11 Home Remedies to Treat Eczema (plus one more)

My son with Eczema

Image: Our youngest son (with Eczema)

.Some Natural Remedies to Treat Eczema. At Home

Hi again.

I want to talk about Eczema today.

Just because it’s on my mind.

In addition to the other things that a typical 4-yr-old boy struggles with (like using his head as a hammer – note the band-aid over his right eye :)), my youngest son struggles with Eczema, so Eczema is on my mind a lot.

(Note added: if you struggle with a child’s eczema, be sure to read Tasha and Mike’s experience in A Mother’s Experience: Some Effective Natural Eczema Remedies)

So, even though this topic does not fit neatly within the Mission of this site, I want to review Eczema -what it is, and some home remedies.

“What mission?” you may ask.

Well, my original purpose for developing this medical education blog, a little over two years ago – the mission – was to provide a source of reliable healthcare information for my patients and their families. Specifically, children with chronic inflammatory, respiratory disorders.

Over those two years, I have researched and written about illnesses that are most challenging for those families. Disorders that my own patients struggle with. Things like food allergies; sinusitis; rhinitis; otitis; tonsillitis and adenoiditis; asthma; reflux. You get the picture.

You may want to simply skip to the end for the summary list of Home Remedies for Eczema. But you may want to keep reading to get some sense for  what the options are, and why they work.

Thank You

If you, or your children, struggle with these chronic disorders, you may have returned pretty regularly. Somewhere around 3 – 4000 people visit boogordoctor.com every month, looking at about 16,000 pages on this site every month.

I am honored and humbled by your trust in this resource. I appreciate your visits, your questions, and deeply appreciate it that so many of you share your own stories here on this site, and through your emails to me.

When you share, we all learn together. These are difficult and challenging diagnoses, most of them without permanent cures, and it is helpful to hear what others have found useful.

Back to Eczema:

Links to Eczema

Over my years in practice, I have noticed that my patients in clinic – those with respiratory disorders – also struggle with Eczema.

It seems that a disproportionate number of my patients have Eczema. That is, more of them have Eczema than the general population. So, there may be environmental or genetic factors (or more likely, both) shared by Eczema and these other chronic inflammatory disorders.

These two things – my own son’s struggles with Eczema, and my patients in clinic – compel me to write this.

This will be my review of Eczema, and what an Integrative approach to treating it may include. Eleven things to try as an alternative to using more steroids to treat Eczema.

Even though this topic may not fit cleanly within my original stated mission, I think that many of you will find some value here.

So that leads me to briefly touch on the cause of Eczema.

To be blunt: we don’t know what causes it.

Eczema is presumed to result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors.

It is noted that people with Celiac disease (yet another poorly-understood disorder) have a three-fold increased incidence of Eczema, strongly suggesting a genetic link between the two conditions. [Ciacci, et al. 2004; J Allergy Clin Immunol 113(6): 1199-1203.] There also seems to be a link between Eczema and Asthma. That has certainly been the case with my patients in clinic.

What is Eczema?

The term, Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis (meaning allergic skin inflammation), is applied to a range of skin conditions.

These conditions range in severity from mild irritation to life-threatening loss of skin; and these conditions cover a broad range of signs and symptoms. These include recurring and chronic rashes that are characterized by the following:

eczema of the arms (atopic dermatisis)

Image: Ezcema of Arms and Hands – “Atopic Dermatitis”

Skin Signs and Symptoms of Eczema:

  • Dryness
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Crusting
  • Flaking
  • Blistering
  • Cracking
  • Oozing
  • Even bleeding

 

Risks

Our bodies are covered with a variety of bacteria. (You can click here for more about our relationship with all those bacteria, in an article about our “microbiome.) Not all of those bacteria are harmful, but some of them can cause dangerous infections.

A person with Eczema often has a “breach in their hull,” openings in their skin, that allows foreign invaders – bacteria – in, risking harmful infections. To say nothing of the chronic, uncomfortable skin inflammation.

With the increasing existence of resistant bacteria in our environment (meaning, bacteria that are able to resist our best antibiotics), the chronic opening in the skin caused by Eczema has the potential to result in life-threatening infections.

Keeping the skin healthy is the goal.

Note that there are potential risks from some of the treatments, too. See next figure, below.

Treatment

Sadly, there is no known cure.

As with allergies, the first line of defense is to avoid the triggers. This is job#1, the first “natural remedy”.

Many people with Eczema react to various environmental triggers.

As with allergic asthma, dust mites are a common trigger. Whereas it is impossible to completely eliminate dust mites from our lives, here are some tips for reducing dust mites in your home.

