Eczema is a troublesome but common skin disorder that affects up to 15 percent of the population. In its acute form, eczema causes inﬂamed red, dry, and itchy skin. Some patches may blister and weep, and, eventually, these areas may crust over. If the eczema is a chronic problem, the skin will continue to itch but may thicken and take on a leathery consistency. Usually, dry scales develop, and the skin’s color may change.
Most acute cases are brought on by an allergic response. Sufferers may be aller- gic to a certain food or to other substances; in either case, it’s quite possible to have a reaction from ingesting the allergen or just from touching it. If you can identify the irritant and remove it, the eczema will usually disappear. But if the skin continues to be exposed to the irritating factor, the rash may spread and develop into a chronic con- dition. Stress may aggravate acute eczema and keep it from resolving.
Eczema can appear in infancy or early childhood and most often develops on the face and the head or in the folds of the elbows, the knees, or the groin. In some cases, it will disappear as childhood progresses and either stay away for good or recur in ado- lescence or adulthood. Chronic eczema is a complex condition that usually involves a family history of eczema, asthma, or hay fever; difﬁculty handling stress; or food sensitivity. It has also been linked to abnormalities of the immune system, as well as to candidiasis and low levels of essential fatty acids and def iciencies of other nutrients that help keep down inﬂammation. Poor digestion and detoxiﬁcation can also be at the root of eczema. Like most complicated ailments that involve the whole body and lifestyle, holistic treatment is the best approach for both relief and resolu- tion. Conventional therapy for chronic cases is usually quite frustrating for the patient, as it generally just suppresses the skin problem and causes further spreading or intensif ies the symptoms. Treating the root cause(s) with natural therapies, as described in this section, is, in our opinion, a superior way to help resolve this aggravating condition.
SYMPTOMS OF ACUTE ECZEMA
• Red, dry, swollen, and burning skin
• A strong, almost overwhelming desire to scratch
• Skin that blisters, oozes, and crusts over
SYMPTOMS OF CHRONIC ECZEMA
• Recurring cases of acute eczema
• Thick, dry skin with scaly patches
• Continued itching
• Color changes
ROOT CAUSES OF ACUTE ECZEMA
• Food allergies
• Contact with irritants (these can include but are not limited to dyes, perfumes, topical medications, plants, metals, soaps, wool, pollu- tants, and even sunlight)
ROOT CAUSES OF CHRONIC ECZEMA
• Suppressive treatments of acute eczema (such as long-term topical steroid treatment)
• Food allergies or sensitivities
• An imbalanced immune system
• Deﬁciency of or inability to process essential fatty acids
• Low levels of stomach acid and poor digestion
• Poor detoxiﬁcation
Eat a diet of basic, whole foods to encourage a healthy internal balance and a balanced immune system.
You should consume essential fatty acids every day. Flaxseeds and ﬂaxseed oil are great sources; use the oil in dressings or sprinkle the seeds on cereal or salads. Flaxseeds and their oil change with heat, so do not bake with them or expose them to high temperatures. Cold-water ﬁsh, especially salmon, mackerel, and herring, are also good sources of EFAs.
Eat pumpkin or sunﬂower seeds daily. They are excellent sources of zinc, a min- eral that encourages the proper metabolism of essential fatty acids.
Drink a glass of clean water every two waking hours to ﬂush out toxins and to encourage skin health.
If you’re constipated, your body will have to f ind another way to get rid of wastes—and that usually means that toxins are expelled through the skin. Eat plenty of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They’re full of ﬁber and will keep your diges- tive tract clean.
Vitamin A and beta-carotene are necessary for good skin health, so eat your green
The following tests help assess possible reasons for eczema: Intestinal permeability—urine Detoxiﬁcation proﬁle—urine
Vitamin and mineral analysis (especially magnesium, B6)—blood Digestive function and microbe/parasite/candida testing—stool analysis Food and environmental allergies/sensitivities—blood, electrodermal Essential fatty acid proﬁle—blood leafy and orange-yellow vegetables. Their nutrients are best delivered to your body when the food sources are raw, juiced, or lightly cooked.
Candidiasis is a possible cause of eczema, so eat cultured or sour products every day to stimulate the growth of “good bacteria.” For more information, see Candidiasis.
Food to Avoid
Eliminate all additives from your diet. Not only are additives likely to cause a direct reaction, they contribute to a toxic internal environment that can manifest in the skin.
