Soothing Chamomile for Skin Conditions

Chamomile

I had a request to write a blog on skin conditions from a friend recently, and when I began to consider this, I immediately thought of chamomile, so I decided to focus this particular post on using chamomile essential oil to treat a variety of skin conditions, although there are many other oils that are incredibly useful, I will bring focus to them another time.  There are two main types of chamomile essential oil one is called Roman chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) which is the oil I would recommend here for use with skin conditions, it has a fresh, smooth, appley, summery scent.  The other type is known as German or Blue chamomile (Matricaria recutita) which is more intense, inky blue in colour and incredibly anti-inflammatory.

Skin conditions can be unpleasant, annoying and stressful, I experienced eczema as a child and again more recently as an adult, so I have a strong relationship with the issues surrounding this condition.  Many other conditions that affect the skin, for example psoriasis, insect bites, rashes such as those caused by measles and chicken pox, will show the same or similar symptoms, and it is the symptoms that chamomile is particularly appropriate for alleviating.  Chamomile is very soothing and calming on a physical level and really helps with symptoms like itching, inflammation, pain, weeping, redness, irritation.  Chamomile also soothes and calms your disposition. It has a strong anti-inflammatory action and anti-allergic action, so it is ideal for things like bites, spots and rashes. The symptoms themselves in turn cause a feeling of stress and discomfort and general irritation, so chamomile is perfect to help calm and soothe these internal feelings as well as the outside physical ailments.  Chamomile is also very gentle, and does not have any contraindications, so this makes it appropriate for use on delicate skin, that may be damaged or sensitive, and for young children.

One very annoying symptom of skin conditions is the itching sensation, and of course the worst thing to do is to scratch, yet scratching seems to be the only thing to bring relief.  Alas, the after effects usually mean your skin is left in a much worse state.  I remember being able to resist the urge to scratch more easily during the day,  but in the night, I wouldn’t really be conscious enough to have control, and I would scratch until I drew blood.  One of my best pieces of advice here is to cut your finger nails down to the absolute minimum which will help minimise damage.  I did consider scratch mitts, but the lack of finger nails really made a difference.

Many skin conditions can leave the skin very dry, so it is important to keep the skin hydrated, hydrated skin will bode better under a scratch attack than dry.  Drink plenty of water to keep the skin hydrated from the inside out.

Treatment & Application: I would recommend applying chamomile essential oil diluted in either a simple cream, lotion or in a plain aloe vera gel, as they are easy to apply, address the hydration issue, and can feel soothing and cooling in themselves when massaged into the affected area.  See my recent blog on ‘Blending Every Day Products with Essential Oils’ for details on mixing and the appropriate number of drops to use when blending yourself, my recipe for making your own natural cream, or see some recommendations for products below.  Make sure you use a base that is very natural and avoid harsh products with nasty chemicals, as they can sting, or cause the skin to react and make it worse.  A cream can be applied to large areas of damaged or affected skin, or just dabbed onto spots or bites.  I would recommend using this for acne when it is very sore, red and inflamed, although treating first with lavender or tea tree would be more suitable because of their powerful anti microbial and cleansing effects, chamomile would then be ideal to apply afterwards for it’s more soothing gentle action.

An important point to note is that a lot of skin conditions that are not caused by an obvious outside influence (a wasp sting, nettles or allergies) are caused by stress.  Stress is a word that can literally mean anything, so it needs to be looked at on a personal level, some might experience stress in traffic on their journey to work, or when trying to get the lid off a jar that is really stiff; some may be dealing with a life crisis for example the death of someone close or a relationship breakdown.  What ever the situation is, the body can still be reacting in the same way, and often it can be several months after the upheaval that the skin condition arises.  It may be worth keep a diary so you can become more aware of your symptoms, and notice what has an effect on them.  Although there may be many things that effect it such as foods, or products that your skin comes into contact with, there is usually an emotional issue which is the root cause.

It wasn’t until I was having a conversation with a friend that I made the emotional connection.  I was struggling to manage eczema at the time and she asked me a question about an uncomfortable subject for me at the time -relating to a difficult relationship.  Whilst I was speaking, she said to me “Do you realise that you started scratching when I asked you about…..”   It was a real ‘ah ha’ moment, and has now become a great marker for me, as whenever I begin to scratch my skin, I know that I must be feeling stressed about something, and having that awareness helps me to question what is going on.  When I notice this, I know I need to be more gentle with myself, and look at what is happening in my life to make me feel stressed or overwhelmed.  I also like to make time to massage a little chamomile cream into the area on my body that is itching.  At the moment I often get an itch and a little patch of eczema on various parts of my hands, so I have a bottle of chamomile cream by my bed, and massage it into my hands at night, which helps calm and prepare me for sleep too.

Whilst putting this post together, I have been chatting to a few people about skin conditions, and a conversation arose where we discussed how the sea and sun often helped to clear up eczema and psoriasis, but of course the sea and sun also usually mean holidays, and inevitably less stress!

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If you are not confident blending your own essential oils into a base of cream or aloe vera gel, or it isn’t convenient, then you can contact me to order a bespoke cream: laura@essesntialoilsandyou.co.uk

Essential Oils in the Bath

Delicious Bath

Using essential oils in the bath can be a deeply relaxing and nurturing experience.  One important point to be aware of is that the oils must be diluted before you add them, this is because they are very potent and can irritate the skin in their neat form.  I have heard many stories from clients who have sprinkled drops of oil straight into the bath and experienced anything from tingling sensations to nasty skin reactions, even unable to use that particular oil again, after developing sensitivity.  So, even though you may be adding the drops of oil to an entire bath full of water the drops do not actually mix with water (because they are hydrophobic), and will stay in droplets on the surface of the water, clinging to your skin as you enter, which is just like putting neat oil onto your skin.

To dilute the oil you must mix it with carrier oil / vegetable oil, a tea spoon of olive oil would work just fine (see ‘A list of Carrier Oils & their Uses’  for more options).  To make it easier to prepare I often pour a tea spoon of olive oil into an egg cup add and then add the essential oils to this.  I would suggest adding between 3 and 12 drops of essential oil depending on the oils you use and how strong you want the scent/blend.  To start with, you could use 6 drops of lavender.  You can use more than one oil, but keep the total number of drops of the oils combined between 3 and 12.  So you may like to mix 4 drops of Orange with your 6 drops of Lavender and perhaps a further 2 drops of Black Pepper (so 12 in total).  This would make a relaxing, warming bath blend, great for aches and pains at the end of the day. Give the mixture a little stir so the essential oils are evenly blended in the olive oil.

Now your bath blend is ready.  Wait until the bath is run and at the appropriate temperature for you and that everything else is prepared, e.g. towels warmed, candles lit etc. (how ever you like to set the scene).  Just before you’re ready to step in, pour the oil blend into the bath and give it a little swoosh to help it disperse, then lay back and enjoy.  Adding them at this moment ensures you enjoy all the wonderful benefits of the oil especially the scent.  If you were to add them as you start running the water (as I would with bath bubbles) the heat and steam created would evaporate a lot of the oil and by the time you lay in the water there would be little left to appreciate.  After bathing notice how nourished your skin feels, just a tea spoon of oil manages to envelope your whole body leaving it soft and smooth.

Simple Bath Blend Recipe:

1 tea-spoon Olive Oil,

3-12 drops of Essential Oil, eg. 6 drops Lavender, 4 drops Orange, 2 drops Black pepper.

Mix together and pour into the bath just before entering.

CAUTION: Be careful not to slip as you step out of the bath, as the olive oil can make it a little slippery.