using herbs & essential oils

4 Herbal Remedies To Relieve Itchy Skin

February 19, 2013

4 Herbal Remedies To Relieve Itching | | Itching is the worst. Here's what causes it and remedies to help.

Wanna know what my biggest annoyance is?


Yep. I detest it.

Whether it’s from a sunburn (and I’ve had some bad ones back in my tanning bed days) or from poison ivy (had lot’s of that too)… the resulted itching could dive me CRAZY!!!!!

Ugh! Seriously. It’s annoying me just to think about it.

So after getting a question on how to relieve itchy skin, I thought I’d share some herbal remedies that are known to relieve itching as well as my top-secret remedy to knock out the itch of poison ivy quick… and keep it away for a good amount of time.

These tips are great for adults and kids alike!

What Causes Itching Anyway?

Itching is a response to a skin irritant. The nerves that tell your brain to feel itching are the same ones that tell it to feel pain. So when your brain senses the irritant and tells you that it itches, your natural instinct is to scratch that spot and remove the irritant.

Some Irritants Can’t Be Removed Quickly. What Then?

The problem with things like sunburns and itchy rashes is that they don’t just go away when you scratch them. Most of these sorts of things, including eczema as well, are the bodies response to an irritant… be it overexposure to the sun, exposure to a irritating plant, or irritation in the gut that causes eczema.

So what do you do then? You know you’re stuck with this irritant, but how can you ease the itch.

Well before I give you 3 remedies that work well, let’s first look at two underlying issues that need some focus.

2 Underlying Causes of Itching

1. Inflammation

Almost anything that causes itching is accompanied by inflammation. Soooo, if you want to help decrease itching, you need to work on decreasing inflammation. I’m thinking again of sunburns, rashes, eczema, and other similar things.

In order to decrease inflammation and do something good for the skin, you’ll need to focus on using herbs internally and externally. Internally would be things like teas, tinctures (extracts), or capsules, and externally would be things like skin washes and oils. You could also do poultices, but that would only be if the itchy area is localized in one area of the body.

My top internal pick would definitely be tinctures, and my top external pick would be oils that have been infused with anti-inflammatory herbs. Not only will the properties of the herbs soak into the irritated skin which will sooth and help heal it, but it will also moisturize it at the same time.

Some great anti-inflammatory herbs are listed below. If you’re new to herbs, pick one, research it online (Google is great), decide if you’re going to try it, and whether you’ll be using it internally or externally.

I’m sure there are more. A lot of herbs have anti-inflammatory properties. These are some of the more common, well-known herbs that you can start trying.

 2. Excess Fluids

Another thing that I’ve personally found helpful is trying to dry the irritation up quickly. Using anti-inflammatory herbs will help with that since they decrease swelling and the fluids around the problem, but for things like poison ivy – where you’ve got a weeping or oozing type rash – you can work externally to dry it out and help it go away faster.

What you need are astringent herbs. Astringent means to draw out. These are the kinds of herbs that you can use for embedded objects in the skin like gravel, dirt, and splinters. You can also use these herbs to draw out poisons from snake and spider bites. Many people also use astringent herbs when they have head colds that are particularly affecting their sinuses or if they’re loosing too much fluid due to frequent urination or diarrhea as well as a host of other things.

Two of the most common astringent herbs… which are also anti-inflammatory as well – are Plantain and Witch Hazel.

These are great to combine and dab on the  rash several times a day to help it dry quickly.

Herbal Remedies To Relieve Itchy Skin

Okay, now that you know you need to decrease swelling and help dry up anything that’s weeping or has excess fluids, let’s get to the actual remedies that will help do these things and will help relieve itching.

Again… in my opinion, when you or your child’s body is majorly strained from something like a sunburn, major eczema, or poison ivy rashes, it’s best to treat internally and externally. Internally would be through teas, tinctures, or capsules (powdered herbs mixed in honey for the kiddos), and externally can be through some of the remedies I’m going to share with you below.

Anti-Itch Skin Wash

Infuse Plantain into Witch Hazel extract. Squirt on cotton ball and dab on itchy skin or soak a cloth in your wash and lay it over large areas of skin to cool.

Skin Soothing Bath

Combine all dried herbs in equal amounts in a muslin bag or tied up t-shirt/sock. Allow to soak in hot bath to form a tea. When water is warm enough, add in Oatmeal and get in. Soak in the water for as long as possible. The hot water will open up the skin’s pores and cells and allow the herbal properties to be better absorbed.

Cooling Aloe Vera Gel

Combine ingredients and rub gel on irritated skin to sooth and decrease inflammation as often as needed.