Determine whether you have an allergy or a sensitivity to any foods. See the Food Allergies section for further details. Common food triggers of eczema are dairy, cit- rus fruits, tomatoes, soy, shellﬁsh, eggs, wheat, and gluten.
Do not eat saturated fat or solid fats, such as shortening or margarine. They inter- fere with the metabolism of essential fatty acids.
Stay away from inﬂammatory foods, especially sugar, spicy foods, dairy, caffeine, and alcohol. Sugar and caffeine also contribute to anxiety and stress, so you have an extra reason to avoid these substances.
Skin problems are usually a sign that the body is poisoned, perhaps from allergenic substances, toxic foods, or emotional stress. The following suggestions will help you release those poisons.
In cases of chronic eczema for adults, undertake a three-day juice fast once a month to sweep away toxic build-up. Green drinks with barley, spirulina, or blue-green algae detoxify the blood and are especially supportive of an eczema fast. Children over the age of ﬁve may use these green drinks under the guidance of a nutrition-oriented doctor.
Super Seven Prescriptions—Eczema
Super Prescription #1 Homeopathic Combination Eczema/Rash Formula
Use a combination of the most common remedies indicated for eczema. Take as directed on the container three to four times daily for acute outbreaks and twice daily for chronic cases. If there is no improvement for acute eczema within forty-eight hours, switch to the indicated remedy listed under Homeopathy in this section.
Super Prescription #2 Essential fatty acids
Take a formulation that contains a mixture of omega-3, 6, and 9 fatty acids, as directed on the container. Or adults can take ﬁsh oil at a dosage of 1.8 grams of EPA daily or 2 tablespoons of ﬂaxseed oil daily. Children can take ﬁsh oil at a daily dosage of 480 mg of EPA or 1⁄2 to 1 tablespoon of ﬂaxseed oil. Essential fatty acids reduce inﬂammation and dryness, and studies show that they heal eczema.
Super Prescription #3 Vitamin C with bioﬂavonoids
Adults take 1,000 mg two to three times daily and children 500 mg two to three times daily. It reduces inﬂammation and promotes skin healing.
Super Prescription #4 Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Adults should take 1 ml of the tincture form or 300 mg in capsules, while children can take 0.5 ml and 150 mg with each meal. Burdock root has a cleansing effect on the skin.
Super Prescription #5 Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis)
Adults can take 3,000 mg daily and children 1,000 mg daily. It contains GLA (gamma linoleic acid), which has anti-inﬂammatory effects on the skin. Some peo- ple with eczema need increased amounts of GLA. It’s especially important if other essential fatty acids, such as ﬁsh or ﬂaxseed oil, have not been helpful.
Super Prescription #6 Vitamin E
Adults should take 400 IU and children 200 IU daily. It promotes skin healing and prevents the oxidation of essential fatty acids.
A study in the Jour- nal of Clinical Allergy and Immunol- ogy reported that breastfeeding mothers who supplemented with a probiotic were of great beneﬁt to
Super Prescription #7 Probiotic
Adults should take a formula that contains at least 4 billion organisms per daily dosage and children at least 2 billion. Friendly ﬂora such as Lactobacillus and biﬁdobacterium are involved with proper digestion, detoxiﬁcation, and immune function.
Zinc is needed for skin healing. Adults should take 30 mg twice daily, along with
3 mg of copper, and children can take 5 to 10 mg twice daily, along with 2 mg of copper.
Vitamin A promotes skin healing. It is particularly helpful for small bumps on the back of the arms. Adults should take 5,000 IU and children 2,000 IU daily.
Quercitin has anti-inﬂammatory effects. Adults should take 1,000 mg and children
500 mg three times daily.
Dandelion root (Taraxacum ofﬁcinale) assists the liver in its detoxifying functions. Take 500 mg or 3 ml three times a day.
Many other herbs will reduce itching and swelling when applied topically. You can make a cream, a lotion, a cool compress, or a poultice with any of the following: com- frey, chamomile, calendula, chickweed, and witch hazel.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is beneﬁcial for many skin disorders, although no one knows exactly how it works. Take 2 to 4 grams or 2 to 4 ml three times daily. If you have oozing skin or weeping blisters, you can also apply a cool infusion of red clover to the affected area.
Calendula (Calendula ofﬁcinalis) heals broken or oozing skin and has an antisep- tic quality. It’s best used as a succus or cream.
