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Chamomile vs Hydrocortisone In The Treatment Of Eczema

Hi guys.
Today I want to share with you something interesting I’ve been reading.
As you know; as a pharmacist; I try not to believe ‘hear say’ about how natural ingredient is superior than medical treatment. There are so many information online about natural ingredients; so many people who are against modern medicine and so most of the information online is bias. Hence I call it ‘hearsay’ you can’t believe everything that is out there unless it’s tested.

However; since we also have a branch of herbal medicinal Pharmacology part that we learn in pharmacy school called; Pharmacognosy; I was always interested to learn about all the comparison studies that’s available.

For me; sometimes; herbs or natural product; although not as strong as medicine; can always be used as alternative adjuvant therapy.

So this week; I’ve been studying about the comparison between hydrocortisone (a mild steroid usually use for inflammation producing diseases; like eczema and arthritis) versus chamomile. 

What is Hydrocortisone:

Hydrocortisone is one of the mildest steroids available in the market. Usually its sold in cream or ointment form. Dosage; 1% or 2.5%. It’s mainly used for instant relief for inflammatory skin problems like eczema (atopic eczema, contact dermatitis etc).

What Did This Study Do?

There was total of 500 studies with varying number of participants. Mostly they compared chamomile vs hydrocortisone and bethamethasone (another stronger steroid at lower doses). Of course they also did comparison with other herbs but that I’ll have another post another day for it. For today let’s focus on chamomile.


There were few different results but the most common ones was that chamomile is comparable with 0.5% of hydrocortisone.

What It means?

It means that chamomile; when used on people with eczema or other skin condition; it will mimic what 0.5% of hydrocortisone will do. Since hydrocortisone is usually used at 1%; and its already super mild; chamomile being similar to 0.5% hydrocortisone is ‘milder’ and probably wont be as effective. 

What Do I Think?

Slower response time

I feel that; even though these studies shows that chamomile is almost like hydrocortisone; it doesn't mean that we should not use steroids at all. In some studies; they showed the response time. Means if the flare comes; how long does it take to reduce the flare. And most of it chamomile took 3-4X longer duration than the steroids.

So for me; because of this; its better to use steroids when the flare is there; and after few days; when the flare goes off; use the chamomile products for ‘maintenance’. From this study; I feel that there is a place for ‘chamomile’ in treatment of eczema; only I wouldn’t put it as a primary treatment.

No Dosage Mentioned

Another reason why I wouldn’t think its suitable to use chamomile for main treatment of eczema is because none of this studies provided a proper dosage. It didn’t really mention how much of chamomile to use; which species? Which part of the plant? Which type of extracts? The extracts or the essential oil? How much? Pure? Or diluted? So due to this; we cant really say that a drop of chamomile essential oil in our body wash or lotion; is going to give the same effect as 1% hydrocortisone. 

Unknown Long Term Effect

Thirdly; there was no studies showing the side effect of chamomile when used long term. Steroids when used long term will cause thinning of the skin and skin is prone to blistering. 

So that’s why when my students comes for our eczema maintenance therapy workshop; or my patients in the pharmacy; I usually mention that they Can only use steroid not more than 2 weeks. Instead use it alternately with maintanence therapy such as this. Using it this way reduces the side effects of the steroids. But what about chamomile essential oil or extracts when used long term? No one knows.


So for me; I feel that if you want to use chamomile in your bodycare product especially if you have skin problems; go ahead. But do not forget or miss your modern medicine treatments. I feel it works perfectly together. So Don’t separate them :-) 

P/S: If you want to make eczema skincare products but not sure how to; Contact us here  for recipes and steps. We have many depending on your level so even if you are a newbie in making your handmade skincare; we have something for you:-) 

Some References:

  1. Xie, X.Y., Wang, R., Shi, Y.P., Flavonoids from the flowers of Matricaria chamomilla. Chem Nat Compd; 
  2. Zohreh, B., Mohammad, R.R., Mohammad, A.S., et al.,Medicinal herbs effective on the skin. Studia Univ.
  3. Rügge, S.D., Nielsen, M., Jacobsen, A.S., et al., Evidence of dermatological effects of chamomile. 
  4.  Charousaei, F., Dabirian, A., Mojab, F., Using chamomile solution or a 1% topical hydrocortisone ointment in the management of peristomal skin lesions in colostomy patients: results of a controlled clinical study. Ostomy Wound Manage
  5. Reis, P.E.D., Carvalho, E.C., Bueno, P.C.P., et al., Clinical application of Chamomilla recutita in phlebitis: dose response curve study
  6. 9. Gupta, V., Mittal, P., Bansal, P., et al., Pharmacological Potential of Matricaria recutita - A Review. Int J Pharm Sci Drug

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