Saturday, July 14, 2007

Treating Eczema...from the inside out!

In response to a multitude of questions from my readers here is a LONG post on treating Eczema naturally...if you aren't in need you may want to skip today's blog :) Please remember that I am NOT a Dr. and that this post contains my own personal opinions and research which have NOT been approved by, verified by, or probably even heard of by the the government would like you to be advised to proceed with caution!

What is Eczema?

Eczema is a condition that affects the skin. It may be associated with allergies, nervous stress or even chemical or metal irritants. If it is caused by an irritant it would be confined to certain areas...for instance metal jewelry might cause a reaction where it touches the skin. But allergic eczema can affect any and all parts of the body....even in the creases of skin such as inside the elbows, behind knees or under the breasts. It leaves areas of the skin dry, flaky and red. It can become inflamed and ooze and leave a crusty patch. The cells of the skin become damaged which can cause them to change color or become thick and scaly. Eczema can cause severe itching. It can also leave the skin open to infections and viruses.

It is interesting that eczema is less frequent in children who have been nursed. Children under 3 with eczema usually have food allergies - children over 3 usually have asthma and are especially allergic to dust mites and molds.

Eczema is the result of either atopic dermatitis or contact dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is associated with allergies such as asthma, hay-fever or hives. It can occur anywhere on the body but seems to be found most often on the face, neck, wrists, hands, eyelids, behind ears and in the creases of the groin, knees and elbows. This usually starts during childhood and will affect larger areas of the body than if it began after reaching adulthood.

Eczema caused by contact dermatitis is associated with a reaction to something that has touched the skin. It is a painful weeping skin reaction to things such as poison ivy or oak, perfume, chemicals, or even latex. Certain metals used in jewelry are often a common cause.

Both forms of eczema cause changes in how the skin repairs itself. The process is permanently activated but never really gets completed. The skin regenerates faster than those without eczema but the skin never begins the normal immune function.

The standard treatment for people suffering from eczema is a steroid cream...but we know that this can also cause problems in our bodies. Especially for young people! Long term use of steroids leaves skin fragile and thin and can have many other adverse side effects in the body. Let’s talk about some other options for treatment both internally and externally including diet to see what we can do to avoid the steroid route....

Topical Treatment for Eczema

I am listing these in the order that I would use them....for instance I would reach for the Aloe first...then the Calendula salve and so on down the line. These are my personal choices - they don’t have to be yours :) Each child is different and you may find that something further down the list does a better job for your child...this is the beauty...and the challenge...of herbal medicine. Let’s take a look.....

Aloe Gel - externally the application of Aloe gel relieves inflammation. The gel from a freshly sliced leaf is much better that the bottles of “Aloe Vera Gel” that you find in the store. Check the ingredients on those bottles - they are far from being 100% Aloe - there are usually chemical colorants, scents, preservatives etc. Purchase a plant, keep it on your windowsill and use the leaves!

Calendula salve will reduce the inflammation and redness. You can find a 100% pure and natural Calendula salve, free from chemical colorants and scents, at my web site here. I have included Lavender Essential Oil to help relieve the itching from Eczema and healing wounds!

Lavender salve helps to relieve itching and has a soothing quality both physically and emotionally. You can also find Lavender salve on my web site here.

Copaiba oil provides relief of inflammation and is also antibacterial - it also seems to act quickly.

Chickweed salve or oil. Chickweed is soothing, slightly astringent, heals wounds, eases irritation and itching and helps heal lesions. Apply it as a salve as required.

Chamomile or licorice creams can prevent itching and stop the hardening of the skin.

Rosemary Tea - make a cup of rosemary tea (easy...steep rosemary leaves in hot water for 10 minutes covered!) and use as a skin wash several times a day. Rosemary stimulates blood flow to the skin and helps to prevent infections.

Marshmallow root cream helps to form a protective layer over the skin which helps to prevent infection.

Stinging Nettle - salve or cream - use externally.

Turmeric extract - apply as a poultice twice daily. This helps to alleviate pain and promote healing.

Walnut leaf extract - apply a a skin wash 2 to 3 times a day to protect against infection and stop excessive sweating.

Internal treatment for Eczema

Stinging Nettle is an astringent, a tonic and a circulatory stimulant. It is especially useful if the eczema is associated with poor circulation but it is wonderful for all forms of eczema. Take as an infusion or tincture. You can combine it with other cleansing herbs such as heartsease, red clover, figwort or cleavers to infuse or tincture. (You will be able to purchase organic Stinging Nettle tea at my website beginning early next week!)

Burdock is cleansing, good for any toxic skin condition and is wonderful for scaling eczema. Take a decoction of the leaves or up to 4 ml tincture three times a day. You can combine Burdock with other cleansing herbs such as Yellow Dock, Figwort, Cleavers, Heartsease and Red Cover. Add flowers and leaves to the decoction for 1 to 2 minutes.

Oregon grape root extract detoxifies the body and reduces inflammation.

Fish Oil supplements an excellent source for GLA (Borage Seed oil or Flaxseed Oil are good sources of GLA but less effective than fish oil).

Zinc - 45 to 60 milligrams of zinc daily during flare ups then reduce to 30 milligrams when condition clears. You need zinc to utilize the GLA.

Evening Primrose Seed Oil. This oil contains essential fatty acids that are needed to maintain healthy tissues. Take 3 g a day in capsule form....1 to 2 g a day for children.

Coleus Forskolin tablets -- take 50 mg. 3 times a day - it is a potent herbal antihistamine (check label for smaller doses for children).

Heartsease is anti-inflammatory, diuretic, and a laxative and it is especially good for weeping eczema. take as an infusion or tincture but avoid high doses.

