Have you been experiencing recurrent episodes of itching in a specific area on your skin? Is the constant itching leaving you restless and irritated? Itchy skin might be the culprit.
Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, says, “Skin disorders have a deep psychological effect along with the visceral ones. Skin and hair reflect the internal metabolic processes and overall health of a person. Ayurveda deals with skin diseases at its root cause with a high cure rate.”
In this article, we take a closer look at the causes of itchy skin, its symptoms, and how you can tackle the skin menace with natural and safe Ayurvedic remedies along with other treatment options.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
“Skin disorders have a deep psychological effect along with the visceral ones. Skin and hair reflect the internal metabolic processes and overall health of a person. Ayurveda deals with skin diseases at its root cause with a high cure rate.”
-Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Is Itchy Skin?
Itchy skin, also called pruritus, mainly occurs due to dry skin. It creates an irritating, uncomfortable sensation which urges you to keep scratching persistently to seek relief. The skin condition is common in older people, as their skin loses its natural moisture and becomes drier with age. The affected skin where you’re experiencing the itching sensation may appear normal, bumpy, rough or red based on the root cause of itching. Persistent scratching may result in raised dense bumps on your skin which may become infected or bleed.
Why Does Your Skin Feel Itchy?
The common causes of itchy skin are mostly mild. Most often, these are associated with temporary incidents, such as a bug bite or dry skin.
In rare cases, conditions with the liver, thyroid, kidneys, or the nerves may lead to itching without resulting in skin rashes. Based on the root issue, you may experience an episode of itching in one particular area or all over your body. The sensation may vary from mild to severe. Psychiatric conditions like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and depression can also cause itching as a form of tick or symptom.
Nocturnal pruritus , or itching sensation during night time, is a very common skin condition which occurs due to medications, conditions which aggravate your skin or your natural bodily processes.
What Causes Itchy Skin?
Itching can either be localized to a specific spot or region or all over the body (generalized). There are various and numerous causes of itching. It can either occur due to mild causes like insect bites or dry skin, or severe cases like diabetes or kidney failure, which are rare cases. But first you need to know what type of skin you have to understand the relatable causes.
1. Skin Conditions
Several skin conditions may cause an itching sensation. These skin conditions include:
A. Dermatographism: A itchy, red and raised rash caused due to excessive pressure on your skin
B. Psoriasis: An autoimmune skin condition which results in skin irritation and redness, commonly appearing as plaques
C. Eczema: A severe skin condition which includes scaly, itchy rashes
D. Dermatitis: It is a scientific term used for skin irritation or inflammation. No cure has been found for atopic dermatitis. But there are treatments and self-care measures that can relieve you from the itching and prevent new outbreaks.
Skin infections  which may result in itching include:
- Mites and bed bugs
- Fungal skin rashes
Agents which irritate your skin and aggravate your itching sensation are quite common. Specific plants like poison oak and poison ivy and insects like bugs and mosquitos produce chemical compounds which cause itching in human beings. A few of you may experience itching when you come in close contact with specific chemicals, dyes or soaps, perfumes, and wool. Various types of allergies may irritate your skin as well.
3. Internal Disorders
A few internal disorders  and conditions, which may be severe, can also result in itching. These may result in generalized itching; however, your skin usually appears normal.
- Kidney failure
- Thyroid disease
- Bile duct blockage
4. Nervous System Disorders
In addition to internal disorders, a few nervous system conditions may also cause itching; these are called neuropathic itch. Symptoms of neuropathic itch are burning, wetness, electric shocks, pain, numbness, crawling, and a severe cold. The disorders include:
- Multiple sclerosis
5. Specific Medications
A few common medicines may often result in generalized itching and skin rashes. These include:
- Anticonvulsant medications
- Narcotic painkillers
- Antibiotics (specifically the sulfa class)
Wear a medical alert bracelet that identifies your drug allergy. This information can ensure proper treatment in an emergency.
A few women experience severe itching during their pregnancy . The itching sensation usually happens on their thighs, abdomen, arms or breasts. In a few cases, the itching sensation may happen from a pre-existing issue like eczema or psoriasis, which is further aggravated due to pregnancy.
Intrahepatic cholestasis of pregnancy or ICP is a serious liver disorder that you can develop during your pregnancy and one of the symptoms of this condition is having an itching sensation on skin. If you're having such symptoms during pregnancy, get tested because this condition also complicates your pregnancy.
