Eczema and psoriasis are among the most common of skin conditions and although they have different causes, in many cases the naturopathic approach to treatment is remarkably similar.
What’s the difference between Eczema, Dermatitis and Psoriasis?
Eczema is an inherited condition that is also sometimes referred to as atopic eczema or dermatitis. It causes affected areas of skin to become red, dry, inflamed, scaly, itchy and sometimes to weep and form small blisters. It is caused by a genetic abnormality that interferes with the skin’s ability to repair itself after it has been exposed to irritants. Psoriasis also causes scaly, itchy skin, particularly on the elbows, knees and scalp.
In this case, the underlying issue is that the affected skin cells reproduce more quickly than normal, causing a build-up of cells that form a plaque and may flake off. The cause of psoriasis is not fully understood, but it is believed to be inherited and to involve immune system dysfunction.
Avoid known triggers and aggravating factors
Psoriasis is often triggered by factors such as stress and episodes of illness and less frequently by the use of certain prescribed medicines. Its severity may be worsened by smoking, eating a poor diet, not getting enough exercise and it can also be aggravated by scratching or picking at the affected skin, allowing the skin to become too dry, or by bathing in water that is too hot. Hot water and other forms of heat may also trigger eczema and so may coming into physical contact with something you’re sensitive to.
Common triggers include chemicals; including some of those used in household cleaning products, washing powders, swimming pools, perfumes, make-up, hair products, shampoo and bubble bath, synthetic fabrics and woollens and metals used in the manufacture of watches and jewellery. Less frequently, eczema may be triggered by food allergies or sensitivities.
The omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil have known anti-inflammatory properties and when taken in high doses, may help to relieve symptoms of atopic dermatitis.
Keep skin moist and supple Creams, ointments and moisturisers help soothe flaky, inflamed skin and reduce itchiness, while also helping to support the skin’s role as a barrier that prevents infectious organisms and unwanted substances from entering the body. Try calendula cream to reduce skin inflammation and speed up healing of skin lesions, or aloe vera gel to cool and soothe red, inflamed skin.
Traditional herbal help
In Western herbal medicine, skin rashes such as eczema and psoriasis have traditionally been viewed as indications that the body is not detoxifying and eliminating waste products efficiently. Naturopaths consequently believe that people with these skin conditions may benefit from herbs that support the functioning of the liver and other digestive organs.
Herbs that have traditionally been used for the treatment of eczema and psoriasis include:
- Burdock root, which is traditionally used to aid elimination of waste products and eczema, psoriasis and other skin eruptions
- Sarsaparilla, which is used to help relieve itchiness in psoriasis and eczema
- Globe artichoke, which supports liver and gall bladder function and aids the elimination of toxins from the body
- Echinacea, which in addition to its better known immune-boosting properties, has traditionally been regarded as a blood-cleansing herb, that helps reduce skin inflammation and assist with skin healing