There is a lack of scientific evidence supporting the use of essential oils to treat eczema. However, some essential oils may have anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial effects, which could help with eczema symptoms.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes uncomfortable dry, red, itchy rashes. The most common type is called atopic dermatitis. The skin can become inflamed and painful, and bacteria can infect the damaged skin. If eczema does not respond to conventional therapies, people may turn to alternative or complementary medicines such as essential oils.

Essential oils are not FDA regulated and may cause side effects, so a person may want to check with their doctor before using them.

This article looks at essential oils for eczema and how to use them. It then explains potential side effects. Last, it looks at some causes of eczema.

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Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. The effects vary depending on the plant. According to one study, more than 90 essential oils have properties that may make them suitable for dermatological use, with the number of combinations reaching at least 1,500.

According to a report in Molecular Medicine, herbs work slowly and generally have few side effects, which may explain their popularity as a form of alternative medicine. However, there are not many clinical trials or peer-reviewed journals showing evidence of the effectiveness of aromatherapy or the topical use of essential oils.

The following essential oils may have the potential to alleviate some eczema symptoms:


Chamomile is a traditional treatment that may soothe and calm eczema, inflammation, and skin infections. One study found that essential oils can penetrate into the deeper layers of a person’s skin, and may therefore be useful as an anti-inflammatory.

When the essential oil is diluted and used on the skin as a cream it may be an effective treatment for atopic eczema, providing more than half the positive effect of 0.25% hydrocortisone cream.


Clove oil is considered to have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. It also contains eugenol, which has anesthetic properties. Researchers tested topical clove oil on a group of people with chronic pruritus, and found a significant improvement in itch severity.


Extracts from the geranium shrub contain over 12 active ingredients that are anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial. Studies report that they act against a range of bacteria and can help with acne. However, there is a scarcity of clinical literature supporting their use in eczema.

Tea tree

Essential oils from the tea tree plant have antioxidant and broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects on the skin.

Overall, research to support tea tree oil use as a topical eczema treatment is limited, with some research showing that tea tree oil can cause allergic dermatitis.

Oils with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects may soothe eczema and help avoid infection in damaged skin.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate essential oils. If a person wants to use essential oils, it is best to get them from reputable sources.

Essential oils should not be ingested as they may cause liver or kidney damage. In addition, children should not use them, and people who are pregnant or nursing should be especially cautious about their topical use. The effects of possible toxicities on unborn babies are not fully explored.

Using essential oils for therapy is called aromatherapy, and the natural oil may be inhaled, or applied to the skin. However, it is essential to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying them to the skin.

Diluted essential oil

Suitable carrier oils include coconut, jojoba, olive, and sweet almond.

After adding a few drops of the essential oil to the carrier oil, the mixture can then be used on the skin, in creams, or in lotions. It can also be used as a bath product.

A person may have a reaction to some essential oils. The University of Minnesota suggests that after diluting and using the oil a person should check for any adverse reactions and possible side effects.

Inhalation therapy

If a person wants to use inhalation therapy, a few drops of essential oil can be added to hot water and used in diffuser.

Most people can safely use essential oils with no side effects. However, essential oils can be toxic at high concentrations, and some people report allergies.

A systematic review of 42 studies found that tea tree, ylang-ylang, peppermint, and lavender oils had the most adverse effects, which ranged from mild to severe. The review concluded that the potential for adverse effects and the lack of evidence about aromatherapy’s effectiveness could raise questions about its usefulness.

There are different kinds of eczema, and research has not defined the condition’s fundamental causes. However, it may be a combination of triggers and genes. The different types include:

Typically, people with eczema have immune systems that overreact when triggered, leading to inflammation. The inflammation causes the symptoms associated with eczema, such as red, itchy, and painful skin.

Causes of eczema may include:


Filaggrin is a protein that helps the skin maintain a protective barrier. In some people with eczema, the gene responsible for creating filaggrin has a mutation. If the body cannot produce enough filaggrin, the skin cannot hold moisture, and bacteria and germs can penetrate the outer layers. This leads to dry and easily infected skin.

Individuals may inherit genetics that cause atopic eczema. Children who have a parent or sibling with eczema are more likely to develop the condition.


Foods may cause eczema symptoms to flare up or to get worse. A person may not have a true allergy to foods, but may be sensitive to certain foods that may then cause a reaction. In addition, a child with atopic dermatitis may have a higher risk of food sensitivity.


A range of products used for household cleaning, cosmetics, or some natural substances can cause an eczema flareup. According to the National Eczema Association, common irritants include:

  • antibacterial ointment
  • detergents
  • disinfectants
  • fragrances
  • fruit juice
  • metals
  • soaps
  • some fabrics

Other environmental factors or allergens can also trigger eczema, such as house dust mites, pet fur, pollen, or mold. In some individuals, certain foods can make eczema worse.


Doctors are not entirely sure how emotional stress acts as an eczema trigger. However, some people experience worsening eczema symptoms if they feel stressed. Some research indicates that stress affects the immune system and skin barrier function, leading to deteriorating eczema symptoms.


Women may experience eczema flareups in the days before their period, or during pregnancy. In addition, a person in menopause may also get an eczema flareup due to a drop in estrogen, which affects how well skin can retain moisture.


If a person is sensitive to one or more of the ingredients in certain medications, this reaction may affect eczema symptoms, including discoid eczema, also known as nummular eczema.


An injury that creates obvious damage to the skin may cause post-traumatic eczema. As the tissue heals itself, the inflammatory response or any localized infection can cause eczema.

There are several times when a person may want to contact their doctor about eczema.

  • If eczema develops yellow crusting or pus-filled blisters, this may indicate a bacterial infection and may require a prescription for antibiotic cream.
  • Painful, fluid-filled blisters could indicate eczema herpeticum, a rare, severe complication caused by the herpes simplex virus. A person should seek immediate medical attention.
  • A person who has chronic eczema flares should see their doctor if they develop a fever, experience chills, have reduced energy, or develop signs of infection, such as oozing blisters and excessive itchiness.

Essential oils have been used in the treatment of eczema for hundreds of years, but there is not a great deal of reliable scientific evidence to support their use. There is evidence that essential oils such as tea tree, chamomile, clove, and geranium may have anti-inflammatory or antimicrobial effects. These properties may help ease some eczema symptoms.

Although research suggests essential oils may have some health benefits, it is important to remember that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not monitor or regulate the purity or quality of these oils. A person should talk with a healthcare professional before using essential oils and research the quality of a particular brand’s products. It is also important to always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.