 

What Else?

“Conventional” medicine treatment focuses on the anti-inflammatory properties of medications, especially topical corticosteroids. An example is hydrocortisone, used as a cream or lotion applied to the skin.

For severe cases, oral or injected steroids may be used, but these have greater potential for adverse effects.

In the most severe cases, when Eczema may be life-threatening, systemic immune-suppressants  (the sort used for some cancers) have been used. Whereas this approach can achieve rapid control of Eczema flares, it will also weaken the immune system, and therefore can result in severe adverse effects.

Caution:  Even though we often use hydrocortisone cream to control our son’s Eczema flares, this is not entirely without risk. Topical steroid use can result in severe skin damage – see figure (image credit: Wikimedia), so use with caution, or avoid completely if possible.

Skin damage from topical steroid use

Skin damage from topical steroid use
(Image Credit: sansea2/Corinna Kennedy, wikimedia)

Home Remedies for Eczema

What is an “Integrative Approach”?

With the qualification that every person’s Eczema is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach, here are some tips that are collected from the various alternative medical disciplines that can benefit everyone with Eczema. Such a collection of evidence-based remedies from various medial disciplines is the basis of Integrative Holistic Medicine.

Most of the effective treatments rely on anti-inflammatory effects of the natural remedies. So, in addition to simply avoiding things that trigger Eczema (if they are known), here are

10 Natural Remedies for Treating Eczema at Home (Plus 1 more)

In addition to trying to avoid the triggers, consider the following 10 approaches:

Diet

Elimination diet. If you are vigilant, if you are patient, this can provide valuable information into the causes of Eczema. This is the best means to identify triggers that are present in diet. Once you identify triggers in the diet, you may be able to eliminate them. That may not provide a cure, but it can significantly reduce symptoms.

For example, through elimination diet trials, we discovered that dairy products clearly trigger our son’s Eczema: within 24 hours of eating cheese or other dairy, he has a flare of his Eczema. Eliminating dairy from his diet doesn’t CURE his Eczema – he still has it – but eliminating dairy reduces the severity of his Eczema.

If you have the stamina to implement an elimination-re-introduction diet for your child, you may be rewarded with a healthier child. Warning: the process is not fun.

As for all people with chronic aero-digestive inflammatory disorders (CAID), an anti-inflammatory diet is best. I recommend that you check ou Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet as a place to start. More on this in a future article.

Anti-inflammatory Oils

Omega-3

For children, include at least 2,000 milligrams (2 grams) of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet. The alternative is to include fatty fish (like salmon) in their diet at least 2-3 times per week. Considering the presence of mercury in our fish, and the effects of mercury on the developing brain, it is safer to simply add omega-3 supplements to their daily regimen.

Just be sure to get an omega-3 supplement that has reduced mercury! When derived from fish oil, it is impossible to completely eliminate mercury. However, the manufacturer should list the mercury content, demonstrating their awareness of the problem and attempts to minimize the mercury content. We like NutraSea Kids berry flavor for omega-3 supplement.

Omega-6, GLA

Evening primrose oil is a strong anti-inflammatory. This may be the result of the presence of the omega-6 fatty acid, gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Orally:  Children can take 1,000 milligrams (1 gram) three times per day (for total of 3,000 milligrams per day).  A good source of both omega-3 and GLA is NutraSea Kids omega-3 supplements with EPA, HA, GLA, and Vitamin D. Topically:  Topical creams containing evening primrose oil have also been found to improve the skin of Eczema. Here is a link to organic evening primrose oil, and to an organic evening primrose oil cream.

Vitamins C & E to Heal Skin

A daily multi-vitamin that contains the vitamins C and E is also important. We like (I should say, our kids like) the VegLife Multiple Berry multi-vitamins, or the Yummi Bears Organics gummies. These vitamins are important for skin healing: they are necessary to grow collagen, activate proper linking of collagen strands; to grow new skin cells; and for integrity of the blood vessels.

Other Topical Anti-inflammatory Remedies

Calendula: Marigold, for home remedies for treating Eczema

Image: Calendula (Marigold). A strong anti-inflammatory.

Calendula

(Marigold): Calendula contains strong anti-inflammatory agents. For example, topical application of Calendula as a 4% ointment (applied to skin) reduced dermatitis in patients exposed to radiation (Pommier et al. 2004; J Clin Oncol 22: 1447-1453).

Take a look at an article from 2011 from Asia, where it is estimated that 80% of the population uses traditional herbal remedies: Khiljee et al., 2011, in the Journal of Pakistan Association of Dermatologists. (This link is to a pdf that can be viewed in your browser or downloaded to use as reference).

