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15 Herbs That May Help Eczema
A number of herbs are traditionally used to treat skin diseases. The bioactive phytochemicals in these herbs are responsible for their healing and restorative effects on the skin. These compounds can soothe the skin as well as fight infections, reduce inflammation and reducing itching. This article discusses the 16 most important herbs (including Chinese herbs) traditionally used to treat eczema. Find out which herbs can help your eczema and how these herbs improve the symptoms of the skin disease.
by Brad Chase
Chamomile is one of the plants in the daisy family. It is commonly used in traditional medicine as a tea for relaxing and sedating people with anxiety problems.
Important phytochemicals found in chamomile include apigenin, alpha bisabolol, umbelliferone, chlorogenic acid, rutin, quercetin and flavonoids.
Besides its oral uses, chamomile can also be applied topically to treat skin diseases and hemorrhoids.
The relevant medicinal properties of chamomile that can help eczema patients include its anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties (due to its alpha bisabolol content); and antifungal effect (due to umbelliferone).
Besides these medicinal properties, chamomile can also provide relief for eczema patients by its emollient properties.
Therefore, chamomile can soften and soothe inflamed skin by reducing itching and inflammation. Its antimicrobial effects can also help reduce skin infections and prevent skin ulcers from getting infected. The antimicrobial property of the herb can also save the skin from damage caused by microbial toxins.
Studies show that chamomile topical creams are safer alternatives to the hydrocortisone creams regularly prescribed for eczema patients.
Although topical chamomile did not provide relief as quickly as hydrocortisone in these studies, the herbal cream was found to be safe for long-term use unlike the steroid cream.
Licorice is the herb prepared from the roots of Glycyrrhzia glabra, a legume native to Europe and Asia.
The major bioactive phytochemicals in licorice are glycyrrhzinic acid and the related glycyrrhetnic acid. Among the many health benefits of these compounds, they increase the secretion of mucus in the stomach and inhibit the bacterium, Helicobacter pylori.
Therefore, licorice can promote the healing of gastric ulcers and is used in the treatment of leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut syndrome is linked to eczema because the leakage of toxins and food allergens into blood circulation can inflame the deep tissues of the skin as well as trigger itching and other symptoms of eczema.
By healing leaky gut, licorice prevents widespread anaphylactic reactions in the body. Therefore, it can help heal eczema.
Studies also show that topical licorice preparations also have anti-inflammatory effect. In one study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, the researchers found that both 1% and 2% concentrations of licorice cream relieved the burning itch of eczema.
Witch hazel or Hamamelis is an ornamental and medicinal plant native to North America and Japan.
The leaves and bark of witch hazel are used to prepare this herbal remedy. The herb is commonly included in skin care products and also to treat swelling, sores and bruises.
As a potent antioxidant and astringent herb, witch hazel is a popular natural remedy for acne, psoriasis and eczema as well as hemorrhoids and insect bites.
As an astringent and an anti-inflammatory herb, witch hazel can help shrink the pus-filled swelling of eczema as well as the reddened, raised and inflamed welts experienced by some eczema patient. The herb is, therefore, recommended for the treatment of oozing eczema.
In one study, a cream containing witch hazel and phosphatidylcholine was found to be just as effective (and safer) than 1% hydrocortisone cream for relieving itching and inflammation in a group of eczema patients.
St. John’s wort is popularly known as an effective herb for treating depression. However, it can also help eczema sufferers.
Studies have shown that the lipid-soluble extract of this herb is an effective traditional remedy for healing wounds, burns and muscle pain. The major phytochemical in St. John’s wort responsible for its healing property is known as hyperforin.
Hyperforin possesses antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it can be used in the treatment of skin infection and inflammatory skin diseases.
Therefore, St. John’s wort is especially effective in the treatment of eczema especially when the skin is also infected.
The efficacy of St. John’s wort in the treatment of eczema has been proven in multiple studies. These studies confirm that the herb is useful in the treatment of mild to moderate eczema and that it does not irritate the skin.
Aloe vera is perhaps the most popular herb for improving skin health and treating skin diseases.
On the skin, aloe vera has a notable healing property and it is also used for its soothing and moisturizing effects. Therefore, aloe vera can help protect the skin from irritants and also prevent the skin from drying out.
All of these dermatological effects means that aloe vera can help relieve itching and flaking of the outer layer of the skin as well as restore the suppleness of the skin.
Green tea is a prepared from the slightly oxidized leaves of Camellia sinensis. It is rich in essential amino acids, lipids, polyphenols, carotenoids, tocopherols and sterols.
While the vitamins and amino acids can improve skin health, the most important phytochemicals in green tea are the polyphenols. These are powerful antioxidants that can neutralize harmful free radicals and other toxins both in the bloodstream and on the skin.
Overall, green tea can reduce oxidative stress in the skin and protect it from the toxic effect of microbial and environmental toxins.
For eczema patients, green tea can provide relief for itching and inflammation caused by these harmful foreign substances.
Calendula officinalis or pot marigold is a plant belonging to the daisy family. The flowers of the plant are used preparing the herb. Calendula is rich in flavonols, saponins, glycosides and glucosides.
