More than 50 percent of patients with eczema or their or caregivers reportedly incorporate complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) into their day-to-day eczema management. This high prevalence for CAM use in the eczema community is likely due to a constellation of factors.
Parents grow frustrated (and understandably so) with the chronicity and remitting nature of eczema. There are concerns about significant side effects with long-term “Western” medicine use, especially topical steroids, and the lack of targeted and safer options for more severe eczema cases.
Up until the past two decades, the use of CAM for eczema was based mostly on anecdotes. Even today, the quality of research evidence on CAM for eczema varies greatly. While some new research studies have good design and convincing results, others lack sufficient design.
Let’s take a look at some evidence-based CAM approaches and misconceptions of CAM for eczema.
See Dr. Shi Speak live at Eczema Expo 2019!
- Natural oils for eczema: Which ones are safe and effective?
- Even bathing is complicated when you have eczema
- Probiotics: What are they and do they really help eczema?
- Elimination diets and the food allergy/eczema connection
- What’s on the horizon for alternative eczema treatments?
- 25 Best Essential Oils for Eczema & Psoriasis (2020 Review)
- Why Use Essential Oils to Treat Eczema and Psoriasis?
- How to Use Essential Oils to Treat Eczema and Psoriasis
- Treatment Options
- 25 Best Essential Oils for Eczema and Psoriasis (Our Selection for 2020)
- 1. Angelica Essential Oil
- 2. Bergamot Essential Oil
- 3. Cajeput Essential Oil
- 4. Chamomile Essential Oil
- 5. Copaiba Essential Oil
- 6. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
- 7. Geranium Essential Oil
- 8. Helichrysum Essential Oil
- 9. Juniper Essential Oil
- 10. Lavender Essential Oil
- 11. Myrrh Essential Oil
- 12. Neroli Essential Oil
- 13. Patchouli Essential Oil
- 14. Peppermint Essential Oil
- 15. Rose Essential Oil
- 16. Rosemary Essential Oil
- 17. Sandalwood Essential Oil
- 18. Tea Tree Essential Oil
- 19. Thyme Essential Oil
- Other Oils That Help Relieve Eczema and Psoriasis
- The Verdict
- Can tea tree oil treat eczema?
- Eczema, dermatitis, and skin inflammation
- Essential oils for eczema: What the research has to say
- How to use these oils
- Robert Tisserand’s skin blend for kids
- Treating underlying eczema causes: Allergies & Mites
- Treating underlying eczema causes #2: Bacterial infections
- Treating underlying eczema causes #3: Fungal infections
- Ingesting carrier oils?
- Best Essential Oils for Eczema
- Essential Oils Offer Natural Healing
- Essential Oils for Eczema
- A Carrier Oil for Pairing
- What Causes Eczema?
- Essential Oils For Eczema
- Essential Oils for Eczema and Dermatitis
- 10 aromatherapy oils for soothing common skin conditions
- 1. Bergamot oil
- 2. Chamomile oil
- 3. Cinnamon oil
- 4. Clove Bud oil
- 5. Eucalyptus oil
- 6. Lavender oil
- 7. Lemongrass oil
- 8. Oregano oil
- 9. Peppermint oil
- 10. Tea Tree oil
- Introduction To Essential Oils – How Essential Oils Affect The Body
- The new oil boom
- But can they improve your health?
- Are they safe?
- How to safely use essential oils around your children
- Can Essential Oils Help Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis?
- The Importance of Diluting Essential Oils
- The Potential Health Benefits of Essential Oils for Eczema
- The Potential Health Risks of Essential Oils for People With Eczema
- Why It’s Critical to Talk to Your Dermatologist Before Using Essential Oils for Eczema
- The 6 Best Essential Oils For Eczema
- How do I use essential oils?
- How do I know which essential oils to use?
Natural oils for eczema: Which ones are safe and effective?
Natural oil has been used in skin care for centuries. A good number of natural oils have beneficial fatty acids that help to repair the skin’s natural barrier, which is defective in patients with eczema.
But not all natural oils are good for our skin. Some can be irritating and may even worsen eczema. The plant source, composition and the ways that natural oils are extracted determine their benefit and harm.
Cold-pressed (also known as “virgin”) fixed oils are made by extracting oil from seeds or nuts without adding chemicals or heat, and therefore tend to be safer for skin use.
On the other hand, essential oils are extracted through steam-distillation of aromatic flowers or leaves. Heat and chemicals added during essential oil extraction can produce irritating compounds, and therefore should be avoided for skin use.
Several natural oils have been found to be safe and beneficial alternative moisturizers. Virgin coconut oil contains monolaurin, a fatty acid that mitigates Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as the “Staph” bacterium) colonization that can typically develop in eczema patients.
Virgin coconut oil is also superior in improving eczema compared to mineral oil (the main constituent in commercially available baby oil). Virgin sunflower seed oil has anti-inflammatory properties to help soothe itchy and inflamed eczema skin, and can improve skin hydration and preserve the integrity of the skin’s natural barrier.
Jojoba oil and borage seed oil have also been studied with promising results and appear to be as safe as a moisturizer. However, not all natural oils are good to use on eczema skin. For example, olive oil can disrupt the skin’s natural barrier when used as a moisturizer. This is likely because it contains irritating fatty acids such as oleic acids.
Hear Dr. Shi talk about alternative and complimentary therapies at Eczema Expo ’18.
Even bathing is complicated when you have eczema
Bathing in eczema patients can be quite an art form. Many of us may not realize that good bathing takes more than a tub of water and soap, and does far more than rinsing off dirt, grease and body odor.
Daily bathing rinses off substances such as irritants, allergens and germs that may flare eczema. That said, water and soap strips the natural oil that coats our skin surface and can make us more prone to eczema flares. Therefore, bathing for 10 minutes or less daily with lukewarm water and a limited amount of gentle soap is recommended.
There is ample research demonstrating that what lies in our bathwater can both benefit and harm eczema skin. A recent study found that bathing with hard water (high in calcium, magnesium, bromide and chloride) can increase skin deposition of an irritating chemical (sodium lauryl sulfate) that is commonly found in soaps, further irritating eczema skin.
It would make sense that installing water-softening machines might minimize the negative effects of hard water on eczema skin, but available research has not been able to prove this.
Several additives in bathwater can improve eczema. The most well-known and widely used bathing additive is bleach. The recommendation by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) is to add a half cup of regular strength (6 percent) bleach to a full tub of water, or one teaspoon of bleach per gallon of water for babies.
Bleach baths should be taken for five to 10 minutes two to three times weekly followed by tap water to rinse off the bleach water. Bleach baths were previously thought to improve eczema by lowering bacterial counts on the skin surface, but recent research data have shown conflicting results.
It also appears that bleach may improve eczema by alternative mechanisms, such as directly decreasing itch sensation and skin inflammation.
Balneotherapy is the practice of bathing in water with high mineral content along with relaxation techniques and dates back to the 9th century BC. Dead Sea salt bath in conjunction with regular ultraviolet light type B treatment (UVB phototherapy) can improve eczema more than light treatment alone.
However, it remains a puzzle as to why Dead Sea salt, which has many of the same minerals found in hard water, is good for eczema skin.
Oats have anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds such as avenanthramides (a polyphenol) and vitamin E. Oat powder mixed with warm water turns oats into a colloidal mixture that deposits onto the skin’s surface to create a protective barrier to soothe the skin.
Similarly, a daily rice starch bath can improve eczema and skin barrier function. This is likely because rice bran, the outer layer of a rice kernel, can decrease skin inflammation, repair the skin barrier and lower skin irritation in eczema patients.
Additionally, beneficial natural oils can be added to bath water to help limit skin irritation caused by bathing, but we should be mindful that grease will coat the bathtub and can increase the risk for slipping and falls.
Probiotics: What are they and do they really help eczema?
Our intestines and skin are naturally studded with trillions of bacteria. The bacteria and their metabolites is known as microbiome. A balanced microbiome is essential for good health.
We now know that eczema patients have an imbalance of bacterial make-up in the gut and skin, a term called dysbiosis, with too many harmful bacterial and too few beneficial ones. Recent research has shown that taking probiotics (live, beneficial bacteria) orally can improve eczema.
Probiotics are thought to work by rebalancing the microbiome and decreasing inflammatory responses. So how do we choose the right probiotics among the many commercially available ones?
More research is needed to find the optimal daily probiotic dose, but a recently published research article shows that 10^9 (10 to the 9th power) total colony forming units (CFU) of probiotics that contain mixed Lactobaccillus and Bifidobacillus species can improve eczema severity and reduce the need for topical steroid use.
Mixed strains that have more than one type of bacteria appear to be more beneficial than single strained probiotics. A meta-analysis published in 2016 reports that synbiotics (probiotics + prebiotics) appear to be more beneficial than probiotics alone.
We also want to choose a probiotic product that comes with prebiotics, which are the sugars that bacteria use as fuel and are not digestible by humans.
Elimination diets and the food allergy/eczema connection
An estimated 75 percent of children with eczema have been subjected to dietary modifications by their parents. Elimination diets are dietary plans in which certain foods that are thought to cause allergies and other digestive reactions are selectively eliminated, and is the most commonly practiced dietary modification in eczema patients.
Although research data is mixed on the value and food selection of elimination diets in eczema, it should only be implemented in cases where true food allergies have been proven by allergy testing using gold standard tests. Unfortunately, these food allergy tests are difficult to perform in a doctor’s office routinely, as they require multiple blood and skin tests.
Elimination diets should be implemented very cautiously by well-trained and experienced providers, as food eliminations, even in limited food items such as dairy and eggs, can pose risks of malnutrition and lowered ability to repair the already damaged skin barrier.
Recent guidelines from the AAD recommend food allergy testing for children younger than 5 years old with atopic dermatitis and intractable itching. The collective evidence on the benefit of elimination diets in eczema patients is inconclusive.
But what we do know that strict diet modification (without previously proven food allergy testing or a good history of a true food allergy) is not helpful and may place the child/patient at risk for a nutritional deficiency.
What’s on the horizon for alternative eczema treatments?
While the rising incidence of eczema appears to have reached a plateau in countries that previously had the highest incidence of growth, such as the U.K., New Zealand and U.S., it is still on the rise in developing parts of the world such as Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Novel and evidence-based treatment approaches are needed to meet the growing needs of eczema patients worldwide. Despite major advances in scientific discovery, we are still in the infancy of understanding the complex factors that cause eczema.
As our knowledge of eczema continues to grow, we expect to see the emergence of more robust research and effective treatment modalities. I think most of my colleagues that are trained in Western medicine would agree that CAM should be used strategically in conjunction with conventional medications to optimize outcomes in eczema.
We are entering an exciting era for eczema where we have a surge of targeted Western medications under investigation, and ancient CAM modalities are now being evaluated and backed by evidence-based research.
Dr. Vivian Shi is a board-certified dermatologist and an Assistant Professor of Medicine in Dermatology at the University of Arizona where she directs the Eczema and Skin Barrier Specialty Clinic. She has extensive clinical and research experience in eczema and repair of the skin’s natural protective barrier. Her principal focus is atopic dermatitis (AD) and she’s a longtime AD sufferer herself.
Dermveda integrates traditional and modern medicine to create personalized information about holistic skin wellness. Our online platform provides skin resources, including functional education, tools, products, and directories. With a team of dermatologists and physicians in collaboration with alternative medical practitioners, Dermveda brings a new interdisciplinary approach to skin care.
