Q. I have been plagued with nummular eczema for years. It does not respond to Benadryl, prednisone or any kind of topical cortisone ointment. 

I read in your column about some doctors in Japan who had people with eczema drink oolong tea to help their symptoms. So the last time I had an outbreak, I tried oolong tea and the results were amazing.   Within twenty-four hours, the itching and inflammation were gone. It took a couple of days, but the lesions disappeared and didn't leave scars.  

Why does oolong tea work so well? It is the best treatment for this awful skin condition I've ever seen!  

A. Nummular eczema consists of coin-shaped itchy red patches on the skin. Nobody knows what causes it, but the condition is aggravated by dry skin, stress, detergent and cold weather.  

A study (Arch. Dermatol. Jan. 2001) of more than 100 patients with a different kind of eczema (atopic dermatitis) showed that drinking a liter of oolong tea daily could markedly improve inflammation and itching. The researchers speculated that antioxidant polyphenols in tea have anti-allergic properties and calm the overactive immune response.    Some people have reported that their eczema improved when they took borage or flax seed oil orally. These dietary supplements are high in omega-3 fatty acids which also have anti-inflammatory activity.

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  1. Pearl
    Reply

    Hi,
    Have been a sufferer of nummural (pardon my spelling) eczema for many years. I become much better and the condition improved drastically when I started drinking rooibois tea. Taking probiotics help tremendously too. Eczema is often because of candida due to a poor gut, so please abstain from sugary foods.

  2. Norma
    Reply

    Many years ago, borage oil was suggested to replace taking evening primrose oil for relieving stiff arthritic joints. I had gotten relief from morning and general stiffness successfully from the primrose oil but switched as the GLA or other component was supposed to be higher. I stopped both after about 5 years, but it seemed to have a residual effect, and I remained fairly pain free until recently. At age 77, I will be trying it again for that condition. I cannot speak in regards to the eczema problem.

  3. Nan R.
    Reply

    There are several kinds of oolong. I use WuYi because I like the flavor.
    I can get Wuyi and Se Chung at my natural foods store in Oregon, in bulk. You can get oolong online, too.
    Here is more detailed information about oolong tea. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oolong
    Try googling oolong and there will be places to buy it online. I use bulk, organic tea. Twinings makes it, and other famous tea makers, but I prefer the organic.
    I hope this works for you.

  4. Ss
    Reply

    Hi, I have developed eczema on my face and hand, thinking of trying oolong tea. Which type of oolong tea should I get? Are there any places in the UK that I can get the tea from? Thanks

  5. myb
    Reply

    I was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis in 2010 and have been & continue to take Meloxicam, Folic Acid and Methotrexate.
    My goal is to get off these meds and use a natural approach through diet, yoga, exercise. I was told best to get off the caffeine, although Oolong tea has caffeine ???
    Does anyone know what type of Oolong tea works best?

  6. carmen
    Reply

    I have numular/discoid eczema as well. The best treatment was prednisone taper – but the side effects are so strong, I don’t want to do it again. Try melaluca lotion, it has tea tree oil – VERY Effective. I am combining it with a lower cost steroid call Clobetasol. I also switched all of my body wash/detergents to the gentle versions and feel much better with the itching. My dr also gave me hydroxyzine to help with itching but it makes me VERY sleepy, so I use it sparingly.
    I am going to try the tea as well.

  7. penelope
    Reply

    Hi Angie
    my eczema has come back with a vengeance in the past couple of years. I’m convinced its peri-menopause although I try everything. Did yours improve?

  8. LL
    Reply

    I have been dealing with eczema and skin allergies for about 2 years. My arms, neck and face were always red and ichy. I have used lots of prescription creams that worked briefly but the problems always came back in a couple of days. The prescriptions also took the color out of my skin so I had red and white patches on my arms. In December I started drinking Oolong tea daily (1-2 cups) after reading about it on the People’s Pharmacy. My skin hasn’t looked this good in years!!! So far the eczema has not returned and my skin doesn’t itch. I would absolutely recommend oolong tea for eczema!!!