Diet and other considerations

Add blackberries, blueberries, cherries and raspberries to the diet. These provide antioxidant compounds that stop production of histamines. Also consider preparations of bilberry and hawthorn for their antioxidant qualities - these can be taken in tea form. (Watch my website for the addition of bilberry tea!)

There is a burdock cereal called Goboshi in Japanese groceries. Eat 1 dry oz. daily. This regulates the immune system and reduces skin cell destruction.

Add brown rice and millet to the diet

Avoid eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat, and dairy.

Keep the house humidified. take fewer showers and baths...they deplete the skin of natural oil. Use a moisturizing all natural soap that is completely free of chemical colorants, scents and preservatives. A true Spanish Castile (made only with olive oil!) is the best. You can find a completely pure Spanish Castile on my web site here.

Avoid bubble baths, these products are FULL of chemicals, which can cause dermatitis and even irritate tissues of the lower urinary tract which may result in urinary tract infections! Instead you can infuse chickweed in a light oil such as sesame and add 1 tbsp. of infused oil to the bath water! Bathe and get out....NO soaking in tubs!!

Avoid moisturizing creams and lotions - they are full of chemicals and inhibit the barrier function in eczema affected skin which encourages infection.

Keep stress levels down - stress irritates the condition by causing the immune system to secrete histamines and leukotrienes, chemicals that damage skin.

Avoid nickel jewelry - it frequently causes skin allergies.

I hope this information gives you many options in treating Eczema. You don't need to try them all and certainly don't need to use them all at the same time. But try a few at a time - especially concentrating on diet - until you find what works for your child.

For those items that I don't carry on my website, you should be able to find most (if not all) at Mountain Rose Herbs. Their link is in my sidebar and if you click through me, your purchase will be helping to support my blog!

If you are at a loss when it comes to words like poultice, compress, decoction, tincture etc.....and if you are interested in learning to treat your family with might want to consider taking my Medicinal Herb Course which will teach you the basics of preparing your own medicine while covering 10 common medicinal herbs. You can read more about it here! This course also comes with 30 days of mentoring by a special email address privy only to my students. Ask as many questions as you'd desire is to educate you and give you confidence in your own ability to take responsibility for some of your own health care and that of your family! God has lovingly provided for our needs through his bountiful gift of herbs and other plants and trees....join me and learn more about His provisions for our health!




  1. Thank you, Cheri, that is so helpful. Over the last year I've developed an adult-onset eczema (I'm 35), so I'm just now trying to figure out what I can do to fix it. It would be nice to pitch that steroid cream!

  2. Hi Amey,
    You are so welcome - perhaps some of these will alleviate the problem :)

  3. Thank you for all the great information, Cheri! I will certainly try out a bunch of your suggestions. I notice that when I put cream on my son's ankles or behind his knees that it bothers him more than if I just left it alone. Is this because I have made the area moist? We use unscented goat's milk soap on just him, but were wondering about using olive oil soap. I have a huge bar of Kiss My Face olive oil soap and wondered if that would be pure enough. It contains: Saponified Olive Oil, Water, Sodium Chloride, Citric Acid (a natural pH balancer). Thanks for all your help! :)


  4. Hi Michelle,
    Personally, I would avoid the sodium chloride and citric want a label that says water (distilled or spring) and saponified olive oil...nothing else :)

    What kind of cream are you using behind the knees and on the ankles - it may be that those areas the skin is either thinner or more tender...It may also have to do with the cream :)

    What are the ingredients in the unscented goats milk soap?


  5. Hi, Cheri! Hmmm. I am not sure what the exact ingredients are in the unscented goat's milk soap. I just figured since it was goat's milk and unscented it was great for him... It is funny that on the Kiss My Face site it says it has the citric acid, yet on the label of the soap I have, it doesn't state that...

    I had been using Aveeno baby lotion, unscented, on his ankles and back of knees. Sometimes I used Eucerin, which everyone raves over. However, I haven't used that in a long time since it seemed like I would have to keep socks on his feet or he'd itch his ankles to death! We still have to make sure that he wears pants at all times, even for night. I feel bad for him, becase we've had some hot days here in PA, too! :(

  6. Hi, Cheri! I tried to post a reply a few days ago, but it didn't "take"... I will try again! :)

    I had been using Aveeno Daily baby lotion unscented or Eucerin (which everyone raves about) on the itchy spots on my son.

    I do not know what all is in the unscented goat's milk soap I bought. It is homemade locally, and I guess I just thought it was more gentle because of it being goat's milk and unscented... I am learning something new every day!

    Why would you avoid the salt in soap? Does it irritate? It is interesting that on the Kiss My Face site, it lists citric acid as being in the soap, yet the label on my bar does NOT. Hmmm...

  7. Michelle,
    I would read, carefully!, the ingredients of Aveeno Daily bayb lotion and Eucerin and see how "natural" they are... look up the ingredients on the web and read about them. Remember that everything you put "on" your skin enters the blood supply and consequently the entire want it as natural as possible.

    Salt....why is it there? As a soapmaker I can not fathom a reason to put it in soap - I'd have to do some research...and what kind of salt? The box with the little girl and umbrella?...I wouldn't want it "in" my body so I wouldn't put it "on" my it mineral salt? Epsom Salt?...lots of questions!
    Keep thinking it natural? Is it processed - when you are dealing with any kind of skin condition you want to stay as natural as possible - chemicals have lots of side affects - and can contribute to or exacerbate the problem....


  8. Thanks for your reply, Cheri! I am learning how to scout out more natural things. I only just recently learned about how horrible the "box-with-the-little-girl-and-umbrella" salt is for you! :( I am so glad you take the time to help us newbies out! ;)


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