Chronic skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, and rashes can be itchy, annoying, and even debilitating, but there are natural ways to address these issues successfully, without resorting to steroid creams or prescription medications. Be aware of the foods you eat and incorporate these herbs into your daily routine for healthy, itch-free skin.
These are my top recommendations for maintaining healthy skin anywhere on the body.
1. Get plenty of sleep.
Lack of sleep can stress the adrenal glands and cause exhaustion, especially if other factors in life are causing stress. Stress and exhaustion can hurt the body's ability to keep its organs health, and skin is the body's largest organ. Most adults need to sleep 7 to 8 hours a night; to help improve sleep, get enough exercise daily and drink two strong cups of chamomile tea daily — one an hour before bedtime and the second at bedtime.
2. Snip an aloe plant.
Aloe vera is a traditional remedy for soothing burns such as sunburn, but did you know it's also ideal for soothing chronic skin conditions? Aloe's gel is cooling for hot, inflamed patches of skin and it's hydrating, making it ideal for psoriasis sufferers.
Aloe is easy to grow; just keep it in a warm room out of direct sunlight, and don't overwater. Snip off a stem every now and then and squeeze the gel onto the skin; alternatively, mix the gel with a little olive oil, store in a jar, and use as needed.
3. Make soothing herbal oils.
One remedy I love is from Cherokee naturopathic physician Jody Noe, who infuses fresh sage leaves in oil for skin relief; other herbs to use include red cedar, thyme, comfrey, and yarrow.
Chop one cup of fresh leaves into 1 cup of olive, sweet almond, or walnut oil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Strain, reserving the oil, and pour this oil into the bath or apply it directly to skin patches and areas that have become infected.
4. Indulge in a seaweed bath.
Both relaxing and great for the skin, a bath with seaweed can become the most anticipated hour of the week. Inspired by Hawaiian healer Auntie Velma dela Pena, this recipe help those with dry, flaky skin and chronic skin itching.
Simply fill a large pot of water on the stovetop and bring it to a boil. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of dried seaweed (kelp, dulse, or any other seaweed) and simmer for 15 minutes. Pour the hot seaweed tea into the tub with additional hot water, strain if desired, and soak for 20 minutes or more.
5. Get to know calendula.
The herb calendula, also known as marigold, is a powerhouse of a remedy for skin conditions. Applied topically as an oil or salve, calendula acts as an astringent, antibacterial, and emollient, meaning it keeps skin supple and smooth.
The renowned Peruvian healer and orphanage director Mama Kia Ingenlath teaches all her children (more than 30 of them) to use calendula, and they grow it in their greenhouse. Find calendula at most health food stores or grow it in a sunny place or windowsill.
6. Avoid lotions.
It might seem tempting to smear pure, white lotions all over the skin to help with itchy rashes, but it actually does more harm than good. Commercial lotions contain chemicals such as urea, petroleum, and artificial colors and fragrances that can lead to allergic reactions and cause rashes, making conditions such as eczema and psoriasis even worse.
When choosing a topical skin cream or lotion, look for ingredients that are truly pure: coconut oil, aloe vera, and pure essential oils are indicators that a lotion is helpful — and make sure it contains no phthalates or dyes.
These ideas and others, as well as interviews with dozens of fascinating women healers, are in my new book, Women Healers of the World: The Traditions, History & Geography of Herbal Medicine.
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