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
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.
- Aloe Vera
- Evening Primrose
- Green Tea
- Juniper Berries
- Licorice Root
- Marshmallow Root
- St. John’s Wort
- Witch Hazel
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
- 1 part marshmallow root
- 1 part colloidal oatmeal
- 1 part green tea
- 1 part rose petals
- 1 part lavender
- 1 part chamomile
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 soothe and decrease inflammation as often as needed.
I also have another aloe sunburn remedy over on the HANE blog that uses an aloe and herb mixture. It works great!
- 4 oz. sweet almond oil
- beeswax (about 3 TBSP.)
- 1 TBSP. juniper berries
- 1 TBSP. cloves
- clove essential oil
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.