Information Gathered By:
Manuel Bojorquez, Sarah Gonzales & Leilani Rapp
~ Introduction to Eczema ~
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that effect many people throughout the world. There are many different types of eczema which are caused by many different variables. Outbreaks can occur from many causes including weather, allergies, diet, stress and genetics. Although there is no cure for eczema, there are many ways to treat eczema, both conventional and holistic. Conventional methods include skin ointments, antibacterial and antifungal antibiotics, and in most severe cases, phototherapy. A more holistic approach avoids the conventional way of treating the symptoms of eczema. Many medicinal plants have certain characteristics that can help alleviate the symptoms. For example, there are many medicinal plants that have antifungal and antimicrobial properties, these of which can be used in treating eczema. Other plants help with dry skin and itchiness, which in turn decreases the severity of the symptoms. Because there are many types of eczema, this page will cover a broad range of medicinal plants that will help alleviate the symptoms that all types of eczema generate.
~ Causes ~
There are many variables that allow eczema to become prevalent. Causes include weather, allergies, diet, stress, genetics, and in some rare cases, bacteria and fungus. Heritability though genes play a major role whether or not one will have eczema. If a parent has eczema, there is an 80% chance that their offspring will have eczema as well. Many of the symptoms of eczema will decrease in severity if the causes of the individual case are identified. If need be, diet should be modified accordingly and certain allergenic plants and animals should be avoided. Unfortunately, stress can be created by certain symptoms of eczema. It is important to understand all of the aspects of the type of disorder that you have so that stress about the disease can be kept at a minimum.
~ Symptoms ~
Because there are many different types of eczema, symptoms can vary from person to person. Severity of the symptoms can vary as well. Most common symptoms include patchy skin, burning red lesions and dry, flaky skin. Specific types of eczema may or may not have other symptoms. For example, dandruff is a type of eczema that affects the scalp and eyebrows. Symptoms of this type of disorder include dry and flaky sensitive skin. Because all types of eczema have some symptoms in common, the plants listed below will help alleviate the symptoms most common to all forms of the skin disorder.
~ Useful Medicinal Plants ~
There are many medicinal plants that can be used to decrease the severity of the symptoms associated with eczema. Although there are other plants that can help with eczema, these are a few specific examples of certain plants that have been found to be effective against the skin disorder. The plants that are known to help with the itching of eczema possess calming agents as well. When you stop scratching the skin, the tissues have the ability to begin the healing process which thus allows the lesions to subside.
~ Algerita ~
Algerita (Oregon Grape Root) (Berberis aquifolium) is known to help with protein metabolism and to purify the body of toxins. This plant is used to help treat the symptoms of eczema because its roots have antibacterial properties that help clear up the skin lesions all together. This, in turn, helps alleviate dry and itchy skin associated with eczema. Tinctures (herb soaked in alcohol and water for a specific length of time) are usually created from the roots and applied orally or directly on the lesion. Because this plant helps alleviate eczema through protein metabolism, it also makes the body healthier and able to digest foods more efficiently.
!!! Algerita contains berberines, which stimulate the uterus. Please do not take while pregnant, as it may induce contractions. !!!
~ Chamomile ~
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) is a perennial plant that has a wide variety of applications. Chamomile is an extremely hardy perennial that will grow well in any garden of temperate conditions. The organ of the plant that is used the most is the flowers. Chamomile has antiseptic, relaxant and regenerating properties that are used for dry and itchy skin, insomnia, and allergies. The flowers are dried and made into an infusion (leaves or flowers steeped in water to make an herbal tea) that is ingested (for insomnia) or applied to a bath for itching and dry skin. To make an infusion, simply add 1 cup of dried Chamomile flowers in hot water and continue to heat. After about 15 minutes, add the filtered warm tea to the bath and soak as long as desired.
!!! If you are allergic to pollen, especially ragweed, you may react to Chamomile. Try a weaker tea, or other remedies for itchy, dry skin. Pregnant woman should avoid ingestion of chamomile as well. !!!
~ Comfrey & Calendula ~
Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and Calendula (Calendula officinalis) are two plants that complement each other very well for the treatment of symptoms of eczema. The Comfrey contains allantoin and soothing mucilage which enhances tissue healing and cellular repair. Calendula has antibacterial activity and promotes healing of the skin and mucus membranes. An ointment is infused into virgin olive oil, beeswax, lanolin, propolis extract and vitamin E. Lanolin enhances absorption of this ointment into the skin and propolis extract acts as antioxidant and antibacterial agents.
!!! Avoid consumption of calendula during pregnancy. !!!
~ Echinacea ~
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) is used as a general immune system booster and for skin disorders. Echinacea, also known as Purple Cone Flower, can be used to help alleviate itching associated with eczema. This plant is widely known for its enhancement of the production of white blood cells (which are important for your immune system), which is important for the treatment of eczema as well. Without a healthy immune system, your body cannot fight off infections that could ultimately make you feel worse. The root of the plant is used for medicinal purposes, usually made into a tincture and applied orally for an enhanced immune system or applied to a bath to decrease itchiness associated with eczema.
~ Golden Seal ~
Golden Seal (Godrastis Canadensis) is a native Northern American plant that has strong antibacterial and anti-viral properties. It is widely used for inflammation of the mucous membranes, mouthwash to treat infected gums and sore throats, and skin infections. The rhizome roots are used to make a decoction (bark, twigs or roots simmered or boiled in water), which is then applied to the affected areas. For eczema, the decoction is applied directly on the sore with a small towel that has been soaked. Golden Seal will help alleviate the actual outbreak of eczema, but it will not help with the itching.
!!! Golden Seal contains berberines, which stimulate the uterus. Please do not take while pregnant, as it may induce contractions. !!!
~ References ~
R.N.C., Deborah, Certified Clinical Herbalist AHG. From the Ground Up, Las
Cruces, N.M., Personal Interview (
Calendula, Retrieved from University of Maryland Medical Center Website at <http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/Calendulach.html> 12 June 2006
Mabey, Richard (1988) The
New Age Herbalist. Gaia Books Ltd.,
Schneider, Anny (2002) Wild Medicinal Plants. Stackpole Books, Mechanicsburg, P.A. (pp. 82-84)
Young, Jacqueline BBC Health Herbal Remedies Retrieved from the BBC Website at <http://www.bbc.co.uk/health/healthy_living/complementary_medicine/remediesherbs.shtml> 12 June 2006
Golden Seal, Retrieved from Global Herbal Supplies Website at <http://www.globalherbalsupplies.com/herb_information/goldenseal.htm> 12 June 2006
Eczema: Frequently Asked Questions, Retrieved from The National Eczema Society at <http://www.eczema.org/> 12 June 2006
Eczema Treatment, Retrieved from EczemaNet at <http://www.skincarephysicians.com/eczemanet/treatment.html> 12 June 2006
For more information: Contact Dr. Mary O’Connell (moconnel at nmsu dot edu)
Last Updated June 20, 2006.