Eczema is a discouraging and often chronic skin condition. Children and adults alike can be plagued with eczema. Because eczema can have multiple causes, it is generally difficult to treat. With some trial and error, however, natural remedies like apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and Epsom salt will frequently bring relief and perhaps a successful treatment.
Symptoms of Eczema
Eczema, also called Atopic Dermatitis, usually causes itching and inflammation of the skin. Patches of eczema may be dry or they may ooze. There may be swelling, crusting and discoloration. Skin may peel or flake. It may become rough and thick. Eczema is common in babies and children. It is often found behind the knees and on the hands. Itchy postules on the feet can also be eczema. The itching can be intense and even make it difficult to get to sleep at night. Eczema can also be a cosmetic issue, though it eczema is not usually found on the face.
What Causes Eczema?
A variety of factors are likely involved in eczema. There are links between genetics and eczema. Eczema is common among those who have asthma or allergies.1 Eczema is often connected to other health problems like autoimmune diseases. Toxin overload and nutritional deficiencies may also contribute to eczema.
Eczema is also known as “atopic dermatitis,” which means inflammation of the skin (dermatitis) due to an allergy, on an area of the skin that has not contacted the allergen.2
What About OTC and Prescription Medications for Eczema?
There are a number of over the counter and prescription drugs commonly used for eczema. These may provide temporary or sustained relief while the drug is being taken or applid. Unfortunately, the side effects that accompany some of these medications can be very serious. Topical steroids can cause the skin to become more thin and delicate. Some prescription anti-inflammatory creams have been linked to cancer. Methotrexate, a cancer drug is sometimes used. It works by slowing down the immune system, which can increase the risks for getting sick.
Even non-prescription medications, like antihistamines, can have unpleasant side effects including dry mouth, nausea, restlessness, confusion and difficulty with urination.
One reason that natural remedies are considered for problems like eczema is that the side effects from eczema medications can range from inconvenient to dangerous. Of course, there are sometimes side effects from natural remedies as well, so care should be taken when using any remedy. One way to reduce the risk of side effects form natural remedies is to try only one new remedy at a time. Additional remedies can be added one at a time if desired, but adding remedies slowly will help to ensure which remedy is causing a reaction, if any should occur.
Natural Treatments for Eczema
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be used internally or externally for eczema relief. Raw and organic apple cider vinegar is taken as a tonic orally to help balance pH. Alternatively, equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar are applied to the skin. This can kill bacteria and fungal that sometimes accompany eczema. It also helps to restore good skin pH. Apple cider vinegar is helpful when eczema is weepy and needs to be dried out.
If there are large patches of eczema, an apple cider vinegar bath several times a week or as needed can help. Add one cup of apple cider vinegar to a tub of warm bath water.
Following up topical use of apple cider vinegar with a healthy oil can help the skin to retain moisture, which is of particular importance to those with eczema.
Like apple cider vinegar, coconut oil can be used internally and externally. Coconut oil is a good source of fat with lauric acid. Lauric acid has antiviral and antifungal properties. Coconut oil can also be applied to patches of eczema. While it is an oil, it isn’t as moisturizing as might be expected. For extra moisturizing eczema relief, castor oil is a better choice.
Castor oil is an emollient oil that promotes healing. It is soothing and nourishing. If castor oil feels too oily, mixing equal parts of coconut oil and castor oil together can make a combination oil that will give the benefits of both castor and coconut oil to the skin.
A nourishing diet is obviously necessary to promote health. Whole foods and a variety of foods is satisfying and sustaining. Fermented foods like kefir can be helpful. Bone broth is another healthful and nourishing food for those with eczema. Organic apples have been of special help to some who have fallen prey to eczema.
Keep processed foods, white flour and sugar, and artificial sugars and ingredients to a minimum and avoided all together if a flare up occurs.
Eczema sufferers find that citrus and homogenized milk products can be offending foods.
Blackstrap molasses is one food to consider adding to the diet. Blackstrap molasses is concentrated with nutrients and useful for many health conditions.
A wise selection of supplements can support the immune system and the body’s repair mechanisms. Some supplements that are of particular help include:
Borage oil is high in gamma linolenic acid, an essential fatty acid that the body does not produce. However this fatty acid is an anti-inflammatory and quite helpful to many with eczema.