25 Best Essential Oils for Eczema & Psoriasis (2020 Review)
Last Updated on December 18, 2019
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Did you know that eczema and psoriasis affect about 42.5 million Americans? If you are suffering from one of these diseases, then you know about the pain and discomfort that is associated with them. So, what do you do to treat it?
While there are a lot of prescription drugs on the market for these skin disorders, none of them cure the issue completely, and they all have side effects. If you are still looking for some relief, it is a good idea to try some essential oils.
To treat eczema, an increasing number of people are turning away from conventional Western medicine and adding essential oils to their daily regimen. These oils act as a holistic healing agent that looks at the bigger picture of the skin conditions.
Essential oils have anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing properties that can help promote healing and create a lasting change to improve your skin for good. Here, we will talk about the 25 best essential oils on the market today to treat eczema and psoriasis.
Don’t have time to read the entire post?
Here are our top choices for essential oils for energy (plus their Amazon links)!
Why Use Essential Oils to Treat Eczema and Psoriasis?
Using an all-natural approach to treating eczema and psoriasis can not only help soothe the skin, it can also help manage emotions that may trigger a flare-up.
A lot of oils are known to be helpful due to their detoxifying effects, moisturizing ability, stress-relieving properties, and antibacterial properties. Research has shown that specific oils can significantly decrease the pain associated with these skin disorders.
How to Use Essential Oils to Treat Eczema and Psoriasis
Eczema is a complex inflammatory skin condition that causes very itchy patches of skin that can be dry, flaky, or oozing. Some immunological abnormalities are associated with eczema, which is also known as atopic dermatitis. Suspected causes of eczema include allergies, genetics, irritation, parasites, stress, and lifestyle issues.
To use essential oils for treatment, you should focus on anti-inflammatory and soothing agents, while keeping in mind that treatment will be very individualized.
Essential oils that have sesquiterpene hydrocarbons and alcohols, especially alpha-bisobolol, are best for the treatment of eczema. When botanical extracts are also included, the therapeutic benefits and soothing qualities are enhanced.
Some common botanical extracts include vegetable and fruit oils, butter, and herbs. These contain healthy omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and are great for soothing irritated skin.
Psoriasis can be mild or severe, and can cover the body and even require emergency treatment. This chronic skin disease consists of red patches that come together to form plaques that have distinct borders. This condition makes skin cells proliferate quickly, leading to flare-ups of psoriasis.
Psoriasis can be triggered by stress, and likely has a hereditary component. Research also shows that dietary deficiencies of sulfur and essential fatty acids can lead to psoriasis. Psoriasis is also related to an overall poor diet, immune deficiencies, and emotional troubles.
Treatment for psoriasis with essential oils is similar to the treatment of eczema. The only difference is the incorporation of more essential oils that can soothe the nerves, especially oils that contain a high amount of esters.
1. Fill your bathtub with warm water.
While your bathtub is filling up, combine 1 tsp of your oil of choice with 1 cup of finely ground rolled oats. Add this mixture to your bath and mix it around so it is evenly dispersed.
Allow yourself to soak in the bath for half an hour, and during this time, gently rub the oatmeal mixture onto your skin. Do not scrub your skin harshly. Rather, just give it a gentle exfoliation.
2. Make a hand bath or foot bath.
Add 1 tsp of your essential oil to a basin of warm water and stir it so it is evenly mixed in. Soak your affected area for 20 minutes while simultaneously massaging your skin to increase blood flow to the area.
After you get out of the shower, and while your skin is still slightly wet, massage your oil of choice all over your body or on your affected areas.
4. Topical application.
Use your fingertip to rub your oil of choice gently over any affected areas a couple of times throughout the day. If the oil causes you discomfort, add some carrier oil so it is more diluted.
25 Best Essential Oils for Eczema and Psoriasis (Our Selection for 2020)
1. Angelica Essential Oil
Angelica is widely used as a flavoring agent in foods and drinks due to its sweet and spicy aroma. However, it also has plenty of health benefits. It works as an anti-spasmodic, battling symptoms such as cramps, muscle aches, coughs, diarrhea, and convulsions. It also aids in digestion and clearing the body of toxins.
It can help reduce fevers, and also acts as a relaxant for the body. Angelica is also good for the lymphatic system, and can effectively treat bronchitis, headaches, asthma, infections, anemia, and psoriasis. Due to the fact that it contains terpenes, this is also a great anti-seizure aid.
- Blends very well with other oils.
- Helps maintain the proper balance of acids in the stomach.
- Has a calming, deep woody scent.
- This oil should be avoided by pregnant women and people with diabetes.
- May lead to skin irritation.
- High doses may cause hyperactivity in the nervous system.
2. Bergamot Essential Oil
Bergamot has been used for centuries for a variety of uses. It comes from a delicate citrus plant that is difficult to grow because it requires a specific climate and soil to stay healthy. This oil has long been used by Italians to help reduce stress and soothe skin conditions.
Bergamot fruit can be eaten as a dessert or enjoyed with coffee because it has a sweet and enjoyable taste. This unique citrus oil can be uplifting and calming at the same time, which makes it great for reducing anxiety and depression.
Bergamot can also be used as a cleanser because it is purifying for the skin and can calm irritations. Bergamot can be diffused, used topically, or even added to your favorite beverage. Additionally, you can use it as a massage oil or add a drop or two to your skincare cleanser.
- This is a very potent oil, so you do not have to use a lot.
- The scent gives you energy without giving you jitters.
- This is a great oil to use if you want to soothe a cold.
- If you put this oil directly on your skin, it may cause irritation.
- This oil should not be used on children.
- You should not use this oil before going out in the sun.
3. Cajeput Essential Oil
Cajeput is related to tea tree oil, and has an energizing scent. It is mainly used for occasional skin irritation on the lips, but can also be used to combat cramping due to menstruation.
This is also a great oil to use to help relieve symptoms that may be caused by a seasonal illness. If you dilute Cajeput oil, it may help soothe insect bites.
- Great for muscle rubs.
- Has a very pleasant scent.
- Comes out of the bottle quickly.
- This oil is a bit pricier than others.
4. Chamomile Essential Oil
There are a lot of benefits from chamomile essential oil. It can be diffused or applied directly to the skin to help calm the mind, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and treat skin conditions.
Roman chamomile oil is an effective aid to help relieve anxiety and symptoms of depression. It can also help fight insomnia and allow users to get a good night’s sleep. It can promote heart health and, most importantly, has cancer-fighting properties.
- Has many health benefits.
- Gentle enough for children to use.
- Helps improve skin.
- Bottles tend to leak.
- Oil is not very strong, so you have to use several drops.
5. Copaiba Essential Oil
Copaiba essential oil allows the user to breathe easier, and is effective in treating asthma, bronchitis, and congestion. Copaiba works by clearing space in your lungs, which allows you to breathe easily.
In addition to helping you breathe, Copaiba also can help relieve muscle aches and soothe skin abrasions such as acne and athlete’s foot. It smells similar to honey, with the addition of hints of woodiness.
Historically, this oil has been used due to its anti-tumor and decongestant properties. The tree is native to Brazil, grows up to 100 feet tall, and has yellow flowers and reddish fruit. Resin is taken from these trees when holes are drilled into the trunk, which leads to the acquisition of the oil.
- Has an impressive seven-year shelf life.
- Dilution is typically not required.
- Great for use in baths.
- The dropper bottle tends to drip.
- The oil is thin and comes out quickly.
6. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus trees, also known as “gum trees,” are in the evergreen family. Eucalyptus oil works as an effective treatment for respiratory function, and it is also a soothing massage oil.
Eucalyptus is also purifying for the skin, and can also be used for cleaning surfaces and air fresheners.
Eucalyptus is also a great oil to have on hand if you need to reduce muscle tension and overwhelming feelings. It is often used in mouthwashes to help freshen breath and promote oral health.
If you combine this oil with others, it creates an effective DIY cleaning solution for your house. Some also love to add a few drops to their unscented moisturizers for skin rejuvenating benefits.
- This is a great oil for kids to use.
- Natural way to relieve coughs and sore throats.
- Its crisp smell is perfect for cleaning.
- This oil is a bit thin, so it comes out of the bottle quickly.
- The bottle tends to crack easily.
7. Geranium Essential Oil
This oil is made with strict standards of quality and is derived from the finest sources. Steam is distilled from the leaves of the geranium plant, creating a high-quality essential oil with no fillers.
This oil has a fresh and floral scent that is pleasant and known for its therapeutic properties. It is great for skincare, reproductive health, and tension relief. It can be applied topically by itself, or added to your favorite unscented lotion for relief. This is a high-quality and gentle product that is one of the best on the market for alleviating tension.
- This is a harmonizing, uplifting, and gentle oil.
- Has a sweet, yet subtle, scent.
- Great oil to mix with other calming oils.
- Some find that the scent is overpowering.
- Has to be diluted.
8. Helichrysum Essential Oil
Helichrysum essential oil comes from a natural medicinal plant, and has many different health benefits because of its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
It has been shown to lower inflammation due to several mechanisms, such as inflammatory enzyme inhibition, free radical scavenging, and corticoid effects.
Modern studies have confirmed what some populations have known forever: helichrysum essential oil has certain properties that make it an antioxidant, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory. Because of this, it can be used in many ways to boost health and keep diseases at bay.
Some of its most common uses include the treatment of wounds, helping cure infections, reducing digestive problems, and supporting nerve function and cardiovascular health.
- Great for sunburn relief.
- Natural cure for candida.
- Can help prevent multiple sclerosis.
- Some people do not find this oil to be effective.
- Diluted oil, so you have to use a lot.
9. Juniper Essential Oil
Detoxifying is a very popular idea these days, as the world is filled with toxins that people want to remove from their bodies. Juniper essential oil is something that you can add to your body to help with detoxification from eating junk food and exposing yourself to environmental toxins.
This oil also has a dramatic and positive effect on the skin. It has a piney and fruity smell that can help nourish and restore the nervous system and increase blood circulation. It also helps to calm the body and the mind.
Juniper fruit is actually not a berry—it is derived from the juniper cone, which takes three years to fully mature. This evergreen bush can grow up to 25 feet high, and sprouts yellow and green cones. There are over 50 species of juniper, and some can live up to 2,000 years.
The oil is obtained through steam distillation of the berries and twigs of the plant. The essential oil has therapeutic benefits, with a sweet and slightly fruity scent.
- Has a shelf life of two years.
- Has a very fresh smell.
- A little goes a long way.
- Not for internal use.
- Some people find this oil has an artificial smell.
- Cannot be applied directly to the skin.
10. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil can eliminate nervous tension, disinfect the skin, relieve pain, enhance blood circulation, and improve respiratory problems. Many people use lavender to help induce sleep, and to sleep throughout the night.
It is a relaxing oil that people often use to replace modern medical treatments for sleep. It also helps to treat stress and anxiety.
One of the best characteristics of this oil is its anti-inflammatory properties. Not only can it help reduce skin problems such as acne, it can also help treat eczema and boost overall immunity.
- Can be taken with you to freshen you car or office.
- Can be used on children to help them fall asleep.
- More potent than other brands.
- Should be avoided by pregnant women.
- This oil causes some people to be nauseous or have an allergic reaction.
- This oil should not be ingested.
11. Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh is an ancient healer for several ailments and symptoms. This remarkable essential oil has a woody and smoky smell. It helps to protect against signs of aging (such as wrinkles), and it speeds up the healing of wounds and other skin issues.
Myrrh has a great effect on both athlete’s foot and eczema. It has been used for thousands of years as an agent in helping with many things ranging from menstrual issues to weak gums.