Calendula is used in cosmetic products for its antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties.
For eczema, the antiviral effect of calendula can be especially useful for those whose eczema lesions are infected with such viruses as herpes. However, the more important medicinal effect of the herb is the anti-inflammatory property.
Studies show that topical and oral calendula preparations are effective in the treatment of acne and dermatitis.
In those studies, the herb soothes inflamed and irritated skin tissues while also healing bleeding skin ulcers.
In one study, a 4% preparation of calendula cream produced better results than a topical analgesic (trolamine) in providing relief for a group of 254 patients who suffered from radiation-induced dermatitis.
These studies provide good support for the use of calendula in the treatment of eczema especially for providing relief for those with severe itching and inflammation.
Marshmallow or Althea officinalis is an ornamental and medicinal plant native to Africa.
The mucilage extracted from the whole plant, but especially the roots, is commonly used as an emollient in skin care. It soothes inflamed, irritated skin and heals broken skin.
In addition, marshmallow is used to treat gastric ulcers and may help heal leaky gut syndrome before it triggers eczema.
Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia. Of the many phytochemicals found in this essential oil, the most important is terpinen-4-ol.
Tepinen-4-ol is responsible for most of the antimicrobial effect of tea tree oil. Its ability to stop skin infections is the reason why tea tree oil is used to treat skin diseases such as acne and eczema.
Studies show that tea tree oil is effective against a number of bacteria, fungi and viruses as well as some antibiotic-resistant microbes. One study showed that dermatological products containing tea tree oil were more effective than regular antibiotics in the fighting skin diseases involving infections.
By killing off pathogens on the skin, tea tree oil can help stop the damage done to the skin cells and secretory glands by microbes and their toxins.
Cnidium monnieri is an annual flowering plant native to Asia and introduced to Europe and the US.
The seed of this plant is known as she chuang zi in Chinese traditional medicine. For over 2,000 years, the Chinese have used cnidium to treat skin diseases such as acne and eczema well as other skin conditions involving rashes and itching.
Studies show that cnidium possesses anti-itch, antihistaminic, antibacterial, antifungal and astringent properties.
These medicinal properties can help reduce swelling, kill off pathogenic bacteria on the skin and relieve itching.
While cnidium seed is considered safe for oral consumption, the essential oil extracted from it should not be ingested unless it is taken under the direct supervision of a qualified physician.
Flos lonicerae is also known as Japanese honeysuckle, Jinyinhua in Chinese or Lonicera japonica.
In Chinese traditional medicine, this herb is used to treat fever, sore throat and skin rashes. Studies show that it has anti-inflammatory, antipyretic, antibacterial and anti-toxin properties.
Therefore, flos lonicerae can help fight skin infections and also neutralize bacteria toxins that trigger inflammation in the skin. The herb’s anti-inflammatory effect also contributes to soothing the inflamed skin of eczema patients.
Herba menthae, or Bo He in Chinese traditional medicine, is also known as corn mint. It is not as sweet as other plants in the mint family but it possesses more menthol.
Because of its menthol content, herba menthae is used in traditional medicine to soothe the skin as well as the respiratory tract and the gastrointestinal tract.
It is effective in the treatment of eczema because of its soothing effect on the skin and also because it contributes to the healing of skin ulcers. In addition, this plant has antipruritic effect and can, therefore, directly relieve itching.
Moutan or mudan in Chinese traditional medicine refers to the herb obtained from tree peony or Paeonia suffruticosa.
The herbal extract known as mudanpi is taken from the roots of this plant and its chief phytochemical is paenol.
Paenol is a phenolic compound that has been proven to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects. These medicinal properties can help soothe skin inflammation and relieve burning skin sensations experienced by eczema sufferers.
In addition, studies show that paenol can block anaphylactic reactions. Specifically, it blocks inflammatory factors such as TNF (tissue necrosis factor) alpha as well as histamine.
When it inhibits histamine, moutan cortex can provide immediate relief for eczema patients experiencing severe itching and hives.
Atractylodes is a common herb in Chinese traditional medicine. It is native to China, Japan and Korea.
The rhizome of this plant is the part used to make the traditional remedy. This herb is used to treat diseases characterized by damp cold. The Chinese also use it to get rid of excess fluid in the body.
Atractylodes may help reduce swelling in eczema patients as well as restore the skin to healthy, moisturized suppleness instead of the damp, cracking state of eczema.
Cortex phellodendri or huang bai is one of 50 fundamental herbs in Chinese traditional medicine. The herb is taken from the bark of the Phellodendron tree which is native to China.
In Chinese traditional medicine, this herb is used to detoxify the body. It is believed to help clear damp, dry heat and to help purge the body of toxins.
Studies show that the berberine (an alkaloid) content of this herb has topical and systemic anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore, huang bai can help reduce skin inflammation experienced by eczema sufferers.
Lastly, berberine (and another phytochemical in the herb known as palmatine) have been proven to have antifungal and antibacterial effects.
These compounds can inhibit the growth of Helicobacter pylori, Propionibacterium acnes and Candida yeasts. Therefore, this herb can help restore health skin and gut microbial flora and is useful in the treatment of ulcer, acne, yeast infections and eczema.
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