Eczema/Atopic Dermatitis

This form of dermatitis, commonly referred to as eczema, is a chronic condition that causes itchy, inflamed skin, even mild cases can be extremely itchy. It is a long lasting condition that may be accompanied by asthma and hayfever, increasing common in babies and children but may continue or appear in adulthood.

It tends to flare up periodically and then subside for a time, even up to several years. The exact cause of this skin disorder is unknown, but it may result from a malfunction in the body's immune system.

Self-care measures, such as avoiding soaps or other irritants and applying creams or ointments, can help.

See your doctor if your symptoms distract you from your daily routines or prevent you from sleeping.

Signs and Symptoms

  • Red to brownish coloured patches of skin often in the folds of elbows, backs of knees, neck and can effect the skin around the eyes
  • Mild to severe itchiness – may be more extreme at night
  • Small raised bumps, which may contain fluid or crust over when scratched
  • Thickened, cracked or scaly skin
  • Raw sensitive skin resulting from scratching.

Unknown, but thought to be a combination of dry, irritated skin with a malfunction in the body's immune system. Stress can worsen the condition. If suppressed without finding the cause may present as asthma or hayfever later.

  • A low level of hydrochloric acid in the stomach has been cited as a potential cause.
  • Food allergies and candidiasis may also be associated
  • A lack of the enzyme delta-6-desaturase which converts essential fatty acids into anti-inflammatory prostaglandins, may also be a cause.`


  • Long hot baths or showers can irritate the skin
  • Dry skin
  • Stress
  • Sweating
  • Rapid changes in temperatures
  • Avoid harsh solvents, cleansers, soaps and detergents
  • Wool (lanolin content)
  • Dust or sand
  • Smoking
Self Care
  • Keep skin moisturised to prevent drying out. Use thick moisturisers to help keep moisture in.
  • Body oils can prevent the evaporation of water from the skin.
  • Try taking essential fatty acids to moisturise the skin form within and reduce inflammation.
  • Bath less frequently to stop skin form drying out and use warm water rather than hot.
  • Use mild cleansers and try to limit their use. Rinse thoroughly. Use perfume free products. Chemicals used in bubble baths may irritate the skin.
  • Try to identify triggers that make skin more itchy – it may be bedding, clothes, sweating.
  • Use an ointment to help stop itching. Chickweed is very soothing for itchy skin.
  • Avoid scratching, wear gloves at night and keep nails short. Use cool wet compresses to help reduce inflammation of affected areas and prevent scratching.
  • Take a cool bath with baking soda or uncooked oatmeal
  • Hot dry indoor air can worsen itching and flaking. Try using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
  • Avoid clothing that has a rough surface, scratchy or made from wool.

Medical Treatment

  • Seek medical advice if your sleep and concentration is affected, your skin is painful or you think it may have become infected
  • Treatment should aim to reduce inflammation, relieve itching, and prevent flareups.

Nutritional Help

  • Vitamin B – can help manage stress and are necessary for all cellular functions, helping maintain healthy skin.
  • Deficiency in B6 (pyridoxine) has been linked to skin conditions.
  • A deficiency in Biotin has been linked to dermatitis.
  • Essential Fatty acids – primrose oil and fish oils help lubricate the skin
  • Zinc – aids tissue repair and enhances immune function.
  • Vitamin E – csn relieve itching and dryness.
  • Avoid common allergins such as eggs, peanuts, soy, wheat and dairy
  • Avoid sugar, strawberries, chocolate, white flour, fried foods, and processed food
  • A gluten free diet often has a therapeutic benefit in controlling dermatitis

    Herbal Help

    • Blackthorn and Hawthorn Berry contain flavonoids that help reduce inflammation
    • Chamomile, which reduces inflammation can be taken internally or used to soothe irritated skin.
    • To releive itching try mixing goldenseal root powder with Vitamin E oil and a little good quality honey, until it is a loose paste. Apply to the area.
    • Oregon Grape helps detoxify the body and reduces inflammation.
    Traditional Chinese Medicine
    • Studies have demonstrated that Chinese Medicine is a valid therapeutic option available in the treatment of childhood and adult eczema. Scientists at the Department of Immunology, UCL Medical School, London discovered that selected Chinese herbs have a significant effect on the production of white blood cells and thereby affect the immune system, reducing allergic responses and alleviating inflammation.

    1.British Journal of Dermatology (1992) 126 179-184 2.The Lancet Vol 340: July, 1992

    • Chinese medicine herbs, when combined in exact proportions have the effect of “clearing heat, draining dampness and resolving fire toxin”, in other words reduce inflammation, alleviate itching and control allergic response

    Contact the The Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine or the British Acupuncture Council to find a practitioner.

    Ayurvedic Recommendations

    • Thought to be an imbalance in kapha. Avoid dairy foods, salty and sweet foods, cold drinks and fried foods and caffeine. The following herbs will help rebalance Kapha, dandelion, hops, milk thistle, oregon grape and turmeric.
    • Gotu Kola has been used traditionally in India for the treatment of patches of eczema. Mix powdered dried leaves with water to form a paste and apply to the affected area.
    • Neem Oil has been used for eczema as has geranium (rose geranium) which is soothing for inflammation and skin problems including eczema.
    • Pine Essential Oil helps clear skin conditions including congested skin in eczema. Sandalwood has also been used for eczema.

    Always add oils to a carrier oil such as almond oil before using on skin.