October 5th, 2023 • By: Dr. Pratima Raichur
Eczema can take many shapes and forms, and traditional Allopathic remedies are often topical treatments that aim to pacify irritation, if only temporarily. Alternative natural methods, using Ayurveda’s holistic healing rituals for eczema treatment, can provide significantly improved results for clear, smooth skin.
What is Eczema?
Eczema is a common inflammatory skin condition that affects all ages and can be caused by allergic reactions to food, the environment, mental stress, or genetics. Eczema can be classified as chronic when symptoms last longer than two to three weeks or return periodically. Symptoms generally include itchy, red, dry patches, with the potential for fluid-filled blisters and thick, scaly skin, depending on the type of eczema. In Ayurveda, Eczema is typically associated with a Pitta imbalance.
Common Types of Eczema
Although Ayurveda looks at eczema through a different lens, these are some commonly known types of eczema:
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Commonly called cradle cap and often seen in newborns
Atopic Dermatitis: Often an emotionally-fueled skin response, like an expression of repressed anger, or an intolerance to environmental allergies
Contact Dermatitis: The body's response to chemicals or plants like poison ivy
Xerotic Eczema: Dry skin becomes excessively dry, which results in flaky, irritated, and itchy red patches that often occur on mature skin in the winter.
Dyshidrotic Eczema: Mostly found on the palms of hand, soles of feet, or sides of toes. It is related to an overexposure of water and often worsens in the summer.
Discoid Eczema: Appears as a rash, mostly on lower legs during the winter, and can be dry or oozing with clear boundaries.
Venous Eczema: Occurs with increased swelling and varicose veins. Skin can be purplish, scaly, and itchy, and can result in leg ulcers, especially in those over 50.
Dermatitis Herpetiformis: Extremely itchy eczema, mostly on the back of arms, legs, and knees.
Neurodermatitis: Caused by excessive rubbing or scratching, and emotionally often associated with the feeling of guilt. The skin can become thicker and pigmented.
Autosensitization Eczema: Skin rash due to parasitic, bacterial, or fungal infections.
What are Common Causes of Eczema?
According to Ayurveda, the root cause for any imbalance is undigested food, thoughts, and emotions, or what Ayurveda refers to as ama. When food or emotions produce hormones that repeatedly fail to nourish or serve the body, they eventually accumulate, and corresponding symptoms emerge as the body's way of releasing these intolerable substances. Ama can also be genetic or through breast milk.
Ayurveda describes the skin as a "cream" on top of the seven tissues in the body: plasma, blood, muscle, fat, bone, bone marrow, and reproductive fluid. The skin is the outer essence of all these tissues. Any imbalance that might occur within any one of these seven tissues will show up on the skin.
Eczema can originate within different areas of the body. Spicy, fried, or acidic foods can cause the stomach and gastrointestinal tract to expel excess heat on the skin in the form of eczema patches. Emotions such as anger, frustration, jealousy, envy, and irritation produce hormones that affect the liver, causing toxicity and heat in the blood that then manifests on the skin as red, hot, cracked, or oozing irritated eczema. The same concept applies with repeated exposure to hot or humid climates and environmental allergens that produce excess heat in the body. Inflammation in the gut, mind, and blood is often the origin of discomfort, wearing down our immune responses and resulting in eczema.
Internal Causes of Eczema:
- Stress and feeling overworked
- Inflammation in any area of the mind or body
- Emotions and thought patterns
- Acidic diet
- Poor digestion and inflammatory digestive responses
- Excess acidity
External Causes of Eczema:
- Environmental and food allergies
- Chemicals in detergents, soaps, laundry, and other personal care products
- Chemicals in clothing, towels, and sheets
Additional Factors That Can Aggravate Existing Eczema:
- Smoke and other air pollutants
- Excess friction from fabrics
- Weather, hot and dry conditions
Doshas and Eczema
In Ayurveda, there are three doshas, or mind-body types, which help illuminate different energy dominances in the body. The elements Space, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth are in everyone but occur in varying proportions, explaining our different traits and tendencies, even within the same categorial skin condition. Eczema is mainly a Pitta-dominant condition. However, if the secondary dominant dosha is Vata, eczema will be dry. If the secondary dominant dosha is Kapha, the eczema will be wet or oozing. If Vata and Kapha are both very recessive to Pitta, the eczema will be burning. While it's always optimal to have an experienced Ayurvedic healthcare provider assess the doshic conditions, there are a number of online quizzes, including our own, which can help you get a sense of your doshic proportions at a glance.
Doshic Forms of Eczema
Pitta-type Eczema: Appears as angry, inflamed skin at the level of blood. Skin can be oozing, itching, sticky, burning, hot, and can turn into ulcers.
Vata-type Eczema: Appears as very dry skin, often accompanied by severe itching and pain, and is reddish, rough, uneven, thin, and slightly elevated on the edges. There is also potential for numbness.
Kapha-type Eczema: Often slow-developing with oily, oozing, slimy, thick, swollen, and smooth characteristics. The borders can be yellow.
Eczema Treatment: The Natural Ayurvedic Method
When someone has eczema, it means their system is inflamed and produces excess acidity. Through the science of Ayurveda, treatment takes a holistic approach with both internal and external remedies to address physical, mental, and emotional balance, resulting in clear and healthy skin.
An all-organic, alkaline diet is recommended to help treat eczema. Certain Pitta-aggravating foods are also best avoided in the diet.
