Eczema is the welling of the outer skin of unknown cause. In the early stages the skin may be itchy, red, have small blisters, and be swollen, and weeping. Later it becomes crusted, scaly, and thickened. Eczema is not a distinct disease.
Eczema is used synonymously with dermatitis. There are four classifications of this group of skin disease:
- contact dermatitis being either toxic or allergic in origin
- atopic dermatitis (eczema)
- seborrheic dermatitis
Most forms of dermatitis are associated with allergic tendencies – such as fool allergies to dairy products or gluten. Other forms of dermatitis are the result of handling something with which the skin develops a reaction.
Dermatitis and eczema can appear for the first time or worsen during periods of emotional stress, or when overtired or run down. The patient may often develop hypersensitivity to many substances. Fortunately these hypersensitivities are mostly reversible. The treatment should include eliminating the causative agent and soothing the skin.
Atopic dermatitis or eczema
A chronic itching, superficial inflammation of the skin, usually occurring in individuals with a personal or family history of allergic disorders such as hay fever and asthma
An inflammatory scaling disease of the scalp, face, and occasionally other areas of the body.
Despite the name, the composition and flow of sebum are normal. Onset in adults is gradual, and the dermatitis is apparent only as dry or greasy diffuse scaling of the scalp (dandruff) with variable itching. In severe cases yellow-red, scaling papules appear along the hairline, behind the ears, in the external auditory canals, on the eyebrows, on the bridge of the nose, in the naso-labial folds, and over the sternum. Seborrheic dermatitis does not cause hair loss.
Lifestyle and dietary factors are important. Check for allergies, both in diet and to contact. In particular, be wary of dairy products, especially in childhood eczema.
Obesity, poor circulation and lack of exercise allow stagnation of the periphery to occur and will exacerbate eczematous conditions. Constipation is often a common underlying problem.
Since eczema is so varied there are many essential oils that are suitable for its treatment. The treatment should focus on removing the cause, and treating the skin according to its existing state. This often means:
- removing any known allergen
- as eczema is an inflammatory skin condition, essentials oils may be sued for their anti-inflammatory properties
- preventing infection from occurring by using antimicrobial essentials oils
- eczema is often an attempt by the body to throw off accumulated toxins through the skin
- stress is usually involved in most cases of eczema, therefore essentials will pay an important role in reducing the level of stress
It is also important to treat the clinical type of stage of eczema appropriately. The basic rule for treating acute weeping eczema is “wet on wet”. This means using solutions, baths, wet dressing containing essentials oils for 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a day. Moist compresses are needed until the weeping stage and acute inflammation has passed. The compresses or dressing should be loose, moist and allow plenty of evaporation.
With chronic dry lesions the essential oils are best applied topically using ointments or creams.
- The approaches to childhood an adult eczema are somewhat different. The severe exclusion diets used in adult eczema are not always suitable for children and care should be taken when using them. Children should not be put on rigid exclusion diets without expert guidance. However, the avoidance of common allergens such as cow’s milk, eggs, cheese, food additives and sugars can safely be undertaken. Safe foods such as meat, vegetables, fruit, and rice can be eaten instead.
- Test or investigate for food or chemical hypersensitivity. Common contact sensitivities are as follows: cosmetics, hair dyes, shampoos, fragrances, insecticides, aerosol allergens such as polishes, nasal sprays, synthetic resins, earrings (nickel allergy), toothpastes, salicylate rich foods, deodorants, detergents, soaps, lanolin derivatives.
- Reduce animal fat intake from dairy products and remove the fat from meat. Also remember that all margarines may be chemically no better than animal fats.
- Include high quality cold pressed sunflower, safflower or linseed oil in the diet. The use of evening primrose oil normalizes the essential fatty acid imbalances and reduces symptoms of eczema.
- A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids is recommended. This can be achieved by either fish oil supplements or by eating more cold water fish (e.g., mackerel, herring and salmon). This increases the eicosapentaenoic acid level which has been shown to reduce the incidence of eczema.
- A diet high in fruit and vegetables is recommended
- Detoxifying and blood purifying herbs such as burdock, nettle, yellow dock and red clover have been traditionally sued for treating eczema
Breath-taking antagonism. Mental eruptions. Holding on to feelings of anxiety, being attached, then erupting like a trapped rat.
The Mosby Medical Encyclopedia, Revised Edition
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, Salvatore Battaglia