Atopic dermatitis, or eczema as it is commonly known, is an inflammatory skin condition caused by a hyperimmune response. Conventionally, steroid cream is usually prescribed to treat eczema as it acts to suppress your immune system which decreases swelling, redness, and itching. Although they do often work, the downside of steroid creams is the side effects: increased risk for secondary infection, skin thinning, and poor wound healing.
Additionally, steroid creams often eventually stop working as your body develops tolerance to them, as the underlying cause is not being addressed. Naturally-based over-the-counter eczema lotions, gels, and creams can offer relief without the same risk for adverse side effects.
1) Chaparral Eczema Salve:
Long used by Native Americans of the American southwest, chaparral is a shrub with anti-cancer, anti-microbial, and cleansing properties. It was traditionally used both internally and externally to treat skin cancers, parasitic infections, and menstrual disorders. Other names for chaparral include its Latin moniker, Larrea Tridentata, and its common name, Creosote. Used externally, chaparral is safe but taking it orally for extended periods of time could lead to liver or kidney damage.
Internal use should always be overseen by a trained herbalist or naturopathic physician. For eczematous conditions, chaparral leaves are combined with an emollient base such as beeswax, oils, or Vitamin E. Reevis Mountain makes an excellent and inexpensive chaparral salve that’s paired with Apricot kernel oil, an ingredient also lauded for its ability to decrease unwanted eczema cell proliferation.
2) Calendula Eczema Lotion:
Calendula lotion is made from a soothing plant extract and is applied liberally to cuts, scrapes, and burns. It is indicated in eczema rashes that are dry, cracked, and irritated as it will add moisture to the skin. Calendula is also very calming to irritated skin and will decrease the urge to scratch. It is easy to cultivate and commercially available in most areas.
Marigold is the other name for calendula. Many people know this plant’s bright yellow flower is used to decorate gardens in temperate climates, but its petals are also edible and used as a garnish in salads. The species used for medicinal uses is calendula officinal and the one used for decorative purposes is a member of the Targets genus.
Calendula is believed to help eczema by decreasing inflammation and trapping moisture in the epidermal (outermost) layers of the skin. The wound healing properties are attributed to water-soluble flavonoids. Flavonoids are compounds in plants that give them their flavor and scent, they also can have health benefits to humans including anti-oxidant activity and supporting blood vessel health.
Topical or internal preparations of calendula should not be used if a person has an allergy to plants in the Asteraceae family, which include daisies, ragweed, and chrysanthemums. Calendula preparations are the best eczema lotion for people who have dry skin with dry outbreaks.
3) Chamomile Eczema Lotion:
Chamomile, known by its herbal medicine name Matricaria chamomilla, is popularized the world over as a sweet, slightly apple-flavored tea. Taken internally it can help with nervous tension, indigestion, and irritable bowel syndrome. Its soothing and tummy-taming properties made it a favorite choice of midwives and new mothers to calm colicky babies.
The flowers of the herb work just as well externally as they do internally. The essential oils and chemical compounds called sesquiterpene lactones, act to decrease inflammation and promote healing. A widely available over-the-counter chamomile lotion is called CamoCare. Chamomile is a safe eczema cream for babies. They also make anti-aging and skin-cleansing products with chamomile as an active ingredient. You can make your own healing soak at home with just a few chamomile tea bags.
- You can make your own chamomile soak by adding 2-3 organic chamomile tea bags to 12 ounces of boiling water.
- When the tea bags are done steeping (the color should be pale yellow) immerse a clean towel in the liquid.
- Let the towel cool to a hot but not scalding temperature and then apply it to the area affected by eczema.
- Leave the chamomile-soaked towel in place for 10-15 minutes.
4) Licorice Eczema Cream:
Licorice has been research-proven to heal stomach ulcers, inhibit virus growth, and influence steroid hormone metabolism. It is used topically to heal eczema, melasma (darkening of skin pigmentation), and herpes. Glycyrrhetinic acid derived from licorice root decreases inflammation by decreasing the enzyme responsible for breaking down cortisone. Think of it as nature’s own steroid cream but without the same risks for immune suppression and infection. In fact, licorice root has some constituents that actually inhibit bacterial and viral growth.
Several studies have shown it to reduce the redness, swelling, and itching of eczema after both 2 weeks and 5 weeks of use, showing a sustained effect. Products containing licorice are the best eczema cream for people susceptible to herpes outbreaks.
1) B12 Eczema Cream:
Two research papers have found using a topical B12 cream twice daily reduced both the symptoms (itching, burning, irritation) and signs (redness, swelling, scaling, oozing, bleeding) of eczema. The preparation contains a small amount of biologically active B12 (less than 1%) and is marketed under the trade name Regividerm.
The manufacturers speculated that B12 could inhibit a signaling molecule called nitric oxide that tells the blood vessels to swell, bringing immune cells to the region and creating the hyper-immune response. Results from this placebo-controlled study show that it can.
2) Vitamin D Eczema Ointment & Creams:
Your body’s Vitamin D synthesis starts in the skin and it is a well-known fact that UVB light improves symptoms of eczema in many people. This previously was thought to work by decreasing pruritus (itchiness) and by suppressing immune activity in the skin but it now appears that there may be a secondary action of increasing Vitamin D synthesis.
The vitamin can be safely taken orally at 400IU to 1000IU daily without testing blood levels, but beyond 1000IU daily, your physician or dietician should monitor it using simple blood tests. While Vitamin D is a fantastic nutrient that is pivotal to mood, skin, and immune health, it is fat-soluble and therefore can accumulate in your body to toxic levels when supplemented in high doses.
Kidney stones are the most frequently reported side effect of Vit D levels beyond the normal range. If you don’t want to mess with taking Vit D orally, there are over-the-counter eczema creams containing Vit D available. They have been prescribed to treat psoriasis but are now gaining in popularity for eczema as well.
2005 reports showed improvement in hand and foot eczema with the use of the Vit D3 cream. This study involved only 5 patients but several more are currently underway. Be cautious to avoid ointments and creams with any irritating preservatives or filler ingredients. Xymogen makes a Vit D3 cream of high quality.
- You can find reliable information on botanical medicines from the American Botanical Council including monographs detailing information about individual herbs, a database detailing herb quality, and links to recipes for making homemade salves, creams, and lotions.
- The book Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy: Modern Herbal Medicine is a wealth of information on the individual constituents of plants and herbs, their indications, and contraindications.
- The Herbal Medicine-Maker’s Handbook is a great text explaining how to make your own salves, gels, lotions, and creams.
Finally, I would highly recommend any person suffering from eczema read the eBook Eczema Free, which details natural methods to reduce or eliminate the condition. Natural Eczema Creams and lotions have been proven by both traditional use and modern research to work for eczema. However, it is also vitally important to address the body’s internal environment, whose condition allowed for eczema to develop in the first place.