When those painful, itchy patches of eczema and psoriasis erupt, doctors of natural medicine ask, ‘what is causing this condition to present at this time?’
The Greek translation of eczema means “to boil out,” so the question makes sense: holistic physicians look for the underlying root causes that bring about these skin eruptions.
Although they create similar discomforts for the people afflicted, psoriasis and eczema are different in important ways.
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune condition that results in an overproduction of skin cells. As the dead skin cells build-up, they form thick, scaly white patches that are visible on the skin’s surface. The skin itches terribly and is inflamed.
Eczema (aka atopic dermatitis) also can be chronic, but it tends to come and go in response to certain triggers. Triggers may include weather changes and exposure to cosmetics and or topical treatments that contain fragrances, preservatives, and neomycin.
Eczema is common in infants and children, and may even go dormant for a time. Some people, however, suffer terribly throughout their lifetime. When eczema is active, skin is inflamed, dry, peeling and may blister.
From the natural medicine perspective, root causes of eczema and psoriasis include:
- Food sensitivity/ allergy
- Deficiency in one or more minerals
- Low-quality diet (high in saturated fats, processed foods, sugar, etc.)
- Poor gut health/ Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Emotional/ Mental Stress
- Exposure to toxins and/or inadequate ability to detoxify
Conventional treatment plans typically use steroids to simply manage symptoms (i.e., itching); however, there are harmful side effects, such as suppressing overall immunity, that must be considered.
Natural therapies, on the other hand, work to correct the underlying imbalance that caused the body to react in the first place, offering relief without the unwanted side effects of steroid treatments.
One or more of the following natural therapies may be part of an individualized treatment plan:
- Dietary changes to include more nutrient dense, clean foods
- Remove foods from the diet that cause inflammation
- Nutritional supplements to restore balance or deficiency (e.g., zinc, vitamin D/ E/ A; some research has shown that 1,000 IU of Vitamin D daily during the winter may be beneficial for people with atopic dermatitis)
- Balance gut flora using probiotics and other approaches
- Increase intake of Essential Fatty Acids, which are important to skin health
- Provide support for mental/emotional stress
- Identify and minimize toxin exposure
- Support liver function, the body’s detox organ
Additionally, to temporarily soothe symptoms, you might consider nourishing the skin with herbal salves and essential oil baths specific to individual needs. Some common botanical ingredients are calendula, lavender, chamomile, rose, Manuka honey, tea tree, among many others.
Calendula, the sunset-hued flower featured in the image above and in the newsletter, is an excellent ingredient in a healing salve. You can make your own with this easy recipe. (If you’d prefer to just buy it, this is also a great option.)
Beeswax acts as a preservative, giving this salve a shelf life of about six months. After that time, it will develop a rancid odor letting you know it’s shelf life has expired. Store the salve in an airtight container, in a cool dry place, away from heat or direct light, especially sunlight.
2 oz Calendula Flowers + 1 cup Olive Oil
1 oz shaved beeswax (or beeswax pastilles)
- Put the flowers and oil in a small stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pot and place a thermometer into the mixture.
- Heat to 120 degrees F and “cook” at this temp for 1 hour. Stir every 15 minutes.
- Strain the oil.
- Put the fixed oil into a stainless steel, glass, or ceramic pot; add the shaved beeswax. Warm until wax melts.
- Test consistency with a metal spoon: Dip the spoon in mixture and place into freezer for 3-5 minutes. Add either more beeswax or oil if needed to reach desired consistency.
- Put into an airtight container; allow to cool and harden completely before moving into storage.
- Label and date the salve.
Adding a few drops of Vitamin E oil will help preserve the salve, increasing its shelf-life.
If, after being in the freezer, the salve is too hard to spread easily on the skin and be absorbed, add more oil. If the salve comes out softer or too liquidy, add more beeswax.
Hardness or softness of the salve is both a personal preference and relevant to the purposes intended for the final product (e.g., on rough elbows you may want a harder salve. For diaper rash, you may want a softer product).