Dietary Supplements -- Herbs
Herbs, like drugs, may produce side effects or interact with other medications. They should, therefore, be used with caution and only under the guidance of a professionally trained and qualified herbalist.
Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) Oil
Evening primrose seed oil (EPO) is used primarily to relieve the itchiness associated with certain skin conditions, including eczema. Results of studies regarding EPO for eczema are mixed. Similar to GLA (see Nutrition and Dietary Supplements section), an omega-6 fatty acid that is derived from EPO, whether EPO relieves the symptoms of eczema may be very individual. Talk to your healthcare provider to decide if it is safe and worthwhile for you to try EPO for your eczema.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
Known mainly for its relaxing effects to aid with anxiety and insomnia, some herbal specialists prescribe oral lavender for skin conditions like eczema. In one study of topical lavender, however, children with eczema who received massage with or without lavender oil applied to the skin both did well. In other words, the improvement in the rash was related to the massage â€“ whether lavender oil was used or not seemed to make no difference. To the extent that eczema is worsened by stress, it is possible that lavender adds some benefit by helping you relax.
Herbs that have been used traditionally to treat eczema are listed below. A naturopathic doctor or other herbal specialist might recommend one or more of these remedies after evaluating you and your eczema.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa) â€“ applied topically for skin inflammations
German chamomile (Matricaria recutita) â€“ may reduce inflammation and speed wound healing
Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) â€“ applied topically for wound healing; has anti-inflammatory properties
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) â€“ has anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as an ointment for this skin condition
Roman chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile) â€“ may ease discomfort associated with eczema
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
Supplements to consider and discuss with your healthcare provider include:
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
GLA is an omega-6 essential fatty acid. Studies are mixed, but there is some evidence that the metabolism of essential fatty acids is abnormal in people with eczema, resulting in low levels of GLA. Several early studies suggested that GLA derived from evening primrose oil (EPO) is beneficial for relieving symptoms associated with this skin condition such as itching, redness, and scaling. However, more recent studies have not had the same positive results. Whether or not GLA or EPO supplements work for eczema may be very individual. Interestingly, preliminary studies show that pretreatment of skin with fatty acid-rich creams can reduce the severity of eczema or prevent eczema entirely.
Probiotics, or "good" bacteria, inhabit the intestines and protect against the proliferation of "bad" organisms that can cause disease. Studies suggest that gut bacteria in babies at high risk for allergic disorders may be different from that of other babies. Two well-designed studies of mother-infant pairs showed that babies of mothers who took probiotics while pregnant and breastfeeding were less likely to have eczema in the first two years of life. The most commonly used probiotics are Lactobacillus species.
Sulfur is found abundantly in keratin, a protein that strengthens hair, nails, and skin. Sulfur baths, and other forms of sulfur applied directly to the skin, seem to benefit eczema. Use of sulfur as a supplement is not currently recommended for children.
Eczema is one of the symptoms of zinc deficiency, but there is no indication that oral supplementation with zinc helps treat eczema.
Although evidence is limited or conflicting, the following may also be useful for eczema: