If your severe eczema is not responding to traditional treatments, you may be wondering what other options you have. In addition to the therapies a doctor prescribes, you may be looking to try alternative or complementary medicine.

One type of complementary therapy you might be curious about is the use of essential oils. Essential oils are highly concentrated extracts distilled from various plants. They’re used in aromatherapy or diluted with a carrier oil for topical use.

Eczema causes red, itchy, and dry rashes that range from mild to severe. Persistent scratching due to severe eczema can cause damage to your skin, putting you at risk for skin infection. Finding a way to successfully manage this condition can prevent complications.

Here are some essential oils that can potentially ease eczema symptoms.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil comes from the leaves of the tea tree plant. It’s used for a variety of skin conditions, including:

Tea tree oil has been proven to be an effective antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory treatment.

In a 2010 study, researchers compared various herbs and minerals for treating contact dermatitis and found tea tree oil to be the most effective.

However, in another study, undiluted tea tree oil has also been found to cause contact dermatitis for certain individuals who are allergic to one or more components of the oil.

Tea tree oil is strong. There’s a risk of skin irritation. Always dilute it with a carrier oil, such as fractionated coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or argan oil, before applying it to your skin.

Another important safety precaution: You should never swallow essential oils. If ingested, they can be toxic. Also, it’s best to do a skin patch test before using any essential oil.

Peppermint oil

Peppermint oil is considered to have numerous health benefits, such as the ability to relieve indigestion and calm nausea. Some people claim it can also be applied topically to reduce itching.

This oil is highly concentrated. Like all essential oils, you should mix it with a carrier oil before using it. However, because this oil is so highly concentrated, you may want to use a larger amount of carrier oil.

Use a few drops at first to avoid any irritation. Never apply it to your face. Avoid using it on the chest of infants or young children, as it can be harmful if they inhale it.

There’s very limited research on peppermint oil and its effects on eczema, so be cautious about using it. Talk with a doctor before trying it.

Calendula oil

Calendula oil comes from the calendula, or marigold, flower.

One small study showed that calendula has anti-inflammatory properties when applied to the skin and can reduce swelling and pain. There isn’t any research on calendula oil specifically for eczema, so it’s not certain that it can ease your symptoms. To be safe, talk with a doctor.

Borage oil

A 2010 study investigated the use of borage oil for soothing eczema-prone skin. Borage oil contains a fatty acid that bodies convert into a hormone-like substance with anti-inflammatory properties.

Some people claim to have seen improvements in skin inflammation. But study results are mixed. More research is needed to determine if borage oil is effective at reducing eczema symptoms.

In addition to the essential oils listed above, there are other plant-derived oils available that could help treat severe eczema. These can be applied to your skin or used as a carrier oil for essential oils.

Jojoba oil

Jojoba oil comes from seeds of the jojoba plant. It’s used as an ingredient in many body care products, like shampoos, lotions, and facial cleansers.

Some research suggests that jojoba oil is also anti-inflammatory and can be used to soothe the skin and calm irritation, but more research is needed.

It’s also a powerful moisturizer. Jojoba oil closely resembles human sebum, an oily substance secreted by your skin and hair.

Coconut oil

Some people claim that coconut oil has various benefits, whether you cook with it or apply it topically.

Coconut oil has some antimicrobial properties, which can reduce the chances of a skin infection. It’s also anti-inflammatory, so it may be able to provide relief from dry, cracked skin caused by inflammation.

In a 2013 study involving 117 children with eczema, applying virgin coconut oil topically for 8 weeks resulted in improvement of their skin.

Still, this single study does not mean that coconut oil can improve your case of eczema. Some people may have an allergy to coconut oil. Always talk with a doctor before applying anything new to your skin.

Sunflower seed oil

Sunflower seed oil is another carrier oil that some people claim has anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it helpful in reducing dryness and boosting skin hydration.

Sunflower seed oil is also a source of the antioxidant vitamin E. Some research has shown that vitamin E can reduce signs of skin inflammation. This may make it helpful for eczema, but more research is needed.

If you buy an essential oil, use it as directed. Essential oils should never be ingested. You must dilute them with a carrier oil before using them topically. Essential oils can be:

  • applied to your skin
  • diffused into the air for aromatherapy
  • added to a bath

It’s also important to note that some essential oils are toxic to pets. If you or someone else is pregnant, some essential oils may be dangerous to inhale.

If you’re curious about trying an essential oil, talk with a doctor first. They can help you determine if using essential oils poses any concerns, such as making your condition worse.

Also, if you use an essential oil and see signs of redness, itching, burning, or stinging on your skin, contact a doctor and immediately discontinue use, as you may be having an allergic reaction.

Even though essential oils may provide relief for your severe eczema, use these oils with caution. Some people experience irritation due to allergic reactions or sensitivities after applying the oils. Essential oils are also not safe to swallow.

More research is needed to determine if these oils truly help relieve eczema symptoms.

If you’re using an essential oil for the first time, do a skin test. To perform a skin test:

  • Apply a small, diluted dab to a patch of skin.
  • Look for signs of a reaction, like stinging, burning, or redness.

Some of these essential oils and botanical oils are linked to reducing inflammation and boosting moisture, making them potentially helpful for eczema-prone skin. But there is not enough research yet to support this.

Use essential oils with caution, as they can sometimes lead to irritation or an allergic reaction. Always talk with a doctor before applying anything new to your skin that they have not recommended.