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Can oils, probiotics, or vitamins heal eczema?


Safety concerns

For years, people have said that supplements can effectively treat eczema; however, research reveals numerous safety concerns when these are used to treat childhood eczema.

Mother and young daughter shopping for supplements

Before giving your child any supplement, it’s best to talk with your child’s dermatologist. Here’s why:

  • Research shows that some may be less effective at treating eczema than we’ve been led to believe.

  • Side effects (some serious) can occur when someone takes some of these along with certain medicines.

  • Misleading product claims occur.

  • We have little information about how safe these are for children.

The above precautions come from scientific studies. The following summarizes what the researchers, many of them dermatologists, have found.

Oils

For years, people have sworn that oil supplements can relieve dry, itchy eczema. The supplements said to be most helpful for eczema contain one of the following oils:

  • Borage oil

  • Evening primrose oil

  • Fish oil

To find out just how effectively these oils treat eczema, clinical trials were conducted.

Results: Inconsistent: A few studies concluded these oils can help, but most studies found no benefit.

Safety concerns: Yes.

Most concerning is the risk of a serious side effect when combining some medicines and oils. Taking evening primrose oil and a medicine like aspirin, which reduces inflammation, may slow blood clotting.

Consuming too much oil may cause your child to have diarrhea, nausea, or an upset stomach.

Probiotics

Consuming probiotics (live bacteria and yeast) may help improve our overall health — and even treat diseases. To find out just how safe and effective probiotics are for people who have eczema, clinical trials have been conducted.

Results: Not found to be effective.

Studying probiotics is difficult because there are so many types and products. To complicate matters, everyone has a different microbiome (microorganisms that live in our bodies and help keep us healthy). Microbiomes are like fingerprints. No two people have the same ones.

Safety concerns: Yes.

Probiotic needs differ from person to person. For example, some probiotics can worsen Crohn’s (a disease of the intestines). Always talk with your child’s dermatologist first.

Vitamins and minerals

For years, people have said that certain vitamins and minerals can relieve eczema. To find out just how safely and effectively these treat eczema, research studies were conducted.

Results: We lack the scientific evidence necessary to recommend using any vitamin or mineral to treat eczema. Here’s a summary of what the studies show:

  • Vitamin B6: Failed to make a difference

  • Vitamin B12 cream: 1 study found it helped reduce eczema in adults

  • Vitamin D: Possibly helpful during the winter

  • Vitamin E: Mild positive effect

  • Zinc: Failed to make a difference

Safety concerns: Yes.

It’s important to talk with your child’s dermatologist before adding a vitamin or mineral to your child’s treatment plan. Some vitamins like vitamin D and E stay in the body longer. The amount of vitamin in the body can build up, which can cause higher doses to be toxic.

Related AAD resources

Image: Getty Images

References
Hoffmann DE, C. M. Fraser CM, et al. “Probiotics: Finding the Right Regulatory Balance.” Science, 2013; 342 (6156):314.
Roll S, Reinhold T, et. al. “Comparative Effectiveness of Homoeopathic vs. Conventional Therapy in Usual Care of Atopic Eczema in Children: Long-Term Medical and Economic Outcomes.” PLOS One. 2013; 8(1): e54973.
Sidbury, R. “What’s new in atopic dermatitis research?” (2014, August). In Lio PA (Chair), “What's boiling over: Atopic dermatitis and other eczematous conditions.” Forum presented at the Summer Academy Meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, Chicago, IL.
Sidbury R, Tom WL, et al. “Part 4: Guidelines of care for the management of atopic dermatitis. Part 4: Prevention of disease flares and use of adjunctive therapies and approaches.” J Am Acad Dermatol 2014;71:1218-33.

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