Eczema is an allergic skin disease that typically starts in childhood but may also appear in adulthood. The most common form is atopic dermatitis. The rash appears red, itchy with areas that can become crusted or oozing. It most frequently occurs on the face, arms or legs. It is estimated that only 1 to 3 percent of adults have eczema. Some people outgrow the condition as they age but others continue to have problems with eczema their entire lives.
Current mainstream treatments include the use of moisturizers, baths, topical and oral steroids. New non-steroid topical creams have been developed such Elidel and Protopic, which reduce the side effects of steroid use but carry the concern of a possible increased cancer risk. People frequently want to try more natural remedies but most have varying degrees of success.
Alternative treatments for eczema:
• Evening primrose oil (EPO): EPO is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is thought to boost omega-6 fatty acids levels that the body uses to heal. A 2006 meta-study that looked at the results of 26 other studies with over 1,200 patients found that Efomal brand EPO inproved itching, crusting, swelling and redness in patients which was evident by the fourth to eighth week. They found however that this benefit was diminished in those who were also taking potent steroids.
Another study with children gave 58 young patients EPO oral supplements along with topical therapy for 16 weeks. The researchers did not find any significant difference in the two groups of children and concluded that the EPO did not contribute to eczema improvement.
•Borage oil: Like EPO, borage oil is a source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and has been proposed to assist in healing of eczema. Two studies that investigated the use of borage oil did not show significant improvement in patient’s atopic dermatitis. However, one of the studies gave adults 500 mg of borage oil daily for 24 weeks and only those with severe cases of atopic dermatitis showed a minimal improvement over the placebo group.