Traditionally herbal treatment of eczema would be two fold an external preparation to alleviate symptoms and an internal medicine to ‘cleanse the blood’.
Traditional blood cleansers would have been dandelion, burdock, yellow dock and nettle.
Modern herbal medicine treatment is very similar, although we now know that the blood cleansers are allowing the liver to detoxify, reducing circulating metabolites, decreasing inflammation and inflammatory markers.
An easy and safe remedy to try at home
An easy and safe remedy to try at home is nettle leaf tea. You can either gather your own (in the spring or summer) or buy the tea bags at a health food shop or supermarket.
I recommend drinking three cups a day.
External treatments for eczema
External treatments for eczema are many and varied but they usually consist of herbs that are antimicrobial (to stop infection within the eczema site), anti-inflammatory herbs (to alleviate the redness and swelling at the eczema site), and often an anti-pruritic (or anti-itch).
A study of 72 patients with moderate eczema showed that when half of the patients were given a chamomile cream, and half were given a hydrocortisone cream, they were equally effective.
Chamomile is one of the key herbs that I use in my practice for eczema. A cold, used, chamomile tea bag can be effective and relieving the itch and inflammation on very irritated eczema where the skin is completely broken.
Another study showed that St John’s wort when used topically on eczema can reduce inflammation and the condition of skin in the area. A study of 28 patients with moderate eczema used the St John’s wort cream in comparison to a plain cream. The St John’s wort cream was more effective and decreased the eczema symptoms.
This is a question that I get asked quite a lot so I thought I would write about a few herbal remedies for children.
So are herbs suitable for children?
The easy answer is yes, but with all things there should be an element of caution. If you are ever unsure whether herbs are appropriate, please speak to your local herbalist. If a child is undergoing treatment for a medical condition, it is important to get advice from a herbalist before starting home treatment.
The most common condition that I get asked about is eczema, and that really deserves a whole blog of it’s own (which I will be writing shortly). But here are a few tips to try before considering going to see a herbalist for treatment.
1. Eczema in children is often linked to dairy intake, in particular cow’s milk. Try switching to a goat milk for a period of a few weeks and see if there’s an improvement. Don’t be tempted to switch to soy milk, this can have the same effect as cow’s milk.
2. To reduce the itch, try chamomile and oat baths. Fill an old sock with oats and a handful of chamomile flowers (if you don’t have these you can use chamomile tea bags (6 should do it)). Tie the old sock over the hot tap of the bath so that the water runs through it. When the bath is full squeeze the excess water out of the sock (you should get a lovely foamy, creamy liquid come out).
3. Ensure that the eczema gets air to it and is allowed to dry out, try to ensure it’s not scratched (I know this can be difficult). A cold (used) chamomile tea bag can be applied to particular hot areas of eczema to provide relief (remember to dry the area well afterwards).
Another question I get asked is, how can I get my child to take herbs?
And this doesn’t just go for children, there are plenty of my adult patients who don’t like the taste of herbs! Here is my recipe for cold and flu fighting lollies.
Cold and flu fighting ice lollies
Getting children to take any form of medicine can be challenging but immune boosting ice lollies always go down well.
Based on 900ml worth of lolly mix making 6 lollies (adjust accordingly if your lolly mould is smaller).
You can use a ginger syrup or tincture if you have it (2tsp to the mix), or 15g of grated ginger (about a thumb size piece).
1tsp lemon juice
Add in 6ml of Echinacea tincture (for ages 6+ only) – Optional
Add in 200ml of elderflower infusion (2tsp to 1 cup of water) with 2 tsp of honey dissolved in it.
Add 690ml of fruit juice of your choice.
Mix together and pour into the lolly moulds, once frozen two lollies can be given a day to treat a cold in a child of 6+ (up to four daily if over 10yrs or no Echinacea in the mix).
(These can also be used for adults who won’t take medicine in a liquid form, double the amount of Echinacea and elderflower and reduce the amount of fruit juice).
