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Dermatitis is an itchy inflammation of the skin. It is not contagious or dangerous, but it can be uncomfortable. There are many types of dermatitis, including allergic dermatitis, eczema, and seborrheic dermatitis (which causes dandruff). Eczema is a chronic condition, and symptoms may come and go.

Nutrients, herbs and alternative therapies used to treat dermatitis


People who take blood thinners should talk to their doctor before taking fish oil, evening primrose oil, borage oil or bromelain.

  • Avoid exposure to environmental or food allergens. Common foods that cause allergic reactions are dairy, soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat (sometimes all gluten containing grains), fish, eggs, corn, and tomatoes.
  • Eat fewer saturated fats (meats, especially poultry, and dairy), refined foods, and sugar. These foods contribute to inflammation in the body.
  • Eat more fresh vegetables, whole grains, and essential fatty acids (cold water fish, nuts, and seeds).
  • Fish oil.  In one study, people taking fish oil had significant reduction in symptoms of eczema after 12 weeks. This may be because fish oil’s omega fatty acids helps reduce leukotriene B4, an inflammatory substance that plays a role in eczema. (10 g per day for 12 weeks).
  • Probiotics may boost the immune system and control allergies, especially in children. (Take 3 – 5 billion live organisms per day).
  • Evening primrose oil may help reduce the itching associated with eczema. (6 g per day.)
  • Borage oil contains the essential fatty acid GLA, which acts as an anti-inflammatory. (500-900 mg per day, in several doses).
  • Vitamin C can act as an antihistamine. In one study, it helped reduce symptoms of eczema, but more studies are needed. Rose hips or palmitate are citrus free and hypoallergenic. (1,000 mg 2 – 4 times per day)
  • Bromelain an enzyme derived from pineapple, helps reduce inflammation. Bromelain can have a blood thinning effect. (100 – 250 mg 2 – 4 times per day).
  • Flavonoids are antioxidants found in dark berries and some plants that have anti-inflammatory properties, strengthen connective tissue, and may help reduce allergic reactions


The use of herbs is a time honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. You should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider. When applying herbs to the skin it is important to make sure that you have no open wounds as serious infection can result.

  • Topical creams and salves containing one or more of the following herbs may help relieve itching and burning, and promote healing:
    • Chamomile, chickweed, marigold, and licorice.
  • Witch hazel cream can relieve itching. Liquid witch hazel can help with “weeping” or oozing dermatitis.
  • St. John’s wort can be used as a topical cream.
  • Other herbs that have traditionally been applied to the skin to treat dermatitis include Sarsaparilla and marshmallow.


Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type:  physical, emotional, and psychological makeup. An experienced homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate treatment for each individual.

  • Antimonium crudum — for cracked skin
  • Apis mellifica — for hot, swollen vesicles
  • Rhus toxicodendron — for intense itching and burning
  • Sulphur – for intense burning and itching with scaling skin
  • Urtica urens — for burning, stinging pains

Signs and symptoms

The following are some symptoms of dermatitis

  • Itching, pain, stinging, or burning
  • Blisters, thick or scaly skin, sores from scratching
  • Swelling


The following are some known causes of dermatitis

  • Contact dermatitis: caused by allergic reactions (for example, to poison oak or ivy, or soaps, or detergents)
  • Seborrheic dermatitis: may be caused by oily skin or hair, or brought on by stress
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema): exact cause is unknown, but may be due to a combination of dry skin and an autoimmune reaction. People who have eczema often have other allergies.

Drug Therapy

Conventional Western medicine often treats dermatitis with drug therapy.  Here are some of the drugs commonly prescribed.

  • Hydrocortisone creams, to reduce redness and itching in contact dermatitis and eczema.
  • Medicated shampoos, to relieve seborrheic dermatitis.
  • Antihistamines, to relieve itching associated with eczema.
  • Topical calcineurin inhibitors (TCIs), such as pimecrolimus (Elidel) and tacrolimus (Protopic), may be used to treat eczema. These drugs help suppress an overactive immune system. TCIs are used when topical steroid creams do not work.
  • Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat skin infections.
This entry was posted in Skin Care, Skin Problems

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