In the West, it has often been used to help reduce asthma symptoms, treat colds, and relieve sore throats and ulcers. Myrrh resin goes through a steam distillation process to become an essential oil.
- Has a shelf life of seven years.
- Nervous system stabilizer.
- Can be mixed with other oils to create a great holiday mix.
- Should be avoided by pregnant women.
- May become fetotoxic.
12. Neroli Essential Oil
Neroli essential oil has a fragrance that can be described as a deep and intoxicating blend of citrus and floral scents. It comes directly from the flowers of an orange tree. The tree is native to eastern Africa and Asia, but it is also grown throughout the Mediterranean and in Florida and California.
Neroli essential oil has several benefits. It can help reduce inflammation and pain, reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, decrease cortisol levels, and reduce symptoms of menopause in women.
Additionally, it has antimicrobial and antioxidant properties. It can also make people appear younger due to its ability to repair skin. And it can even act as an anti-seizure medication. It is often used for homemade perfumes, in a diffuser, or as aromatherapy.
- This is a very high-quality oil.
- Has a very uplifting scent that children love.
- Some people even use this oil as a facial moisturizer.
- Bottle top tends to break.
- Scent is subtle.
- Drops come out very quickly.
13. Patchouli Essential Oil
Patchouli essential oil has many health benefits. Some of them include:
The insect repellent properties of patchouli oil have been known for a long time, but more health benefits of this essential oil have been discovered, making it one of the most versatile and popular essential oils on the market.
This oil is extracted from the leaves of the patchouli plant by steam distillation. It is often used to relieve depression, soothe inflammation, prevent infections, accelerate the healing process, stimulate blood flow, eliminate bad odors, fight fevers, and sedate hypersensitivity.
- Smell is not too overwhelming.
- Very high quality.
- Great for meditation
- Some would prefer if this oil came with a roller ball.
- This oil is a little diluted.
- Evaporates quickly.
14. Peppermint Essential Oil
Wintermint and spearmint join to make the peppermint plant, which has a high menthol content. Peppermint oil a better product than other mint essential oils, and is commonly used as an ingredient in toothpaste and chewing gum to promote proper oral hygiene.
Peppermint essential oil can also be used to soothe stomach pains and help you breathe easier. This oil is one of the most popular among essential oils.
Many people like to add a drop of peppermint essential oil to their water to create a natural mouthwash. Alternatively, you can put a few drops into an empty capsule and take it as a pill to relieve occasional stomach pain.
For a pick-me-up in the morning, you can add it to your morning smoothie. Mixing this oil with wild orange essential oil and frankincense will create an energizing combination that you can use throughout the day.
- Can be used for many different remedies.
- Can be used as a natural pain reliever.
- This oil is a little watered down.
- This is not a sweet mint.
15. Rose Essential Oil
The health benefits of rose essential oil come from its properties as an antidepressant, inflammation reducer, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, astringent, bacteria-fighter, hepatic, laxative, and stomachic substance, among other things.
Roses are often considered to be the most beautiful flowers in the world and are an integral part of many stories, legends, and myths. While some people are unaware of its medicinal properties, everyone knows that a rose can invoke romantic feelings in people. Its oil is extracted by steam distillation from fresh Damascus rose.
This oil helps fight depression, reduce inflammation, treat wounds, protect against viruses, eliminate bacteria, heal skin, purify the blood, maintain liver health, prevent excessive bleeding, and relieve anxiety.
- Very fragrant; a little goes a long way.
- Beautiful smell that induces happiness instantly.
- Smells like fresh roses.
- Some people find that it dries the skin.
- Some people find that the scent is too strong.
- This oil has caused some people to get headaches.
16. Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary oil can be used for many things, which makes it a very popular oil to have. More benefits are continuing to be uncovered, so it is getting more and more popular. People often use it to help boost their focus and concentration, stimulate hair growth, reduce pain, and even open up their sinuses.
Rosemary essential oil also helps improve digestion, oral health, and cognitive function. This is a great oil to keep with you throughout the day because it is also an effective stress reliever.
- There are a multitude of health benefits associated with this oil.
- This oil can be easily blended with others to make your own personal mixture.
- It smells very fresh.
- Some people have allergic reactions to this oil.
- Should only be used if prescribed, due to its potency.
- Should be avoided by pregnant women.
17. Sandalwood Essential Oil
Sandalwood is used in many cultures for different things and has benefits ranging from being an antiseptic to helping increase memory. It has been used for hundreds of years in many civilizations and religions, such as Hinduism, where it is considered holy and is used in social and religious rituals and ceremonies. It is also offered to Hindu gods and goddesses and used to embalm bodies.
In our modern Western world, it is used for several things. It is an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, muscle relaxant, diuretic, disinfectant, and health tonic. It is also used as a sedative, for skincare, and to treat mild coughs. This is one of the most popular and versatile essential oils on the market.
- Can be used for many things.
- This oil works as well as more expensive brands.
- Great to use in a humidifier.
- This is an oil blend, not pure oil.
- Some people find the scent is very faint.
- This is not a 100% pure product.
18. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree essential oil is well-known for its antiseptic properties and the ability to heal wounds. This volatile essential oil is mainly derived from a plant that is native to Australia, and has been used throughout Australia for over a century. Tea tree oil has recently been documented in several medical studies for its ability to kill bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
People often use this oil to make homemade cleaning products and diffusing it to help kill mold in the air. People also apply it topically to treat skin issues and use it to treat viruses.
It is often used in a variety of household and cosmetic products, such as face washes, massage oils, shampoos, skin creams, and laundry detergents. Its natural antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it a popular essential oil.
Some problems that tea tree oil is commonly used to treat include:
- Cold sores
- Chicken pox
- Fungal infections
- Head lice
- Staph infections
- Dry cuticles
- Versatile oil.
- Works very quickly.
- High-quality oil.
- Important to keep away from pets.
- Bottle tends to leak.
- Applicator is too small, so it is difficult to get out the last few drops.
19. Thyme Essential Oil
Thyme essential oil is great for increasing circulation and boosting the immune system. It is also effective in killing bacteria and treating skin ailments.
- This is a pure essential oil.
- Great to use in a diffuser.
- Smells very clean.
- Dropper lets oil out too quickly.
- Some find the smell to be too strong.
Other Oils That Help Relieve Eczema and Psoriasis
20. Andiroba Virgin Oil
This oil helps reduce skin inflammation and is great to use as a massage oil. It also helps moisturize the skin and prevent acne and psoriasis.
- Rich in essential fatty acids.
- Reduces swelling.
- Combats skin irritations.
- Some find it to be a bit too thick.
- Some people do not like the orange color of the oil.
21. Boragi Seed Oil
This is a great oil to use for the skin and hair, and is also an effective oil to use for making homemade soap. It helps promote skin elasticity, and even acts as an anti-aging agent because it reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
- Works as a great moisturizer.
- Comes with a 100% money-back guarantee.
- 100% pure oil.
- Takes a while to start working.
22. Coconut Oil
This natural oil works as a great moisturizer. It has healthy medium-chain fatty acids to help improve the health of skin. It is great for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis.
- Free from colors.
- Can be mixed with other oils.
- One of the best multi-purpose oils.
- This oil takes a bit of time to absorb into the skin.
- The bottle leaks a bit.
- Some people do not like the odor.
23. Evening Primrose Oil
This is a great oil for nourishing and protecting skin. It also has essential fatty acids that support the body’s tissues. This is a great oil to use as a massage agent.
- Promotes a healthy complexion.
- Does not include harsh chemicals or synthetic ingredients.
- Comes in a very secure bottle.
- Cannot be used by pregnant women.
- Must be refrigerated.
24. Jojoba Oil
This nutrient-dense oil helps to heal blemishes and nourish the skin. It is a great moisturizer, and can even be used for makeup removal and acne treatment.
- Has maximum healing anti-inflammatory properties.
- Effective for hair, skin, and nails.
- 100% organic.
- This oil is not as thick as others.
- Some people find this oil to be greasy.
25. Tamanu Oil
This pure nut oil is great for getting soft skin. It helps treat acne, eczema, and psoriasis very effectively. This oil is 100% pure and cold pressed.
- A little goes a long way.
- Only needs to be used once per day.
- Works quickly.
- Cannot be used by people who have a nut allergy.
- This oil is not organic.
Coconut Oil is the winner of this roundup. Not only is it very moisturizing and effective in treating eczema and psoriasis, it also has many other uses, making it a great product to have around the house.
It can be used for cooking and health benefits, and is cost-effective, so you can use it frequently without having to worry about purchasing it again and spending a lot of money.
While all of these oils are great for treating eczema and psoriasis, if you are new to essential oils, start with the coconut oil to see how you like it. Don’t keep relying on prescription drugs or other harsh chemicals to treat your skin. Buy some coconut oil today to start seeing results quickly for beautiful skin.
Found this post on using essential oils for eczema and psoriasis helpful?
Have you used any of these essential oils before? What were your results? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Your thoughts are appreciated.
Can tea tree oil treat eczema?
Share on PinterestEczema may respond well to treatment with tea tree oil.
While there are few studies specifically on tea tree oil as an eczema treatment, researchers do know quite a lot about its many skin-improving properties.
For example, a 2011 study found that tea tree oil was more effective in treating eczema than topical treatments of zinc oxide or ichthammol.
Other potential benefits of tea tree oil for eczema include:
1. Reducing inflammation
Tea tree oil contains the compound terpinen-4-ol. This compound has anti-inflammatory properties, which can help alleviate some of the redness, irritation, and swelling associated with eczema.
2. Wound healing
According to an article in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, tea tree oil reduced healing times for people with wounds infected with Staphylococcus aureus.
However, the experimental study was small, so more research needs to be done to test tea tree oil’s wound-healing abilities.
3. Reducing allergic reactions
One study found that applications of high-dose tea tree oil helped to reduce skin hypersensitivity reactions to nickel in people with a nickel allergy.
Eczema is sometimes triggered or made worse by skin allergens and irritants, such as nickel.
However, applications containing lower doses of tea tree oil did not produce the same results.
High-dose tea tree oil applications may produce unwanted side effects, especially in people with sensitive skin. A person should test the preparation on a small patch of the skin before applying to a larger area. People who are sensitive to tea tree oil can dilute it in a carrier oil.
4. Fighting off viruses
Not only can tea tree oil help to kill unwanted bacteria, but it also has antiviral properties.
An antiviral treatment, such as tea tree, can reduce the chances of an infection developing if the eczema causes broken skin or it is weeping.
5. Reducing dandruff
Tea tree oil has antifungal properties, which can help reduce the activity of specific yeasts, such as those known to cause dandruff or seborrheic dermatitis.
People also use tea tree oil to treat athlete’s foot and nail fungus.
6. Relieving itching
Itchy skin is a hallmark of eczema. One review found that tea tree oil was effective in reducing itching when used for eczema on the scalp.
Tell me if this sounds familiar.
Things are going just fine and then, out of nowhere, a perfectly healthy patch of skin starts to itch… then it gets red… and then suddenly it’s swollen, flaky, and peeling.
Congratulations, you’ve got eczema.
To make things worse, it’s usually unclear what causes eczema to flare up, and unless you use some serious medication, it’s unclear how to make it go away.
But what if I told you that essential oils can help you treat the symptoms of eczema, and bring your skin back to normal in record time?
And what if you could go even a step further, and use essential oils to eliminate some common eczema triggers altogether?
It’s quite possible, and there’s even a lot of scientific research to back it up. Read on for specific recipes and instructions.
