Clinical aromatherapist Dorene Petersen recommends her favorite essential oils to help soothe the itchy nightmare of eczema. Also included is a recipe for a luscious homemade cream to soothe painful dryness.
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that plagues more than 30 million Americans, according to the National Eczema Organization.
Though there are plenty of over-the-counter and prescription treatments, there are many alternative therapies that can also help soothe eczema, including essential oils.
“There is research out there that shows that essential oils can be used to effectively ease skin conditions,” says clinical aromatherapist Dorene Petersen. “Though they can be used to soothe a variety of inflammatory responses occurring in the body, essential oils have the most impact addressing chronic conditions like those in the skin.”
Petersen, who is president of the Portland, Oregon-based American College of Healthcare Sciences, which offers one of the few accredited programs in integrative health and wellness available in the U.S., sat down with S&H and shared her favorite essentials oils to use to help relieve eczema. “However, don’t use directly on the skin,” she warned. “Using a blend of essential oils in a fast-absorbing carrier oil is best.” (Check out Dorene’s custom blends of these essential oils to help relieve eczema.)
Immortelle, or Helichrysum aromaticum, is a plant that has been used for traditional medicinal purposes for a long time, particularly in the Mediterranean region. Oil can be harvested from the stems and leaves, while the flowers can be dried to be used medicinally.
“One of my top oils to help treat eczema is immortelle, also known as helichrysum—it's just one of those oils that is fairly amazing at everything when it comes to the skin. It's very good as an antioxidant as well,” Petersen says.
Studies show that immortelle is effective as an anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibiotic, and even has regenerative properties as it can be used to heal injured skin including minor cuts, burns, boils, and insect bites. The essential oil can also be used to ease not only eczema, but other chronic inflammatory skin conditions like dermatitis, acne, and rosacea, according to Petersen.
Moreover, not only does it protect against UV damage, it can also reduce the appearance of fine lines and is a common ingredient in expensive, anti-aging facial creams and serums.
Roman chamomile, or Chamaemelum nobile, is a powerhouse essential oil for the skin that has some solid research backing its success in treating various skin ailments. It can also be used to relieve digestive upset, ease anxiety and depression, and even to promote sleep.
“One oil that I’ve had great results with eczema is chamomile, which is a really powerful anti-inflammatory that’s both soothing and healing,” Petersen says. “It’s also an oil that’s excellent at soothing dry skin, which is important if you have eczema, and is good at calming flares.”
Though Roman chamomile is a great healing oil for eczema, German chamomile, or Chamomilla recutita, can also ease eczema. “If you can’t find Roman just use German, which is also good for the skin. They have different constituent profiles, so if you use both you’ll make sure all of your bases are covered,” Petersen says.
One big caution, however, is that if you are allergic to daisies, ragweed, or marigolds, you may also be allergic to chamomile oil.
Petersen also recommends yarrow essential oil to reduce inflammation in skin damaged by eczema.
“I love yarrow for the skin. Though most of the research has been done on mice in terms of its effectiveness as an anti-inflammatory, I’ve had enough success with it to recommend,” she says.
Yarrow is a perennial herb that is sometimes considered a weed; you can find its long-stemmed clusters of white or yellow flowers growing most anywhere. According to Jade Shutes in the International Journal of Professional Holistic Aromatherapy, yarrow got its name, Achillea millefolium, from Greek hero Achilles who reportedly used it to stanch the bleeding wounds of both himself and his soldiers during the Trojan War.
The essential oil can also be used to heal scars and acne, ease anxiety, and address menstrual issues. Yarrow’s anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic property is azulene, the same volatile oil found in chamomile, so again take care if you already are allergic to ragweed and related plants.
*Before using essential oils, please consult your doctor or other health practitioner.
If you have eczema, you know what an itchy annoyance it can be. I was blissfully unaware of this until recently. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had to continually deal with things like chronic neck pain, IBS, and now eczema.
As it happens I make my own homemade creams and balms, so once my dermatologist pointed out the eczema underneath my wedding ring and the patches on my wrists, I set about making my own cream, the recipe for which you can find below. As always, do a skin patch test first to make sure none of the essential oils are irritating.
Soothing Eczema Cream
- 1/4 cup shea butter
- 1/4 cup cocoa butter
- 1/4 cup coconut oil
- 2 tbsp oat oil
- 2 tbsp avocado oil
- 15 drops Lavender essential oil
- 10 drops Roman Chamomile essential oil
- 10 drops Helichrysum essential oil
- 10 drops Frankincense essential oil
1. Put equal parts shea and cocoa butter in bowl along with coconut, avocado, and oat oil.
2. Melt butters and oils slowly in double-boiler or in glass bowl over pot of boiling water.
3. Cool down to room temperature and put bowl into refrigerator for about an hour. After an hour, mixture should be semi-solid.
4. Use hand-mixer to whip butter and oil into a cream. Add essential oils and whip again.