Eczema is a term used for several types of skin conditions known as dermatitis. It is not itself a serious health condition, but can cause psychological stress and self-consciousness. Eczema is also an indication that the body is out of balance. According to modern medicine, there is no cure for eczema, however Ayurvedic treatment is a holistic approach that can manage eczema and sometimes cure it over time. Below are some guidelines and common recommendations for Ayurvedic treatment of eczema.
The Root of Eczema
Eczema more common in Pitta types, and almost all eczema has a Pitta component. Excess Pitta can overheat the blood and predispose the body and skin to toxic conditions. Eczema is caused by poor digestion, toxins in the bowel, incorrect diet, overuse of sour, salty, pungent, heavy, or oily foods. It can be worsened by the overuse of cosmetics, perfumes, and synthetic creams. Most skin issues arise at least in part from a Pitta imbalance. However, eczema can be rooted in an imbalance in any of the three doshas.
Eczema and the Three Doshas
An imbalance in any of the three doshas can trigger eczema. Eczema is usually related, at least in part, to a Pitta imbalance. It is not uncommon for someone to experience elements of each type of eczema, as would be the case when all three doshas are out of balance.
Pitta eczema – Characterized by redness, blisters, bleeding, burning sensations, infection. Those who are Pitta-dominant are prone to seborrheic and contact dermatitis due to excess heat, especially in the armpits and on the scalp. Skin is hot and inflamed and is aggravated by heat and heating foods, exposure to the sun, and the application of most oils.
Kapha eczema – Characterized by itching, oozing, thickening of the skin. Those who are Kapha-dominant are prone to seborrheic eczema, especially between rolls of fat and other moist, sweaty areas. Skin problems are often accompanied by mucous congestion, lethargy, and a sluggish metabolism. Skin tends to be cold, clammy, sticky, swollen, and itchy.
Vata eczema – Characterized by dryness, scaling, exfoliation, itching, pain, and throbbing. Skin tends to be rough, dry, hard, itchy, scaly (maybe associated constipation, distension, anxiety, insomnia).
Eczema is a constitutional disease, caused by a deep-seated bodily imbalance. Medication with topical treatments can help to relieve symptoms, but topical medications do not effectively treat the underlying cause. Ayurveda attempts to cure eczema from its roots by bringing the body into balance. Therefore, the treatment for eczema depends on the type of eczema being experienced and relies on bringing the excess dosha into balance.
Pitta-type eczema is characterized by redness and burning sensations and is aggravated by heat and heating foods. It is commonly found on the scalp and in the armpits. Pitta imbalance plays a role in almost all types of eczema, and it is useful to follow Pitta-balancing protocols for all manifestations of eczema, even if the eczema presents primarily as Vata-type or Kapha-type. Diet is the best place to start healing the body through Ayurveda to treat eczema.
Avoid foods that aggravate Pitta, such as spicy food, or fermented foods like alcohol, pickles, vinegar, tomatoes, and yeast. It is also important to avoid nuts, bell peppers, eggplant, seafood, and sour foods. Refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor green leafy vegetables, sweet fruits, and squash, or bitter foods such as dandelion greens. Dark grapes, sweet pineapple, sweet apples, mangoes, and figs are excellent choices that will help to balance Pitta and cool the body. Diet is the best place to start to calm and heal eczema with Ayurveda.
Topical Treatments for Pitta-Type Eczema
Pitta-type eczema is aggravated by most oils. Cooling liquids and some cooling oils are best and can be applied directly to irritated skin:
- Sandalwood Powder (combined with water to form a paste)
To heal Kapha eczema with Ayurveda, avoid foods that aggravate Kapha. These include sweet, heavy fruits like bananas, mangoes, dates, and avocados, as well as nuts, seeds, dairy, meat, and excessive amounts of salt. As with the other two doshas, refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor all types of vegetables, aside from root vegetables, and consume plenty of legumes (except for kidney, soy, black, or mung beans, and lentils). Because eczema usually has a Pitta component, avoid Pitta-aggravating foods as well, especially spicy, sour, or fermented foods. Nuts should also be avoided, along with yeast and seafood.
Topical Treatments for Kapha-Type Eczema
- Neem Oil – Apply directly to the affected area
Vata Type Eczema
Vata type eczema is characterized by dryness, scaling, itching, pain, and throbbing. This type of eczema is common in those who are Vata-dominant, but is usually triggered by a Pitta imbalance. It is therefore important to practice both Vata- and Pitta-balancing principles.
To heal Vata eczema with Ayurveda, avoid foods that aggravate Vata, such as raw vegetables, broccoli, cabbage, dried fruits, cranberries, corn, and rye. Refrain from mixing incompatible foods such as milk and melon, milk or yogurt with sour foods, or fruit with other foods.
