Complementary and Integrative Health Treatments for Eczema

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2023 | Last updated: October 2023

Finding relief from the symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) can take trial and error. If your current treatments are not working well enough, you may explore other options to use along with them. At least half of people with eczema seek relief from complementary and integrative health (CIH) treatments.1,2

How does CIH differ from conventional medicine?

Conventional medicine refers to the treatment approaches of most licensed doctors in the United States. It is based on scientific evidence taken from clinical trials, clinical practice, or other research.2

For people with eczema, conventional treatments aim to prevent and control symptoms. For example, doctors may recommend over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medicines.2

CIH refers to healthcare practices that combine conventional medicine with non-conventional treatment methods. These non-conventional treatments are called complementary treatments. Combining conventional and complementary treatments can treat a person holistically.3

Western doctors have not prescribed many CIH methods in the past. But this is changing as evidence of their benefits grows. CIH is sometimes called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM).3


CIH treatments are often grouped by either product or practice type. These may include natural products, mind-body practices, or body-based practices. These groups also may overlap.1

Natural remedies for eczema

Some common natural remedies for eczema include:4-8

  • Chamomile tea to manage stress
  • Coal tar applied to the skin (topically) to reduce inflammation, itch, and thickened skin
  • Coconut oil applied topically to reduce bacteria
  • Colloidal oatmeal applied topically or used in baths, soap, or skin care products to hold in moisture
  • Aloe vera gel applied topically to reduce inflammation
  • Honey applied topically to reduce bacteria
  • Sunflower oil applied topically to hold in moisture
  • Bleach baths to change the bacteria levels on the skin and decrease inflammation

Vitamins and supplements for eczema

Some common vitamins and dietary supplements taken to manage eczema include:1

  • Evening primrose oil
  • Fish oil
  • Melatonin
  • Prebiotics/Probiotics
  • Selenium
  • Turmeric
  • Vitamin D
  • Zinc

Vitamin B12 can also be applied topically. But it must be specially made by a pharmacy.1

Some vitamins cannot be taken together or with certain medicines. Also, supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the same way other drugs are. This means that no outside agency confirms the ingredients or suggested dose. Always talk to your doctor before starting or changing supplements.1

Stress management and relaxation

Managing stress can prevent or reduce eczema flares for some people. This is because the body reacts with inflammation when it is stressed.1

Methods people with eczema may use to decrease stress and increase relaxation include:1,9

  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Biofeedback
  • Hypnosis
  • Yoga
  • Massage

Ancient cultural wellness approaches

Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic Indian medicine are gaining popularity within CIH. Despite being around for thousands of years, there is limited evidence for their effectiveness for eczema.1

Traditional Chinese medicine centers on balancing a person’s energy to maintain health or treat disease. This energy is called qi. This approach uses herbs, acupuncture, acupressure, massage, and other methods to balance qi.1

Ayurvedic Indian medicine also seeks to maintain balance. It relies on herbs, oils, diet, massage, and other methods. A strong part of this approach is using mind-body practices such as yoga and meditation.1

What are the possible side effects?

Most CIH therapies are considered safe. But they may not be safe for all people. CIH methods should be practiced along with the treatments prescribed by your doctor. If you are interested in trying a non-conventional or CIH treatment, always talk to your doctor first.3

Other things to know

There is limited evidence that most non-conventional approaches to eczema are safe and effective. However, there is some evidence to support some treatments, including:10

  • Acupuncture and acupressure
  • Certain botanical oils
  • Evening primrose oil (taken by mouth)
  • Vitamin B12 (applied topically)
  • Vitamin D (taken by mouth)
  • Stress-reducing methods like hypnosis, massage, and biofeedback

It may help to start one new method at a time. Keep a journal to record how your body and mind respond so you can learn what works best for you. You can even bring your journal to doctor appointments to share feedback with your care team.2

Before beginning treatment for eczema, tell your doctor about all your health conditions and any other drugs, vitamins, or supplements you take. This includes over-the-counter drugs.

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Treatment results and side effects can vary from person to person. This treatment information is not meant to replace professional medical advice. Talk to your doctor about what to expect before starting and while taking any treatment.