Rice Starch May Help Eczema and Damaged Skin
People with eczema or damaged skin may find improvement by soaking the affected area in a bath containing rice starch, according to a study in Archives of Dermatology and Venereology (2002;82:184–6). While dermatologists have often recommended this treatment for those with dry, irritated skin, this is the one of the first studies to document its effectiveness.
In this study, two experiments were performed. The first involved 37 healthy people who agreed to have an irritating chemical applied to their skin that produced minor skin damage. This group was assigned to one of three groups that were treated with (1) 30 grams of pure rice starch, (2) 7.5 grams of a bath lotion made from rice starch, glycerine, and dimethicone, or (3) the same bath lotion supplemented with 5% evening primrose oil. Each rice starch preparation was placed in 3 liters of water, which was used for an arm bath for 15 minutes, twice a day for five days. In the second experiment, 13 people with eczema were treated with pure rice starch in water in the same manner as in the first experiment. Specific measurements of water loss in the skin were taken daily, reflecting the moisture of the skin.
In those with chemically damaged skin, all forms of rice starch led to a significant improvement in the moisture of the skin. Similar improvement was also observed in those with eczema who soaked in the pure rice starch solution. Since the majority of participants had healthy skin to begin with, it is unknown whether people with chronic skin damage caused by excessive sunlight exposure or other reasons would have the same benefit from this treatment.
The results further showed that rice starch baths did not change the amount of water loss in normal areas of skin, suggesting this treatment does not cause the skin to dry out. Although the concentration of rice starch used in this study varied from 1 gram of rice starch per liter to 10 grams per liter, no significant additional benefit was observed by using the higher amount. Adding 1 cup of rice starch to a full bath would approximately produce the lower concentration used in the study.
Studies have shown that some nutritional supplements can be helpful with eczema. Taking 2 to 3 grams of fish oil per day can help improve skin texture and reduce eczematous lesions. Long-term use of fish oil may increase the body’s need for vitamin E, so taking 100 to 400 IU per day may help prevent a deficiency in people who are using fish oil. Some doctors recommend zinc supplements for eczema, although there are no studies demonstrating its effectiveness. Zinc should always be taken with food; otherwise it can cause an upset stomach. Some studies show that taking zinc for long periods of time can decrease copper levels in the body, so some physicians recommend taking 2 mg per day while undergoing zinc therapy. Evening primrose oil has also been shown to be effective for eczema in some, but not all, studies.
Darin Ingels, ND, MT (ASCP), received his bachelor’s degree from Purdue University and his Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA. Dr. Ingels is the author of The Natural Pharmacist: Lowering Cholesterol (Prima, 1999) and Natural Treatments for High Cholesterol (Prima, 2000). He currently is in private practice at New England Family Health Associates located in Southport, CT, where he specializes in environmental medicine and allergies. Dr. Ingels is a regular contributor to Healthnotes and Healthnotes Newswire.
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