Case Study: Eczema


Patient: a woman of 49, a journalist and herb student. She is thin and of slight build, dry and cold. Her eczema starts every spring and gets worse over the summer; over neck, shoulders and back, very inflamed looking and can be weeping. Easily infected. Responds best to Oak bark tincture as a wash. Had the problem from the age of 2. Used cortisone creams for 32 years

General health: prone to constipation, tension headaches, tension backaches and nasal catarrh. History of candidiasis and allergies. Cycle irregular of late, bleeding light.

Allergies and sensitivities: Sugar makes her tense and grumpy, oils give her headaches, dairy products and city air aggravate her catarrh, whole wheat upsets her digestive system. Eczema is not directly related to allergies or constipation.

On examination: general gut tension, ileo-caecal valve knotted.

Medication: B complex, C, zinc, multi-mineral supplement and evening primrose oil. Yellow dock, burdock and other herbal teas as needed.

Diet: Good, mostly fish and vegetables, no milk products or added sugar. Drinks 1 or 2 coffees, 1 or 2 teas and lots of fizzy water daily.

Exercise: walks a lot.

Comments: she is very aware of health issues and doing well in general, but needs help to get to the bottom of her skin trouble.

Strategy: cleanse and support liver, strengthen blood, deep warming, relaxing and dampening.


Dandelion root (Taraxacum off.) decoction, 2 cups a day for 6 months.
A tincture of equal parts of Angelica (A. archangelica), Nettles (Urtica dioica), Ephedra (Ephedra sinica) and Vervain (Verbena officinalis). Take 5ml 3x daily, with water.
Neutral cream (water, emulsifying wax and vegetable oil)
Marshmallow (Althea off) leaf tea, 2 or 3 cups daily.
The tincture was to help her get the symptoms trader control quickly, hence the Ephedra. Nettles work well for 'nervous eczema' and Vervain is my favorite remedy for relaxing 'liverish' people. She was worried about the alcohol, because of history of candidiasis. The neutral cream was for her to use as a base and experiment with. This empowered her to take charge of their own health.

Progress: treatment continued for four weeks, at which time the rash had gone and her bowels were more regular.


Advised to continue the Dandelion root and Marshmallow leaf.

Gave her a tea of Nettle, Vervain and Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.), for use as required. To keep the tincture against future need.

She was OK for the rest of that summer.

The next summer was very hot. She sent me a letter, saying that she 'was fully expecting to have to see me, but had not had a summer rash at all!'. The rosemary had made her feel very hot, so she had changed it for red sage (Salvia off.). She had also added ladies mantle (Alchemilla mollis) when she started to get menopausal flushes. Her irritability and all her sensitivities had diminished markedly due, I feel, to the dandelion root; her skin was much less dry due, I believe, to the marshmallow leaf.

She had to use the tincture for a couple of weeks when she had stayed in a house heavy with moth balls, which she thought had set off a dry, itchy rash.

Comments: I sent this in because it is a nice example of the effective action of simple remedies on chronic conditions, when taken for long enough.

Editor's comment:

We usually think of marshmallow only as a demulcent, and it is frequently added to formulas to treat acute dryness and/or inflammation of the respiratory, digestive, or urinary tracts. Here we have it used long-term as a nourishing constitutional remedy, for a patient who is dry and deficient. It is used here the way Chinese Yin tonic herbs are used. Michael Tierra (Planetary Herbology) recommends its use in this manner way for wasting and thirsting diseases such as tuberculosis and diabetes.

We can also erroneously think of dandelion as a "mild" herb, forgetting that a mild herb, taken for a long time, may be a much more powerful healing agent than a strong herb taken for a short time.

Medical Herbalism.


By Christopher Hedley

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