Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen are folk-remedy experts and home tipsters based in New York City. They have spent decades collecting “cures from the cupboard” and are authors of several books, including Secret Food Cures.
Rashes are temporary outbreaks of irritated skin that may be accompanied by redness, bumps, or scaling. They can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions and external irritants. Home remedies for rashes and itches are frequently effective in bringing relief and long term resolution to these unpleasant skin conditions.
The following excerpt from Bottomline Inc’s Secret Food Cures by Joan and Lydia Wilen offers a range of home remedies for rashes and itches that can bring immediate relief.
Dry skin is the most common cause of minor itches…and if you keep scratching it, it might turn into a rash. Other itches are caused by more serious conditions, like eczema or poison ivy. It’s a good idea to keep your nails short and—most important—try not to scratch! (Scratching can lead to infection.) If the itch or rash is persistent, see a doctor.
Eczema is a chronic skin disease that is very uncomfortable, but not contagious. It tends to show up on elbows, knees and wrists, and may be triggered by allergies.
• We’ve been told that eating raw potatoes— at least two a day—has worked miracles in clearing up eczema. Wear gloves, and be sure the potatoes are thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed. If you don’t see an improvement after a couple of weeks (or if you start to get sick of eating raw potatoes!), try something else.
NOTE: People with eczema should avoid touching raw potatoes with their bare hands. Persistent or chronic eczema is best treated by a health professional.
• Every morning and night, mix a few tablespoons of brewer’s yeast with water, enough to form a paste that will cover the affected area. Gently apply it and leave it on until it dries out and crumbles off.
Psoriasis may be caused by a problem with the immune system. Skin cells grow too quickly and build up into hard, itchy, crusty patches.
• A cabin at the shore and frequent dips in the surf or a trip to Israel’s Dead Sea seems to work wonders for psoriasis sufferers. The next best thing is to dissolve 1 ⁄2 cup of sea salt in one gallon of water. Soak the psoriasis patches in the salty water several times a day—whenever possible.
• A leading authority on herbs, the late James A. Duke, PhD, a botanist formerly with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service in Beltsville, Maryland, explained in his book, The Green Pharmacy (St. Martin’s), “Several plant oils are chemically similar to fish oils, which have a reputation for helping to relieve psoriasis. Flaxseed oil contains the beneficial compounds eicosapentaenoic acid and alpha-linolenic acid.” Dr. Duke reviewed studies showing that 10 to 12 grams (five to six teaspoons) of flaxseed oil can help treat psoriasis.
• Every evening, pat garlic oil on the affected area. You can do this by puncturing a garlic pearl (soft gel) and squishing out the oil. It may help clear up the condition.
• Add one teaspoon of sarsaparilla root (available at health food stores) to one cup of justboiled water and let it steep for 15 minutes. If it’s cool enough by then, strain and saturate a white washcloth in the liquid and apply it to the trouble spot. You may need to use more than one washcloth, depending on the extent of the condition. If it seems to agree with you, do it morning and night for an entire week and watch for improvement.
Pruritis is the fancy term for itching. This form is usually associated with some type of illness, as opposed to the itch from hives (known as urticaria), which is from an allergic reaction or skin sensitivity.
WARNING: Any persistent or chronic itch should be examined by a doctor
Tis better than riches to scratch when it itches! For relief, apply any one of the following to your itchy areas.
◆ Fresh sliced carrots
◆ One vitamin C tablet dissolved in one cup of warm water
◆ Lemon juice (for genital areas, dilute the juice with water)
◆ Raw onion slices
◆ A paste of uncooked oatmeal with a little water
◆ Apple cider vinegar (for genital areas or areas near the eyes, use diluted apple cider vinegar
• If you’re itching to bathe, add two cups of apple cider vinegar to the bathwater. Or add three tablespoons of baking soda to your bathwater. Or add a pint of thyme tea to your bathwater. Thyme contains thymol, which is an antiseptic, antibacterial substance that can make your itch disappear.
• If you prefer a shower to a bath, take a quick shower under hot water—as hot as you can tolerate without burning yourself. The hot water has been known to stop the itching for hours at a time. Lydia recently had an itchy patch on her back. The way she found relief was by taking a fast, hot shower and—for a few seconds before ending the shower—letting the c-c-c-c-cold water run on her back. It stopped the itching, and she was able to sleep through the night. See what works best for you.
■ Recipe ■
Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds
1 cup pumpkin seeds (from one 5- to 7-lb pumpkin)
5 Tbsp granulated sugar, divided.
1 ⁄4 tsp coarse salt
1 ⁄4 tsp ground cumin 1 ⁄4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 ⁄4 tsp ground ginger
Pinch cayenne pepper, or to taste.
