3 Natural Remedies for Eczema

Soothe your symptoms without a prescription

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Eczema is a chronic skin disorder characterized by itching rashes which may be red, scaly, dry, or leathery. There may be skin blisters with oozing and crusting. It usually occurs for the first time in infants, with rashes typically occurring on the cheeks, elbows, or knees.

Although it is often less of a problem in adulthood, eczema can persist, especially if a person is exposed to allergens or chemical irritants or is under stress. In adults, eczema is commonly located on the inner elbow or behind the knee. People with eczema frequently have family members with asthma, hay fever, or eczema.

So far, scientific support for the claim that any remedy can treat eczema is fairly lacking. Here's a look at remedies that are often said to prevent eczema or help relieve symptoms:

Probiotics

Probiotics, or "good" bacteria, are live microbial organisms naturally found in the digestive tract. They are thought to control the growth of potentially harmful bacteria, influence immune function, and strengthen the digestive tract's protective barrier.

Studies suggest that babies at high risk for allergic disorders, such as eczema, have different types and numbers of bacteria in their digestive tracts than other babies. It is thought that probiotic supplements taken by pregnant women and children may reduce the occurrence of eczema in children.

For a review published in PLoS Medicine in 2018, researchers analyzed previously published studies on diet during pregnancy and infancy and the risk of allergic or autoimmune disease. They found evidence from 19 studies suggesting that maternal probiotic supplementation during late pregnancy and lactation may reduce the risk of eczema. Further research is needed.

In addition to the maternal use of probiotics, probiotic use by infants and children has also been explored to prevent and treat eczema. A study published in Pediatrics in 2017 examined daily supplementation with Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG for the first six months of life in infants at high risk of asthma and eczema and found that supplementation does not appear to prevent eczema or asthma at two years of age.

In addition to the probiotic strain Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, Lactobacillus fermentum VRI-033 PCC, Lactobacillus reuteri, and Bifidobacterium species have also been used.

Consult a qualified health professional before using probiotics to discuss whether they are appropriate for you or your child. Children with immune deficiencies should not take probiotics unless under a health care provider's supervision. Also, one study found increased allergic rhinoconjunctivitis at ages 5 to 10 years after perinatal probiotic use.

Topical Lotions, Creams, and Oil

In a research review published in Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2017, researchers found that moisturizers showed some benefits in people with eczema. Specifically, moisturizers prolonged the time to flareups, reduced the number of flareups, and decreased the amount of topical corticosteroid medication needed for a similar reduction in severity.

The researchers also found that a cream containing the licorice-compound glycyrrhetinic acid was more effective at reducing eczema severity than a cream without the substance. Four studies in the review evaluated a urea cream, and participants reported more improvement with the urea cream than a cream without urea.

Consult your healthcare provider before using any topical applications. Some herbs, such as chamomile and tea tree oil, are known to cause allergic contact dermatitis. According to a study in Contact Dermatitis, tea tree oil produces ascaridole when the oil is oxidized, which may cause allergic contact dermatitis.

In a German study, 72 people with moderately severe eczema used either a cream containing witch hazel extract, 0.5 percent hydrocortisone cream, or a placebo cream for 14 days. The hydrocortisone was found to be more effective than witch hazel. Witch hazel was not significantly more effective than the placebo cream.

According to a report published in Pediatric Dermatology, olive oil may exacerbate dry skin and eczema.

Gamma-Linolenic Acid (Evening Primrose Oil and Borage Oil)

Gamma-linolenic acids (GLA), such as evening primrose oil and borage oil, are a type of essential fatty acid. GLA is thought to correct deficiencies in skin lipids that can trigger inflammation, which is why it is used for eczema. However, clinical studies of GLA have generally found that it does not help with eczema.

For a review of previously published studies investigating the effectiveness of evening primrose oil or borage oil oral supplements, researchers examined 27 previously published studies and found that evening primrose oil or borage oil did not significantly improve eczema symptoms compared to a placebo treatment. The researchers also noted potential risks associated with evening primrose supplements such as inflammation, thrombosis, immunosuppression, and increased risk of bleeding.

A Word From Verywell

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend any remedy as a treatment for eczema. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. And self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Also, keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of any remedy, talk with your primary care provider first to be sure it's right for you.

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