Essential Oils for Eczema

September is Eczema Awareness Month. Eczema can come in many forms, from dried and flaky to cracked and weeping skin. It is often tremendously itchy and can be red and very sore. Using essential oils for eczema can help to calm the itching, moisturize and soften the skin and even heal over cracks and lesions caused by scratching.

Additionally, there are reasons to believe that eczema may be a dysfunctional stress related immune response. So the relaxing nature of aromatherapy can also add another important aspect of the essential oils for eczema.

Symptoms of Eczema

Eczema can manifest anywhere on the body,  and the way it does may vary from person to person. The most common symptoms include:

    • Dry, flaky of cracked skin
    • Itchiness 
    • Skin that has been scratched raw
    • Thickened skin
    • Oozing and crusting
    • Thickened skin
    • Darkening of the skin around the eyes
    • Small, raised bumps, on dark skins

Statistical Incidence of Eczema in the US 

One out of every ten people will experience eczema at some point in their lives. In the United States, 31.6 million people currently  have at least one form of eczema.  Around 9.6 million children  under the age of 18 have eczema in the US. This number has grown from about 8% of children up to about 12% since 1997. About a third of those affected have moderate to severe forms of it.

Most people will first develop the disease before they turn 6, but research shows that around eight out of ten of those will outgrow it by  adulthood. Children who have more severe forms of eczema are the most likely to suffer from the symptoms long term, but less serious cases can sometimes also continue into adulthood.

However, eczema might not always begin as a childhood condition. Twenty-five percent of adults  reported  their eczema did not present until adulthood.

There can be many exacerbating factors for eczema from stress and diet to environmental surroundings and mold. However, research suggests that eczema is more prevalent in higher income areas, and may have an association with clean living and vaccinations that can alter our immune systems.

The likelihood of developing eczema is higher in childhood and  (Uphoff, 2014)

Atopic Eczema 

Some forms of eczema have hereditary aspects, since one or both of the child’s parents may also have suffered at some point in their lives. There can also be connections to other allergic conditions such as asthma or hay fever too. (Yuksel, 2008)

In the past, I have released a book about essential oils for eczema, entitled the Aromatherapy Eczema Treatment, which delves down more into the holistic aspects of the disease than this article does. 

Contact Dermatitis 

This tends to happen when someone has been exposed, or more often repeatedly exposed to some kind of irritant that affects the skin. Common causes of contact dermatitis are cleaning products, plaster and cement dust in construction industry workers, latex gloves for health professionals, fumes from acrylics used by nail technicians, although this list is not exhaustive.

Considering The Eczema Itch 

By far the highest search term for eczema is “eczema itch relief” which is perhaps not surprising that the one symptom that unites almost all eczema sufferers is the torturous itch.

When the skin itches, it  leads to scratching behavior, which can be so aggravating and difficult to resolve. Itching disturbs sleep which then impacts on daily functioning including impaired performance at work or school, social life and mental health and overall reduced quality of life.

Many different mechanisms underlie eczema  itch.  Skin cells,  immune cells, nerves and the brain all play their part.

The skin is the largest organ in the body. Historically, eczema was thought of as a bricks and mortar system where skin calls are the bricks, and lipids or fats make up the mortar. When these lipids dry out, the structure becomes flaky and crumbly. Adding lipids to the skin's structure can improve the texture and structure of the skin surface. (For this reason carrier oils are equally as important as essential oils for eczema.)

More recently scientists have begun to understand there is more to how and why the skin changes its surface structure. The skin is a sensory organ reacting to many different things, to alter and adapt the way it protects the organism against outside threats. It’s now becoming clear that rather than acting as a stand alone organ, the skin functions as part of the immune system. Defenses and changes in the skin happen because of messages sent to them from nerves.

The Skin and The Nervous System

The nervous system continually senses what’s happening in the world around it, and sends messages to the skin via the nerves.

The skin barrier is called the stratum corneum which is made up of skin cells (keratinocytes). The job of the stratum corneum is to prevent allergens and pathogens from getting into the body. The outer layer of the skin is called the epidermis. Nerve endings punctuate the top layers of skin (the epidermis) and run down the next tissue layer, the dermis.

