6 Natural Remedies for Eczema
Eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis. If you suffer from any of these skin conditions, you know that the words I’m thinking of are ‘inflammation’ and ‘itch’. Thankfully there are some natural remedies that have been found to help with these conditions by soothing, moisturising or healing the skin, or through tackling the root of the problem and reducing the symptoms of inflammation and itchiness. One person’s skin can be very different to another’s and because of this variation what works for one person may not work for another, so it’s always worth trying safe natural remedies at least once, starting with..
1. Coconut Oil
Today coconut oil is sold as healing everything from Alzheimer’s to thyroid complaints, and every manner of skin complaint whether applied topically or eaten raw. But is there really any chance that it might improve the health of your skin?
One study compared the effects of coconut oil and virgin olive oil on people with atopic dermatitis who are prone to problems from the presence of Staphylococcus aureus (SA). SA is bacteria that is often found in higher quantities on the skin of people with eczema and dermatitis. After 4 weeks of applying coconut oil on their skin, the participants who used virgin coconut oil on their skin had less SA and healthier skin in general.
There are so many proposed health benefits offered by coconut oil that it’s worth using it on your skin and adding it to your diet as well. As well as using coconut oil on your skin, there are many easy ways to add it to your diet here, but a favourite of mine is using it cooking instead of normal vegetable oil.
Buy organically-sourced coconut oil where possible and keep it in a cool place at home as it melts easily. If you find that the oil is hard when you open the tub, scoop some out and leave it in a dish to sit at room temperature for a while – this should soften it up for use.
For some time now people have believed that taking probiotics or ‘friendly bacteria’ has many health benefits, and some of these benefits are being demonstrated by science. One such claim is that taking probiotics will half the risk of eczema for children, so a study looked at the effect of early probiotic supplementation, ie taking it in pregnancy, until 6 months afterwards if the mother is breastfeeding.
Two types of probiotic bacteria were trialed – some of the pregnant women in the study were given Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and others took Bifidobacterium animalis subsp lactis. Their infants were then tested for allergies at 2 years of age. The results found that the infants receiving L rhamnosus had a significantly lower risk of eczema, but this was not the case for B animalis subsp lactis. The researchers concluded that supplementation with L rhamnosus, but not B animalis subsp lactis, helps to reduce cases of eczema by 2 years of age. Unfortunately results were less successful when one of the parents had eczema, ie the skin condition was inherited.
Buy your probiotics from a reputable company and store them in a cool place as heat can kill friendly bacteria. For the same reason, only take them with cold drinks. I suggest starting with a small dose and working your way up over time, if you don’t notice any effects after several weeks of use. If you don’t want to take them in capsule form, open up each capsule and mix the contents into a beverage or yogurt. Probiotics are generally recommended after a dose of antibiotics, too, to restore friendly bacteria that has been killed by the medication.
3. Vitamins E and D
A study found that participants who were given vitamins D and E for atopic dermatitis had significantly improved symptoms. These vitamins are essential for skin health and recommended daily amounts are usually placed at well below how much the human body actually needs, so you need to work out what your needs are. Before taking a supplement first look at your diet – are you getting enough of these vitamins? If not look at adding natural sources to your diet, such as wheatgerm oil, sunflower seeds, avocados, almonds, and a useful list of how much Vitamin E different foods contain is available here, For Vitamin D try to ensure enough exposure to sunlight every day and if you live in a climate that doesn’t allow that then you may need to consider occasional UV treatment from sunbeds, but only as an extreme measure. Fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals are easier ways to add more Vitamin D to your diet. Vitamin D is also available in a pure spray form if you want to avoid taking too many tablets.
4. Aloe Vera Extract
A study found that an aloe vera extract of 0.5% helped to cure patients with psoriasis vulgaris. Patients between the ages of 18 and 50 years applied the cream to their skin at home 3 times a day for 5 days a week. The participants were then examined every week, and the results were that general skin health was improved over time. In fact, by the end of the study, the aloe vera extract cream had cured 25 out of 30 patients of this specific condition. Aloe vera extract is easy to get hold of in health food stores and I recommend seeking out a 0.5% dose in a standard base cream. As no side effects were reported with its use this is worth a try for all dry skin conditions, especially if you are prone to lesions, as the study found a reduction of lesions thanks to the extract.
The herb marshmallow is not the same as the candy you roast over a campfire, but it may bring you just as much joy. The Arabs are thought to have once made poultices from Marshmallow herb leaves in order to reduce skin inflammation.
Research has also found that marshmallow is good for skin inflammation, so it might help with all manner of skin conditions. marshmallow is available to use as a tea, tincture, and in capsule form. If you’re feeling ambitious you can grow it at home and use the leaves as a poultice as well. As with all natural remedies, speak to a doctor before using marshmallow as it can interact with other medications, for example medicine prescribed for diabetes.
6. Epsom Salts
There is no scientific evidence that epsom salts help to heal skin conditions but some people have reported positive results and some actually swear by them, and there’s no harm in trying them. Epsom salts are said to be mineral-rich and to turn rough, dry skin into smooth, soft skin, through exfoliation dead skin cells and killing unwanted germs on the skin.
Epsom salts are best used in the bath, but it’s important not to stay in the water too long as this can dry out your skin even more. You also need to keep the water at a lukewarm temperature, not too hot as this can also be drying. After bathing in the salts for 10 to 15 minutes, gently dry your skin and apply a moisturizer. Your skin should feel refreshed and soothed.
Equally, a dip in the sea will have the same effect – so now you have another reason to visit the beach this summer!
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed doctor or herbalist. Please consult a doctor or medical provider for medical issues and before self-remedying, especially if you are taking prescription medication.