Of all the subjects I’ve tackled on Mommy’s ER, I’ve been reluctant to blog about eczema, in spite of the fact that eczema sufferers, especially young ones, have always made up a large portion of my practice. It saddens me that it is so debilitating, for everyone in the family, and many times the solutions are multi-pronged, and very personal, making it a big subject to tackle.
Still, there are some natural remedies for eczema that most sufferers agree eases the itching, scaling and oozing, so I start there with most children and grownups who enter my clinic. I’ll share these with you now, in hopes that if you or your child has eczema, that it brings relief, and hope.
1) Use a food/activity log. Start logging your food and activities each day. At the end of the day, rank your eczema on a scale of 1-10 (1 being nonexistent, 10 being the worst, itchiest, reddest, it has ever been). I start here with every client, even mamas of breastfeeding clients, because here is where personal patterns emerge. For one young client, dairy products increased the inflammation significantly. For another little boy, days he went swimming in a chlorinated pool made it worse. Finally for a third, the days he spent rolling around on the floor with grandma and grandpa’s dogs had an effect. Allergens – environmental especially, but sometimes food as well, can play a role in the severity of eczema. The log can help parents and children to start making connections that allow for informed choices. In the food arena, watch especially for correlations with highly allergenic foods such as citrus, chocolate, dairy, eggs and wheat.
2) Vitamin C may be good for nearly everything, but in particular, its natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects make it beneficial for eczema. In children over 2 years old, try 250mg at least twice a day. (In children under two, start with 50-100mg and work up if digestion is not impacted). (Note: be careful to not give vitamin C in the form of citrus, unless you are certain your child has no sensitivities).
3) Get a good probiotic. Probiotics have been proven to be clinically effective at preventing eczema in infants and children who may be predisposed genetically. Probiotics have also been shown to reduce symptoms of eczema in infants and children with sensitivities to food allergens. Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis are all varieties that have appeared effective in the studies. A good broad-spectrum brand especially formulated for children should help. You can even try dropping an open capsule or two in your child’s bathwater (especially with young children). This is not, however, a good solution for children with auto-immune disorders or pancreatitis, except under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.
4) Burdock root, either ground into a paste and applied topically, or taken as a tincture or tea, is known among western and eastern herbalists for it’s blood-purifying capabilities. A natural antiseptic, it can help to both detoxify and heal the skin. In children under 10 years old, I recommend it topically. In children over 10, take it internally as well, 1-2 times a day as directed for at least a month. Herbalists often combine burdock with red clover and nettle (nettle can cause a stomach upset in some children, if this happens, you can either add ginger, or remove it entirely from your child’s eczema ‘tea’.) Burdock root can also be cut thinly and steamed or sauteed with carrots, at any age, once your child is eating solid foods. The beta-carotene in the carrots is also great for skin conditions.
5) If your child has dry eczema, try a natural lotion with calendula, or make your own with olive oil or hypoallergenic lotion and calendula essential oil (up to 7 drops per cup of oil or lotion). Rescue Remedy in ointment form can also be applied directly to patches of dry eczema. Herbal creams made with licorice have also been shown to have a positive effect on eczema.
6) Bathe your child — in warm, not hot water, and with alternatives to soap. Lots of people report diluted bleach baths reduce eczema. To me, the toxic detriments of bleach would make this a very last resort. Instead, try mineral sea salt baths. These salts are full of beneficial minerals, moisturize, and act antiseptically to cleanse the sensitive wounds and fragile skin at eczema sites. This is even safe for infants. You can also try oatmeal baths — 1 cup of oatmeal wrapped in cheesecloth can be placed in bathwater, and even placed on eczema patches as a compress for quick relief.
7) Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free tea that is chalk full of antioxidants, flavonoids and phenolic acids, all beneficial. In particular, rooibos contains aspalathin, an antioxidant that, to my knowledge is unique to rooibos. Anecdotal reports of success have come by placing 2-3 rooibos tea bags in the bath to reduce eczema symptoms. Or take it internally as a tea.
8) Check in with a qualified Chinese herbalist. I know — this is my first love — but it also can be incredibly effective. Two studies out of Great Britain showed a Chinese formula known as Luo’s Mixture to be effective even in cases of severe, resistant eczema. It is suspected that herbs suppress inflammatory responses and mildly suppress inappropriate immune response. The beauty of Chinese herbs is that they are customizable for your child’s particular condition. The bad news is — they can taste pretty unpleasant. It’s worth persisting, my son will now take them easily — more easily in fact than any over-the-counter remedy we’ve ever resorted to giving him.
9) Finally, and this is especially difficult and especially important in small children — do whatever you can to help your little one avoid scratching. Keep their nails short, and, in infants, it is even worth it to invest in pajamas with hand covers (to keep baby from scratching at night). As relieving as it is in the moment, scratching can cause skin cells to produce more quickly, and patches of eczema to widen. Encourage compresses instead – such as oatmeal in cheesecloth, rooibos tea bags, or just a wet washcloth – to provide immediate relief.
All of these are results from which clients and friends have reported success (and my clients eczema has tended to be quite severe). I am very open to other possibilities and your own success stories in this arena. And please, if you choose to journal, share what you find! Lets keep this a forum where we can share our successes with this condition. My hope is that we can find a way to take eczema from difficult and debilitating to, at worst, a minor inconvenience.