Chamomile has been used for centuries to treat dermatitis and skin irritation. Does it work and is it safe?
German chamomile is often used as a remedy for skin irritation and dermatitis. Dermatitis, or eczema as it’s sometimes called, can come from allergies, stress, or exposure to substances that irritate the skin – leading to a great deal of itching, redness, and irritation. Chamomile has been used as a remedy for eczema and other types of skin irritation for centuries. Unfortunately, chamomile treatment for skin problems such as skin irritation and dermatitis has its down sides too.
Why is Chamomile for Skin Irritation Thought to Be Effective?
The chamomile herb has anti-inflammatory properties because of the flavonoids it contains. These flavonoids treat dermatitis related inflammation by preventing the release of histamine – a chemical that causes itching, swelling, and redness. One study even showed it was better than hydrocortisone 0.25% for relieving the symptoms of eczema. Because of its anti-inflammatory effects, chamomile is also used to treat sunburn, burns, and other minor forms of skin irritation.
Chamomile for Skin: What’s the Downside?
Although the chamomile herb has anti-inflammatory effects that may help eczema and other types of minor skin problems, a significant number of people experience allergic reactions to chamomile. In fact, chamomile and tea tree oil were the two botanicals most likely to cause allergic skin reactions when forty-two different botanicals were tested using patch testing. Even if a person experiences no problems when drinking chamomile tea, they can still experience an allergic skin reaction to chamomile oil or to topical creams that contain it. The two allergens that people using chamomile react to are called desacetylmatricarin and nobilin.
Chamomile Treatment for Dermatitis: Should You Use It?
Although you can buy already prepared chamomile creams and lotions at health food stores, many people make their own by adding chamomile oil to a carrier oil such as almond oil. Before using it, it’s a good idea to do a patch test to see if you’re allergic to chamomile. To do this, place a small amount of chamomile oil diluted in almond oil on your forearm twice a day. If you’re allergic to chamomile, you should see redness, itching or swelling appear within three to four days. If this test is negative, you’re probably safe using chamomile oil for skin eczema without fear of making it worse.
The Bottom Line?
Chamomile treatment shows some promise for relieving the symptoms of eczema and skin irritation, but chamomile allergic reactions aren’t uncommon. Always patch test before using chamomile oil or any other form of chamomile on your skin.