Itch-No-More Salve

Warm oil in saucepan using double boiler. Add in herbs and keep warm for 4-6 hours allowing the herbs to really infuse into the oils. Don’t allow your oil to get too hot! You don’t want to kill all the active properties of the herbs. After your oil has infused, strain the herbs out using a fine strainer or cloth. Compost your herbs. Put your oil back in your saucepan over medium-low heat and melt your beeswax. Once your wax is melted, add in your essential oil, and pour your liquid into a tin or jar and allow to slowly cool.

Be sure to click on the photo at the top of this post to find even more anti-itch remedies!

My Secret Anti-Itch Remedy – Using Heat To Stop Itching

Well, I’m not actually sure how secret this is, but it’s what I do when I get poison oak or ivy really badly, and it works every time… and lasts. Also, I’m not really sure how well this would work for a child since you can’t feel for them and know when to stop.

I simply grab my blow dryer and blast my itchy rash with super hot air. Simple, eh? It doesn’t hurt. It actually feels really good! At first you’ll feel that itching sensation build up and up and up until it stops, and then all you feel is heat. That’s when you stop with the blow drying.

What’s happening is the heat changes the sensation on the skin. It’s working on the nerve endings that are telling your brain they feel itching. Once you apply a lot of heat to the skin, the nerves stop telling your brain you’re itching, but that you’re now hot. The great thing here is that it lasts. I can do that, and I won’t itch for an hour or two usually. It definitely beats being miserable and crazy with itching!

SCIENTIFIC UPDATE: The physiological reason heat stops itching is because heat causes mast cells to dump their histamine contents. As histamine is the chemical that causes itching, this histamine-release provides several hours of relief (because it takes several hours for mast cells to re-synthesize histamine). Heat directed at an area of itch often provides as much relief as taking an anti-histamine tablet. One caution should be observed – don’t use a heat level that is strong enough to burn the skin. Hot compresses will also work, but are not advised. Because the moisture in the compress will – over time – cause the skin to dry, which will by itself contribute to itching.

A BIG thanks to Dr. Gardener who so kindly explained the actual physiological reason using heat helps stop itching in the comment section below.

What do you do to help stop itching in its tracks? Share your tips and tricks with me in the comment section below!

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  • Reply Dr. E. Gardner August 2, 2014 at 6:47 AM

    Your suggestion to use heat (from a blow dryer) to combat itching is quite correct. But your explanation for the underlying mechanism is wide of the mark. What really happens is that heat causes mast cells to dump their histamine contents. As histamine is the chemical that causes itching, this histamine-release provides several hours of relief (because it takes several hours for mast cells to re-synthesize histamine). Heat directed at an area of itch often provides as much relief as taking an anti-histamine tablet. One caution should be observed – don’t use a heat level that is strong enough to burn the skin. Hot compresses will also work, but are not advised. Because the moisture in the compress will – over time – cause the skin to dry, which will by itself contribute to itching.

    • Reply Meagan August 2, 2014 at 7:37 PM

      Oh awesome! I’m glad there’s a real scientific reason behind why this works! I’m gonna update the post with this info… thank you!

      • Reply Aurelie May 10, 2015 at 4:45 AM

        I wanna try to do the ointment, but I dont understand what “T” means. Sounds like the quantity to apply but I cant figure out how much it is…

        • Reply Meagan May 10, 2015 at 8:03 PM

          Hey Aurelie… it stands for tablespoon. I made it more obvious in the post. Hope these remedies bring you some relief when you need them!

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  • Reply cathy April 22, 2015 at 7:12 PM

    Thanks so much for the information. It helped greatly. There’s always a natural way to heal. More people need to learn about this topic.

    • Reply Meagan April 23, 2015 at 8:15 AM

      You’re very welcome Cathy!

  • Reply lizzie May 17, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    Hi i have a skin rash from using imack cream 5 years a go its still red and i keep scratching thw dead skin how can i heal it compelity please creams dont work xxx

    • Reply Meagan May 17, 2015 at 5:24 PM

      I’m so sorry Lizzie… I don’t know what imack cream is, and I can’t give any advice as I don’t know your history or even what the rash looks like. My advice would be to find someone local to you who can help you. Again, I’m so very sorry!

  • Reply Renee July 1, 2015 at 2:02 AM

    I’ve been having intense itching/welting for over two weeks now and am going crazy. Have been using over-the-counter antihistamines, hydrocortizone creams, as well as some natural remedies. First was taking Chinese herbals until they just weren’t relieving enough; that’s when I went to drug store remedies. The itching/welting sites are quite random, popping up all over my body. It’s so uncomfortable and annoying. Meditating helps me a little bit, albeit briefly. The antihistamines & hydrocortizone creams give a modicum of temporary relief for which I’m grateful, however I need this to stop. Started acupuncture and received some [again] temporary relief. The acupuncturist said he could make me some tea for $450, however this is quite out of my budget. He also said this is caused by stress and working too much…this may be true, however, I would be most appreciative if you have any suggestions about my situation. I am pretty desperate, and truly want to avoid going to a physician as it’s a sure thing he’ll recommend stronger drugs. Thanks so very much. Is it possible for you to write to my email address? I’m older, and not always the most computer adept individual. Thanks from the bottom of my heart! ++Renee Smith

    • Reply Meagan July 1, 2015 at 8:26 AM

      Sure thing Renee… I’ll definitely send you an email!