Caution: some people are allergic to Calendula (Marigold) (Reider et al., 2001; in the journal, Contact Dermatitis 45(5): pgs 269-272). Calendula should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation.

For children who are not allergic to it, Calendula cream applied affected skin can be helpful to reduce the signs and symptoms of Eczema.

Coconut oil

Virgin coconut oil used as a topical oil on the affected skin is reported to be a safe, effective home remedy. And it smells great. Here is a link to Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, for a great price on Amazon.

Oats

Also consider applying oats – either raw oats or oatmeal – topically to soothe the inflammation of Eczema. A cup of oats added to bathwater can have a similar soothing effect. In our family, our favorite oats are Organic Irish Steel Cut Oats from Amazon. Simply add a handful of oats to a cup of water to make a paste. Apply this for soothing effect on affected skin.

De-Stress

As for asthmatics, emotional stress may play a role in triggering Eczema. Mind-body practices may be helpful: meditation, “functional relaxation”, and guided imagery can be very successful in children with Eczema. Consider keeping a diary or daily log of emotions, and relating these to Eczema flares.

See my article, Can Your Child Think Away Their Asthma? for more, and some links to recent research.

Summary: 11 Home Remedies to Treat Eczema

  1. Avoid triggers
  2. Elimination / Re-introduction diet
  3. Mediterranean anti-inflammatory diet
  4. Daily multi-vitamin
  5. Omega-3 oils
  6. Omega-6 oils (GLA)
  7. Evening primrose oil topically
  8. Calendula topically
  9. Virgin coconut oil topically
  10. Oatmeal topically
  11. De-stress: mind-body practices

Finally

No, you won’t be able to cure your child’s Eczema. But you can reduce the severity of their symptoms. You can improve the integrity of their skin. Their comfort and safety are worth the effort.

Transparency: Note that the Amazon links in this post are “affiliate links”. They link to products that we use in our own home, and products that I endorse.

Note that if enough of you purchase products through those links, I will earn a bazillion dollars, and will achieve my goal of world domination!! Mwuhahaha (evil laugh).

Smile

Now, just to make you smile, a pic from http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelsgate/2456224547

http://www.flickr.com/photos/angelsgate/2456224547

“my tung ith thtuck”
(fyi: these are not my kids)

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Some more articles that may interest you:

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Hi, I’m Russell Faust, author of this medical education blog.

Russell Faust, PhD, MD boogordoctor

Dr. Faust and friend

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Comments

  1. You can also try probiotics! Our allergist said that about half of his patients who have eczema see improvement with probiotic use. We started our son on probiotics at age 5 months and saw a 90% improvement in his eczema in about 2 weeks! I couldn’t believe it. As he has aged, it has continued to improve and he seems to only flare when the allergy seasons change…like in the fall when the hay fever starts and in the spring with pollen and summer with grass…it is easily contolled then with lotion and hydrocortisone. Anyway, just wanted to put that out there as another option.

  2. I read in a natural remedies book that often times people will develop eczema after a respiratory infection/cold/illness/malaise. It said that the eczema occurs because it’s the bodies way of trying to rid it of the illness and that the worst thing to do is use a cortizone cream because that pushes that sickness back into the lungs. I don’t know if this was backed up by any case-studies, but I’ve done my own little surveying of people with eczema asking them if they were experiencing any breathing/respiratory difficulties when they got eczema and they all said yes. Some were respiratory troubles due to allergies, or bronchial infections, etc. And they all still have respiratory troubles. Maybe something worth looking into, if there’s a way to successfully strengthen the respiratory system, maybe the inflammation of the skin will minimize or heal entirely.

  3. Found this article super helpful in understanding what Eczema is, and some natural approaches to keeping it in check. We tried a bunch of different solutions for our daughter’s eczema. Unfortunately, nothing seemed to soothe her skin and stop her from itching. But combined with the post on the healing benefits of honey (http://www.boogordoctor.com/honey-natural-antibiotic-pediatric-sinusitis-asthma-biofilm/), we made a cream with Coconut oil and honey that ended up clearing up her skin! Thanks for the great info, Doc, and keep up the great work!

  4. Cal Driver says:

    Thanks so much for sharing not just the information, but for your story. I’ve had family members who’ve suffered from Eczema, and it can be horrible, both to skin and to self esteem. I’ll be passing along the home remedies you shared. I’d add that there are also a variety of professional options and prescriptions that, while they may not be an outright cure, can really help. Good luck to you and yours!

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