  9. John
    Reply

    I had dry, red itchy spots on my finger, where it connects with the hand to the other finger. I thought it would go away. It didn’t after a few months. My wife figured it must be eczema. Thanks to this website, I tried oolong tea internally and vinegar externally. I didn’t read the article carefully enough, and I only drank one glass with two teabags in it each day. They are working very, very, well. It’s almost completely cleared up after two weeks. I need to go buy more oolong tea. I find it here in Asian specialty food stores.
    John

  10. mrmp
    Reply

    hi,
    I have nummular eczema since I was pregnant and still dealing with it until now. I had several outbreaks and at the same time with infection. I tried different things antibiotics to fight off the infection, prednisone taper, did an allergy test but the result was negative.
    While reading this, I am thinking of trying this and lets see what happens. I am using dove unscented soap, renew lotion. these helps. I hope this tea can help me too.
    Still hoping for positive result that it won’t come back again. Praying and keep trying things that can help my skin condition.

  11. Nan
    Reply

    I’ve been using Oolong tea for more than a year for atopic dermatitis on my thumb. The itching and blistering stayed away while I drank it. A few times I ran out or just didn’t use it,and the bumps and itching came back, but that was about a year ago. My nail is peculiar, too, and that is slowing growing out. The outside skin, where it was itchy, etc, is completely normal. The inside, the thumbprint side, is still rather thickened, and will crack when it gets dry. I use a Burt’s Bees hand lotion frequently, and try to stay away from chemical “soaps” which are in use out in the world. Also, when I take large amounts of vitamin A and Omega-3s, it gets better very fast. I just noticed that. But the tea is the basis, and I’ll keep drinking the tea until my thumb is normal, then stop it, and see what happens.

  12. Leizel
    Reply

    How is she doing with the sulphur? It’s something I’m considering…

  13. DPK
    Reply

    My daughter, age 25, suffers from itching skin. Her entire body itches all the time. She has no rash or skin irritation, her skin is not dry. Creams, lotions, itching creams, etc do not help. Dermatalogist could not help with no visable sign of skin irritation. Naturalpath Dr recommended 30cc of sulfur and that did lessen the itching for about a year. Anyone who has this problem and has found out a solution?

  14. Nan R.
    Reply

    It’s now January 2012. The dermatitis on my thumb is still slowly improving. If I don’t drink the tea for a few days, some bumps and itchiness return. When I start drinking it again, the symptoms recede. The front of my thumb is normal skin. The back (inside) is drier. If I cut my nail too short, I get cracks at the top. But it is still steadily improving, even though slowly. I wonder what it is in the tea that makes it do this.
    I am drinking WuYi oolong, because I like the taste better than the other option available to me. It’s also organic and full leaf, loose tea.
    Someone told me that aloe vera rubbed on eczema and the like will help. Haven’t tried it yet.

  15. Angie
    Reply

    My excema has returned after 25 years now I am going through the menopause is it due to hormones changing, the excema first disappeared after I had my children.

  16. bi tsu
    Reply

    hello Greta, just want to ask is there any dark marks cause by your nummular eczema? thank you

  17. bi tsu
    Reply

    hello! just want to ask where can I buy oolong tea here in Philippines (manila. i just need it so so badly.) thank you

  18. Nan
    Reply

    I have what I think is atopic dermatitis. I’ve been drinking oolong tea for about a month. I noticed improvement after a couple days. It quit itching right away, and other symptoms are steadily, but slowly improving. It’s working, but slow.

  19. Nan
    Reply

    My thumb has been inflamed and itchy with blisters and hives for about two months. All the various treatments didn’t work. I read here about the oolong tea and have been drinking it for about two weeks. I have marked improvement. There are no blisters and no itching, except when the skin is very dry. The skin is still rather dry, but improving.
    Before drinking the tea, if I used hand cream to help with the dryness, then my skin would start itching again. Now, I use cream and there is no reaction. My nail had split in one place, and is growing out, with no more damage to it.
    This has worked amazingly well. My physician’s assistant had decided it might be psoriasis, and I am supposed to be referred to a dermatologist, but if this continues, I won’t need to go. I don’t know what the actual diagnosis is, but I’m guessing atopic dermatitis, because the oolong tea works.

