Hi, Just joined the Society as have long had an interest in herbs and starting now to grow my own and want to learn more about their use.
My teenage daughter has excema, she has suffered since the age of 6 months and whilst generally its now not so bad her hands really flair up. The skin literally cracks open and her hands become very red and swollen. To be honest I don't know how she bears it but she seems to have an exremely high tolerance to pain. If it was me I would be unable to use my hands but she just gets on with it.
Anyway I would love to know if anyone can recomend something to help? We use tea tree oil to prevent infection when its bad but I really don't know what else to use?
Many thanks for any help you can give.
I'm very sorry to hear your daughter is suffering in this way. You may find it helpful to consult a qualified medical herbalist in your locality by doing a search for someone local on the National Institute of medical herbalists website database.
I'm not a qualified herbalist, but this is the advice I usually give to parents who have children with eczema.
Eczema appears to be linked with migraine and allergies, so some medical experts feel there may be a genetic link, but the rapid increase in eczema and respiratory complaints -especially asthma -do seem to be tied in with levels of pollution, lack of breast feeding, "industrial cleaners" etc etc.
The skin is the body's largest organ. If the skin is inflamed, there is a reason. There is something the body is trying to get rid of through the skin. What you can't do with eczema is treat it solely from the outside. If you rely on steroid based creams you run the risk of pushing whatever is trying to get out further inside. This may lead to something worse emerging later on in another area. Constant use of steroid creams can also lead to flesh which is easily bruised and the development of cateracts. Another herbalist has written today that she believes adult asthma is often linked to childhood eczema which has been suppressed by steroid creams.
OK, so you need to think about eczema from the inside out. There are three main food groups that many people are allergic to - dairy, wheat and nightshades. The easiest way to find out which food group is causing a problem is to totally exclude each food group in turn for two weeks and then see what happens when it is gradually re-introduced. Dairy is usually the greatest culprit in cases of eczema and many children find their skin problems go away if goat's milk is substituted for cow's or milk is excluded altogether. I don't advocate the use of soy because it seems to be doing nasty things to children's thyroids and totally screws up women's thyroids around menapause, plus you can't be certain your commercial soya milk isn't from genetically modified grains.
If there is an intolerance to wheat, you really need to get tested for coeliac disease and if you need to follow a gluten-free diet, you really need to stick to it because it can cause silent lasting damage to major organs.
Nightshades are things like potatoes, tomatoes and all kinds of peppers (bell peppers, sweet peppers etc.). This group often affect people who suffer with inflammatory diseases like rhumatoid arthritis etc.
So...what can you do with eczema?
Firstly, don't apply a cream if the skin is hot because it will lock the heat inside and make it worse. The best way is to coat it with a herbal wash - chamomile water and elderflower water are really effective. My apprentice used it and it calmed his skin right down really quickly.
Place elderflowers in a stainless steel or enamel saucepan and cover with fresh spring or distilled water. Cover and slowly heat to just below a simmer. Turn the heat as low as it will go and continue heating for about ten minutes tightly covered. Turn off the heat and allow all to sit, covered, overnight. The next morning, strain the infusion off. You will need to strain at least twice through muslin or kitchen towel to remove all the floating debris. Add a quarter of the volume in alcohol as a preservative. Bottle and keep in a cool dark place.
Chickweed infused oil is a really good one to use in children's bath water. Get them to eat it raw in salads too. Chickweed is great for itching.
If you want to make a salve which will keep the skin moisturised, use a combination of chamomile, calendula, chickweed and heartsease. Add St John's wort oil if the skin is open and there is a danger of infection.
I'm sorry this post is long. It's one of those conditions which you have to treat the whole person and the whole situation, not just the symptom. I hope what I've said is helpful.