It is believed by many natural healers that skin problems are the soul’s way of alerting others that we have a problem. Healers Chris Thomas and Diane Baker explain in their book that skin problems are a subtle way of the soul saying that I find myself in an uncomfortable situation and am feeling insecure and cannot deal with on my own.
They write that many skin conditions are brought about by the way in which we deal with other people, the old saying ‘ somebody has got under your skin’, in situations where the other people in question have failed to carry out their anticipated actions or not fulfilled their promise to you, causing you frustration or anger with yet another problem to have to deal with.
They suggest that in finding the root causes behind a skin condition one has to think back to when the condition first arose:
- Where were you?
- Who were you talking to?
- Did they do something which you were temporarily unhappy with?
- Is there an ongoing situation which is making you feel irritated and vaguely uneasy?
Whatever the cause, you need to deal with it as it can grow into greater feelings of anger and insecurity. Writing in a private journal can help you track down the pieces of the puzzle.
Bach Flower Remedies and eczema
The Bach Flower Remedies address the emotional aspect of skincare issues:
Rescue Remedy is useful to relieve the itching, Walnut when one has to adjust to transition or change, Pine for somebody with a guilt complex who is always apologising, Mimulus for shyness, timidity and fear of known things, Larch for lack of self-confidence and inferiority and feelings of failure, Elm when overwhelmed by inadequacy and responsibility, Crab Apple the cleanser when there is self disgust and shame, Cerato for those doubting themselves and always seeking confirmation of others, Centuary for those weak willed, exploited or imposed upon, Agrimony for those who hide their worries behind a brave face.
Flower remedies work well in conjunction with aromatherapy and other natural remedies. I carry a Rescue Remedy spray in my bag so that it’s there for stressful situations. I also use it when a wild bird crashes into the window panes at home, it often helps revive them from shock. You can spray onto a tissue and then waft that under their beak. For a child you can spray it onto their collar – it does not have to go onto the tongue. And it’s really helpful for a stressed Mom when her little one falls and skins a knee… or for new Mums that are sleep deprived…
Here is a list of the Bach Flower remedies so you can pick the ones that suit you. I suggest you get a Rescue Remedy spray to carry with you. It also tastes nice :-)
Essential oils to use during eczema
There are many essential oils of help in eczema. Remember to use a maximum of 1% dilution. The most well know anti-allergenic (and anti-inflammatory) is German Chamomile, and this should form part of your eczema toolkit.
Next choose something anti-inflammatory for your blend such as such as Helichrysum, Yarrow or Lavender.
As infection is always a possibility when the skin is being scratched, you then add a anti-microbial such as Lavender, Myrtle, Cajeput or Tea Tree.
Detoxifying oils such as Carrot Seed, Helichrysum, Geranium, Rosemary, Juniper, Cistus and Yarrow can be added to the formula too.
And last and by no means least, one must address the accompanying emotional aspect: Lavender, Bergamot, Sandalwood, Patchouli and Cedar all assist in reducing stress.
In some cases, aromatherapists have used Benzoin for its antiseptic and anti-inflammatory aspects, but this would require a patch test as some people do react to it.
Kurt Schnaubelt provides a selection of recipes for eczema in his excellent reference: Advanced Aromatherapy.
Schaubelt’s Dry eczema recipe includes Lavender, Palmarosa and Calophyllum in Rosehip Oil applied three to four times daily directly to the itchy area. His recipe for weeping eczema is Thyme Thujanol, Eucalyptus citriodora, Calophyllum in Rosehip also applied three to four times daily.
Household Products and eczema
Take a careful look at the common household products such as shampoos, skin creams, make-up, perfumes, detergents, fragrances, deodorants, soaps, nasal sprays, polishes, hair dyes etc. Find less toxic versions for your home and office.
Take a good look at your clothing. Pure cotton clothing is less irritating to the skin than synthetic fibres or wool.
Use rubber gloves when cleaning so that you don’t wreck your hands.
Cover your mattress with a dust protector to avoid contact with dust mites and vacuum your mattress regularly.
Minimising the exposure to cleaning agents, washing powders, fabric softeners, floor polish etc will reduce the irritation to the skin and health stores carry alternative products.
Using natural skincare such as those found on this website, can help by providing missing nutrients as well as soothing the itch and pain associated with eczema.
Use a gentle cleanser on your face like this gel-to-milk Tuscan Sunrise
Hydrosols The Next Aromatherapy by Suzanne Catty
Solve Your Skin Problems by Natalie Savona and Patrick Holford
The Nature Doctor by Dr Alfred Vogel
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Your Body But So Far Nobody’s Been Able To Tell You by Chris Thomas and Diane Baker
A Guide To the Bach Flower Remedies by Julian Barnard
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia
Advanced Aromatherapy by Kurt Schnaubelt