This is how healthy skin works. But when someone has eczema, the structure of the skin becomes damaged and compromised. Keratinocytes  (skin cells) release proteins and immune signals  that disrupt the structure of the skin even further, which then triggers yet more immune responses.

These immune signals stimulate nerve fibers in the skin which then send messages to the brain via the spinal cord.

The Itch Scratch Cycle

The brain recognizes that something feels strange  going on with the skin,  and instructs  the hands to scratch it. This stimulates the reward center of the brain, which gives a little dopamine rush and may feel better for a moment. Not for long though, because the scratching has now inflamed the skin. So the body responds to that by asking the immune system to dispatch more inflammatory mariners so it can try and heal it. Nerves tell the brain that something feels off again, so the brain tells the hands to scratch it a bit more, and so we have this awful loop of itch scratch, itch scratch..

Eczema flares are often triggered by the “itch-scratch cycle.” This leads to more dry skin. Dry skin and eczema flares, in turn, cause more itching— and so the cycle continues.

This can be extremely disruptive to the skin, to the emotions and to the quality of life generally. 

Nerves and itch

Let’s talk a bit more about these nerves that send  itch messages to the brain.

The scientific word for itching is pruritus, and pruriceptors act like “antennae” to sense the environment and to tell the brain what’s going on outside of the body..

These kick in if you are bitten by a bug, for example. Histamines get recruited to the site of the injury and messages are sent along C-nerve fibers to the brain.

When this happens, you can put an antihistamine onto the skin and it will be really helpful. However, since antihistamines rarely have any impact on eczema itching, this suggests there may be a different signaling pathway  at play.

It has been suggested that rather than a histamine reaction, a chemical messenger called Acetylcholine (ACh) may cause the itching in atopic dermatitis and eczema. Studies show that if you inject  ACh into the skin, it doesn't hurt…it itches.  

Acetylcholine and Itch

The job of acetylcholine is to help the body to adapt and respond to environmental changes.

It plays a role in brain functions, such as memory, and learning, but it is also involved in helping your nerves and muscles to communicate with one another.

Several studies suggest that it may actually be a nervous system dysfunction that  contributes to pruritus in patients with eczema.

Levels of acetylcholine increase in the amygdala, hippocampus and prefrontal cortex following stressful challenges. Higher than normal levels of acetylcholine are also found in people who are depressed.

One of the reasons that essential oils for eczema are so helpful as  natural eczema itch relief agents is because they can interact with the nervous system both through the skin, as well as  the actual smell of the oils being helpful too.

Inhaling Essential Oils for Eczema

Acetylcholine is the main excitatory neurotransmitter of the ganglionic synapse, where the main inhibitory neurotransmitter of the ganglionic synapse is GABA.

That was a lot of words… Let’s break it down.

Nerves are electrical. When one nerve ends and another starts, there are  gaps between them, which the electricity cannot cross.

Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that take messages over that gap from nerve to nerve.

The gap is called a synapse, so a synapse is a junction between two nerves.

Ganglions are huge junctions where many synapses meet, for example where the spinal cord meets the brain.

Acetylcholine revs up the ganglion, to excite all the junctions in the system.  GABA does the opposite. It calms it down.

This may explain why influencing levels of GABA in the system can help to relieve eczema itch scratch cycles. 

More GABA in the system seems to calm the itching down. 

What’s exciting is that inhaling calming essential oils does exactly that. 

Olfactory neurons (the nerve cells concerned with smell) express GABA and help to raise how much of it is in the system.

The Emotional Aspect of Essential Oils for Eczema

Outbreaks of eczema can often be triggered by stress. Stress causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike. If there is a lot of cortisol in the system for a long time, for example if someone has been suffering from stress for a long time, the cortisol suppresses the immune system and increases inflammation in the body. This rise in inflammation leads to eczema symptoms worsening. (Levenberg, 2023)

A  2010 study suggested that stress may not only aggravate itching, it makes skin outbreaks last longer and it also makes it harder for skin to repair from irritation and damage. (Tran, 2010)

Managing Stress With Essential Oils for Eczema

We’ll look at the carrier oils and essential oils for eczema that reduce itching and can heal the skin, but of everything someone with eczema can do, reducing stress is surely the most important and effective thing.

