Tame That Itch

Inside the causes and cures of itching
By Linda Miles, DOM

Itchy skin can be one of the most irritating sensations, and the itching is even more frustrating if you don’t know the cause. Several triggers—such as allergies, illness, dryness, and even stress—can be responsible on a recurring basis. You may find yourself scratching for relief, but scratching can cause even more skin problems like bumps, infection, bleeding, and soreness.

As a doctor of Oriental medicine, I encourage taking a holistic approach to find itch relief. Skin is the largest organ of your body, and I firmly believe it reflects all aspects of your lifestyle, including what you eat and how you feel. That said, you should consider everything you do to get to the root of the problem.

Do a food test

To start, take a close look at the foods you eat for potential itch-causing allergens. Culprits can include processed foods, eggs, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, wheat, shellfish, and fish. Try eliminating one type of suspicious food at a time, and keep a food diary. How do you feel after eating these foods? How does your skin feel?

Remember to drink plenty of water. Adequate hydration is key for flushing out toxins and keeping your whole body healthy, from the inner core to the outer pore. You may also want to consider taking digestive enzymes and probiotics to promote healthy digestion. This will allow your body to more effectively absorb the nutrients it needs to stay healthy inside and out. Fish or flax oil supplements can also help boost healthy skin oils.

In combination with cleaning up your diet, I recommend doing some type of activity that stimulates circulation and helps you relieve stress. Any type of physical activity—such as yoga, hiking, soul-cycling, or dancing—will help your body and skin look and feel good.


As far as external triggers, take note of what you are using, wearing, and putting on your skin. Soaps, cleansers, and cosmetics may contain irritating chemicals or fragrances that can cause your skin to react. Jewelry, clothing, and various laundry detergents can also cause skin flare-ups.

Natural topical relief

Now for topical relief! Since you don’t want to use a cortisone cream, I recommend using a natural alternative that contains soothing, itch-busting agents. Certain vitamins and botanicals are great for helping to resolve red, flaky, itchy skin.

NEEM is a detoxifying herb with anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that can help calm inflamed skin and promote healing.

CHAMOMILE has a broad range of therapeutic properties including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antiseptic functions to help soothe and heal irritated skin.

VITAMIN A, also known as “the skin vitamin,” encourages cellular renewal.

JOJOBA OIL is high in vitamin E and minerals to help hydrate, soothe, and nourish skin.

BURDOCK ROOTS contain phytochemicals that help fight bacteria and fungi.

TEA TREE OIL contains antibacterial, antifungal, analgesic, and antiseptic properties to help relieve itchy, problem skin.

BLACK CUMIN OIL is rich in essential amino acids, omega-3s, and vitamin A. It can deliver anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, and antifungal properties to help aid in skin recovery.

CALENDULA is a flower containing phytochemicals that help fight fungi, bacteria, and inflammation.

PEPPERMINT is a mild anesthetic helps relieve itching and inflammation.

I truly believe that your skin reflects everything you do. If you’re mindful of what you put into your body and what you put on your body, the patch of itchy skin on your leg will soon be relieved. You’ll feel much better, naturally.


In celebration of derma e’s 30th anniversary, derma e cofounder and formulator Dr. Linda Miles will be writing this column for one year. The column will address natural skincare solutions, natural skincare ingredients, and skincare issues.