What about helping children to sleep?
Children respond very well to herbal baths, so why not try some lavender flowers, chamomile flowers, and oats. You can use the old sock trick described above. This can help children relax before bed.
Another excellent remedy for children who struggle with getting to sleep, try a small amount of cold chamomile tea. Add to fruit juice or a hot drink to disguise the taste, and have at the last drink time before bed.
For more information about children’s remedies I thoroughly recommend Aviva Romm’s website. She is a herbalist and doctor and has some excellent tips and recipes. http://avivaromm.com/
2. A systemic Cochrane review was conducted looking at 49 trials (with a total of 5980 people) looking at osteoarthritis and the effectiveness of frankincense taken internally. The review found that frankincense was effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis but that further study was needed. (49 trials and 5980 people showing a positive effect was obviously not enough to draw a positive conclusion).
I also wanted to take a moment to talk about the ‘scare mongering’ regarding health topics in the news.
Firstly it’s important to remember that these stories are often written by people who do not have any medical knowledge at all. A set of statistics are looked at by a researcher and they are written into a story.
Secondly, stories that have headlines like “bacon gives you cancer”, is trying to make money. It is not trying to provide any useful information about the science behind that claim.
There are doctors, medical researcher’s and other health professionals working on research studies of their own and looking an analysing other studies for merit and ways to understand more about health. For that to work that science has to be conducted without the input of someone trying to make money (i.e. drug companies). Unfortunately studies require a lot of money and the only people with the money are the drug companies. This means that the majority of medical research is biased.
My advice would be to take your medical advice from your doctor or health care professional and not the news or internet.
I began my journey in herbal medicine in 2001, and since then I have dreamed of having my own clinic. While working in different clinics in different parts of the country have been rewarding, there’s nothing like having one of your very own.
My new clinic is based in my home in Wellington, Somerset.
My main clinic days are Mondays and Tuesdays from 8am until 6pm but I also have clinics on other days, for more details click here.
If you would like to book an appointment or find out more information please call 07946150721 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Clostridium difficile is a bacterial infection that is often present in hospitals and health care environments and can cause diarrhoea and fever. A new study has found that pomegranate reduced the C. difficile bacteria and could be used as a preventative.
A natural cream is one that does not use chemical based ingredients as fillers or preservatives.
Why use a natural cream?
Some people with sensitive skin are allergic to the chemical ingredients within creams. Or you may want to reduce the chemicals that you are coming into contact with as part of a healthy lifestyle.
What is the difference between a cream and an ointment?
The short answer to that is water. There are no water based ingredients within an ointment, only oil and beeswax.
When would you use an ointment?
An ointment is a much heavier application, it sits on the surface of the skin for much longer and does penetrate very far into the layers of skin. This can be really useful for slow release actions such as pain relieving. A chilli ointment for example, could be applied at before bed to provide pain relief throughout the night.
When would you use a cream?
Creams vary depending on their ingredients but in general they are much lighter than ointments and penetrate further into the layers of skin. They tend to soak in and don’t leave a film on the skin. They can have many uses from moisturising face creams to anti-inflammatory creams for sore joints and muscles.
How can I make a natural cream?
There are lots of herbal cream recipes around, but this is one that is a classic traditional herbal cream. Change the water component and the type of infused oil in the recipe below to change the type of cream. E.g. chamomile infused oil with a chickweed infusion for eczema. Change the infusion and oil to plantain for an easy and safe nappy rash cream (remove the benzoin essential oil).
Traditional herbal cream recipe
50ml herbal infused oil
Benzoin essential oil (2 drops) (to act as a natural preservative)
Melt the beeswax and herbal infused oil together in a double boiler over a low heat, once fully dissolved, remove from the heat, add the rosewater/distilled witchazel or warm infusion and essential oil and beat well until the mixture begins to thicken.
Spoon the mixture into the pots and allow to cool (with the lids off), and then label and apply the lids.
This cream will last up to 3 months in the fridge, remember to check for spoiling.