Natural remedies for eczema relief
Few things can be as irritating as the persistent discomfort caused by eczema, a skin condition causing itchy, inflamed, red patches that can disrupt your daily life.
While it may be challenging to treat, there are natural treatments and lifestyle changes that can help you manage and alleviate eczema symptoms.
What causes eczema?
Common among those with a family history of allergies or asthma, eczema is not just skin-deep; it often indicates underlying issues such as an overactive immune system, impaired lymphatic function, and dysbiosis (gut bacteria imbalances) (4,5).
External factors like toxic cleaning products, cosmetics, perfumes, mould, and electromagnetic fields can also impact your skin and exacerbate eczema symptoms (6).
What’s your gut got to do with it?
In eczema, your immune system reacts strongly to even minor triggers, causing inflammation and itching. Continuous scratching can damage the skin barrier, allowing bacteria and allergens to enter, perpetuating the itch-scratch cycle (1,2).
Disruptions in gut health, such as dysbiosis or a leaky gut, can exacerbate immune hyperactivity and inflammation, contributing to eczema (7). Improving gut health can help alleviate eczema symptoms by reducing this heightened immune response (4,7).
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Vitamin A is essential for skin health, aiding in cell growth and regeneration, which is crucial in eczema when the skin barrier is often compromised (8). It also supports healthy immune system function and possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which can alleviate symptoms such as redness and itching (9).
It also plays a role in maintaining a healthy gut lining, reducing overall inflammation in the body (10).
Vitamin C possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce skin inflammation associated with eczema (11). It helps regulate immune responses and supports the maintenance of a healthy skin barrier, preventing excessive reactions to allergens and irritants (11,12).
It may help regulate histamine levels, potentially alleviating itching and discomfort associated with eczema (13).
Vitamin D plays a crucial role in maintaining skin barrier function and regulating the immune system. This helps prevent excessive reactions that trigger eczema flare-ups, primarily by blocking the entry of allergens and irritants (14,15,16).
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant with moisturising properties that can alleviate dryness and itching (18). Whether taken orally or applied topically, it plays a key role in maintaining a strong skin barrier, reducing the risk of eczema flare-ups (19).
It assists in preventing excessive reactions to allergens and irritants, thereby contributing to the relief of symptoms like redness, itching, and swelling (22).
It also has mild antibacterial properties that can help prevent or address secondary skin infections often linked to eczema-related scratching (22).
Quercetin has antihistamine properties that can help regulate histamine levels, reducing itching, redness, and discomfort (23,24). It promotes skin barrier function integrity, which is crucial for preventing the entry of irritants and allergens (23,24).
It may help regulate immune reactions and reduce inflammation, reducing the risk of flare-ups (25).
Essential fatty acids
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 fatty acid found in certain plant-based oils, such as borage oil and evening primrose oil, may have potential benefits for eczema management due to its anti-inflammatory and moisturising properties (28).
Fish oil, abundant in omega-3 fatty acids, shares similar benefits.
Both fish oil and GLA contribute to maintaining a strong and intact skin barrier, reducing the risk of eczema flare-ups. They both may help lock in moisture, preventing skin dryness and providing relief from itchiness (28,29).
The gut microbiome plays a significant role in overall immune function, and imbalances in gut bacteria have been linked to eczema (7). Restoring a healthier balance of gut bacteria may reduce inflammation and improve immune system regulation, reducing the risk of eczema flare-ups (30).
- Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG
- Lactobacillus salivarius LS-01
- Lactobacillus paracasei LP-33
- Lactobacillus helveticus R0052
- Bifidobacterium lactis Bb12
Top 5 herbs for eczema
It has a cooling sensation when applied to the skin, which can provide immediate relief from itching and discomfort caused by eczema (36). It also can soothe cracked and damaged skin and can prevent secondary infections (37).
Chamomile has a calming effect on the skin. It can help relieve the intense itching and discomfort associated with eczema, making it easier to resist scratching (39).
Echinacea contains compounds like alkylamides and polysaccharides, which may regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, leading to reduced redness, itching, and discomfort (43,44). It improves the skin’s barrier function and skin immunity (43).
A three-month study involving 42 individuals with atopic dermatitis found that the application of a skin cream containing Oregon grape three times daily resulted in significant symptom improvements, including reduced itchiness and improved skin appearance (46).
Diet and lifestyle recommendations
- Address Environmental Triggers: identify and address environmental triggers, including toxins in cleaning products and personal care items. Minimise exposure to allergens and irritants.
- Stress Management: hypersensitivity reactions may be associated with stress and anxiety. Mind-body techniques like meditation, tai chi, yoga, and deep breathing can help reduce reactivity (47).
- Dietary Changes: identify any specific foods that may trigger or worsen your eczema symptoms, such as dairy, eggs, nuts, soy, wheat, and seafood. Reduce inflammatory foods like saturated fats, refined foods, and sugar. Focus on fresh vegetables, whole grains, and essential fatty acids from sources like cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds.
- Lymphatic massage: this is a type of gentle massage therapy that stimulates your lymphatic system. It helps improve circulation and blood flow, aiding in removing waste products and toxins that can irritate your skin.
Skin care tips
- Emollient-Rich Cleansers: use gentle, fragrance-free cleansers designed for sensitive skin, and avoid harsh soaps and detergents.
- Choose Soft Fabrics: opt for soft, breathable fabrics like cotton or bamboo for clothing, bed linens, and pyjamas to minimise irritation.
- Moisturise Regularly: use a gentle, hypoallergenic moisturiser daily to keep your skin hydrated. Apply it immediately after bathing to lock in moisture.
- Cool Baths and Showers: avoid hot water, as it can dry out the skin. Instead, take lukewarm baths or showers and limit their duration.
Eczema can be managed effectively through a holistic approach that includes dietary changes, natural remedies, stress management, and mindful skincare. By addressing the underlying causes and triggers, you can take steps towards achieving healthier, more comfortable skin.
Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment regimen, especially if you have severe eczema or underlying medical conditions.