Eczema, dermatitis, and skin inflammation
Let’s go over a couple of terms first, just to make sure we’re on the same page.
Eczema and dermatitis are just different names for the same condition, a form of skin inflammation.
And they really just refer to the symptoms — the red, itchy, peeling skin, which can occur anywhere on the body.
The fact is, eczema (AKA dermatitis) can be caused or made worse by many different factors, and that’s one of the main reasons it can be so difficult to treat.
What works on one person won’t necessarily work for another, and that’s why the rest of this article will cover several different ways that essential oils can help with eczema.
Essential oils for eczema: What the research has to say
Which essential oils actually help with eczema?
Based on the research I could find, the following oils are the most promising:
- Geranium essential oil
- Tea tree essential oil
- Rosemary essential oil
- German chamomile essential oil
Here’s a quick summary of the research that backs this up.
First, a study on skin inflammation in mice found that geranium essential oil had a big and positive effect, beating out lavender, eucalyptus, and tea tree essential oils.
But tea tree oil is no slouch when it comes to reducing skin inflammation.
In a study involving 27 volunteers, tea tree oil significantly decreased skin flare-ups following an injection of histamine. Placebo had no effect.
Third, we’ve got rosemary and chamomile essential oils, which aromatherapists frequently recommended for skin inflammation and irritation.
I dug around to see what research I could find to back this up.
When it comes to chamomile oil, I didn’t find any research about its use for skin inflammation specifically. However, there are enough studies about the various anti-inflammatory effects of chamomile essential oil as a whole, as well as its main compounds, to give it a shot for eczema.
As for rosemary, I found a study that shows rosemary extracts are in fact anti-inflammatory, but this was mainly due to compounds not found in rosemary essential oil.
Still, as you’ll see below, there are good reasons to use rosemary essential oil on your skin if you experience eczema, even if the oil is not reducing the inflammation directly.
What about other essential oils?
The one research paper I found that deals directly with essential oils and eczema examined lavender oil. However, the researchers found that a massage with lavender oil was no more helpful in reducing eczema than massage alone (though massage was better than placebo).
Also, you might have seen frankincense essential oil frequently recommended on aromatherapy sites both for skin conditions and for inflammation.
I did find lots of research to back up use of frankincense extract for inflammation.
The trouble is, frankincense extract is a completely different product from frankincense essential oil. In particular, frankincense essential oil doesn’t contain the compounds (known as Boswellic acids) that appear to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory action of frankincense extract.
How to use these oils
You can use any of the oils above in a simple 2% dilution to deal with eczema. For example, if you want to start with geranium, you can use the following recipe:
- 1 tablespoon evening primrose oil
- 6 drops geranium essential oil
You can also use any other oil as a carrier instead of evening primrose. However, as you can read further on in this article, it appears evening primrose oil might have added benefits for eczema-prone skin.
You can also make a blend of two of the essential oils above. Rosemary and German chamomile are one frequently recommended combination for dry, irritated skin. Here’s a simple recipe combining these two oils:
- 1 tablespoon evening primrose oil
- 6 drops German chamomile essential oil
- 3 drops rosemary essential oil
By the way, if you are new to essential oils and you’re looking for more detailed instructions on making these blends, check out our complete guide to diluting essential oils.
Whether you’re using a single diluted oil or a blend, you can simply apply a light layer over the inflamed skin.
And since these dilutions are all gentle, you can apply the oils several times a day, as needed.
You should see an improvement within a day, or at most, two days.
If you don’t see any significant improvement within that time, try another one of the oils above.
Robert Tisserand’s skin blend for kids
Robert Tisserand is probably the best-known authority on essential oils and their uses for health, as well as for skin care.
I couldn’t find anything specifically that Robert has written on the topic of essential oils and eczema.
However, I did find a kid-friendly skincare blend that Robert has designed for Plant Therapy.
This blend is currently called “Skin Soother”, and according to Plant Therapy’s website, it’s a “safe, natural and effective way to help clear your child’s rough, red skin.”
However, if you look through the many positive reviews, it becomes clear this is primarily sold as an anti-eczema blend, as its previous name “Eczema Helper” shows.
Plant Therapy’s site lists the ingredients for this blend, though not the exact ratios. Here’s a way to make a 2% dilution (actually, slightly less) of this blend, using equal parts of all these oils:
- 1 ounce almond oil
- 2 drops Palmarosa essential oil
- 2 drops Cedarwood Atlas essential oil
- 2 drops Lavender essential oil
- 2 drops Coriander essential oil
- 2 drops Geranium (Egyptian) essential oil
- 2 drops Patchouli essential oil
- 2 drops Rose absolute
- 2 drops Sandalwood essential oil
You can use this blend in the same way as the recipes above: simply apply it directly to the inflamed skin, several times throughout the day, for a few days until the inflammation disappears.
Treating underlying eczema causes: Allergies & Mites
By now, you have several essential oil recipes try and treat eczema once it appears.
But why treat symptoms if you can treat the cause?
Like I mentioned above, lots of things can trigger eczema. And one of these eczema triggers is various allergies.
Now, as we’ve written before, essential oils can be a big help with allergies and their symptoms. We even included an EO recipes specifically for treating allergy-caused skin inflammation.
But that’s not all. Recent research points to everyday, common dust mites (little microorganisms that live all around us) as the nasty and hidden cause of many allergic reactions, including eczema.
The good news? Several essential oils can help you get rid of dust mites, or at least drastically cut down their numbers.
For example, according to this study, tea tree oil does a great job of eliminating dust mites.
And according to a second study, German chamomile, rosemary, and eucalyptus essential oils are all also effective in killing little mites.
You can diffuse any of these oils at home in your home diffuser to reduce mite numbers, and hopefully remove the cause of your eczema.
Another very useful option is to add some essential oils when you wash your sheets and bedding. As shown in this study, a 0.2% dilution of eucalyptus oil used as a pre-soak for some mite-infested blankets killed over 99% of mites, while using detergent alone without eucalyptus oil killed less than 3%.
Here’s the exact recipe to use eucalyptus oil to kill mites in your laundry and bedding:
- Combine 100 ml (about 4 ounces) eucalyptus oil with 25 ml (about 1 ounce) liquid dishwashing detergent
- Add this to 50 liters (about 13 gallons) warm water
- Add in your blankets, bedding, or laundry and pre-soak it for 30 minutes
- Wash the stuff in your washing machine as usual
By the way, if you balked at that amount of essential oil (100 ml), you’re absolutely right — it’s way more than you would ever use in an aromatherapy application.
However, when you mix it with the detergent, it will disperse evenly throughout the large volume of water, and it will form only a 0.2% dilution.
Treating underlying eczema causes #2: Bacterial infections
Infection can be a cause of eczema, and it can also contribute to making eczema more widespread, slower healing, and generally more of a pain in the backside.
Specifically, it seems that the widespread bacteria Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as “staph”, can trigger the immune system and lead to eczema.
As you might expect, killing bacteria, including staph, is an area where essential oils excel.
Tea tree, peppermint, and rosemary essential oils have all been shown in scientific studies to do a good job eradicating the staph bacteria, even when used in low concentrations.
We’ve seen tea tree and rosemary already on the list of anti-eczema essential oils, and their anti-bacterial effect is all the more reason to use them.
You can either use the recipes from the section above, or add a drop or two of either tea tree or rosemary or both to a cream that you use regularly over the area of your skin that’s prone to eczema.
Treating underlying eczema causes #3: Fungal infections
Ok, this is the last of these “underlying causes” sections. But it might be the most important.
That’s because different types of common fungal infections (such as candida) have been linked to eczema.
Here’s the trouble, though. Unlike with bacteria, there are very few commonly used anti-fungal agents, unless you’re looking for serious prescription medication.
Essential oils are an exception. Various essential oils have been shown to be effective at killing harmful funguses, including those that lead to eczema.
The thing is, many of those anti-fungal essential oils, such as cinnamon and oregano, are not appropriate for topical use except in very, very dilute amounts.
However, there is one essential oil that’s both skin-safe and very good at killing funguses. It’s our old friend, tea tree oil, which we’ve listed in just about every section of this article.
In short, if you suspect your eczema is caused by a fungal infection, trying out the recipes we’ve listed above which include tea tree oil is a must.
Ingesting carrier oils?
There’s one last recommendation I’ve come across and want to share.
It has to do with evening primrose oil — a carrier oil that you can use to dilute essential oils.
Evening primrose oil is high in a substance called gamma-Linoleic acid (GLA), a fatty acid that’s also found in other oils such as borage oil and hemp oil.
GLA is something that our bodies normally produce, but there is some evidence that some people don’t produce sufficient levels of GLA, and this can lead to eczema.
Several studies looked at supplementing with evening primrose or other GLA-containing oils, and found that it lead to significant improvements in eczema symptoms.
Most of these studies looked at ingesting evening primrose oil. A good way to do this is to get evening primrose capsules, which are probably easier to swallow than two or three tablespoons of evening primrose oil straight out of the bottle.
Also, while I haven’t found any research on the topic, I think it’s worth giving evening primrose oil a shot as a unique carrier oil for eczema applications (that’s why I included it in the recipes above).
Eczema can be a very frustrating condition, both because of the unpleasant and unsightly symptoms, and because it is often unclear what causes it to appear.
Essential oils can help you treat eczema symptoms, and they might even be able to eliminate common causes of eczema so you can completely eliminate new flare-ups.
Which essential oil recipes have worked to help you treat eczema? Let me know in the comments below.
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Best Essential Oils for Eczema
More than three million people a year suffer from an outbreak of eczema, a skin condition marked by dry, itchy patches caused by an inflammatory response.
Some of the triggers of an eczema outbreak include allergic reactions, especially to skin-care products and harsh detergents, stress, dust mites, animal dander, and the consumption of a diet that is missing key nutrients. According to the Mayo Clinic, the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus is also a possible trigger.1
Eczema symptoms include:
- Dry skin
- Severe itching
- Discolored patches of skin, most commonly on the hands and feet, ankles and wrists, inside of the knees and elbows, on the chest and neck, or on the eyelids.
- Thick, cracked, or scaly skin or small, red bumps that may leak fluid.
The skin problem can be painful, embarrassing, and frustrating, especially when over-the-counter remedies only treat some of the symptoms, and don’t always offer long-term healing. Here’s where essential oils can make a major difference.
Essential Oils Offer Natural Healing
The beauty of essential oils is that they draw in the best nutrients the natural world has to offer. The active compounds in essentials are diverse in their benefits, and the ability of essential oils to naturally improve the appearance of skin is only one of the many appeals.
Essential oils are packed with nutrients that help ease inflammation, provide lasting moisture, and create an environment that encourages healing. While inflammation is considered one of the causes of atopic dermatitis, other studies have linked eczema outbreaks to a lack of certain key nutrients.
Essential oils and carrier oils that are best suited for remedying eczema are those packed with those skin-friendly nutrients. For eczema sufferers, essential oils can ease insufferable itching, speed up healing, and potentially prevent outbreaks.
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Sinusitis: Top 8 Essential Oils for Relief
Sinusitis—an infection or inflammation of the sinuses— is an incredibly common affliction.1 Often caused by allergies or illness, sinus inflammation results
Because each case of eczema is likely to react differently to essential oils, however, you may have to try a couple of essential oils when an eczema outbreak occurs to find the one that works best for you. Highlighted below are some of the best options.