What Are The Symptoms Of Itchy Skin?
As we have come to understand, itching may occur all over the body or in a specific location, such as legs, arms or the scalp. It may happen without any specific changes on your skin. Otherwise, itching may be accompanied with few noticeable changes such as:
- Scaly or leathery patches
- Cracked, dry skin
- Blisters, spots or bumps
- Scratch marks
In a few cases, the itching sensation may last for a long time with varying intensity. When you scratch or rub the affected area, it tends to get itchy. As the itching turns severe so does your tendency to scratch the affected skin . It is very difficult to break this response.
How To Treat Itchy Skin?
1. Home Remedies
Treatments for topical itching, which are applied directly on the affected skin, include lotions, ointments, creams and cold applications.
A. Cold Applications
One of the easiest and effective methods to minimize the itching and pain caused by a skin rash is applying cold onto the affected area. You can either choose a damp cloth, cool showers or cold compress to bring instant relief. It will slow down the advancement of a skin rash, eases itching sensation, and prevents swelling.
Methods For Cold Application
- Cold water, either by keeping a cold, damp and clean cloth on the affected area or running cold water over the skin
- Cool showers
- Cool bath along with the application of skin products containing colloidal oatmeal may provide some relief
- Application of ice cubes kept in a plastic bag, or ice packs which are commercially available
How It Works
Extreme cold minimizes the flow of blood to the affected and inflamed area. When cold water or ice is applied on your skin rash, it helps in minimizing the inflammation and swelling as well as eases the itching sensation immediately. If you’re experiencing itching all over your body, then a cool shower or bath is recommended for quick relief.
B. Apple Cider Vinegar
Acetic acid is the primary constituent of apple cider vinegar, which has been used for centuries as an antiseptic and disinfectant. It is considered extremely beneficial in soothing itchy skin.
How It Works
You can apply it on the affected region directly with a washcloth. Else, you can add 2-3 cups of vinegar to your bath water and soak it for about half an hour.
Please note that vinegar may result in burning sensation if you have any cuts or wounds. Avoid the home remedy if you have bleeding or cracked skin.
C. Baking Soda Or Oatmeal Baths
Baking soda is popularly used in several medicated powders and ointments as it has antifungal properties. Studies have proven its efficacy in treating and managing different types of fungal diseases, which usually cause itching.
How It Works
In a warm bath, add half a cup of baking soda and mix it properly. Alternatively, add the baking soda in a little amount of water to form a thick paste, which can be directly applied onto the affected area. You can also grind oatmeal into fine powder and get a soothing bath with it.
2. Ayurvedic Treatments
As per the ancient Ayurvedic excerpts, toxins which affect the overall skin health and appearance occur due to excessive Rakta Dhatu (blood tissue). This along with Rasa Dhatu (blood plasma) are responsible for maintaining, nourishing and improving your skin. An imbalance in Rakta Dhatu is seen when you consume alcohol and various other liver damaging substances, consume heat-causing foods, work excessively, expose yourself to intense UV rays or experience difficult emotional turmoil. All these factors result in aggravated Pitta Dosha.
People with dominant Pitta Dosha experience skin disorders and conditions more frequently when compared with those who have Vata or Kapha Doshas. When both Rakta and Rasa Dhatus are in balance, your overall skin appears glowing, nourished, and blemish-free. The following proven and holistic Ayurvedic therapies help in eliminating the toxins from your body, giving you relief from various skin disorders, including itching.
This Ayurvedic therapy focuses on ingestion of medicinal herbs to cause vomiting. The ancient method helps in expelling excess Kapha and Pitta as well as accumulated toxins from the body. It is recommended for treating various health conditions such as sinusitis, skin disorders, respiratory diseases, rhinitis, and dyspepsia.
A diet consisting of meat, curd, fatty foods, milk, and oily foods may be given 24 hours prior to inducing vomiting.
Karanja (Indian beech), Chitraka (leadwort) and Nimba (neem) are few commonly used ingredients for performing emesis.
Vamana is effective in treating eka kushtha (psoriasis) and minimizes the itching sensation caused by the skin condition.
Ayurvedic therapy is recommended for treating skin disorders , Pitta disorders, epilepsy, chronic jaundice, asthma, and gastrointestinal tract obstructions.
