Natural Eczema Care

January 21, 2014 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

Several weeks ago I was in the midst of one of the most stressful periods in my life. My wife and I were preparing for two moves (ours and my mother-in-law’s), while renovating an old townhouse that we all moved into together. Lots of changes, financial concerns and long days with a seemingly never-ending string of problems that needed solutions. In addition to the obvious stress of the circumstances, there were also many environmental insults (infuriated neighbors, earsplitting construction noise, endless dust, dirt, fumes, etc.). And, as a result, my diet wasn’t as “clean” as it normally is. A little more wine, some foods containing gluten and, generally speaking, a higher carbohydrate count were some of the highlights or lowlights of this recent period. Consequently, I began to notice an “angry” rash on my neck. It was inflamed, itchy, red and began to spread to my arms, chest and face. The severity of the rash worsened by the day. The next several weeks were downright miserable.

I knew from previous experience that most doctors, be they conventional or naturopathic, would likely be unable to diagnose and treat this condition successfully. So, my wife and I began to research the topic to try to come up with holistic solutions on our own. After sifting through countless papers and photographs, we determined that I likely had a skin infection known as seborrheic dermatitis – an inflammatory skin disorder which is related to eczema. As it turns out, lack of sleep, stress and the transition to winter weather frequently coincides with eczema incidence. In some cases, such as seborrheic dermatitis, other factors, including a fungal infection of the oil producing glands involving the yeast Malassezia, likewise play an important role.

Strongly suspecting seborrheic dermatitis as the cause of my skin dysfunction, I adopted several body-mind approaches to address it. In the course of my own treatment program, I discovered some recent developments in the field of integrative eczema management. The following briefly outlines my own path to healing and the latest scientific findings about natural alternatives for eczema in general.

I started with the basics. I re-adopted a diet that centered around nutrient-dense, whole foods which are very low in starches and sugar. I avoided most common allergens, including unfermented soy and all sources of gluten. From a supplemental perspective, I focused on those that antagonize fungi (organic, unrefined coconut oil and probiotics), modulate the immune system and limit excess inflammation (evening primrose oil, fish oil, mangosteen extract and Vitamin D). Also, I attribute my now 100% recovery in part to the use of organic tea tree oil. I began by using a gentle, all-natural baby shampoo with added aloe vera gel and tea tree oil to my daily shower. I applied it generously as a body wash and shampoo. After showering, I immediately moisturized with a natural hydrating cream which featured a high percentage of tea tree oil (5%), aloe vera and some additional Vitamin E. Rounding out my treatment protocol was an emphasis on adequate sleep and daily meditation to manage stress more effectively. Simply put, this approach worked wonders for me. But, it did require diligence, patience and time.

The latest news about natural remedies for eczema is quite promising, though you wouldn’t necessarily know this based on popular reviews by the conventional medical establishment. For instance, a 2013 summary by the prestigious Cochrane Database concluded that oral borage and evening primrose oils, sources of GLA – a rare and therapeutic fatty acid, are ineffective in improving eczema. However, this assertion is disputed by an 8 week trial from August 2013 which determined that 320 mg of GLA daily (evening primrose oil) markedly reduces eczema severity. Fish oil provides a different class of fatty acids, namely omega-3s, which modulate the immune system in those with eczema or other conditions that involve a selectively overactive immune response. Additional research supports a link between a lack of healthy bacteria in the gut and Vitamin D in those living with eczema. This explains why supplementation with probiotics and Vitamin D often yields favorable outcomes. Lastly, a recent review and study support the use of coal tar bath products, a traditional remedy, and ointments containing Nigella sativa or black cumin. The review documents the physiological mechanisms behind the historical skin benefits associated with coal tar products. And, a trial published at the end of 2013 found that a black cumin ointment was more effective than two conventional treatments: Betamethasone, an anti-inflammatory, immunosupressive glucosteroid, and Eucerin, a popular, soothing over-the-counter moisturizer.

I strongly believe that most skin problems are a reflection of a greater dysfunction in the body as a whole. So, while I encourage the use of creams, lotions and supplements to safely reduce or relieve symptoms, I also suggest taking a deeper look for other causative factors. Typically, lifestyle choices which support general well-being will also improve skin disorders. Make positive changes in your diet, focus on psychological health, look for natural alternatives such as chlorine filters for your shower, humidifiers during dry conditions, and skin care products that are free of unnecessary additives and chemicals. And, perhaps most importantly, try to find some sort of meaning while you work towards better skin health. Even at the lowest points of my current skin episode, I knew that something positive would come of this. I’m confident that someone reading this will find hope and/or part of their solution because of my challenging experience.

To learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column, please click on the following links:

Study 1 - Oral Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil for Eczema (link)

Study 2 - Dose-Dependent Effects of Evening Primrose Oil in Children and (link)

Study 3 – A Randomized Controlled Double-Blind Investigation of the Effects of (link)

Study 4 - Do Fast Foods Cause Asthma, Rhinoconjunctivitis & Eczema? Global … (link)

Study 5 – Microarray Analysis Reveals Marked Intestinal Microbiota Aberrancy in (link)

Study 6 - A Protective Effect of Lactobacillus Rhamnosus HN001 Against Eczema ... (link)

Study 7 - Changing of Fecal Flora and Clinical Effect of L. Salivarius LS01 in Adults (link)

Study 8 - Fish Oil Supplementation in Early Infancy Modulates Developing Infant (link)

Study 9 - Comparison of Therapeutic Effect of Topical Nigella w/ Betamethasone (link)

Study 10 - Old King Coal – Molecular Mechanisms Underlying An Ancient (link)

High Dose Evening Primrose Oil Reduces Eczema Symptoms

Source: Ann Dermatol. 2013 Aug;25(3):285-91. (link)

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Detoxification, Mental Health

8 Comments to “Natural Eczema Care”

  1. Sylvia Stewart Says:

    Very interesting to learn the combination of changes that yielded positive results for what sounds like was a miserable condition. Grateful for their success and that you found relief!