Essential Oils for Eczema
In 2000, researchers from South Bank University in London used a blend of essential oils including marjoram, frankincense, German chamomile, myrrh, thyme, benzoin, lavender, and Litsea cubeba to help treat eczema outbreaks in children. Children were massaged daily by the parents as part of the study. The control group performed this massage without essential oils, while the other group used essential oils. Both groups showed marked improvement.2
While the study was small and the results were unable to determine if the massage or the essential oils were responsible for improved symptoms, it did reflect a growing mainstream interest in the use of essential oils to treat a wide range of skin conditions such as eczema. Other studies had more conclusive results.
Lavender Essential Oil
This powerhouse of an essential oil is a favorite for good reason. It can help encourage a good night’s sleep by easing symptoms of stress, but it can also create a healing environment for skin.
In addition to anti-aging benefits, lavender essential oil has been shown to ease both pain and inflammation, both of which are part of an eczema flareup.
A 2003 study appearing in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology from researchers at the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences in Iran found that lavender acted as an analgesic when applied to the skin and also reduced the redness of inflammation.3
Lavender’s high linalool content makes it an especially skin-friendly oil, as it can hydrate dry, flaking skin associated with eczema and create an environment that is more conducive to healing.
Chamomile Essential Oil
The compounds found in chamomile, including alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene, make it an especially beneficial essential oil for remedying symptoms of eczema. Additionally, chamomile is known for its versatility and for being one of the gentlest essential oils. it soothes dry skin associated with eczema and is as effective as a hydrocortisone cream at easing the itching and redness of the skin condition.4
A 1994 study from Italian researchers found that chamomile helped relieve inflammation when applied topically, making it an essential oil that could provide relief for the symptoms associated with eczema.5
Later research, this time a 2000 study that appeared in the European Journal of Medical Research found that a chamomile essential oil-based cream provided superior treatment than hydrocortisone, suggesting that ditching the steroid-based cream in favor of a natural remedy may be a better option.6
Frankincense Essential Oil
The health benefits of this ancient essential oil, which range from stress relief to the ability to improve inflammation, make it one of the most versatile oils available. Because it is able to address so many different conditions, it should come as no surprise that it can also ease the symptoms associated with eczema, especially the itching and irritation.
A deep dive into the benefits of frankincense that appeared in a 2013 issue of the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine found that frankincense was beneficial for easing irritated skin associated with eczema due to the boswellic acid that is one of the essential oil’s volatile compounds.7
Other essential oils that offer anti-inflammatory or moisturizing benefits for eczema include tea tree, thyme, rose geranium, holy basil, and helichrysum.8
A Carrier Oil for Pairing
Evening primrose oil is rich in the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA) and is approved in Great Britain for the treatment of eczema. Eczema is believed to be triggered by of low levels of gamma-linolenic acid, and the topical application of evening primrose oil, along with other essential oils, provides an extra element of skin-friendly, natural nutrients.
A 1991 study from Swedish researchers found that supplementing with evening primrose oil helped ease symptoms of eczema from within by boosting levels of GLA. Supplementing yielded favorable changes of the skin’s epidermis by normalizing fatty acid levels, therefore improving the nutrient makeup of the skin’s surface layer where eczema usually occurs.9
Evening primrose oil also improves the symptoms of other skin conditions such as psoriasis naturally. Other carrier oils that offer restorative skin benefits for eczema include sweet almond, coconut, olive, avocado, and argan oils.
Eczema is a condition that can be particularly difficult to manage simply because of the discomfort associated with the condition. Additionally, because eczema is different for everyone, it can be difficult to find an over-the-counter steroid cream that works for everyone without drying out or irritating the skin. The benefit of essential oils is that they have been shown to effectively remedy the inflammation and itchiness associated with eczema without drying out the skin. They are also very versatile, so it’s much easier to search the world of essential oils to find one that best suits your needs.
Once you’ve selected an essential oil and carrier oil from the list above, try them out to see what works best for you and hopefully you’ll find welcome relief to your eczema symptoms.
Photo credits: TernavskaiaOlgaAlibec/.com, OrawanPattarawimonchai/.com
Last Updated on June 19, 2019
By Brooke Cade (see bio below)
Eczema is a chronic skin condition that affects over 30 million Americans. Common as it may be, eczema is still an uncomfortable and sometimes debilitating condition that can compromise your quality of living.
To treat eczema, more and more people are turning away from conventional medicine to essential oils as they search for a more holistic and “big picture” remedy to their skin condition. The anti-inflammatory and stress-reducing properties of essential oils can help to promote healing and lasting change to improve your eczema for good.
In this article, learn more about the causes of eczema, who’s at risk to develop it, as well as the best essential oils for eczema.
What Causes Eczema?
The exact cause of eczema is unknown, and different people can have different triggers. However, the Mayo Clinic has listed the following factors that are likely causes of eczema:
- Dry, irritable skin
- Genetic conditions
- Immune system dysfunction
- Bacteria, particularly staphylococcus aureus
- Environmental factors
Another characteristic of eczema is that it can manifest itself differently in different people. For example, your child may develop red, blotchy weeping eczema on his/her cheeks that they don’t seem to mind, while someone else may have dry, scaly eczema with a significant itch.
Essential Oils For Eczema
Essential oils used as a topical eczema treatments can be very effective. Be sure to consult with your doctor before trying any new treatments, and consider adapting your diet and lifestyle to address all factors that could contribute to your eczema.
Using lavender oil for eczema is very common, as lavender oil is a traditional treatment for many skin conditions. It’s derived from lavender flowers and contains linalool and linalyl aldehyde, which are known for their anti-inflammatory agents and pain reducers. It can also help to relieve the itchiness associated with eczema.
To use lavender oil to treat eczema, you can make your own homemade eczema cream with ingredients like raw shea butter and coconut oil. You can also apply lavender oil undiluted directly to your skin (just a drop or two will be fine) a few times a day until your eczema goes away. This is not recommended for children. Always dilute essential oils when applying to children’s skin.
A cream like Emily’s Itchy Eczema Baby & Adults Skin Soother or Grass Fed Tallow Balm that contain lavender oil can also help soothe and repair skin.
Sandalwood oil can be an effective oil for treating eczema. It is moisturizing and soothing, with anti-inflammatory and anti-itching properties. Many people also use sandalwood oil for stress relief, adding a few drops to a hot bath to promote relaxation.
Sandalwood oil isn’t recommended for pregnant women. Before using sandalwood oil, test a small portion in your skin to see if you have a reaction.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea Tree Oil is also commonly used as an essential oil for eczema for its regenerative properties to help heal broken skin and reduce inflammation and swelling associated with various skin conditions. It is also known as a powerful antiseptic that can help prevent infection in especially sore skin that has been vigorously itched. Tea tree oil isn’t recommended for children 6 years old and younger.
Manuka oil is very similar, but while tea tree can be toxic when taken orally in large doses, manuka is not. It may be worthwhile to try Manuka oil in a skin cream such as Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream.
Great Essential Oil Bases for Eczema Treatment
One great way to benefit from essential oils is to mix it with a base oil. This creates a calming lotion that can have added benefits.
As a base for these oils, many people prefer various vegetable oils for their moisturizing properties. Using coconut oil for eczema is especially recommended for its rich, highly moisturizing properties as well as its antibacterial properties. Another great option is to add your essential oils to an oil blended with healing calendula flowers, like this Organic Calendula Oil with a base of olive oil.
Read more: Why You Should Try Calendula For Eczema Relief
Before using essential oils, test a small amount on your skin to ensure you aren’t allergic or susceptible to any adverse reactions and, as always, talk to your doctor about your condition and treatment methods before attempting them.
Bio: Brooke Cade is passionate about health and wellness. She enjoys writing about all the things she loves in life, including yoga, hydrotherapy, Nature’s Sunshine products, and anything related to living life to its fullest.
Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.
Essential Oils for Eczema and Dermatitis
Millions of U.S. residents are affected by eczema and dermatitis. Eczema affects about 10% to 20% of infants and about 3% of adults and children in the U.S. If you’re one of these sufferers, be assured that you’ll find within this article suggested essential oils for eczema and dermatitis and instructions on how to use them. (If you’re a new essential oil user, please download your free copy of our ebook, “Listen” to Your Nose – An Introduction to Aromatherapy.)
Eczema is a general term for any type of dermatitis (an itchy rash/inflammatory skin condition.)
There are many types of dermatitis including atopic, contact, dishidrotic, nummular and seborrheic. The symptoms for each type of dermatitis differ in how they express i.e. age of onset, body region that is most effected, acute or chronic, etc.; but they all, in varying degrees, include dry, red (swollen), itchy, thickened skin, with scaling and blisters that may ooze, bleed and crust over.
In adults eczema often first appears on the inside creases of knees and elbows and for children symptoms may appear on the face, armpits, elbows, knees, hands and genitals.
For more detailed information on the different types of dermatitis please visit The National Eczema Association web site. www.nationaleczema.org
Causes of Eczema
The cause of eczema is unknown but most sources site a combination of genetics and environmental factors.
Environmental Allergies: Some theories suggest that eczema can be tied to an “overly clean” environment during early childhood. Studies on the “hygiene hypothesis” have shown that exposure to everyday bacteria and germs help to strengthen our immune system and decrease allergic reactions.
Genetics: There appears to be a connection between celiac disease (severe allergic reaction to gluten) and eczema. Eczema occurs about three times more frequently in celiac disease patients and about two times more frequently in relatives of celiac patients. *
Eczema may be caused by an inherited inability to metabolize linoleic acid into y-linoleic acid (GLA) as administration of GLAs has been demonstrated to alleviate symptoms. **
How to Reduce the Severity or Frequency of Eczema Flare Ups
- Protect your skin: Avoid those things that make your symptoms worse i.e. skin irritants (soaps, wool, synthetic fibers, perfumes, chlorine etc. )
- Reduce stress: Stress can exacerbate the symptoms of eczema; therefore developing daily habits such as meditation, exercise, healthy diet and using calming essential oils in a diffuser or direct inhalation can be helpful.
- Avoid hot baths & showers; lukewarm water is best. If you live in a dry environment use a humidifier to add moisture to the air.
- Moisturize: Apply moisturizer immediately after a shower or bath to seal in skin moisture.
- Healthy diet: Reduce intake of refined foods and sugar; increase fresh vegetables, whole grains and essential fatty acids and drink plenty of water.
- Exercise is all about movement; any form of movement that your body enjoys will be helpful to keep your lymph moving. Lymph is a clear, colorless fluid containing white blood cells; as lymph moves through our lymphatic system it helps to remove toxins, waste and other unwanted material from our bodies. Lymph will stagnate without physical movement; so dance, jump, walk, run and move on a regular basis.
Essential oils for eczema and dermatitis that calm and soothe skin
Essential oils that are anti-pruritic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and emollient can help to support skin health while reducing the number or severity of flare ups.
Inflammation: (inflammation appears with all types of eczema): German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Anti-pruritic (anti-itching): Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Chamomile Roman Anthemis nobilis, Peppermint Mentha piperita, Sandalwood Blend
Cracked or Weeping Skin: Bergamot FCF Citrus bergamia, Frankincense Boswellia frereana, Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, Thyme ct. linalol Thymus vulgaris, Basil ct. linalol Ocimum basillicum, Juniperberry Juniperus communis
Scaling: Patchouli Pogostemon cablin, Cedarwood Atlas Cedrus atlantis
NOTE: Avoid German and Roman Chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed, chrysanthemums, asters, echinacea or feverview.
Topical Application: Essential oils for eczema and dermatitis should be used in a 1-2% dilution (6-12 drops of essential oil per 1 oz of carrier oil); gently apply to area in need 2-3 x per day during acute phase and 1-2 x per day to maintain skin health.