Favor fats and oils, which help nourish the skin and soothe digestion. Choose cooked vegetables, especially asparagus, beets and carrots. Include sweet fruits such as bananas, mangoes, cherries, and papaya. Flavor your meals with cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, or cumin.
Because eczema usually has a Pitta component, avoid Pitta-aggravating foods as well, especially spicy, sour, or fermented foods. Nuts should also be avoided, along with yeast and seafood.
Vata skin conditions can also be aggravated by dehydration. In addition to following a Vata-balancing diet, it is also important to drink plenty of water, eat soups and water-filled vegetables, and avoid alcohol, coffee, salt, and other dehydrating foods.
Topical Treatments for Vata-Type Eczema
Medicated Ghee – Add one of the following herbs to ghee and apply to affected area:
Diet and lifestyle balance and stress management are the most important components of using Ayurveda for eczema treatment. Herbal remedies can be a great accompaniment to the lifestyle elements of healing. Below are some commonly recommended herbs for treating eczema with Ayurveda:
Neem is one of the most powerful blood purifiers and detoxifiers in Ayurveda and clears toxins associated with most inflammatory skin diseases. It is one of the most powerful herbs for reducing Pitta. Neem clears away foreign and excess tissue and can be used as a medicated oil as a healing and disinfecting agent for skin diseases.
Manjista is one of the best blood-purifying herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It can be taken internally or used topically as a paste with honey for skin inflammations.
Burdock is a strong cleanser of the blood and lymphatic system. It dispels toxins from the skin to help heal inflammatory skin disease.
Said to be one of the most important rejuvenative herbs in Ayurvedic medicine, Gotu Kola is the main revitalizing herb for the nerves and the brain cells. It is a powerful blood purifier and is specific for chronic skin diseases such as eczema and psoriasis.
Similar to myrrh, guggul has strong purifying and rejuvenative powers. It helps to heal the skin. It is usually used for chronic conditions, but can be used topically for flare-ups. Guggul can aggravate Pitta when used in excess, so use in limited quantities for treatment of Pitta-dominant conditions such as eczema.
Sandalwood cools and calms the entire body and mind and is excellent for the treatment of acute dermatitis. It is good for almost any inflammatory condition and for cleansing the blood. Diffuse sandalwood essential oil in the home to calm the body and mind. A paste made with sandalwood powder can be used externally.
For those who are prone to eczema, there are some methods that can be used in concert with dietary and other ayurvedic strategies, to prevent its occurrence.
- Avoid the use of soap, especially on affected regions. Some mild soaps can be used if necessary – Neem Oil soap is a good option if you must use soap.
- Do not use hot water for bathing – tepid or warm water is best.
- Massage dry skin with medicated ghee to prevent an eczema eruption – infuse ghee with Triphala, Manjista, Cardamom, or Neem
- Avoid blankets and sweaters made of wool, which can aggravate eczema. Choose soft fabrics instead, such as organic cotton.
Other Eczema Treatments
There are other strategies for treating and soothing eczema. These can be used alone or in conjunction with Ayurveda for eczema relief.
Probiotic Skin Care for Eczema
Air pollutants, chlorinated water, toxic skin products, and harsh cleansers can can damage the delicate balance of bacteria on the skin. Sometimes, even a balanced body can continue experience mild eczema if the skin microbiome is not restored to a healthy state. Probiotic skin products are an excellent tool to help balance and restore skin bacteria. I have had excellent results with Mother Dirt products, especially the AO+ mist.
Using it after showering and before getting dressed gives the skin microbiome a boost and over time can help bring skin microbiome into long-term balance. If you live in a city or another area with a lot of air pollution, it is good to use the mist regularly in order to maintain a good bacterial balance on the skin and continue to prevent eczema eruptions. This is best used in conjunction with ayurvedic treatment for eczema, so that both the skin and the body as a whole can remain balanced.
Avoid Most Skin Products
Most conventional skin products are toxic and damaging to the skin. Synthetic chemicals irritate sensitive skin and seep into the bloodstream to cause imbalance and toxicity within the body. There are safe ways to moisturize the skin, such as using coconut or jojoba oil. See this post about safe skin care for some more in-depth information.
If you would prefer to purchase safe skin products instead of making your own, there are some safe and effective options available. These are some excellent options:
Do you have any thoughts or questions? Please share them in the comments. I would love to hear from you!
(*It is always best to work with an Ayurvedic practitioner to work on a treatment plan for any medical condition. The above are some common recommendations for effective eczema treatment.)