Learning to relax and to avoid challenges, or to respond more calmly when they come about, can be effective strategies when healing the skin.

How to Use Essential Oils for Eczema

Clearly, this is a condition that will really benefit using essential oils for eczema topically. Adding essential oils for eczema into ointments, creams and lotions, as well as putting them in bath can reduce itching and soreness, as well as reducing redness, and even healing cracks and fissures.

But, if you can also employ some time each day to inhale calming essential oils you can influence GABA signaling. This can make huge differences to the results of using essential oils for eczema. Just ten minutes of inhaling essential oils can calm the nervous system hugely, improve hormonal balance and uplift the mood, and it may also help you sleep better at night.

So as we go, I shall comment on the topical usage of essential oils for eczema but also comment on which ones might be good to inhale too.

German Chamomile

By far the most effective essential oil for itch relief.  Be careful you get the right one. Chamomile Roman is anti-inflammatory and it will soothe eczema itch a lot, but German chamomile will be better.

You might also see this written as Chamomile matricaria, or blue chamomile. It is the same thing. It is called blue because, although the oil comes from the little white and yellow daisy flowers, when heat enters the equation, the oil turns blue.

This happens because of a chemical constituent called chamazulene. Chamazulene belongs to the azulene  group of chemicals which are almost like liquid anesthetic. They are tremendously soothing, and kind of numb the area a little.

Chamazulene has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce the itching, redness and soreness.

Emotionally, chamomile oils say “Que sera sera…whatever will be, will be…” This is tremendously helpful when you are dealing with stress. To try and loosen your grip on control helps reduce the stress hormones circulating around your body.

Use German chamomile on your skin, but it’s not a very pleasant fragrance in my opinion, and it’s a little expensive for the bath, unless you are having a severe breakout.


    • Do not use chamomile oils if you have an allergy to ragwort. 
    • Also, not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Roman Chamomile

This is the prettier fragrance of the two chamomiles, in my opinion. You can certainly use it in oils, creams and lotions if you don’t have German chamomile and I love Roman chamomile in the bath.

Deliciously soothing and calming, chamomile reduces itching whilst calming the mind and body. 


    • Do not use chamomile oils if you have an allergy to ragwort. 
    • Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 


Lavender is a funny one. It is absolutely brilliant for soothing itching, but over time it will dry your skin. So, whilst it can be a tremendous way to reduce stress and to deal with your eczema itch, you don’t want to use it too often, in the bath, for example. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.


To me, geranium is probably the master stress healer. She has a supportive action on the adrenals and is deeply relaxing. 

Geranium essential oil nourishes and feeds dry skin, hydrating it and preventing it from cracking. 

Strictly speaking, geranium won’t help the itching side of things but rather addresses the texture of the skin and the stress related condition at large. 

Emotionally, I like to use geranium essential oil when I am worried about money, or am feeling sad or anxious about stuff at work or in relationships. 

I’d say this is one of the essential oils for eczema that you should try to use every whic way you can. Add it into ointments, creams and lotions into massage ois, baths and diffusers. 

Inhale this one in the evening for a beautiful restful night. 

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 


The best of all the skin healers…if you get it from the right place. And by that I don’t mean which company, but rather where it grew.

There are around 600 different species of helichrysum, and they are an extremely fickle species of plant. Their chemistry changes from one village to the next, let alone which country they come from.

The active ingredient which is so fantastic for healing the skin is called neryl acetate. While it does appear in most helichrysums, ones that have been extracted from plants grown around Corsica and Sardinia make the best essential oils for eczema. These are really high in neryl acetate giving them the very best skin healing abilities.

That said, this does not discount any other helichrysum essential oils for eczema, all will be good but some will be better essential oils for eczema than others.


    • Be aware that helichrysum also thins the blood, so do not use it if you have a platelet clotting disorder, or if you are taking anticoagulant medications. 
    • Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.


