What Natural Therapies Have Promise For Inflammatory Skin Conditions?

Tracey Vlahovic DPM

Since 2006, I have used a natural based product in my practice for the treatment of plantar warts: marigold. After meeting and subsequently training with Dr. Tariq Khan at his Marigold Clinic at the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine, I have used this treatment extensively in my practice. It has certainly changed my career.1

I typically receive two different reactions when I present this therapy to patients. They may be enthusiastic as they may have been referred to me for this or I see a raised eyebrow of speculation as if the patient was saying, “You are putting what on my foot?!”). I realize marigold therapy requires a leap of faith for most patients but I have been pleasantly surprised at how well patients have received it.

Due to my use of marigold therapy, I began to investigate other natural products available for skin care. Accordingly, I’d like to discuss other natural therapies for inflammatory skin conditions as there is an increasing demand for “naturally derived and botanical ingredients in skin care products.”2

The most recent supplement to the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (September 2013) focuses on natural ingredients for skin care. Dohil’s article on natural ingredients for inflammatory skin diseases is relevant for the conditions we treat.3 She mentions the benefits and research on colloidal oatmeal. Colloidal oatmeal has a long history of use for irritated skin dating back to ancient Egypt. The FDA has officially recognized colloidal oatmeal for its soothing properties for dermatitis.

Research has shown that colloidal oatmeal has both barrier repair and barrier preservation properties. “Its proteins and polysaccharides bind to the skin and provide a protective barrier to external insults. The anti-pruritic activity is generally attributed to its ability to maintain barrier integrity … .”3 A recent study showed that colloidal oatmeal cream had a topical steroid sparing effect. In other words, the patient didn’t have to use as much topical steroid as the inflammatory skin condition improved.3

Which drugstore products can you recommend to your patients with colloidal oatmeal? While Aveeno® Active Naturals Soothing Bath has 100% colloidal oatmeal ready for soaking, most of the Aveeno line of creams and lotions for inflamed skin have colloidal oatmeal as an ingredient. Aveeno Eczema Therapy, Aveeno Daily Moisturizing and Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Sunscreen are just a few examples of what is available.

In addition to colloidal oatmeal, the Aveeno line also contains feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) and shiitake mushroom complex, two other natural ingredients known for their antioxidant and anti-irritant properties.

If you would like a product line you could dispense in your office, Gilden Tree offers a foot care line of certified organic products (http://gildentree.com/c-2-foot-care.aspx ). The Healing Foot Cream contains aloe vera, known for its anti-pruritic, antifungal, bactericidal and analgesic properties. I have sampled some of the company’s products and can say to you honestly that they smell heavenly (especially the Shea Butter Balm) and have a nice cosmetic texture.

As chemical and environmental savvy patients are asking for paraben- and preservative-free topical formulations for their skin, there has never been a better time to integrate natural products into your practice. I am always amazed how patients seem to breathe a sigh of relief when I present a product with a natural base to them as they may have been embarrassed or just not willing to state their preference prior to our conversation.

1. Hadfield RA, et al. The use of marigold therapy for podiatric skin conditions. The Foot and Ankle Online Journal. 2008; 1(7):1.
2. Alexis AF. Natural ingredients for darker skin types: growing options for hyperpigmentation. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 12(9):s123-7.
3. Dohil MA. Natural ingredients in atopic dermatitis and other inflammatory skin disease. J Drugs Dermatol. 2013, 12(9):s128-32.

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