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Eczema: to salve and protect

Tired of applying thick creams and ointments on your dry, itchy skin? You're not alone.

Is your skin routine for your eczema working? Are you exhausted by the twice daily emollient application ritual? Was the bleach bath once exciting and promising and now just a blasé part of your day? Have you sworn off oral prednisone because of the weight gain and insomnia while on it? Are you apprehensive about trying immunosuppressive drugs because they increase the risk of infections? Have you tried topical steroids, only to stop for fear of thinning out your skin? Are you scratching despite antihistamines and itch relief creams? 

Well then, you are not alone. 

Over 30 million Americans and approximately 20% of the world’s children suffer from eczema. 

Take cold comfort that countless millions more before have struggled with the dry, itchy, scaly, red skin condition. We can glean from some of the earliest medical documents that the ancients also struggled with chronic, itchy skin conditions. An excerpt from The Ebers Papyrus, written around 1,500 BC, reveals that the Ancient Egyptians also lathered and balmed:

For the common Itch, a mixture composed of Onion, crushed in Honey and taken in Beer, was prescribed. If the Itch was confined to the Neck, a Chopped-up Bat applied to it as a poultice healed it ‘at once.’ For the Thigh:



Dried Beans

Red Natron


Sour Milk

Make into a poultice.


Although chopped-up bats have fallen out of favor, millennia later, we continue to apply emollients to dry, inflamed skin. Despite the advances in modern medicine, the exact cause of this genetic abnormality in the outermost layer of the skin is not completely understood. Today, it is appreciated that people with eczema have impaired skin barrier function with increased skin water loss. As such, eczema is managed with careful skin care practices, barrier repair strategies, topical therapies for inflammation, and the elimination of exacerbating factors. 

The potions of yore differ but the cornerstone of remedy is remarkably similar to current management: to salve and protect.


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