Apply neem oil directly to the skin to heal and soothe patches of inﬂamed, red, and itchy skin.
If you are under stress, drink a cup of peppermint, chamomile, or passionﬂower tea to help you relax.
Pick the remedy that best matches your symptoms in this section. Take a 6x, 12x, 6C, or 30C potency twice daily for two weeks to see if there are any positive results. After you notice improvement, stop taking the remedy, unless symptoms return. Consul- tation with a homeopathic practitioner is advised.
Arsenicum (Arsenicum Album) is for a chilly person who has very dry, itchy skin and swollen, tender skin eruptions. The eczema is worse in the winter, and the itch- ing intensiﬁes at night between midnight and 2 A.M. The person feels very restless, and the skin feels worse with warm applications.
Calcarea Carbonica is for people who are ﬂabby and have clammy hands and feet.
their infants with eczema after one month’s period of time. It appears that this good bacteria reduces the effect of the infant’s food allergy response.
Their eczema tends to be worse in the winter. They crave eggs and sweets. This is also a good remedy for infants who suffer from cradle cap.
Graphites is for people whose dry skin becomes thick and has a honeylike dis- charge. The itching is worse in a warm bed.
Medorrhinum is for eczema that has been a problem since birth or a very early age. The person craves oranges and ice, tends to be very warm, and sweats easily.
Mezereum is for eczema that blisters and oozes and then forms a thick crustlike layer. Cold applications and the open air make the skin feel better.
Petroleum is for eczema that is characterized by very dry, cracked skin, especially on the palms of the hands. The itching is worse at night and in the warmth of the bed.
Psorinum is for chronic eczema that causes people to scratch until they bleed. The symptoms are similar to those of people who should take Sulphur, except that in this case, the people are very chilly.
Rhus Toxicodendron is for blistery-looking eczema that is very itchy and feels bet- ter from warm applications and movement. The person may crave cold milk.
Sulfur is for dry, red, itchy skin that’s made worse with bathing and warmth. The person who will beneﬁt from this remedy feels hot, is restless, and generally has a thirst for cold drinks.
• Spleen 10 clears heat from the blood.
• Bladder 23 and 47 will relieve eczema.
• Stomach 36 and Governing Vessel 24.5 both improve skin all over the body.
• If your eczema causes you stress, use Bladder 10 to soothe your nerves.
• Large Intestine 4 relieves constipation and depression.
Work the areas that correspond to the liver, the kidneys, the intestines, the endocrine glands, the lymph, and the solar plexus.
Constitutional hydrotherapy is helpful for long-standing eczema.
Other Bodywork Recommendations
An oatmeal bath can be very soothing. Tie some oats in a cheesecloth or a leg from nylons, and let water run on the oats under the tap before you soak. This can be pur- chased as a powder, too. You can also use the wet ball of oats as compress directly on the affected area.
To soothe inﬂammation and itching and to relieve tension, add chamomile, geranium, or lavender to your bath or to a cream. These oils can be used separately or together.
If you want to relax, there are many oils you can try. See page 658 for informa- tion on oils; the following are all excellent: bergamot, jasmine, lavender, rose, san- dalwood, or ylang ylang. Use them in a massage, a bath, lotions, or creams—but make sure you dilute them before applying them directly to the skin.
General Stress-Reduction Therapies
Any of the techniques in the Exercise and Stress Reduction chapter will help you con- trol stress-related eczema. To help children, talk with them about how they are feel- ing and coping with their eczema, and what you are going to do naturally to help them heal.
Bach Flower Remedies
If none of the following suggestions seems to ﬁt, see the chart on pages 648–650 to ﬁnd the remedy that’s best for you. Once you’ve chosen a remedy, place 10 drops of the liquid under your tongue. Hold the drops in place for thirty seconds and swallow. Use as often as needed.
If eczema is causing feelings of shame about your appearance, use Crab Apple. If you’ve given up hope of ﬁnding a cure for your eczema, Gorse will help. Larch is the remedy for people who lack self-conﬁdence.
• If you have an acute case of eczema, you must avoid the offending irritant. If the source of the irritation is not obvious, review the possible triggers previ- ously listed under “Causes of Acute Eczema,” and try to avoid or treat each one. Exercise will help relieve stress and encourage detoxiﬁcation.
• A little morning sunlight on your skin promotes healing, so take walks early in the day. If you live in a warm climate, be careful. Don’t let your skin burn.