  2. JP Says:

    Many thanks, Sylvia! :-)

    Be well!


  3. G.Paul F. Says:

    Hi JP,

    This stressful episode in your life yielded the opportunity to be able to cure yourself thanks to your proficient research and discipline. We are blessed to have access to current research through the internet.

    I am happy you selected the appropriate treatments thanks to your ability to discern supported by your years of experience and analysis of the conditions.
    You could make a superb doctor!



  4. JP Says:

    Thank you, Paul! I appreciate your kind words and support!

    The Internet is a genuine blessing. It affords so many resources that, in the past, weren’t available to laypeople such as myself. :-)

    Be well!


  5. JP Says:

    Dietary and/or supplemental zinc may also be helpful:

    Acta Derm Venereol. 2014 Jan 28. doi: 10.2340/00015555-1772.

    Hair Zinc Levels and the Efficacy of Oral Zinc Supplementation in Patients with Atopic Dermatitis.

    Kim JE, Yoo SR, Jeong MG, Ko JY, Ro YS.

    Zinc deficiency in patients with atopic dermatitis (AD) and the use of zinc supplementation is still controversial. We measured hair zinc levels in 58 children with AD and 43 controls (age range 2-14 years). We also investigated the efficacy of oral zinc supplementation in AD patients with low hair zinc levels by comparing eczema assessment severity index (EASI), transepidermal water loss (TEWL), and visual analogue scales for pruritus and sleep disturbance in patients receiving zinc supplementation (Group A) and others not receiving supplementation (Group B). At baseline, the mean zinc level was significantly reduced in AD patients (113.1 μg/g vs. 130.9 μg/g, p = 0.012). After 8 weeks of supplement, hair zinc level increased significantly in Group A (p <  0.001), and EASI scores, TEWL, and visual analogue scales for pruritus improved more in Group A than in Group B (p = 0.044, 0.015 and < 0.001, respectively). Thus, oral zinc supplementation may be effective in AD patients with low hair zinc levels.

    Be well!


  6. Craig Says:

    Well researched post!

    I too struggle with eczema. I have recently managed to get it under control to the point where it has completely cleared up. Similar to the article I have had to implement a regime of:
    – eat clean & healthy (no dairy/ little gluten)
    – reducing stress;
    – daily DHA/ EPA;
    – 1-2g of Vitamin C per day;
    – Probiotic daily;
    – Using soaps/ shampoos which contain few/ no chemicals.
    If any of these change i.e. stop taking fish oil then the eczema slowly returns.

    I have taken the positive, that eczema returning is my body telling me that I am not being as awesome as I could be.


  7. JP Says:

    Thank you, Craig! Do you supplement with Vitamin D or spend non-peak time in the sunshine? I’ve found that helpful as well.

    Be well!


  8. JP Says:

    Update: More support for natural topical preparations …

    Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2014 Nov 11;7:321-7.

    A cosmeceutical formulation based on boswellic acids for the treatment of erythematous eczema and psoriasis.

    BACKGROUND: Boswellic acids (BAs) show anti-inflammatory properties in a variety of inflammatory diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and asthma. A topical administration route is currently used to deliver active compounds in psoriatic and eczematous patients. In this double-blind study we compare a novel BA formulation (containing Bosexil(®), INCI [International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients]: lecithin, Boswellia serrata resin extract) with a placebo formulation. A third arm of the trial received a formulation of Vaccinium myrtillus seed oil, previously demonstrated as an effective local treatment for psoriatic lesions.

    METHODS: Patients with psoriasis or erythematous eczema were randomly assigned, in a 1:1:1 ratio, to Bosexil(®), V. myrtillus seed oil, or placebo. In order to evaluate the effects of treatment, the changes of scales and erythema from diagnosis to the end of treatment were scored in psoriatic patients, while changes in itch and erythema were analyzed for erythematous eczema patients. Psoriasis Area Severity Index and Eczema Area and Severity Index scores were also calculated.

    RESULTS: In patients with psoriasis, scales and erythema improved both with Bosexil(®) and the V. myrtillus seed oil treatment in comparison with placebo. In particular, the treatment with Bosexil(®) formulation improved scales (70% of cases) and erythema (50% of cases) without any case of worsening. In patients with eczema, the administration of placebo did not result in any improvement in 90% of cases, and in the remaining 10% worsened both itch and erythema. Bosexil(®) formulation improved both itch (60% of cases) and erythema (60% of cases) without any case of worsening. V. myrtillus seed oil improved itch and erythema in 66.7% and 77.8% of patients, respectively.

    CONCLUSION: A topical formulation of Bosexil(®) may be promising for the treatment of psoriasis and erythematous eczema. Long-term studies are recommended to evaluate the adherence to this topical treatment and its clinical benefits in real life.

    Be well!


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