Suggested Carrier oils: Sweet Almond Prunis dulcis, Avocado Persea americana, Calendula Calendula officinalis, Evening Primrose Oenothera biennis, Jojoba Simmondsia chinensis, Rose Hip Rosa mosqueta, Tamanu Calophyllum inophyllum
Cool Compress: Use to help prevent sebum and crust from accumulating and to relieve inflammation. Fill a basin with cool water, add 1-3 drops of essential oil and stir. Lay in a washcloth, wring, and apply to the area in need. Dip, wring and apply 3 more times. Leave the last compress in place for 3 minutes.
Essential oil suggestions to reduce stress
Reducing stress supports our body’s natural ability to move toward optimal health, balance and well-being. Choose an essential oil or blend which you love the aroma and one that gives you that “AHHH” feeling when you inhale its aroma.
Stress Relief Essential Oils: Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, Mandarin Citrus deliciosa, Chamomile Roman Anthemis nobilis, e3 Child Harmony, e3 Relax, e3 Stress Relief, e3 Rebalance, e3 Mood Rescue
Inhalation: During times of stress or anxiety place 1-3 drops of essential oil on a tissue and inhale aroma as desired; or open bottle and inhale directly from bottle. (Avoid touching your nose to the tissue or bottle.)
Bath, Foot: Mix 1-3 drops of essential oil in 1/2 teaspoon of carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil. Set aside. Fill a tub (deep enough to cover your feet and ankles) with warm water. Add the essential oil mixture, stir well, and immerse your feet for 10-15 minutes.
Diffusion: Follow diffuser manufacturer’s instructions. Diffuse in office or home.
Easy suggestions if you do not have a diffuser:
- Place 3-4 drops of essential oil on several cotton balls and place on your desk or in various parts of the room (It is best to place cotton balls on a jar lid, small piece of wax paper or tin foil, to avoid direct contact with finished surfaces of furniture, floors etc.; direct contact of essential oils with these surfaces may cause damage.)
- Add 3-5 drops to a cup or bowl of warm water and place on desk or table. (Be careful not to drink this)
- Add 5 drops to a pot of gently simmering water.
- Add 3-5 drops to a tissue and tuck in the air vent of your car or heater vent in your home or office. (Make sure to tuck the “dry” end (the area that does not have any essential oil) into the vent to avoid damaging the finish.)
- Spritzer: Add 20-25 drops of essential oil to a 1 oz. spritzer bottle and fill with water. Shake and mist the air as desired.
Eczema and Children
Eczema in children will often start to show up at the time solid food is introduced and can be allergy based. Avoiding wheat, dairy and eggs may be helpful for children who are eating solid foods and nursing moms. Other common allergens are pet hair, wool, water softening agents, harsh chemicals and synthetic fragrances found in many body care and laundry products; as much as possible use products with all natural and gentle ingredients.
As with adults eczema in children can be triggered by stress. Parents may want to consider techniques to help their child relax i.e. soothing bath, diffusing essential oils such as Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, Mandarin Citrus deliciosa, Chamomile Roman Anthemis nobilis, e3 Child Harmony, as well as techniques to manage their own stress. Cranial Sacral therapy is beneficial for children of all ages and adults to help bring the body back to a state of homeostasis and balance the nervous system.
Dilution ratio’s and recommendations of essential oils for eczema and dermatitis by age:
Newborn: 1 drop essential oil (Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla) per ounce of carrier oil
2 to 6 months: 1 to 2 drops essential oils (Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla) per ounce carrier oil
6-12 months: 1-3 drops essential oils (Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii) per ounce of carrier oil
1-4 years: 1-5 drops essential oils (Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii) per ounce of carrier oil
5-7 years: 3-6 drops of essential oils Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii) per ounce of carrier oil
8-12 years: 5-9 drops of essential oils (Bergamot FCF Citrus bergamia, Lavender Lavandula angustifolia, German Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla, Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii) per ounce of carrier oil
Suggested carrier oils by age:
0-6 months: Sweet Almond Prunis dulcis
7 month and older: Sweet Almond Prunis dulcis, Avocado Persea americana, Calendula Calendula officinalis infused oil can also added to Sweet Almond Oil. (Use 1 part Calendula to 4 parts Sweet Almond)
Oat Bag Bath
(recipe from Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child by Valerie Ann Worwood)
- Put a small amount of organic oats on a square of muslin material. (If you do not have muslin cut a square from an old cotton T-shirt).
- Drop onto the oats ½ teaspoon Jojoba and 1 drop of Lavender.
- Gather the edges of the piece of cloth to make a pouch; wrap a rubber band around the top or tie with a piece of string to keep oat mixture securely in the piece of material.
- Place in bath. For children 2 and older.
Please browse through our website for more information on skin care with essential oils. And visit us on Facebook for more essential oil tips, recipes and ideas. And please let us know what your favorite essential oils for eczema and dermatitis are.
Aromatherapy for the Healthy Child, Valerie Ann Worwood
**Horrobin, D. F. (2000). “Essential fatty acid metabolism and its modification in atopic eczema”.
The American journal of clinical nutrition 71 (1 Suppl): 367S–372S. PMID 10617999.
**Dietary Fatty Acids and Inflammatory Skin Disease
J.L Burton. Author links open the author workspace.
University of Maryland Medical Center
Information on Dermatitis
10 aromatherapy oils for soothing common skin conditions
Aromatherapy oils are more than just a calming scent. They also offer a natural remedy against common skin conditions, such as acne, bites & stings, eczema and athlete’s foot. With their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties they can soothe irritated skin and reduce flare ups.
From bergamot to tea tree oil, here are our top ten aromatherapy oils for treating skin conditions.
1. Bergamot oil
With its lovely citrus smell, bergamot oil is recognised for its antibacterial properties and can be used to help alleviate mouth ulcers, cold sores, spots and pimples.
Try it yourself: Mix with a carrier oil, such as olive oil or sweet almond oil, and apply straight to the affected area.
2. Chamomile oil
This gentle aromatherapy oil is great for spots and acne on sensitive skin, while the Roman Chamomile version is useful for easing both eczema and ear infections.
Try it yourself: Add two drops of chamomile oil and lavender oil into a spray bottle of purified water and spritz over irritated skin.
3. Cinnamon oil
Cinnamon oil is an incredible essential oil for treating bacterial infections. It contains a powerful compound called cinnamaldehyde (unique to cinnamon) which makes it effective against a wide range of skin conditions, including rashes and acne.
Try it yourself: Mix cinnamon oil with a carrier oil, such a coconut oil, and apply to the skin to soothe the affected area.
4. Clove Bud oil
Clove bud essential oil contains eugenol and has anti-microbial and anti-fungal characteristics.
In addition to helping alleviate skin problems, it’s useful for helping coughs, colds, sinusitis and asthma. Chewing on a clove bud itself, rather than the oil form, is known to help ease sore throats.
Try it yourself: Add two drops of clove bud oil to your skincare products to quicken the healing process.
5. Eucalyptus oil
This oil deserves a special mention as an anti-bacterial warrior. It’s often used for first-aid due to its healing properties, treating cuts, bruises and minor wounds. It’s also effective at relieving acne and chicken pox, boils, wounds and insect bites.
Try it yourself: Mix with an equivalent amount of apple cider vinegar and dab to treat insect bites, boils and wounds.
6. Lavender oil
Lavender oil, whilst renowned for its calming aroma, also provides an antibacterial and antiviral remedy.
Keep a bottle on hand for stings, bites, scrapes and small cuts; it helps guard against infection and also speeds the healing time. It can also be applied neat without a carrier oil, unlike many other essential oils.
Try it yourself: Mix lavender oil with coconut oil and apply to burns or eczema to hasten the healing process.
7. Lemongrass oil
Lemongrass is a gentler and sweeter oil than pure lemon, and it works well as an antibacterial essential oil. It can inhibit the growth of bacteria on the skin and will often be found in ready-made skin creams. It is also a fungicide oil.
Try it yourself: Blend with your favourite bath products or add it to warm bath water to reduce fungal infections such as athlete’s foot
8. Oregano oil
Oregano oil is a useful oil for antifungal skincare, but it’s very strong so you will need to use a carrier oil alongside it. Try coconut oil or sweet almond oil as a base. This mixture can then be used to treat bacterial infections on the skin or to help heal minor wounds.
Try it yourself: Treat athlete’s foot by adding five drops of oregano oil into a foot bath and bathing your feet for at least ten minutes
9. Peppermint oil
Peppermint is a used as a freshening ingredient in dental care products. However it’s also good for skin treatments due to its strong anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
Try it yourself: Treat cracked lips by applying lip balms containing peppermint oil to the affected area
10. Tea Tree oil
Tea Tree is one of the most popular aromatherapy oils for treating skin problems. You can add it to bathwater, skin toners, or facial spritz. Try mixing it with coconut oil or aloe vera gel for an all-natural approach to soothing and treating troubled skin.
It can be used on the face, body, and scalp – a truly head to toe aromatherapy oil.
Try it yourself: Make a face wash by mixing five drops of tea tree oil with carriers such as aloe vera gel, coconut oil and lavender oil, before applying gently to the skin
Handpicked content: The best essential oils for beautiful skin and hair
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Introduction To Essential Oils – How Essential Oils Affect The Body
Skin & Muscular System
Use of essential oils for skin conditions is one of the most well-known forms of aromatherapy, particularly using tea tree to prevent and heal acne. Many people are also familiar with muscle rubs like Rub-A535, which uses synthetics to mimic the effects of natural oils like cypress, and peppermint. These are physical effects, using tea tree as an astringent or peppermint to stimulate circulation and release muscle tension. Skin application works best.
Here are some popular oils for common skin and muscular conditions:
- Acne – lavender, tea tree
- Scarring – myrrh, yarrow, helichrysum, frankincense, lavender
- Dry/sensitive skin – rose, frankincense, lavender, geranium
- Dandruff – bergamot, geranium, rosemary, tea tree
- Inflamed skin – lavender, German chamomile, patchouli
- Relieve inflammation – German chamomile, lavender
- Increase circulation – rosemary , eucalyptus, cypress, peppermint
- Accumulation of toxins and cellulite – cypress, juniper, black pepper
Another popular and well-known form of aromatherapy is using eucalyptus to relieve coughs and sinus congestion, but there are many other oils that are helpful for a wide range of respiratory problems. Many of these oils are also antibacterial and antifungal, helping to prevent as well as treat these problems. Inhalation or sonic diffusion is the best way to get the effects of these oils, although diluting them and rubbing them onto the chest also works.
- Coughs – eucalyptus, niaouli, tea tree, pine, rosemary
- Thinning and breaking down mucus – eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint
- Asthma – blue and German chamomile, rosemary
- Sinus infection and congestion – eucalyptus, rosemary, peppermint, cypress
- Tea Tree – also good for anti-viral, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiseptic qualities
Even without ingesting essential oils, they can still help with a wide range of digestive issues. Inhalation works well for these purposes, as does as diluting in carrier oil and rubbing gently onto the stomach.
- Promotes digestive health in general – ginger, fennel, rosemary, anise
- Eases cramping or convulsions – anise, fennel, clary sage
- Relieves gas – peppermint, coriander
- Constipation – fennel, black pepper
- Loss of appetite – lime, grapefruit, fennel, patchouli, peppermint
- Abdominal cramps – aniseed, basil, marjoram, clove bud
- Nausea and vomiting – peppermint, fennel, ginger
Genito-urinary and Endocrine System
Some essential oils act as phyto hormones that can mimic and produce results similar to our own. Because of this, they can level out hormonal fluctuations and their related symptoms. For best results, diffuse or apply to the stomach and chest in a carrier oil.