11 ⁄2 Tbsp peanut oil
Preheat oven to 250° F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut pumpkin open from the bottom, removing seeds with a long-handled spoon. Separate flesh from seeds and discard. Spread seeds on parchment in an even layer. Bake until dry, stirring occasionally, about one hour. Let cool. In a medium bowl combine three tablespoons of the sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne. Heat peanut oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add pumpkin seeds and the remaining two tablespoons sugar. Cook until the sugar melts and the pumpkin seeds begin to caramelize, about 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer to bowl with spices and stir well to coat. Let cool. These may be stored in an airtight container for up to one week. Makes about one cup.Source: RecipeGoldmine.com
• To stop an itch, wash the itchy part with strong rum. This remedy is from—where else?—Jamaica, mon!
• Do you have a drawstring bag made of cotton? You can sew one easily, using a white handkerchief. Fill the bag with one pound of uncooked oatmeal and close it tightly. Throw it in your tub as you run the warm bathwater. Then take a bath and, with the oatmeal-filled bag, gently massage the dry, itchy skin. Enjoy staying in the bath for at least 15 minutes.
You don’t have to be a bee to have hives! These pale red bumps usually appear in response to an allergy—from food, medicines, insect stings or sun exposure.
•Hives usually disappear almost as fast and as mysteriously as they appear. If yours are hanging on, rub them with buckwheat flour. That ought to teach ’em to hang around!
• Combine three tablespoons of cornstarch and one tablespoon of vinegar. Mix well and apply the paste to the hives.
• Form a paste by mixing cream of tartar and water. Apply the paste to the red marks. As soon as the paste gets crumbly dry, apply more paste.
• Add one cup of baking soda to a bath and soak in it for 20 minutes. Also, drink 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water.
NOTE: None of these remedies offer relief from the Seven-Year Itch.
• Sprinkle cornstarch all over the area to stop the itching.
• Buttermilk is known to stop the itching and help heal the area. Dip a cotton pad in some buttermilk and apply it to the problem spot.
NOTE: Genital and rectal itching may be due to an allergy, yeast overgrowth, poor hygiene, or parasites. Go to the doctor and find the cause, then it will be easier to eliminate the problem.
• Soak a cotton pad in apple cider vinegar and place it on the itching area. If the area is raw, be prepared for a temporary burning sensation. Leave the soaked cotton pad on overnight. (You can keep it in place with a sanitary napkin.) You should have instant relief. If itching starts again during the day, repeat the procedure—instead of scratching.
• Before bedtime, take a shower, then pat dry the itchy area and apply wheat germ oil. To avoid messy bedclothes and sheets, put a sanitary napkin over the oily area.
• For years, pumpkin seeds have been used as a folk treatment to control and prevent intestinal parasites (which may result in an itchy bottom). Buy the shelled and unsalted seeds and eat a handful daily. (See also the recipe on page 143.
Heat rash can develop anytime your body overheats—typically in very hot, humid conditions. Stay cool and don’t let the heat get to you!
• Make a soothing powder by browning 1 ⁄2 cup of regular flour in the oven. Then apply to the rash.
• Take a vitamin C supplement regularly. It helps relieve the itch.
• Rub the prickly-heated area with the inside of watermelon rind
Men, ever get a shaving rash, particularly on your neck? And women, all we need to say are two words—bikini area. These remedies may provide some relief.
• Puncture a vitamin E capsule, squish out the contents and mix with a little petroleum jelly. Then gently spread the mixture on the irritated skin.
• Cornstarch makes a soothing powder for underarms and other rash-ridden areas.
Ringworm is a fairly minor fungal infection of the skin’s outer layer that is related to athlete’s foot, jock itch, nail infections and some forms of diaper rash. The ringworm rash produces red, scaly patches of blisters, and it can spread quickly.
• A woman called us to share her ringworm remedy—mix blue fountain-pen ink with cigar ashes and put the mixture on the fungus infected area. The woman said she has never seen it fail. Within a few days, the ringworm completely disappeared. But if this remedy is going to get you into the habit of smoking cigars, you may be better off with the ringworm!
• Mince or grate garlic, apply it to the trouble spots and cover with gauze. Leave it overnight. Throughout the day, puncture garlic pearls and rub the oil on the afflicted areas. The garlic should stop the itching and help heal the rash.
WARNING: Be careful when putting anything wet on a fungal infection. Fungi thrive in moist conditions.
This chronic skin rash occurs most often in babies and teenagers (life stages when the oil glands are active). The rash usually causes red patches of skin and greasy, crusty scales. The itching tends to be mild, but these remedies may provide some relief.
• Apply cod-liver oil to blotchy, scaly and itchy skin. Leave it on as long as possible. When you finally wash it off, use cool water. Health food stores should carry Norwegian emulsified cod-liver oil that doesn’t smell.