B vitamins are water soluble micronutrients required by the body for many processes, including wound repair. Supplementing with a B Complex vitamin can ensure that the body has the necessary vitamins to help repair the skin damaged by eczema.3
Vitamin C is found in the skin. It is necessary for collagen production. Vitamin C also supports the immune system.4 Vitamin C is also a helpful supplement for many with asthma and allergies. It acts as a natural antihistamine.
Vitamin D is needed for proper tissue repair and healing and regulating inflammation of the skin. Lack of vitamin D is associated with autoimmune diseases. (Eczema is commonly classified as an autoimmune disease).5
Magnesium is a calming mineral. Adequate magnesium intake helps reduce stress and improve sleep both of which can benefit those with eczema.
Zinc is another mineral necessary for skin health and proper immune function. Zinc is often an ingredient in topical eczema preparations as it helps to reduce itching and inflammation in the skin.
Herbs are commonly used internally and externally for the nourishing abilities as well as anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antifungal properties. Many herbs have broad spectrum applications. It can take some trial and error to figure out which herb(s) suit a person the best.
Herbs can be taken in teas, tinctures or capsules. They can be made into poultices to apply to the skin. Tea and tincture can also be applied directly to patches of eczema. Some herbs that are helpful to eczema include:
Chamomile is a calming herb. If itchy eczema causes sleep difficulties, chamomile tea at bedtime is ideal. After steeping the tea, the moist tea bag can be applied directly to patches of eczema.
A popular anti-inflammatory and antibacterial herb, turmeric is useful when bacterial infections like impetigo accompany eczema. Turmeric can be used topically for eczema, though it will leave a temporary stain on the skin. Turmeric can be mixed with coconut oil and massaged into troubled skin areas. Alternately, turmeric can be taken in capsules and taken 2-3 times a day. Turmeric tea is a great way to take turmeric. Add 1 teaspoon turmeric to several ounces of whatever milk is preferred. A pinch of black pepper can increase the healing properties of turmeric.
Plantain is a common plant found all around the world. Plantain makes a pleasant tea. The leaves can be cooked like greens. Tender young leaves can be added to salads. Plantain is also a useful ingredient in salves for eczema.
Calendula flowers are used as an anti-inflammatory. Calendula flowers are especially useful for eczema when fungal infections accompany eczema. Calendula can be found in salves. Calendula tincture can be applied directly to patches of eczema, though they are usually alcohol based which may sting if the skin is broken.
Comfrey leaf is a mucilage herb. When the leaves or roots are crushed they become slippery, which is the property of comfrey that makes it so suited for irritations. Comfrey also promotes skin cell regeneration. The best way to make use of comfrey for eczema is in a salve.
Burdock root is used as a food in some cultures. It is a blood purifier. Usually burdock root is used for a period of weeks or months for the full benefit to be realized. Capsules are an easy way to take burdock root if including it in the diet is difficult.
The skin is a primary elimination system of the body. If a body is quite toxic, skin eruptions are common. Taking some time to detox the body with a variety of remedies can restore skin to health over time. Detox baths are wonderfully relaxing and very effective. Adding 1 cup of activated charcoal to your bath water and soaking for at least 30 minutes is one popular method of detoxification.
Other detox remedies include:
Beets can be added to the daily diet. They are wonderful for the liver and blood and make a great detox food. A quarter of a beet can be included with carrots if making fresh juice. However, do not use more than ¼ of a beet at a time at first, otherwise a strong detox reaction such as diarrhea or nausea may result. Beet root can be found in powdered form. A teaspoon of beet root powder can be added to smoothies.
Black walnut is helpful if parasites in the body are depleting nutrients and expelling toxins resulting in eczema. Taken as a tea or tincture, black walnut is usually taken twice a day for several weeks.
Nettle leaf is greatly nourishing to the body. Capsules or tea are common. Nettle is helpful when eczema appears to be related to allergies. Used regularly for a period of months, nettle gentle cleanses the blood. Nettle infusion is an excellent way to make use of nettle.
How to Make a Nettle Infusion
- Add ¼ cup dried nettle leaf to a quart mason jar.
- Add 4 cups hot water.
- Allow the infusion to steep overnight.
- In the morning, strain the plant material out of the infusion.
- Consume the nettle infusion over the course of the day.
- Use the infusion 5 days a week. (It will not keep well and should be made fresh daily.) Herbal teas and infusions require the body to take in a good amount of water each day which helps to flush toxins out of the body and keep cells hydrated, both of which are a help to eczema.