  20. RG
    Reply

    Your skin is an organ, and has several uses which include elimination. Creams, oils and lotions address symptoms of something much deeper. My husband and three of our children suffer with eczema to varying degrees. I had never heard of it before, so this battle was very new to me. We’ve tried everything under the sun, and I can’t even begin to figure out the cost of “non-traditional” medical expenses not covered by insurance.
    I’ve discovered several things. Like each of us, the causes of eczema are unique for most individuals. Therefore there isn’t a quick fix for any of it. Like you said, you must press on. I’d like to add to approach it from a research point of view.
    For one child I know it is food related, and have had to modify the diet accordingly. A two year “gluten free” diet along with topical treatments and sea salt baths (from Israel) seems to have brought it under control. For another child, it was environmental, so turning their bedroom into a “green” room, using air filters, and changing detergents did the trick.
    My husband is harder, because adults are often not willing to give up certain things. I did get him to do a 40 day natural juice fast, and every spot on his body literally disappeared. Starting on day 3, we noticed the itching was decreasing, and after 1 week it completely stopped. But alas, one must eventually eat, so he’s back to scratching. Allergy tests revealed a reaction to SOY, but that is in everything.
    If you are able, see an allergist for a detailed skin and blood test. This will at least give you a starting point. Your skin is reacting to something. it will take time, but if you can figure out what it is, then your battle will be a little easier. You may not be able to cure it, but understanding what is causing the problem will definitely help.

  21. C.K
    Reply

    I’ve suffered from subhorreic dermatitis and atopic eczema for over 20 years. Although there seems to be a spectrum/continuum all the way to psoriasis. The best herbs I’ve tried for this are Chickweed which seems hard to get these days, although you can get it in a zinc base ointment (smells a bit), Calendula tea, Chamomile and Quercetin capsules as these seem to have an anti-histamine effect which somewhat helps to relieve the condition.
    Apricot kernel oil is a great internal emollient as it works from the inside out as are other oils like fish, flax etc. I’m convinced the condition is a combination of allergic reactions to unknown substances, allergens etc and an auto-immune response included. An extensive blood test by my GP revealed most systems in my body normal except a very high level of Eosiniphils which are indicative of the body having an immune response to something, although the GP could not definitively say what.
    He suggested taking a worming tablet just to cover that base. The condition has been a horrible battle, embarrassing, frustrating, even invoked suicidal thoughts at one time, but I’ve fought on and am determined to win this fight and urge everyone on to endure, share what you know and be kind to yourself :-) Ck

  22. oolong tea
    Reply

    generally, i thinks only yan tea (one kind of oolong tea) help for eczema, but the xi tea (also one of the oolong from north fujian from china) and taiwan oolong are not helpful.

  23. Tally A.
    Reply

    Raw shea butter (absolutely nothing added) can easily clear up eczema .Cool relief! Shea butter in bottles is diluted with additives and can actually add to the problem with skin reactions. Raw shea butter can be ordered online.

  24. BRB
    Reply

    When I eat or drink any acidic foods it will flair my eczema. If I eat citrus fruits, the eczema will crack and ooze a clear fluid. It seems completely controlled by diet, but a very strict one. I can’t even have a ranch salad dressing, since it has vinegar or lemon juice in it. If I eat a minimal amount of acid, such as a small amount of ketchup, all my skin will become very dry within a few hours. If anyone has any ideas on why this happens I would appreciate some insight.

  25. manil
    Reply

    I’ve been trying oolong tea for the past one month and so far it has not helped my oozing eczema. I drink two tea bags a day in 4 mugs.

  26. Greta
    Reply

    I, too, have tried the oolong tea for my nummular eczema. After having daily battles for about six years which left scars, I have been eczema-free since January 2009. This has been the best thing I’ve ever found for nummular eczema.
    My mom is now trying it for her external scleroderma and it has given her relief from the itching, too.
    As a long-time tea drinker the best suggestion I can give is get good tea – not what is usually found in teabags.

  27. Mike
    Reply

    I was dealing with severe atopic dermatitis during the summer for a couple of years until trying oolong tea and vitamin B12 – It works every time – I get the tea online from The English Tea Store (loose leaf) and make it in the coffee maker by the pot.

  28. cm
    Reply

    After reading about the success of oolong tea with eczema, I decided to give it a try. It was amazing to actually watch the red itchy spot disappear. The dermatologist had given me a cortizone cream to use which helped the itching, but never completely did away with the spot. The website I saw suggested drinking at least 1 liter in a 24-hr. period. Just to be sure, I drank almost all of a 64 oz. pitcher of tea. It’s been almost a year and it’s never returned.

  29. dgs
    Reply

    I have experienced remarkable relief from intermittent atopic dermatitis with the application of PROTOPIC ointment.

  30. MO
    Reply

    I had weeping, oozing eczema that responded to nothing until I tried Tea Tree Oil (melaluca) mixed in vaseline. I mixed 5-10 drops in a very small container with vaseline. I kept applying it night and day. It cured it within a few weeks, but gave immediate relief from the itching.

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