Foods to avoid:
- Seafood and salt-water fish
- Red meat
- Citrus fruits
- Hard cheese and store-bought yogurt (freshly made is ok)
- Eggs and cow's milk
- Hot spices
- Deep fried foods
- Fermented and pickled foods
- Vinegar and soy sauce
- Processed foods
- Roasted Nuts
- Artificial sweeteners
- Corn syrup
- Gluten (if intolerant)
- Drink 7-8 glasses of water daily
- Drink half a cup of aloe juice twice daily
- Drink coconut water, especially during the summer or in hot climates
Digestion and Elimination:
- Incorporate more fiber into the diet
- Sip cumin, coriander, and fennel tea before or between meals
- Use a natural, enzyme-boosting digestive herbal supplement, like Natzyme, for proper nutrient absorption and to reduce acidity
- Use a natural, non-stimulating colon-cleansing herbal supplement like Suprabhat, or one level teaspoon of Triphala powder with warm water before bedtime
Skin Supplements and Vitamins:
Enhance good nutrition choices with the following:
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Omega 3
- Black Currant Seed Oil
- GLA (gamma linoleic acid)
- Vitamin D3
- NAT (Neem Amla Turmeric), a skin healing and anti-inflammatory blood purifier, or Neem Amla Capsules
- Tulsi, nettle, chamomile, coriander, and rose tea all offer anti-inflammatory and blood-purification benefits
PRATIMA Skincare for Treating Eczema:
- Massage Healing Neem Oil twice daily into all affected areas
- Apply Eczema Lotion at night into all affected areas
- If the skin is itchy, blend a small bunch of organic, fresh cilantro with some water. Strain and drink 1-2 tablespoons. Massage the remaining liquid to all affected areas. Continue until itching subsides, then rinse. Repeat as needed. Fresh batches can be prepared and kept in the refrigerator for up to two days for continued administration.
NEW from PRATIMA Skincare: Eczema Therapy Set
Featuring pure, herbal formulas that heal and soothe chronic skin conditions caused by eczema, dermatitis, and chronic dry patches, our Eczema Therapy Set heals and soothes dry, itchy skin with profoundly reparative botanicals.
Promote a stress-reducing and anti-inflammatory lifestyle:
- Identify all possible allergies. Getting tested is recommended if you have not done so recently.
- Take an emotional inventory. Identify if feelings of anger, frustration, jealousy, or envy occur frequently and look for ways to release them.
- Develop techniques to manage stress levels. Include daily movement with meditation and breathing exercises, or pranayama, that help regulate mental activity and promote inner resources of energy and focus. Alternate nostril breathing helps neutralize the hemispheric dominance within brain activity, resulting in a quieter state of mind beneficial for nighttime rest and relaxation. Shitali breathing is ideal at any peak moment of stress, helping to release excess heat, create an intentional pause, and recalibrate the nervous system in stressful moments.
- Establish boundaries with work and other time-related tasks. Make a plan in advance to accomplish specific goals each day, or if they are larger tasks, decide on the amount of time you will devote to progress. Commit to these boundaries. Tomorrow is another day.
- Establish a consistent bedtime routine with regular sleeping and waking times.
- Eliminate harmful chemicals in your home-cleaning and self-care products. Opt for natural fabrics, detergents, and skincare.
- Implement air filtration in the home with an air filter or air-purifying plants.
- Add a gratitude practice of making mental or written lists every morning and every night. Everything we focus on increases.
- Make time for play and laughter!
For Treating Infants and Babies with Eczema
- If breastfeeding, follow the Nutrition and Lifestyle guidelines above
- Follow the Skincare application guidelines above
Connecting with Total Health
The skin is a manifestation of what occurs internally every second of our lives. Skin problems are the language of the body telling us what is stuck, trapped, or imbalanced. When heat accumulates in one place, it becomes trapped and will try to escape. This heat can go in different directions, which is why Allopathy might not see a relationship between ulcers, for example, and eczema, but Ayurveda does. For effective eczema treatment, the underlying cause of excess fire must be addressed. External heat, the seasons, the food we eat, the natural aging process, our levels of stress or emotional patterns are all a dance of energies. When we breathe freely, we feel good, and when we hold our breath, we suffocate. The same happens with our emotions; when we hold them in, we suffocate.
Swastiya is the word Ayurveda uses as the definition of health, translating to "the one who is the realized self." It is knowing that I am not the body, I am not the mind. I am the soul. To understand the characteristics of the soul, you can picture a silent passenger inside of you that is unaffected by any storm or stressor. The soul state is a totally blissful one. If you truly understand that you are the soul - as more true than anything else before you - you will align yourself with a frequency of total health.
Dr. Pratima Raichur is an Ayurvedic Physician and Doctor of Naturopathy with over 50 years of experience. She also holds degrees in chemistry and botany as well as certifications in aesthetics and acupuncture. Known as the pioneer of Ayurvedic dermatology, Dr. Raichur is an international lecturer and author of the best selling book, Absolute Beauty, hailed as the ultimate natural beauty bible by top editors and influencers.
Along with her eponymous skincare line, Dr. Raichur's current practice includes personalized Ayurvedic Consultations that address holistic health and beauty, including skincare, chronic skin conditions, nutrition, hormonal balance, weight management, mental wellbeing and more. Read more or book an appointment with Dr. Raichur.