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Are There Helpful Home Remedies for Eczema?

Readers have recommended home remedies for eczema. Which ones have you tried for treating atopic dermatitis?
Are There Helpful Home Remedies for Eczema?
The problem with many people – eczema on hand.

Eczema is a common skin problem, sometimes referred to as “the itch that rashes.” Doctors call this condition atopic dermatitis, and they usually prescribe corticosteroid creams to control it. If you have consulted a healthcare professional about itchy atopic dermatitis, you may be using a recommended moisturizer, such as Aquaphor (Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, May 2011). A really good moisturizer, such as one containing urea, improves the barrier function of the skin (Dermatologic Therapy, Nov. 2018). However, you probably didn’t hear about home remedies for eczema.

What Are Good Home Remedies for Eczema?

Not long ago, we heard from a reader who recommended a home remedy that was unfamiliar to us. Over the years, we have found it usually makes sense to pay attention when nurses give advice. 

Q. I started following The People’s Pharmacy about 30 years ago. As a nurse, I am familiar with most drugs, so the home remedies section is my favorite. I helped my husband stop his nighttime leg cramps with tonic water.

A friend recently asked me if I had any ideas about her eczema. I suggested cider vinegar topically. She is thrilled with the result—no more itching and her spots are going away.

Cider Vinegar for Eczema:

A. Apple cider vinegar as a soak for eczema is new to us. In response, we checked the medical literature. A research team at the University of Virginia tested this treatment to see if it improves skin barrier function like urea does (Pediatric Dermatology, Sep. 2019). Sadly, the pilot study did not show benefit. However, the investigators are considering whether some other type of acidic ointment might help. Studies on mice suggests acidic creams might be helpful (Annals of Dermatology, Dec. 2016).

Two Australian scientists suggest that pine tar applications can break the itch-scratch cycle (Medicines, July 18, 2019). However, both work for a firm that makes pine tar products. Consequently, we want to see independent studies to confirm these home remedies for eczema. Likewise, dermatologists in Hong Kong have recently published their research demonstrating that pine tar baths ease childhood eczema (Journal of Dermatological Treatment, April 16, 2020).

Other Home Remedies for Eczema:

We discuss several other simple approaches in our book, The People’s Pharmacy Quick & Handy Home Remedies. You’ll find discussions of borage oil, ceramide-containing moisturizer, nonirritating clothing, oolong tea, probiotics, a low-carb diet, Pycnogenol and Noxzema. If you have tried a remedy that helped, please tell us about it in the comment section.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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  • Miller DW et al, "An over-the-counter moisturizer is as clinically effective as, and more cost-effective than, prescription barrier creams in the treatment of children with mild-to-moderate atopic dermatitis: A randomized, controlled trial." Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, May 2011.
  • Celleno L, "Topical urea in skincare: A review." Dermatologic Therapy, Nov. 2018. DOI: 10.1111/dth.12690
  • Luu LA et al, "Apple cider vinegar soaks [0.5%] as a treatment for atopic dermatitis do not improve skin barrier integrity." Pediatric Dermatology, Sep. 2019. DOI: 10.1111/pde.13888
  • Lee NR et al, " Application of topical acids improves atopic dermatitis in murine model by enhancement of skin barrier functions regardless of the origin of acids." Annals of Dermatology, Dec. 2016. DOI: 10.5021/ad.2016.28.6.690
  • Harrison IP & Spada F, "Breaking the itch-scratch cycle: Topical options for the management of chronic cutaneous itch in atopic dermatitis." Medicines, July 18, 2019. DOI: 10.3390/medicines6030076
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