We have talked about how we have olfactory receptors and that these take messages to the brain, about scent. As you would imagine, most of these are in the upper part of the nose, on the olfactory bulb, which them sorts and translates the information and sends it to a part of the brain called the limbic system. 

Oddly though, not all olfactory receptors work this way and there are strange one located in many different places around the body. 

None are stranger than the receptor whose glamorous name is OR2AT4. It is on the skin, and is activated by some of the constituents of sandalwood (and nothing else as far as we can tell) and its job is to tell the body to make more skin cells to heal the skin. 

Emotionally sandalwood is both soothing and healing, but when used topically, in creams, lotions and baths actually instructs the skin how to heal. 

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy. 

Peru Balsam

Peru balsam is a traditional Inca medicine that the conquistadors discovered when they invaded El Salvador. (Not Peru, you might notice, since the oil does not come from Peru.) Botanists reported how they had found the enormous trees growing in the gardens of the royal palaces, for usage for skin healing and other conditions. 

It’s worth noting that even though Peru Balsam is one of the fastest working essential oils for eczema, it does carry an allergy warning. About 5% of population have a Peru Balsam allergy (it’s in lots of things from Colas to sticking plaster adhesive) so always do a small patch test for 24 hours before using large amounts of this essential oil for eczema.

Be warned that Peru balsam is thick, like black treacle. So if you do use this one, make sure you put the bottle onto a piece of kitchen paper after using,  to mop up any residue and to protect your surfaces from staining. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during pregnancy.


THE BEST skin healer, if you have cuts and abrasions. If the skin is broken, split or becoming infected, a drop of myrrh oil in an ointment can be wonderful. 

Again, this one won’t help the itching, or the eczema itself, but it will strengthen and repair the skin. 

Safety: Not suitable for use in the first 37 weeks of pregnancy. 

Carrier Oils for your Essential oils for Eczema

Considering which carrier oils to use for your essential oils for eczema is extremely important. Remember how I said the skin is made up of bricks and mortar and that the mortar was made up of lipids. Carrier oils are lipids and make a great way to improve the structure of the skin, to nourish it and to make it stronger and more flexible. 

You can add carrier oils to ointments to make them richer and more luscious, but they can also be used as bases for massage oils.


Rich and full of sunshine, calendula is a wonderful skin healer. Calendula officinalis has shown to stimulate physiological regeneration and epithelization of wounded skin (Akhtar, 2011, Dobrev, 2007)

Hemp Seed

Hemp seed oil is soothing and calming to the skin. It is full of polyunsaturated fatty acids making it god for using topically, but also for taking as an edible supplement. 

Sea Buckthorn

Tremendous for its  anti-inflammatory actions. This one is extremely rich and is bright orange, so although it is a carrier oil, use it as you would an essential oil, in very small amounts. Maximum 5% in any blend. 


Has wonderful anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects. This is a great one to add to your blend if the eczema keeps on becoming infected.

Essential Oil Recipes for Eczema

Ointment with Essential Oils for Eczema

This is our family recipe, and it is wonderful because the wax base really kind of plasters the eczema itch down. It is a very thick base, so it tends to kind of lather up when you wash your hands and then you can just rub it back in again.

Method of Preparation:

    1. This recipe makes about 7 x  50ml pots  
    2. Melt the wax in a double boiler so the wax is away from direct heat 
    3. When it is entirely melted add boiling water
    4. Add all the liquid ingredients carefully. 
    5. Mix gently, being careful not to add too much air into it. 
    6. Pour into sterilized jars 
    7. Do not cap until they are cooled.


    • Not suitable for use during pregnancy. If you omit the myrrh you can use after 16 weeks. 
    • This ointment is great for eczema on the elbows and knees or very itchy eczema. For larger areas, or for eczema on the eyelids of scalp, add the essential oils to aqueous cream instead.


Use essential oils for eczema to reduce itching, redness and soreness and to heal the skin. But also implement them as ways to calm the nervous system and to balance healthy neurotransmission. For further details about how you can address diet, vitamin therapy and more about essential oils for eczema, consider reading my book. See below–

Liz’s book:

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