Useful Essential Oils
Which essential oils are effective in treating eczema?
The following essential oils have traditionally been used for eczema:
- Helichrysum – Dilute to a maximum of 2% in flax or rosehip seed oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- Elemi – Dilute to a maximum of 2% in any carrier oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- Iris (Orris) CO2 – Dilute to a maximum of 2% in any carrier oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- Neroli – Dilute to a maximum of 2% in any carrier oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- – Dilute to a maximum of 2% in jojoba or hazelnut oil (10 drops per tablespoon) and apply to affected areas.
- Dilute it and try it on a small spot first, as it has caused dermatitis in a small number of people.
The following formulations are also said to be useful for eczema:
Note: Use each essential oil or formulation one at a time to determine which one works best. You should also try to work out the possible causes for the eczema as they are not eliminated by the essential oils.
You may also find this blog useful about how to treat eczema in babies.
About the Condition
What is eczema?
Eczema is a type of dermatitis called "Atopic dermatitis." The most common symptom is red and itchy skin. Although common in children, it can occur at any age. Eczema is a long-lasting (chronic) condition which tends to flare periodically and then subside. Eczema may be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. If this is the case for you, you may also find our pages on essential oils for asthma and essential oils for allergies and hay fever useful.
Eczema can be confused with other skin conditions that have similar symptoms. Your doctor may need to do some tests to rule out other skin conditions.
What causes eczema?
The exact cause is unknown. Research seems to indicate that it may be that when the skin is dry, its ability to be an effective barrier is reduced. People with eczema may have a genetic variation that affects the skin's ability to act as a barrier. Or, it may be related to an immune system dysfunction. Or, it could be partially due to a bacterium, such as Staphylococcus aureus, creating a film that blocks the skin's sweat glands. And it could also be affected by environmental conditions.
What are conventional medical treatments for eczema?
There is no known cure for eczema. Treatments mainly focus on relieving itching and preventing new outbreaks. Some people find that it helps to avoid harsh soaps and other irritants such as chlorinated swimming pools. Moisturizing your skin can also help.
Doctors generally prescribe corticosteroid creams and ointments to control the itching and inflammation. However, these medications themselves can cause skin irritations, discoloration, thinning of the skin, infections, and stretch marks.
Sometimes they prescribe creams that are supposed to help repair the skin and to reduce flares. These are called calcineurin inhibitors (e.g. tacrolimus - Protopic and pimecrolimus - Elidel). They are also supposed to affect your immune system. But due to possible side effects, these drugs are used only when other treatments have failed or can't be tolerated.
Sometimes, doctors prescribe drugs to fight infection (e.g. antibiotics if there is a bacterial skin infection or an open wound caused by scratching). Or sometimes they prescribe anti-itch drugs such as oral antihistamines. But these drugs can make you feel drowsy.
In severe cases, doctors prescribe oral corticosteroids or an injected corticosteroid in an effort to control the inflammation. These drugs have serious side effects.
Some people find that wet dressings help. This is where topical corticosteroids are applied to the affected area and then it is wrapped in wet bandages.
Light therapy (phototherapy) has been shown to be effective but when used long-term it has harmful effects, such as prematurely aging skin and an increased risk of skin cancer.
Sometimes, people require special counseling in order to cope with the stress of having this condition.
Some people find that relaxation techniques and behavior modification or biofeedback can help with scratching which has become a habit.
For infants with eczema, doctors normally advise you to identify anything that could be irritating the child's skin, avoiding extreme temperatures and moisturizing the baby's skin with bath oils, lotions, creams or ointments. In some cases, medications are also prescribed, but at different doses than for adults.
What are alternative treatments for eczema?
Some people find traditional Chinese herbs, sunflower seed oil, coconut oil, or Ayurvedic diets useful. Some research suggests that borage oil and evening primrose oil are not helpful.
Of course, essential oils traditionally have also been used for eczema. For more information, see the Useful Essential Oils tab.