Heal the Skin You’re In: Medicinal Herbs for Eczema, Psoriasis and Rosacea


| July/August 2003



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Citrus fruits, carrots and celery make up herbalist Jim Duke’s “Psoriaphobic Citrus Juice.”

Achieving healthy, glowing skin is an attainable dream for many. But for the millions of people who suffer from eczema, psoriasis or rosacea, the redness, scaling, sores and incessant itching that mark these chronic skin conditions can lead to a lifetime of discomfort and embarrassment. Conventional treatments aren’t always effective and often rely on antibiotics and topical steroids that can thin the skin, weaken an already delicate immune system and damage the liver. Fortunately, Mother Nature has a number of safe, effective tricks up her sleeve to help control these troubling diseases.

Calming Angry Skin

Are you the sensitive type? If your skin seems to react to everything from stress to perfume, you may have eczema. Also known as dermatitis in medical-speak, eczema is actually a group of skin conditions that affects one in every 12 American adults. Caused by genetic factors, stress, an allergic reaction or yeast growths, eczema often appears as red, itchy, inflamed, scaly or even crusty, oozing patches of skin. People with thin, dry skin are more susceptible.

Luckily, there are a number of natural steps you can take to ease eczema. First, it’s important to do some sleuthing to find out what causes flare-ups. For some people, it can be as simple as a change in climate. For others, stress or illness can worsen the disease. Certain foods, fabrics or the chemicals commonly used in cosmetics and cleaning products can also make symptoms worse. If you can pinpoint what makes your skin rage, take whatever steps you can to avoid the offender.

Botanicals can help heal the outbreaks that do occur. According to naturopathic doctor Tori Hudson, author of the Women’s Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (Keats, 1999), evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis), a rich source of gamma linolenic acid (GLA), can help your skin retain moisture and may protect it from environmental oxidative damage. One recent study by Korean researchers at Inha University found that evening primrose oil not only reduces skin lesions and itching, it also helps modulate the immune system.

“There have been many scientific studies using GLA with excellent benefits in improving the symptoms of eczema,” Hudson says. She recommends supplementing the diet with 500 to 3,000 mg of evening primrose oil daily.

Packed with polyphenols, oolong tea (partially fermented Camellia sinensis) can also soothe stubborn eczema. Researchers from the Shiga University School of Medical Science in Japan discovered this when patients undergoing treatment for their eczema began drinking oolong tea three times a day. Their skin health improved in as little as one week. After a month, 65 percent of the 118 participants showed significant improvement.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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