Dandelion leaf tea, used consistently for weeks, can help cleanse the liver. Once the liver has begun to heal, skin will often heal in turn.
Castor Oil Packs
While castor oil is used topically with good success, it can also be used as a “castor oil pack,” which is perhaps a more powerful way to benefit from castor oil. Castor oil packs are used over the liver area to help remove toxins from the liver. Often the skin reflects the condition of the liver. Healing the liver can often bring remarkable healing to the skin.
To make a castor oil pack:
- Apply castor oil to several layers of wool or cotton cloth. The cloth should have plenty of oil but not be dripping.
- Place the cloth against the skin over the liver area (Lower right of the ribcage.)
- Place a piece of plastic wrap from the kitchen over the castor oil soaked cloth. Make sure it is a bit larger than the cloth.
- Place a heating pad or hot water bottle over the castor oil pack. Now the castor oil pack is complete.
- Keep this in place for 1-2 hours or overnight. (Do not use a heating pad overnight.)
- Castor oil packs can be used 5 times a week. Women should not use them during menstruation.
Activated charcoal can be used internally to remove toxins from the body. Charcoal should be taken with plenty of water to avoid the risk of constipation. Charcoal should not be taken within two hours of any other supplements or medications. 1-4 charcoal capsules taken once or twice a day is a common detox dose.
Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt baths are a pleasant way to provide temporary relief from inflammation, detox and relax all at once. Add 1 cup of Epsom salt to a warm bath and soak for 20 minutes. Epsom salt baths detoxify over time but also will often bring temporary relief from eczema as well. Do not use a hot bath when suffering with eczema as it can aggravate it. Use a warm bath instead.
Sometimes eczema is a symptom of an imbalanced gut. Adding some sort of probiotic supplement, milk kefir or kombucha to the diet can help restore gut flora and heal eczema.
If, however, eczema is accompanied by histamine intolerance (which is often difficult to diagnose) high histamine foods like kombucha, apple cider vinegar or kefir can make the problem worse instead of better.
Find the Cause
While natural remedies often bring relief, finding the cause of eczema is the key to complete healing.
If eczema accompanies other health problems, sometimes focusing on those problems will bring resolution to eczema as well. Allergies, asthma, and autoimmune disorders are often an underlying cause of eczema.
If eczema accompanies chronic health problems, taking time to invest in improving overall health may bring a resolution to several problems. Some steps to improving general health include the following:
- Consume nutritious foods in moderation. Avoid known allergens.
- Drink plenty of pure water or herbal tea. Both of these help the body eliminate toxins so that they do not stay in the body and aggravate health. Tap water contains fluoride and chlorine, which should be avoided.
- Get enough sleep.
- Exercise moderately several times a week, if possible.
- Spend at least some time in the sun each day, avoiding times when the sun is at its peak.
- Reduce stress.
- Go green as you clean. Laundry and cleaning products are often filled with chemicals and allergens. Over time these toxins can build up and overstress the body. Switch to natural cleaners like vinegar, borax and baking soda. Use natural laundry detergent and avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets.
- Be careful with body care products. Lotions, soaps, sunscreen, make up etc can all contain ingredients that aggravate rather than nourish and protect the skin. Even “natural” body care products are often not so natural. Alcohol can be drying to the skin. SLS causes skin problems in many people and is common is soaps and shampoos. Look for body care products that contain only ingredients you understand or can pronounce.
DIY Eczema Salve
To make your own salve or oil to bring relief to eczema, try this recipe using dried herbs and several healing oils.
- ¼ cup plantain leaf
- ¼ cup comfrey leaf
- ½ cup calendula flowers
- ¼ cup coconut oil
- ¼ cup castor oil
- ½ cup olive oil
- Place all ingredients in a quart mason jar. Cover. Let the mixture sit for two weeks.
- Strain out plant material with an old t-shirt. (One you can discard when finished.)
- The herbal oil can be used as-is, or beeswax can be melted into the oil to make a salve.
- For every cup of herbal oil, melt in about ¼ cup beeswax pastilles. Use a double boiler to heat up the oil and stir in the beeswax. Use a little less beeswax for a softer salve; use a little more beeswax for a more firm salve. A more firm salve is helpful in a warmer climate or in hot summer months.
- Store the resulting salve in tins or small mason jars.
Use the salve or oil as needed for eczema relief.
Continue reading topics listed below to find eczema remedies that have been reported to Earth Clinic over many years.
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