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General characteristics

General characteristics

Dermatitis is a term used to describe an area of inflammation of the skin. It is often (but not always) accompanied by reddened, sore skin with an itchy rash.

Dermatitis can be split into several categories but determining the type can be difficult. The categories include contact dermatitis, stasis dermatitis, atopic dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is commonly caused by physical contact with an irritating substance or allergen whereby the skin may blister, become red, itchy and swollen. The areas affected will not spread to other parts of the body and the rash usually resolves with the avoidance of the irritant.

Stasis dermatitis occurs as a result of poor circulation and fluid retention and is a common precursor or sign of varicose veins and ulcers. It usually affects the lower legs and ankles and presents with symptoms like itching, red spots and a darkening of the skin.

Atopic dermatitis is often called eczema and is thought to be caused by an allergy type reaction. It may be accompanied by hayfever or asthma and it tends to run in families. The skin is red, itchy, sore, dry, cracked, weepy and scaly and can persist for long periods then settle down for a while before flaring up again.

Seborrheic dermatitis usually affects the face or scalp and presents as scaly patches of skin, thought to be caused by an overgrowth of a fungus. Cradle cap is a type of seborrheic dermatitis.

As with most skin conditions poor diet and constipation will aggravate the condition. The immune system may need some help, the liver may need to be cleared and stimulated and the nervous system needs support if stress and tension are present.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Include plenty of plant based fibre (whole grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried fruits) to eliminate the possibility of constipation. Eat foods rich in B vitamins, zinc and magnesium (see 'vitamins' and 'minerals' in the 'natural healing' section of this site for a list of foods high in these).

Check for food sensitivities and eliminate foods that you suspect may aggravate or trigger the condition. Gluten containing foods, dairy and some nuts are common culprits.

Avoid foods with artificial additives of any kind as these are often implicated in skin sensitivities.

Include plenty of garlic and onions in the diet.

Include a wide variety of seeds and nuts (especially pumpkin seeds which are rich in zinc) and oily fish in the diet for their richness in essential fatty acids.

Useful herbs

Useful herbs

Herbs to stimulate the liver and encourage internal cleansing include dandelion root, milk thistle, blue flag and burdock root. Dandelion root is very good at eliminating excess water from the body

Herbs that aid the lymphatic system include cleavers, chickweed, nettle, marigold, mullein leaf and violet leaves.

Herbs that encourage healthy blood circulation include red clover and gotu kola.

Select 2 or 3 herbs from each category and mix in equal parts to make a formula. use a heaped teaspoon per cup and drink 3 cups daily.

Herbs to use directly on the skin to soothe irritation and inflammation include dried chickweed, marigold, plantain, red clover flowers, black walnut husks, comfrey leaf and chamomile. Make a strong tea using a handful of roughly equal parts of the herbs. Stand for 20 minutes or so and wash the tea over the affected areas. You could also make a healing ointment as outlined below.

Ointment recipe (quantities are vague to encourage experimentation!)
Approx 1 heaped tablespoon each of all or some of the dried herbs listed above,
Some solid beeswax (or cocoa butter for a softer ointment),
Enough olive oil or almond oil to cover the herbs,
Some clean jars with tight fitting lids.
Grind the herbs into a powder using a pestle and mortar or coffee grinder. Add the herbs to a bottle of olive or almond oil, making sure the herbs are well covered and stir or shake. Leave the herbs and oil in a warm place for several days (the longer the better), shaking vigorously several times a day.
Strain off the oil and squeeze the herbs to extract all the oil. Discard the herbs. Put the oil in a pan and heat gently, adding beeswax or cocoa butter gradually until all is melted. Test if the ointment is hard enough by dropping some onto a cold plate and allowing to cool. If the mix is still very runny add more wax or cocoa butter and re-test until desired consistency is reached.
Pour the mix into clean jars, add a few drops of lavender oil for scent if desired and leave to cool before putting lids on. Don't forget to label with the date and herbs used.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Take a teaspoon of cleansing and digestive enzyme boosting cider vinegar in water daily before lunch and increase to 2 teaspoons (1 before lunch, 1 before evening meal) after a few days.
Evening primrose oil or capsules help improve the condition for some people as it is rich in essential fatty acids .
Use a good quality honey as a paste over the affected areas for its soothing and healing qualities.

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