- Hormonal changes & fluctuations – geranium, clary sage, jasmine
- PMS – chamomile roman, clary sage, geranium, lavender, jasmine, rose
- Menopause – aniseed, chamomile roman, clary sage, rose, jasmine
- Labor Pain – clary sage, fennel, lavender, jasmine
- Lack of menstruation – clary sage, roman chamomile, rose, geranium
- Menstrual cramps – clary sage, ginger, German chamomile, rose
Virtually all essential oils are antibacterial and anti-viral; some are just stronger than others are. Eucalyptus, tea tree and niaouli are the most antibacterial and antiviral essential oils. Some oils, like thyme, also stimulate the immune system. For antibacterial uses, diffuse or dilute in any kind of base. To stimulate the immune system, dilute in a carrier oil and apply to the glands, or use in bath salts.
- Most antibacterial – tea tree, eucalyptus, peppermint, lemon, rosemary
- Stimulate the immune system – thyme, black pepper, juniper, tea tree
From stress relief to sleep disorders and everything in between, the majority of people first looking into aromatherapy is drawn to it to manage problems related to the nervous system. Diffusion and pulse-point application (using a roll-on) are most effective, but almost all methods of application work well.
- Sedating – chamomile, marjoram, sandalwood, oakmoss
- Stimulating – citrus oils, rosemary, eucalyptus
- Stimulating or sedating, depending on the body’s needs – geranium, rosewood, lavender
- Soothing & relaxing – jasmine, ylang ylang, rose, neroli. These essential oils are nerve stimulants, causing the release of a neurotransmitter called encephalon, creating a soothing and relaxing effect on the emotions. This effect also causes them to act as aphrodisiacs.
- Depression – rose, geranium, frankincense, citrus oils
- Nervous exhaustion – basil, clary sage, frankincense, sandalwood
- Anxiety – all resins, clary sage, pine, rose
Our minds and spirits are greatly affected by essential oils.
- Grounding & meditation – sandalwood, vetiver, frankincense, patchouli
- Dream enhancement – clary sage
- Rituals/tradition – frankincense used in Catholic churches
- Chakra/meridian work – wheels of energy, constantly revolving in the body and emanating energy into the subtle bodies. There are hundreds situated throughout the body. Most people work with the seven major chakras situated on the midline of the body.
Image CreditDoris Liou
When Eva Sheie walked into her daughter’s new day care classroom in Austin, Tex., last December, the floral aroma emanating from an essential oil diffuser instantly piqued her nostrils.
Sheie, who is sensitive to fragrance, didn’t like the smell, but she also didn’t complain: “I don’t want to be that parent, you know?”
But after a few weeks, she noticed that her toddler and several other students had developed nagging coughs that lingered well into January. And when the teacher switched to an oil blend that was supposed to “disinfect” the air, Sheie said she felt “headachy and like I was going to throw up for an hour or longer” after dropping off her daughter each morning.
Finally, after a few days of feeling ill, Sheie convinced the day care to turn off the diffuser. “The relief was immediate,” Sheie said. Her symptoms went away, and her daughter quit coughing.
Dr. Justin Smith, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s Health Care System in Fort Worth, Tex., said that in recent years, more and more parents have been inquiring about whether inhaling, consuming or rubbing essential oils onto the skin can treat a variety of their children’s ailments, including cough, congestion, fever and more.
But little, if any, evidence back up claims about the healing properties of essential oils, Dr. Smith said. And more worrisome evidence exists on the risks of using them.
Sheie can’t prove whether the diffused essential oils were responsible for her or her daughter’s symptoms, for instance, but the oils’ tiny particles are “really good at infiltrating the upper and lower airways, which can cause irritation, especially in people with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma or allergies,” said Dr. David Stukus, M.D., an associate professor of pediatrics at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Additionally, rubbing too-potent potions onto the skin can lead to chemical burns or irritation; and if they’re swallowed, they can be deadly.
“There are claims that because they are natural, they can’t cause side effects,” Dr. Smith said, “but they definitely can and do.”
The new oil boom
Stroll through any department store, vitamin shop or farmers market and you’re bound to find little vials filled with strong-smelling oil. These pungent elixirs are extracted from fragrant botanicals, like lavender, citrus, peppermint and cloves. “If you think about when you squeeze a lemon, the very strong citrus smell that you get is the essential oil being released from the skin,” said Wendy Weber, Ph.D., N.D., chief of the clinical research branch at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health at the National Institutes of Health.
Sales revenue from these potent plant extracts in the United States increased by nearly 40 percent from 2014 to 2018. By 2025, they’re projected to reach more than $5 billion in total sales, according to market research firm Grand View Research.
But they’re not just being sold in shops and online. Sheie said that she’s increasingly had to politely sidestep sales pitches from people in her social circles who are selling the oils for two of the largest essential oil companies, doTerra and Young Living. These manufacturers use multilevel-marketing strategies, where the people who sell their products profit from their own sales as well as those of others they recruit (think Avon or Herbalife). “I most often run into it at church and on social media, especially in my mom groups,” she said.
But can they improve your health?
Some sellers — along with particular social media posts and websites that expound the oils’ benefits — attest with a kind of evangelical zeal that certain essential oils can help treat a range of ailments, from attention deficit disorder and depression to Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, skin abrasions, infections, teething pain and more. Companies commonly market essential oils to parents for their purported ability to boost kids’ immune systems and to improve focus, mood and sleep.
But the bulk of the research done on essential oils has been performed in petri dishes and on rodents. “There are few human studies, and they are mostly small and of low quality,” Dr. Smith said.
And of the research that has been done on humans, said Dr. Smith, the bulk of the studies on essential oils’ effectiveness and safety has been performed on adults. A few studies in children suggest that inhaling lavender oil can have a calming effect; that topical applications of tea tree oil may be useful against acne, lice and warts; and that peppermint oil capsules may help with irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain.
However, there’s no evidence to support essential oils’ more common uses, such as for treating “fever, cough, congestion, allergies, teething symptoms and (the one that makes me the most frustrated) behavior problems,” Dr. Smith wrote in a column for Cook Children’s Health Care System in 2015.
Unlike with prescription and over-the-counter drugs, the makers of essential oils do not have to prove to the Food and Drug Administration that their products are safe and effective for certain conditions, or even that they contain what they say they do on the label. And by law, oil makers are not allowed to advertise that their products can prevent or treat disease.
But that hasn’t stopped some sellers from making druglike claims. Within the past five years, the F.D.A. has issued more than half a dozen warning letters to companies marketing cosmetic products containing essential oils, or the oils themselves. In 2014, for example, the agency stated that paid consultants for both doTerra and Young Living were claiming, without evidence, that some of their essential oils could be useful against conditions such as autism, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, viral infections (including Ebola) and more.
In response to the F.D.A.’s letter, a spokeswoman for doTerra told The New York Times that the company has created a “compliance team” of more than 50 people that “crawls the web to ensure wellness advocates are not propagating noncompliant claims,” and that the company takes corrective action if needed. Young Living also has a strict compliance policy, according to a company spokeswoman. “Consequences for violating said policy are swift and consistent,” she said, “up to and including the revoking of membership and its privileges.”
Are they safe?
Little is known about how these oils might affect young, growing bodies, but there is some evidence that they can cause harm.
One trap parents may fall into is thinking that these oils are replacements for evidence-based treatments, according to Dr. Smith. He told me that the parents of one of his young patients had tried treating their child’s croup (a respiratory infection that causes difficulty breathing and a barking cough) with a variety of oils. Eventually, the illness progressed so much that they needed to take the child to the emergency room.
“While the essential oils didn’t hurt the child,” Dr. Smith said, “the delay in care allowed the condition to get worse.”
But by far, the greatest danger to children occurs when highly concentrated oils are accidentally swallowed, spilled onto the skin or splashed into the eyes. In 2018, poison control centers in the United States recorded 17,178 such incidents in children under 12 — an 85 percent increase over the number of cases reported in 2014. (This is according to an analysis that the American Association of Poison Control Centers conducted for The New York Times for this story.)
A teaspoon of camphor oil, a type of oil extracted from the wood of a camphor tree, for instance, can cause seizures in children under 5 if swallowed, according to Nena Bowman, Pharm.D., managing director of the Tennessee Poison Center.
A similar dose of wintergreen oil, a cousin to aspirin, can cause rapid labored breathing, fever and — in severe cases — organ failure and death. Even as little as half a teaspoon of commonly used essential oils such as eucalyptus, lavender and tea tree oils can cause sedation and difficulty breathing in little ones, Dr. Bowman said.
“The exposures we see are almost all in children and almost all accidental because essential oils aren’t always stored properly,” Dr. Bowman said, “they need to be kept up and out of the reach of children.”
Applying concentrated oils to the skin are common causes of adverse reactions too, said Robert Tisserand, an aromatherapy expert and author of the textbook “Essential Oil Safety.” In nature, oils with antioxidant and antimicrobial properties such as clove, oregano and thyme kill invading bacteria by rupturing their cell membranes, Tisserand said. “And they do a similar thing to your skin cells and the mucous membranes that line and protect the inside of your body,” he said. “If you put undiluted oregano oil on your skin or in your mouth, you’ll have an irritant reaction — a very nasty one. The skin will go red and burn like crazy.”
Children are more likely to have side effects from essential oil exposures than adults are, said Dr. Weber from the N.I.H. “They are still developing, which makes their brains and other systems more sensitive to potential toxicity from essential oils.” Their livers and kidneys, for instance, are likely to be less efficient at processing the compounds.
Young Living provides safety information to consumers and asks its sales distributors to share that information with their customers, according to a company spokeswoman. “It’s important that all things are done in moderation — specifically where children are concerned,” she noted, adding that Young Living offers product lines where the essential oil is already diluted in a carrier oil, making it safer for kids.
How to safely use essential oils around your children
Because there’s no solid evidence on the efficacy and safety of essential oils, major medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians have not issued recommendations for using them with children.
If you still want to use the oils on or around kids, discuss it with your child’s doctor first, advised Dr. Anna Esparham, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Kan., who has been trained in aromatherapy. And heed the following advice.
In general, diffusing essential oils into the air is safer than using them on the skin. (But even then, it can be irritating to some. Never diffuse them in classrooms or in public spaces.)
Don’t diffuse essential oils around infants under 6 months old. For older babies and children, it’s reasonably safe to diffuse certain oils such as cedarwood, ginger or sweet orange for up to an hour while monitoring your child, said Dr. Esparham.
You can apply certain oils — such as chamomile, cypress and helichrysum — to the skin of children 3 and up, Dr. Esparham said, but you should dilute them first (using about 3 to 6 drops of oil per 1 ounce of a “carrier oil,” such as jojoba or almond oil). Or, use a product specifically formulated for children.
Even diluted oils can cause irritation, so always do a patch test: Rub the oil on a small area of skin and wait 24 hours to see if there’s any redness, swelling or rash. (If there is irritation, stop using the oil immediately.)
Always keep oils away from the eyes, nose and mouth. And do not apply essential oils to children with sensitive skin, eczema or other chronic skin conditions, as they can be irritating, Dr. Stukus said.
Avoid applying citrus oils — such as those made from grapefruit, lemon or orange — to the skin, as they can react with ultraviolet radiation from the sun to cause burns, rashes or skin discoloration.