      • Reply Pam MacPherson August 2, 2015 at 10:10 AM

        In response to Renee’s comments, my husband (69) has been suffering from identical symptoms regularly for the past 3 months (We live in the Western Isles off north west Scotland). He had relief previously, when he had the same stress-induced symptoms 2 years ago, from Chinese Herbal medicene plus acupuncture but this time it is not working. Steroid creams from the local doctor work somewhat , but are not good to take long term. Some herbal mixtures help but the worst of all was when it began in his scalp. Using heat from the blow drier just now has instantly stopped the symptoms – thank you so much.
        I am so glad to find your practical site. I have ordered some witch hazel (which I had forgotten about ) and I can make infusions with locally growing plantain and some of the other herbs you recommended. I used chamomile and rosemary just as a rinse this morning as he was so itchy and it did help.

        • Reply Meagan August 5, 2015 at 5:36 PM

          I hope you all find what you’re searching for to relieve the itching, and don’t forget to work on decreasing that stress if that’s what’s causing it. There are lots of lifestyle considerations you can make, but herbal adaptogens can help with stress as well. Here’s a blend I use with my kiddos.

      • Reply Peanut Joseph August 31, 2015 at 7:51 PM

        I am so happy I found this sight in searching for herbs that help, dries up & stop itchy rash. I have the same problem as Renee. Can you please send me whatever you are sending her.
        Tks. Peanut

        • Reply Peanut Joseph August 31, 2015 at 7:57 PM

          I agree with the hot water theory. However, after showering or running as hot water, as I can tolerate, on the affected area, I follow with cold water. It is very soothing.

        • Reply Meagan August 31, 2015 at 8:15 PM

          My main advice to her was that I’m not a clinical herbalist, and I don’t work with clients. I advised her to find a nutrition response testing practitioner to narrow in on what’s causing her issues. Hope that helps you too.

  • Reply Marvin L. Zinn July 26, 2015 at 5:48 AM

    How about killing all those mosquitoes?

    • Reply Meagan July 27, 2015 at 7:43 AM

      LOL! Well that would solve a lot of problems wouldn’t it Marvin. I’m not sure how one would go about doing that, but I do have some bug repelling essential oil blends that could help you keep them away instead. Best of luck, and thanks for your comment!

  • Reply Monica August 21, 2015 at 9:32 PM

    Sound like psoriasis, my son also broke out on the armpit, middle arms and inner thighs… An RN caught him on his inner arms said to use black coal tar soap… Well we ordered it but hasn’t come in yet.. Oh his scalp too, we did get the shampoo with the coal tar in it. Helping some so far… Mainly, being an computer person he is not getting enough vit D from the sun because he is indoor, oh the indoors Air conditioning also irritates his skin.. So it drys the skin, we use the herb salve to keep it moist…Stress also is a factor with his skin breaking out red and itching. I’m going to try the oatmeal paste on him,if I get lucky to find jewel weeds in the meantime..still whacking my brain what to do. I too trying not to deal with the chemicals they have out there..

    • Reply Meagan August 23, 2015 at 7:24 PM

      I hope you have some luck with your son’s psoriasis Monica. I’d love to know how the coal tar soap works for you. We have some pine sap soap that I’m trying to figure out how to use!

    • Reply Josephine M September 19, 2015 at 5:19 PM

      I used to have this problem a few years ago. What I found out was that my body needed to detox, and after trying all sorts of creams and most of the treatments that many have mentioned here which didn’t work, what worked finally was drinking 100% Mulberry Green Tea. It flushed away the toxins internally. I hadn’t had an itch for several years since and I can eat whatever foods i like now(for some people, certain foods will make your itch worse ie. anything salty, wheat, pasta, seafoods, eggs). Now I think my body needs detox again because my itch is back so I’m sitting here feeling cool after applying neat peppermint essential oil on the itch(others may need to dilute first with carrier oil) and drinking green tea. I put 2 teabags in a cup of hot water and drink before i go to bed(or thruout the day…just refill the cup with hot water. You need to drink plenty of water after that to help flush away toxins). Hope this helps some people.

      • Reply Meagan September 19, 2015 at 7:41 PM

        I think you bring up a great point Josephine. If there’s something your body is reacting too (foods, toxins, etc.) then you have to deal with that first or else natural remedies like the ones mentioned here won’t be as effective. I’m glad you’ve found help using the green tea to detox. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us!

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