The treatment involves the ingestion of purgative medicinal herbs to expel the excess toxins and Pitta from the body via defecation. The purgative herbs which are administered for this treatment are selected on the basis of the individual’s prakriti and the purgative property of the herb.
A proper and effective purgation includes the elimination of excess Pitta, Kapha, Ama, Stool and Vata from the body. After undergoing the Ayurvedic treatment, you may feel lighter in weight along with an improvement in your appetite.
The ancient Ayurvedic therapy also successfully treats skin disorders such as eczema and provides relief from itching.
The Ayurvedic therapy focuses on draining blood from the body, which is usually done with the help of metal-based instruments. Cow’s horn, dried bitter gourd and leeches are few other agents which are used to perform this treatment.
Raktamokshana primarily focuses on the treatment of blood-borne disorders by expelling toxins from the bloodstream. It is usually recommended for treating gout, boils, gingivitis, halitosis, jaundice and excess Pitta Dosha.
This Ayurvedic therapy is also successful in the management of skin diseases and conditions affecting the skin such as psoriasis, chickenpox, dark pigmentation, scabies, red patches and leucoderma.
Lepas are Ayurvedic medical dressing which are prepared from various herbs such as vacha (calamus), kushtha (costus), amalaki (Indian gooseberry) and barley.
Lepas have a semisolid or paste-like consistency which is externally applied to the affected skin.
As per the ancient Ayurvedic texts, varanya mukhalepa (beautifying), doshaghna (minimizing Doshas), and Vishaghna (removal of poison) are the three classes of lepas.
A lepa made from triphala (haritaki, bibhitaki and amalaki), haridra, sarsapa taila, manjishtha, tulsi and aragvadha is recommended for minimizing itching caused by dadru.
Jeevantyadi yamaka lepa, mahamarichyadi or jatyadi oil, tuvaraka and karanja are externally applied to help reduce symptoms of psoriasis like itching.
3. Ayurvedic Herbs
Botanical name: Acacia catechu
The Ayurvedic herb is a powerhouse of active phytochemicals such as tannins, catechu tannic acid and catechins. It offers a host of therapeutic effects to the body.
Khadira is effective in treating skin disorders such as psoriasis, which also result in itching. The Ayurvedic herb also aids in the management of prameha (diabetes) and shotha (inflammation).
Khadira is an important herbal constituent in various Ayurvedic medicines such as khadiradi gutika, irimedadi taila, and khadirarishta.
Botanical name: Berberis aristata
Also commonly known as Indian barberry, this Ayurvedic herb works effectively on the digestive and circulatory systems. It is renowned for its fever-reducing, stomachic, bitter tonic, and diuretic properties.
Daruharidra aids in eliminating excess Pitta from the body, which is primarily responsible for various skin disorders. Additionally, it also helps in eliminating and neutralizing ama (toxins).
A bath with this potent Ayurvedic herb is recommended for individuals who have itching and other symptoms linked with psoriasis.
Your Ayurvedic physician may recommend you to use it in the form of paste, medicated ghee, powder, eyewash  or decoction based on your Prakriti.
Botanical name: Azadirachta indica
Nimba effectively works on the urinary, digestive, respiratory, and circulatory systems. It is renowned for its antiseptic, anthelmintic, soothing and astringent properties in Ayurveda. Additionally, neem helps in expulsion of toxins from the body as it is a blood purifying herb.
Neem provides immediate relief from itching which occurs due to chickenpox and eczema.
Your Ayurvedic physician may recommend you to ingest nimba in the form of medicated ghee, oil, powder, decoction or an infusion.
Botanical name: Curcuma longa
Haridra effectively works on the respiratory, urinary, digestive, and circulatory systems. It is renowned for its anthelmintic, carminative (alleviates flatulence), and antibacterial properties in Ayurveda. Additionally, it is considered as a blood purifier and helps in the development of blood tissue.
Haridra is recommended in treating various skin disorders such as skin allergies, pruritus, ringworm, and psoriasis. It is also helpful in treating bruises, swelling, diabetes, inflammatory bowel syndrome, urinary infections, arthritis, and wounds.
Your Ayurvedic physician may prescribe you to use the Ayurvedic herb as external paste, infusion, powder, milk decoction, or decoction.