Never add undiluted essential oils to bath water. Oil and water don’t mix, so undiluted drops could irritate the skin. You can, however, add diluted drops, said Dr. Esparham. Use 2 drops of oil to 1 ounce of liquid Castile soap or a carrier oil.
Don’t flavor food or drink with essential oils, even if they are labeled “food safe.” They can be harmful if swallowed, and could damage the lining of the mouth or digestive tract.
Avoid using synthetic oils, Dr. Esparham said, because the chemicals are more likely to cause side effects such as nausea or headache, skin irritation or breathing problems than more “pure” oils. Nonsynthetic oils are typically more expensive than synthetics — around $12 to $25 per vial. You can spot them by looking for their Latin names on their labels, like “100 percent Cedrus atlantica oil” for cedar oil, she said.
Store essential oils in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and out of the reach of children. Dr. Esparham advised keeping oils for no longer than a year as rancid oils are more likely to irritate the skin or trigger allergic reactions.
If your child develops a rash or skin irritation; headaches; nausea or vomiting; coughing, wheezing or difficulty breathing; or any other symptoms while using oils, stop using them immediately and call your doctor. Never use oils as a replacement for medical care.
(If you or someone you know may have been exposed to a dangerous substance, contact poison control immediately at 1-800-222-1222 or go to poisonhelp.org for assistance.)
Teresa Carr is an award-winning journalist based in Texas who specializes in science and health. She is a former Consumer Reports editor and writer, a 2018 Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and she pens the Matters of Fact column for Undark.
Can Essential Oils Help Eczema or Atopic Dermatitis?
Essential oils are natural oils extracted from plants, and they give plants their unique scent. As such, manufacturers commonly use essential oils in perfumes, flavorings, and aromatherapy, Merriam-Webster notes.
About 90 essential oils are safe to use on the skin and there are at least 1,500 possible combinations you can try, according to a review published in May 2017 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. When you apply them directly to the skin, essential oils may offer unique benefits, including anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, thanks to their plant compounds. Tea tree oil, for example, may be an effective anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial topical treatment for a variety of conditions, such as acne and edema (swelling), according to a past review.
Thanks to these potential benefits, essential oils are an appealing treatment option for people with inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or atopic dermatitis.
Eczema is a group of skin conditions that include atopic dermatitis, and though there are many different forms of eczema, each shares the characteristic red, itchy, inflamed skin, according to the National Eczema Foundation. Atopic dermatitis is a chronic type of eczema, and those who have it need to manage their symptoms daily to avoid uncomfortable — and sometimes painful — flare-ups. Some people turn to essential oils to calm inflammation and in hopes of staving off infection.
The Importance of Diluting Essential Oils
According to the essential oils brand Doterra, you may be able to apply an essential oil directly to your skin without a carrier oil. Those oils, which are categorized as neat and do not need a carrier oil, include lavender and sandalwood. Yet others, such as cinnamon, thyme, and oregano, must be diluted with a carrier oil such as almond, coconut, or jojoba. The website also advises diluting oils such as peppermint, ginger, and black pepper before using them on sensitive skin, which is a common concern for people who are managing eczema.
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The Potential Health Benefits of Essential Oils for Eczema
Before you try essential oils for any type of eczema, it’s important to know the risks and potential benefits.
“Some can be helpful for their moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties for those suffering with atopic dermatitis,” says board-certified dermatologist Samer Jaber, MD, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and founder of Washington Square Dermatology in New York City.
For example, a past review suggests that topical application of borage oil, extracted from the seeds of the Borago officinalis plant, may improve symptoms in people with relatively less severe atopic dermatitis. Borage oil contains a hefty amount of omega-6 fatty acids, which play an important role in maintaining skin structure and function, and contribute to the anti-inflammatory benefits seen in some people with atopic dermatitis, according to a review published in December 2017 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. Still, it’s unclear whether borage oil is safe and effective for long-term use in people with eczema and atopic dermatitis, so researchers need to conduct more studies on this essential oil.
Topical tea tree oil may also be beneficial for people with eczema, though the research isn’t conclusive. A past study found that topical tea tree oil reduced allergic contact dermatitis, a type of eczema that results when the skin comes in contact with an allergen, by 40.5 percent. That said, whether these effects would apply to atopic dermatitis remains to be seen.
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, tea tree oil may also help prevent the growth of skin bacteria or fungi, according to a past review. This may be especially helpful for people with eczema and atopic dermatitis, as excessive scratching during flare-ups can cause the skin to break, making it more prone to damage.
A past study found that topical application of German chamomile oil lowered histamine levels (a chemical released following allergen exposure) and frequency of scratching in mice with atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is often associated with allergies, so any treatment that calms allergic skin reactions may help ease the characteristic itchiness of atopic dermatitis. But these findings may not translate to human health. Researchers need to conduct more studies in humans to confirm these benefits.
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The Potential Health Risks of Essential Oils for People With Eczema
In spite of the promising research, essential oils may be risky for people with eczema and atopic dermatitis. “It’s important to be careful which essential oil is used, as some can irritate the skin and have the potential to make atopic dermatitis worse,” Dr. Jaber warns.
It’s tough to say which essential oils to avoid, as the manufacturing process itself may cause the essential oil to irritate the skin. According to the National Eczema Foundation, heat and chemicals added during the essential oil extraction process can create skin-irritating compounds, which may make essential oils a bad choice for people with eczema and atopic dermatitis.
Regardless of whether you are living with eczema, there is also concern that essential oils may cause hormonal changes. “Over 65 essential oils contain compounds that are hormone disruptors,” says Lauren Ploch, MD, a board-certified dermatologist in Augusta, Georgia.
Hormone disruptors, known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are natural or manufactured substances that mimic or oppose hormones made in the body, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Repeated use of essential oils containing EDCs may lead to unwanted hormonal changes.
For example, past clinical research found that repeated use of topical lavender oil and tea tree oil likely caused three adolescent boys to develop breast tissue, a condition, the Mayo Clinic notes, is known as male gynecomastia. A study published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Pediatric Endocrinology & Metabolism found similar results in three boys who were chronically exposed to lavender.
To help lower the risk for exposure to EDCs, be sure to dilute your essential oil before using it on your skin. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences notes that as dilution increases, the risk for EDC exposure decreases.
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Why It’s Critical to Talk to Your Dermatologist Before Using Essential Oils for Eczema
At the end of the day, some studies suggest essential oils like borage oil and tea tree oil may help ease inflammation and lower the risk of skin infection, but we don’t know how well they work for this skin condition.
What’s more, some essential oils may irritate the skin and make eczema and atopic dermatitis symptoms worse.
Contact eczema or dermatitis, unlike an irritation eczema, stems from an allergy to a specific ingredient or chemical, according to the National Eczema Foundation. This can cause itchy blistering rashes on the skin. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about developing contact eczema from essential oils. They may recommend performing a patch test on a normal area of skin first to see if you develop a reaction.
Dr. Ploch advises people with eczema and atopic dermatitis to avoid essential oils, as they have a weakened skin barrier, which allows substances like essential oils (and their potential hormone disruptors) to be absorbed more easily. “There are that I would deem safe in this at-risk patient population,” she adds.
Your best move is to chat with your dermatologist, allergist, or other healthcare provider to find out if essential oils are right for you. For more information on eczema and atopic dermatitis, visit the American Academy of Dermatology.
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The 6 Best Essential Oils For Eczema
While there is no cure for eczema, or atopic dermatitis, there are things that you can do at home to potentially help with some of the symptoms. The best essential oils for eczema “may improve hydration; moisturize, soothe, and calm the skin; and reduce inflammation and itching,” Alina G. Bridges, DO and dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic, told Bustle in an interview.
How do I use essential oils?
According to Dr. Bridges, you should definitely not take an essential oil straight from the bottle and rub it onto your skin. Instead, dilute the essential oil in a carrier oil (she recommends coconut oil, sunflower oil, sesame oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, or argan oil). After the essential oil is diluted, she noted, “It can be applied to the skin, added to a bath, or diffused into the air for aromatherapy.” You can also add essential oils to a cream (Dr. Bridges recommends shea butter) and rub it into your skin.
Before using any essential oil for the first time, though, Dr. Bridges recommends testing it out: Apply a small amount with a cotton swab to the inner arm and look for signs of a reaction like redness, itching, burning, or discomfort.
How do I know which essential oils to use?
When picking out essential oils, you should always look for ones in glass bottles (never plastic because oils can actually dissolve the plastic which will contaminate the oil). You’ll also want to avoid buying essential oils that have any additives or preservatives, or have already been diluted.
Now, it’s important to know that you shouldn’t just use any essential oils and expect to see improvement in your eczema. Below you’ll find six essential oils to consider.
1. Tea Tree Oil
How tea tree can help: It is antimicrobial (meaning it can fight infection-causing germs), anti-inflammatory (meaning it can help lessen irritation), and antifungal (meaning it can help reduce itching), among other benefits.
This 100% pure tea tree oil bottle from Maple Holistics has no additives or preservatives. It comes in a glass bottle, so you don’t have to worry about plastic ruining the essential oil.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “It seems to help with the inflammation that can occur from time to time. I’m glad I looked into more natural ways to help with my eczema.”
2. Peppermint Oil
How peppermint can help: It may help to alleviate itching (but Dr. Bridges recommended to not use it on the face or on the chest of infants and young kids because it can be irritating).
With more than 12,800 reviews and a 4.3-star rating, customers back up that this peppermint essential oil from Artizen is effective (and smells great, too). It has no additives or preservatives, is undilluted, and comes in a glass bottle.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I love the Artizen Peppermint Essential Oil and frequently add a few drops of it to my non-fragrant hair and scalp oil. Massaging the mixture into my dry scalp during winter months immediately relieves itching, while providing an invigorating tingling sensation.”
3. Calendula Oil
How calendula can help: “Some studies have demonstrated that this oil has anti-inflammatory properties and can reduce swelling and pain,” noted Dr. Bridges. She also said that this essential oil can also help to hydrate, calm, and soothe your skin.
Calendula oil is made from marigold flowers and this pick from Aromatika is a good one. It leaves out additives and preservatives, is undiluted, and comes in a glass bottle.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “Very good oil. Great aroma. Will use with carrier oil.”
4. Eucalyptus Oil
How eucalyptus can help: Dr. Bridges noted that eucalyptus oil has both has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects.
This 100% pure eucalyptus essential oil from Now has no additives or preservatives, is undiluted, and comes in a glass bottle.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “Use this for skin, my diffuser, sprays, etc. Love it. This brand is consistently good.”
5. Lavender Oil
How lavender can help: “It has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. Good for patients with sensitive skin,” said Dr. Bridges.
There’s something about lavender essential oil that is just so soothing, and this pick from Plant Therapy is no different. It comes in a glass bottle, is undiluted, and is even organic.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “I’m a big fan of Plant Therapy Essential Oils and love that they offer organic oils. Lavender is a must have oil in my household and this is the real deal! It does have a little bit more of a medicinal (strong) lavender smell than some other lesser quality oils I have used but it is more effective than those brands. I highly recommend this and other Plant Therapy Oils.”
6. Chamomile Oil
How chamomile can help: It hydrates, calms, and soothes the skin, and also is anti-inflammatory.
With more than 13,000 reviews on Amazon and a 4.3-star rating, you can trust that this pure chamomile essential oil from Artizen is the real deal. It comes in a glass bottle and is undiluted without additives.
What Amazon reviewers are saying: “Very relaxing and has calmed my skin down when I mix it with jojoba.”
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Alina G. Bridges, DO and dermatologist at the Mayo Clinic