Written by: Dr. Kristie
Does your child suffer from eczema? This very itchy skin condition is commonly treated with prescription medications, usually steroid creams and other medications that block inflammation. Although prescription treatments can be effective for childhood eczema treatment, the risk of side effects is high. Because of concern about the side effects of these standard treatments, some parents seek other non-prescription remedies. Are there natural treatments for childhood eczema that work?
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil, as the name implies, is extracted from the seeds of the evening primrose flower. Several studies have shown that children and adults treated with evening primrose oil experienced a significant decrease in the dryness, itching, and scaling associated with eczema when compared to the placebo group. Evening primrose oil contains a fatty acid known as gamma-linoleic acid which has anti-inflammatory properties. This may account for its ability to relieve the symptoms of eczema.
One study published in Holistic Nurse Practitioner showed that a chamomile extract was as effective as hydrocortisone cream 0.5% at relieving the symptoms of childhood eczema. Although allergic reactions to chamomile are possible, in the absence of allergy this may be a safe alternative to steroid creams.
Borage oil is derived from the seeds of the borage plant. Like evening primrose oil, it’s a good source of gamma-linoleic acid which helps to reduce the inflammation commonly associated with eczematous skin conditions. Small studies have supported its benefits for treating childhood eczema. Although the most current studies support the effectiveness of borage oil for childhood eczema, several prior ones found it to be less effective than evening primrose oil.
Although this isn’t necessarily a natural approach, emollients are the mainstay of childhood eczema treatment. Emollients help to attract water to the surface of the skin to provide an invisible seal against moisture loss. This can significantly reduce the scaling, dryness, and itching associated with childhood eczema. Regular use of emollients can reduce the need for prescription medications and are an important part of any treatment for childhood eczema. There’s some evidence that emollients combined with the use of wet wraps also has benefits for treating childhood eczema.
The Bottom Line?
Although the best treatment for childhood eczema should be determined by a pediatrician or pediatric dermatologist, regular use of emollients appears to have benefits. Evening primrose oil and chamomile extracts may offer some additional symptom relief and may be a safe alternative to prescription treatments for some children.