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Managing Eczema with Complementary and Alternative Treatments

Many people with eczema use products and practices that are outside Western, or conventional, medicine to help manage their symptoms. If you use these natural therapies with doctor-prescribed medications, you are using  a “complementary” method to manage your eczema. If you are using natural therapies in place of conventional medicine, you are using an “alternative” method.

Before you consider any kind of treatment, it’s important to understand what triggers your eczema. Learning about the irritants in your everyday surroundings can help you better manage the condition whether you use traditional medications, alternative therapies, or both.

The following complementary and alternative therapies have been studied and found to benefit certain symptoms of eczema in adults. Check with your health care provider if you are interested in trying alternative therapies on your child’s eczema.

Natural Topical Treatments

Coconut oil

Studies show that applying coconut oil topically reduces the amount of staph bacteria on the skin, which reduces the chance of infection.

Apply coconut oil once or twice a day to damp skin. Be sure to choose coconut oils that are “virgin” or “cold pressed.” This method of oil extraction does not use chemicals, which could  further irritate skin.

Sunflower oil

Sunflower oil boosts the skin’s barrier function, helping it to retain moisture. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Apply sunflower oil to adult skin twice a day, with one of those times being shortly after bathing while skin is still wet.

Avoid using sunflower oil, if you have a known allergy to sunflower seeds.

Cardiospermum is a flowering tropical vine native to India and Africa. When extracted and put into a topical ointment, cardiospermum can help reduce inflammation, itch and bacteria on the skin.

Mind-Body Approach

Stress is a known trigger for atopic dermatitis (AD) flares. Though the exact relationship between stress and AD is unknown, experts believe that when you experience a stressful situation, your body produces inflammation. And inflammation is an underlying cause of AD symptoms.

Training the mind

Some experts believe that there is a strong connection between the mind and skin disorders. In fact, some doctors practice what is known as “psychodermatology” to help the patient with stress, anxiety and other emotional disorders that may worsen his or her symptoms. Psychodermatology is more commonly practiced in Europe than the U.S.

Some techniques used include:

  • Hypnosis
  • Biofeedback
  • Meditation


Acupressure is similar to acupuncture but with physical pressure applied to certain points on the body, rather than needles, to unblock “life energy.” Limited studies show that acupressure can help relieve the symptoms of itch and lichenification -- thick, leathery skin.


It is well known that massage helps relieve stress, which may then help reduce eczema flares. It’s important to go to a massage therapist who is accredited and experienced with working with people with non-contagious skin conditions. Prior to your appointment, check with your massage therapist to be sure the oils and lotions used will not trigger your eczema or make it worse. Bring your own, if you are unsure.

Combat eczema infections with coconut oil?

It’s true — some of the most powerful eczema remedies are already in your kitchen

  • Learn how natural remedies like coconut oil may reduce the amount of staph bacteria on the skin
  • See which alternative treatments are most effective
  • Learn about the benefits of mind-body approaches
  • Better understand the role ofacupressure in treating eczema