Botanical name: Rubia cordifolia
Manjishtha works effectively on the female reproductive and circulatory systems. It is renowned for its anti-tumour, astringent, and diuretic properties in Ayurveda. Considered as one of the potent blood-purifying herbs, Manjishtha also helps in eliminating ama (toxins) from the body and improving overall blood circulation.
Due to its numerous benefits, the Ayurvedic herb is commonly used to treat skin disorders like psoriasis and its associated symptoms such as itching. It is considered in treating various other health issues such as arthritis, dysmenorrhea, injuries, paralysis, hepatitis, and Kapha disorders.
Your Ayurvedic physician may prescribe you to take the ayurvedic herb in the form of decoction, medicated ghee, paste or powder.
4. Ayurvedic Medicines
A. Gandhak Rasayana
The herbal formulation is made with iron, shuddha gandhaka (pure brimstone), cinnamon barks and leaves, amalaki (Indian gooseberry), ela (cardamom), honey, trikatu (a mix of three acrid) - maricha (black pepper), shunthi (dried ginger) and pippali (long pepper), and jaggery.
All these herbs help in purifying the bloodstream which enable it to effectively treat leprosy, boils and various other severe skin diseases.
The Ayurvedic formulation is also helpful in the treatment of eczema , and alleviating itching associated with the skin condition.
B. Arogyavardhini Vati
The Ayurvedic formulation not only helps in treating various skin disorders, but also helps in improving the overall health of an individual.
It successfully treats and manages skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, and ringworm, thereby minimizing the itching caused by these skin ailments.
The common ingredient in this Ayurvedic formulation is Trivit (Indian jalap). Although, various other herbomineral agents and minerals such as tamra bhasma (calcined copper residue), abhrak bhasma (calcined mica residue), triphala and neem are also used in the Ayurvedic formulation.
The components of this powerful ayurvedic formulation have Kapha shamana (Kapha-calming), pachana (digestive), Vata anulomana (vata-calming), and Pitta virechana (expulsion of Pitta via excretion) properties. It aids in minimizing the excess Doshas, thereby improving the efficacy of panchakarma therapies.
C. Manjishthadi Kwatha
The potent Ayurvedic formulation is a mixture of ten powerful herbs such as triphala, manjishtha, nimba, guduchi, haridra, and vacha.
The medicine is administered to treat diabetes, arthritis and chilblains. Additionally, it is also considered in the treatment of skin disorders such as eczema and its associated itching.
Vedix Tip: Always consult a qualified Ayurvedic physician for customized treatments and medications for your skin complaint as the above-mentioned treatments differ from person to person, based on your Prakriti and underlying root causes.
5. Dietary Treatments
Following a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. It can help minimize or lessen eczema symptoms including itching. The ingredients include:
A. Fish With High Levels Of Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Include fatty fish like herring and salmon in your diet to minimize itching. Fish oil has high levels of omega 3 fatty acids which work effectively in preventing inflammation. You may even take oral supplements of omega 3 fatty acids for better results.
It is generally recommended to obtain a minimum of 250 mg of omega 3 fatty acids.
Vedix Tip: We suggest that you obtain the recommended dose of omega 3 fatty acids from natural, freshly procured sources as nuts, seeds and plant oils if you are a vegetarian.
B. Foods With Quercetin
Quercetin is a type of flavonoids (powerful antioxidant agents) derived from plants. It is primarily responsible for giving a rich colour and texture to several vegetables, fruits and flowers. Additionally, it is considered as a potent antihistamine and antioxidant. Hence, it helps in minimizing the histamine levels and inflammation in your body.
Foods which are a rich source of quercetin are:
C. Foods With Probiotics
Probiotic foods like yogurt have live cultures (live bacteria) which aid and support your immune and digestive system. They effectively help in minimizing allergic reactions and flare-ups in your body.
Foods which are a rich source of probiotics include:
- Unpasteurized sauerkraut
- Soft cheese varieties
- Naturally fermented pickles
- Miso soup
- Sourdough bread
The best foods to alleviate itching depends on whether you have any food allergies which may be pre-existing and you are already diagnosed with. The food sources which are known as eczema-friendly can lead to an allergic reaction or rash in those individuals who are allergic to those food substances.
6. Other Treatments
The modern treatments for itchy skin aim at eliminating the primary cause of the itch. When you experience a recurrent episode of itching, your doctor may prescribe you medications or different treatment options. These treatments include:
A. Corticosteroid Ointments & Creams
Your doctor may recommend you to apply a medicated ointment or cream onto the affected region. Additionally, you may be advised to cover the affected area with a light, damp cotton gauge as moisture helps your skin to cool down and absorb the medication properly.
