When my daughter was born, she had very severe eczema. Eczema is almost always related to food allergies, and hers were gluten and dairy. Giving up food allergens is important, but skin issues, especially long standing ones, take a while to resolve. Here’s a simple topical that will cut your waiting time: Licorice oil!
When she was small, I used every herb that had ever been mentioned for dry skin. I tried them all – but nothing would touch her eczema. It seemed like the only option left was hydrocortisone cream, but I didn’t want to try that. One day I was thinking about licorice – which slows the body’s breakdown of cortisol. Although at the time I couldn’t find any information talking about the topical use of licorice, it seemed to me that if I could slow the breakdown of cortisol in a local area, that would effectively yield a buildup of cortisol – it would have the same effect as hydrocortisone. So I went to the stove to cook up a batch, and it worked great! Since then, I have turned to licorice oil again and again for everything from basic dermatitis to psoriasis, and it’s never let me down! Of course, you still need to address the root causes, but while you wait, nothing hits the spot like licorice!
Make licorice oil just like any other herbal oil. You can fill a jar with licorice root and pour olive oil over it, then let it sit covered for 4-6 weeks. To be honest, I’ve never made it that way, because I always am in too much of a hurry. Instead, I put a few handfuls of licorice root (I prefer the cut-and-sifted to the slices or sticks for this use) into a pot, and pour in just enough olive oil to cover all of the root bits. Put the pot over very low heat and stir it regularly. Generally I leave it on the stove for about three days, turning the heat on very low anytime I’m in the kitchen and can watch it – it’s important not to let the oil boil. (Many people will tell you it’s important not to let the oil get over 120 degrees, but if that does happen, don’t panic! I’ve had good results with licorice oil that got a little warmer than I intended. Try it before you throw it out and start over: if it works, it works!)
Once the oil is ready, whichever method you used, strain the root bits out of the oil and set the oil aside for whenever you need it. You can add beeswax to the oil to have a salve – often easier to transport than oil that might spill in your bag. You can also make it into a lotion by using equal parts rose water and licorice oil, and blending it up in the blender (add the water first, get it going, and then slowly add the licorice oil in until it gets nice and lotiony.) Usually I just put the oil into a dropper bottle, drop some on to whatever dry eczema spots there are, and rub it in.
You could certainly use a liquid extract of licorice to do the same job, however, in a dry flaky kind of condition, having the oil is quite soothing!
Join our newsletter for more herby goodness
Get CommonWealth newsletter delivered right to your inbox. You'll be first to hear about free mini-courses, podcast episodes, and other goodies about holistic herbalism.