• Rub on some liquid lecithin and leave it on the problem areas as long as possible. Use cool water to wash it off. Repeat the procedure as often as possible…several times a day.
At least one of the three poison weeds—ivy, oak and sumac—grows in just about every part of the United States. And these weeds all produce the same sort of uncomfortable reactions. Chances are, if you’re allergic to one, you’re allergic to all. It’s estimated that as many as 10 million Americans are affected by these plants.
CAUTION: Poison ivy on the face or any large area of skin is extremely serious and should be treated by a doctor as soon as possible.
The best way to avoid getting poison ivy is to know what the plant looks like and to avoid touching it. It also helps to be able to recognize jewelweed, the natural antidote. Chances are, if you know what jewelweed looks like, then you’ll also know what poison ivy looks like and, therefore, you’ll have no need for jewelweed. If you do have occasion to use jewelweed, crush the leaves and stems to get the flower’s juice. Apply the juice on the poison ivy rash every hour throughout the day.
• If possible, as soon as you think that you may have poison ivy, let cold, running water wash the plant’s urushiol oil off the affected skin. You have a very short window of opportunity to do this—about three minutes—so just hope the poison ivy patch you stepped in is near a waterfall or a garden hose.
What to Do with the Poison Ivy Plant
Never burn poison ivy. The plant’s oil gets in the air and can be inhaled. That can be very dangerous and harmful to lungs. Instead, while wearing gloves, uproot the plants and leave them on the ground to dry out in the sun.
Or kill them with a solution of three pounds of salt in a gallon of soapy water. Spray, spray, spray the plants and then spray them some more. Wash your garden tools thoroughly with the same solution.
Once you’ve gotten rid of the poison ivy and cleaned your tools, carefully take off your gloves, turn them inside out and dispose of them. You may want to dispose of your clothes, too. Poison ivy oil may not wash out completely and can stay active for years.
• This may be a little iffy, but…if you know you’re going into poison ivy territory, and if it’s green-tomato season, take some green tomatoes with you. The second you know that poison ivy sap is on your skin, cut up the green tomato and squeeze the juice on the affected area. It may save you the anguish of the poison ivy itch.
• If you have a poison ivy rash, use a mixture made from equal parts of white vinegar and rubbing alcohol. Dab on the solution each time the itching starts. It should relieve the itching and, at the same time, dry up the rash.
• Mash a piece of white chalk so that it’s powdery. Then mix the powder in a pint of water. With a clean cloth, apply the mixture onto the poisoned parts. Repeat the procedure several times a day. This is an especially convenient cure for schoolteachers.
• Rub the inside part of a banana skin directly on the affected skin, using a fresh banana skin every hour for a full day.
NOTE: Take the leftover bananas, cut them into two-inch pieces, put them in a plastic bag and freeze them. They’re great as an ingredient in a smoothie, along with a couple of strawberries, a dollop of yogurt and 10 ounces of pineapple juice. Or blend frozen banana pieces in a high-powered blender until the mixture is the consistency of soft ice cream and have it as a delicious, low-calorie dessert. On a hot day, it’s refreshing to munch on plain frozen banana pieces.
• Apply fresh mud to the infected areas. At the end of each day, shower off the mud (not that we have to tell you to do that). Keep up this daily procedure until the redness caused by the poison ivy disappears.
• Slice one or two lemons and rub them all over your affected areas. It should stop the itching and help clear up the skin.
• Chop four cloves of garlic and boil them in one cup of water. After the mixture cools, apply it with a clean cloth to the poison ivy areas. Repeat often—but that’s the way it is with garlic…repeating often.
• Place ice-cold, whole-milk compresses on the affected areas. Once the rash calms down, wash off the milk with cool water. If you don’t have whole milk, put ice cubes on your skin.
• Take an oatmeal bath to ease the itching and help dry out the eruptions.
• Put mashed pieces of tofu directly on the itchy areas and bind them in place with a cloth or bandage. They should help stop the itching and cool off the poison ivy flare-up.
• Don’t be a crab, just get one. Cook the whole crab in boiling water, let it cool and then use the water to wash the poison ivy area. Or look inside the crab shell for the green stuff. Apply that green gunk directly on the rash. • If none of these poison ivy remedies work and you’re stuck with the itch—its usual duration is about 10 days—then rub on four-leaf clovers and have a “rash of good luck!”
Poison Ivy Test
The white paper test will tell you if that patch of plants you just brushed up against is poison ivy. Take hold of the plant in question with a piece of white paper (DO NOT touch it with your bare hands!). Smush the leaves, causing liquid from the plant to wet the paper. If it’s poison ivy, the juice on the paper will turn black within five minutes.