B. Other Ointments & Creams
You may be advised to apply ointments such as calcineurin inhibitors like Pimecrolimus (Elidel) and Tacrolimus (Protopic). Additionally, you may be asked to use topical Doxepin, Capsaicin or anaesthetics.
C. Oral Medications
To alleviate specific types of chronic itching, your doctor may prescribe you to use tricyclic antidepressants like Doxepinor selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, like Sertraline (Zoloft) and Fluoxetine (Prozac). After starting the treatment, you may not experience any benefits until 8-12 weeks.
Light therapy includes exposing the affected area to a particular range of light. This treatment is considered beneficial for individuals who are unable to take oral medicines.
We strongly advise you to consult a knowledgeable ayurvedic physician or dermatologist before considering any of the treatments and therapies highlighted in the article.
How To Prevent Itchy Skin?
Most skin experts and dermatologists recommend the following tips and suggestions to prevent itchy skin:
1. Always take a bath with lukewarm or cold water. Never consider using hot water as it only aggravates your itching. Try and limit your bathing time to 10 minutes
2. Avoid using any “fragrance-based” detergents, soaps, lotions and creams to reduce skin irritation. Be careful while choosing products labelled as ‘unscented’ as most of them contain harsh chemicals which may further irritate your skin condition
3. Always use an herbal, natural and light moisturizer on your skin. Be liberal while applying the moisturizer and ensure you don’t step out in direct sunlight to prevent tanning and sunburns
4. Wear light, stretchable and comfortable clothes, preferably cotton and other natural fabrics. Rough textiles and fabrics may further irritate your aggravated skin, leading to severe itching and burning
5. Avoid extreme temperature fluctuations and weather conditions. Try and maintain a cool, dry and pleasant environment in your home. If you are susceptible to eczema and dry skin, then use a humidifier in your home during winter
6. Manage your stress levels as extreme anxiety and stress can worsen your itching. Meditate, exercise, cultivate a hobby besides practicing a healthy lifestyle routine
Possible Complications Of Itchy Skin
If you are experiencing a continued itching sensation which is severe or lasting more than two months, you may be feeling anxious and uncomfortable. The prolonged itching may also disrupt your daily life and sleep cycle. Constant scratching in the affected area can even result in scarring, infection and skin injury.
When To Consult A Doctor?
You should immediately consult a qualified dermatologist if your itching:
A. Affects your entire body
B. Occurs suddenly without any explanation
C. Is severe and intense which disrupts your daily schedule and doesn’t allow you to sleep properly
D. Lasts more than a fortnight or 14 days and shows no sign of improvement with home remedies and treatments
E. Is accompanied with other alarming symptoms and signs like night sweats, fever or weight loss
6 Easy Tips To Treat Itchy Skin
There are several causes for itchy skin. Itching may happen due a skin disorder such as psoriasis, hives, shingles, or eczema, or it can be a symptom of an infectious disease such as ringworm or scabies. In order to soothe an itchy skin area, you may consider following the simple tips:
1. Apply cooling and soothing ingredients such as calamine and menthol. Keep your herbal moisturizer in your refrigerator for the soothing effect
2. Apply ayurvedic lepas and remedies to alleviate itching
3. Always moisturize your skin. Use a moisturizer which is free of perfumes, fragrances and additives, preferably herbal and natural formulations
4. Take an oatmeal bath to alleviate your itching. It helps to soothe your skin naturally, especially for oozing skin or blisters due to sunburn, poison ivy, hives or chickenpox
5. Apply an ice pack or a cold, damp cloth onto the affected region to alleviate itching. Repeat the same for 5-10 minutes until your itching subsides
6. Try and avoid scratching your skin as this will only irritate your skin further. This may also cause a skin infection
The Last Word
The ancient, proven and holistic Ayurvedic therapies and formulations focus on addressing and managing the underlying conditions. This helps in providing a long-term, complete and safe relief from constant itching.
The renowned methods and principles of Panchakarma such as Virechana and Vamana as well as blood purifying medicinal herbs like Manjistha and Nimba are instrumental in expelling excess Doshas and ama (toxins) from the body, that are primarily responsible for causing health issues accompanied with itching.
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