Eczema (also called atopic dermatitis, or “the itch that rashes”) is a chronic skin disease that expresses as red, painful, itchy rashes and sores. It affects about 35 million people in the United States alone, primarily children, though many adults suffer horribly as well.
The cause is not completely clear. Most of the studies I have read suggest that genetics, environmental factors, and an improperly functioning immune system are to blame. Your body reacts to something that it doesn’t like and has an allergic response, resulting in the awful rashes and pain. Eczema flares up and calms down, depending greatly on diet and lifestyle.
What causes an outbreak? Many soaps, perfumes, dyes, detergents, metals, or even sweat can irritate your skin and cause the allergic reaction. Also some foods, drinks, environmental allergens, stress, infections and changes in humidity can trigger a flare.You will be pleased to know that eczema is not contagious, though it often runs in families.
There are some prescriptions available to help, sort of. Corticosteroids are popular and effective topical medications for helping control outbreaks. However, long-term use can cause your skin to become thin, brittle and eventually break, leaving large wounds which are incredibly painful and an open door for bacteria and serious infections. Topical immunosuppressants reduce the immune response on the skin, minimizing outbreak. But there is a risk of causing the growth of cancerous cells. There are systemic immunosuppressants, which require regular blood tests and screenings due to possible serious side effects.That kind of sounds like a step in the wrong direction, don’t you think? So let’s look at some natural alternatives.
Diet is one of the biggest things you can do to help your eczema. I am not a nutritionist, but anecdotal evidence supports this list of foods to eat and avoid. To help your body heal and reduce flares, eat lots of fruits and vegetables, lean meat, plant based oils (avocados are wonderful), fish, whole grains, and drink at least one cup of green tea a day. There are many foods that can cause or seriously exacerbate atopic dermatitis, such as dairy, seafood, acidic fruit, and most seriously gluten and peanuts.
Now, an herbal approach. Even though dermatitis appears to be an external condition, it starts inside. A good place to begin internal healing and cleansing is by drinking a daily tea or tincture of green tea (Camellia sinensis), ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), and purifying herbs such as burdock (Arctium lappa ), sarsasparilla (Smilx regelii), and nettles (Urtica dioica). As for topical healing and relief, brewing some green tea and using it as a wash in the shower is an easy way to encourage healthy cell growth and reduce bacteria on the skin. To aid in healing and protect the areas of irritation, it’s very beneficial to use a salve made from herbs such as comfrey (Symphytum officinale), cleavers (Galium aparine), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), calendula (Calendula officinalis), and neem oil (Azadirachta indica).
So, there is hope for healing and relief. Talk to your herbalist or natural healthcare practitioner about taking the first steps to a healthier, more beautiful life.
These facts and opinions are those of a certified Master Herbalist and Dipl. Natural Health Consultant, and Reiki Master Teacher, and are for educational purposes only, and not intended to replace consult with your qualified healthcare practitioner.