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What Are Common Natural Remedies for Atopic Dermatitis?

People with atopic dermatitis (AD) may try remedies from complementary and alternative medicine, such as botanicals (from plants), to help them manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Alternative medicine is a term that means any medicinal products or practices that are not part of mainstream medicine. Alternative medicine is also defined by its use as an alternate to traditional medical care. Complementary medicine is used in combination with traditional medicine. Patients are encouraged to talk to their doctor about all therapies and practices they are using to manage their symptoms.1,2

Coconut oil for eczema

Coconut oil has emollient properties, as well as having antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Many studies specifically use virgin coconut oil (VCO, Cocos nucifera), which has not undergone chemical refining, bleaching, or deodorizing. Researchers have studied the use of VCO on atopic dermatitis and have found the coconut oil can provide improvement in the severity and symptoms of AD, particularly dry skin (xerosis), itching, and improving the skin’s barrier function. VCO acts as an occlusive, coating the skin to slow the water loss that happens due to the damaged skin barrier in AD. Virgin coconut oil also seems to address the chronic inflammation caused by AD and acts as an antibacterial, reducing the bacteria present on the skin that can lead to infection.2-4

Sunflower seed oil for eczema

Sunflower seed oil (Helianthus annuus) has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties and skin barrier restoring effects. The major lipid in sunflower seed oil is linoleic acid, which is believed to decrease inflammation. Clinical trials of sunflower seed oil on atopic dermatitis have found it enhances the skin barrier recovery and can be a cost-effective moisturizer for people with AD. Sunflower seed oil has also been shown to have fewer side effects than olive oil, which can cause redness, and sunflower seed oil improves skin hydration. A clinical trial that studied the use of a 2% sunflower cream found that it provided significant improvement in disease severity and quality of life compared to a hydrocortisone cream.2,4

Balloon vine for eczema

Cardiospermum halicacabum is also known as balloon vine, and ointments and creams are made from its extract. The vine grows abundantly in India and has been used for years in Ayurvedic medicine and Chinese medicine. Cardiospermum ointments have anti-inflammatory and antipruritic (anti-itching) effects.5,6

Aloe vera for eczema

Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a plant that has a moisturizing effect and seems to speed wound healing. Aloe vera gel also has properties that are harmful to certain types of bacteria and fungi. However, clinical research on the use of aloe vera in people with AD is limited.5,7

Emu oil for eczema

An emu is a large bird that is indigenous to Australia. The oil comes from the fat of the bird and has been promoted as a product that can cure many conditions. As an oil, it does have moisturizing properties and may also have anti-inflammatory properties, but few research trials have been conducted to prove claims of its use for skin conditions and other oils have similar properties at lower prices.8

Calendula for eczema

Calendula officinalis is the formal name for the marigold flower. The extract from these flowers have been used in folk therapy as remedies for burns, bruises and skin inflammation of various causes. Calendula cream has anti-inflammatory effects, but research on its use in AD is limited.9

Written by Emily Downward | Reviewed October 2019
  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. National Institutes of Health. Accessed online on 5/3/17 at
  2. Goddard AL, Lio PA. Alternative, Complementary, and Forgotten Remedies for Atopic Dermatitis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2015;2015:676897. doi:10.1155/2015/676897.
  3. Evangelista, M. T. P., Abad-Casintahan, F. and Lopez-Villafuerte, L. (2014), The effect of topical virgin coconut oil on SCORAD index, transepidermal water loss, and skin capacitance in mild to moderate pediatric atopic dermatitis: a randomized, double-blind, clinical trial. Int J Dermatol, 53: 100–108. doi:10.1111/ijd.12339.
  4. Vieria BL, Lim NR, Lohman ME, Lio PA. Complementary and alternative medicine for atopic dermatitis: an evidence-based review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2016 Dec;17(6):557-581.
  5. Reuter J, MErfort I, Schempp CM. Botanicals in dermatology: an evidence-based review. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2010;11(4):247-267. Accessed online on 5/4/17 at
  6. Huang MH, Huang SS, Wang BS, Wu CH, Sheu MJ, Hou WC, Lin SS, Huang GJ. Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of Cardiospermum halicacabum and its reference compounds ex vivo and in vivo. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27;133(2):743-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.11.005. Epub 2010 Nov 10.
  7. Tabassum N, Hamdani M. Plants used to treat skin diseases. Pharmacognosy Reviews. 2014;8(15):52-60. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.125531.
  8. The Dermatologist. Accessed online on 5/5/17 at
  9. Dawid-Pać R. Medicinal plants used in treatment of inflammatory skin diseases. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postȩpy Dermatologii I Alergologii. 2013;30(3):170-177. doi:10.5114/pdia.2013.35620.