February 6, 2008

Why scratching an itch provides relief and home remedies to relieve itching

When an insect bite or an allergy to some cream which you had applied sparks off an itch, you promptly feel an urge to scratch that area to get relief. Has it ever occurred to you as to why scratching an itch feels so good? Researchers do have an answer.

A study conducted by Dr. Gil Yosipovitch, a dermatologist from North Carolina, has revealed that scratching temporarily numbs the part of the brain linked to unpleasant thoughts and memories. And the more intensely a person was scratched, the less activity they found in these areas of the brain. Dr Yosipovitch explains: It’s quite possible that scratching suppresses the emotional components of the itch and brings about relief.” It has also been found why one scratch often begets another. Scratching also raises activity in brain regions related to compulsion – so that explains why we sometimes can't help but feel like sitting for hours and hours just to scratch. 

If you are curious to know about this phenomenon of itching, here’s a brief synopsis of the explanation given by Prof. Mark A. W. Andrews. An itch, also known as pruritus, is a general sensation arising from the irritation of skin cells or nerve cells associated with the skin. It serves as an important sensory and self-protective mechanism to alert us against harmful external agents, but can become unbearable if not treated. It is a dominant symptom of many skin diseases and also occurs in some diseases that affect the entire body. More

Now for those of who you have a niggling question about why such an innocuous thing as itching is being given so much of importance, when there are several other medical issues plaguing mankind, Dr Yosipovitch, in an interview to Newsweek gives a befitting rejoinder. Excerpts: “You may get a mosquito bite, scratch it for a while and then move on. But for many people itching is chronic and debilitating problem. Millions of people with eczema, scabies, liver and renal problems, some types of cancers and diseases like HIV, itching can be real nightmare. They literally scratch themselves raw and cannot sleep at night. Their quality of life can be destroyed. And they can get serious infections and scarring from scratching so much.” More…
By the way here are some effective home-remedies when you are bugged by this problem of itching. Instead of scratching yourself to death, try some of these. Very helpful in easing symptoms of moderate to severe itching.

* Tamarind (Imli) pulp which is a common item in most South Indian kitchens is a life-saver in cases of moderate to severe itching. Soak the dry tamarind pulp in water for a few minutes and then squeeze out its paste to apply on the affected areas. This provides almost immediate relief.
* Sandalwood (Chandan) and Red sandalwood (Rakta Chandan) pastes can also be applied on the affected areas to soothe itching.
* Application of pure honey may also provide relief
* Grind fresh neem leaves and apply on the affected parts. Paste of Tulsi (Basil) leaves is also beneficial.
* You may also collect leaves of neem, lime/lemon, Tulsi (Basil) and Bael and put a handful of each of these varieties in water and boil. Drain this decoction and mix it with lukewarm water in your bathtub. After your bath, dry yourself with a clean towel and sprinkle sandal dust all over your body.
* You may grind guava (Amrud) leaves with a teaspoon of turmeric (Haldi) powder into a smooth paste and apply it on the affected parts.
* You can also mix equal parts of powdered Ajwain (Bishop’s weed/thymol seseds) and turmeric powder in water and apply this paste.
* Rubbing pure neem oil (coconut/olive oil if neem oil is not available) also helps to relieve an itch.
* Application of pineapple juice might also help.
* Mix powdered Ajwain (thymol seeds) with onion juice and apply it on your skin for relief. This also helps with rashes.
Pic credits:fotosearch.com

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  1. Thanks for contributing this post to this week's Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Modern Sage -- Practical Living Blog. The Carnival will be live tomorrow, so please stop by and peruse all of the wonderful articles submitted this week!

  2. That is quite interesting--now I can say I know why we scratch when we itch! Learn something new every day! :)

  3. Hi Michelle, glad to know that yo found the post informative. :)

  4. Take a bath in one can of evaporated milk; you can add other combinations such as oatmeal, baking soda etc. The milk works well to soothe the itching.Apply Aloe Vera, cod liver oil, lemon juice, vitamin E oil, wheat germ oil, or witch hazel tea to the itchy area.Take burdock, chickweed, goldenseal, plantain, or yellow dock in capsule form.Cornstarch helps relieve itching. You can pour some into your bath water or dust it onto your body.Scrub the affected area lightly with a pumice stone. Then wash with soap, apply rubbing alcohol, and dab a thick layer of Vaseline over it. This will provide relief from itching.

  5. Satish9:52 AM

    Diet can play an important role to combat itching that result from food allergies. If you have identified foods that cause itching, it’s best to avoid them completely.Increase your intake of Vitamin C, beta-carotene, Vitamin E and zinc through diet by having foods rich in the above mentioned vitamins and minerals.

  6. Santoshi4:44 PM

    Treating the root cause for itch is very important so do consult doctor as soon as possible

  7. Maruti9:01 AM

    It might be a bit of fungus.

  8. Bhakti9:46 AM

    half a cup full of vinegar mixed into a bath of warm water and soak in it for skin rashing and skin itching relief

  9. Nidhi9:07 AM

    Try not to scratch!
    Wear gloves, if need be, to keep yourself from opening your skin by scratching with your nails.

  10. Narayan9:08 AM

    Oatmeal. Add 1 to 2 cups finely ground oatmeal to a warm bath (not hot or you might have breakfast for the next month in your tub) to ease your itches.

  11. Health Expert10:57 AM

    Add five grams of camphor in 100 grams of coconut oil and mix in a glass bottle. Close the bottle with a tight cork and keep in the sun till the camphor gets dissolved in the oil. Apply this oil daily on the whole body before bathing. It is an effective home remedy for dry itching.

  12. Anant9:35 AM

    You can try a couple of things. Change your laundry detergent to something that is for sensitive skin it should be perfume and dye free.
    Also try soap or body wash with colloidal oatmeal in it, like Aveeno. And you may want to try a skin lotion with colloidal oatmeal too. Aveeno is good for that too.
    Sounds like either the detergent is bothering your skin or you have dry skin.
    Aveeno is good for dry skin or just plain itchy skin. It does wonders and I swear by it. And just about every grocery store or big box store like WalMart or Target carries it.
    I hope this helps. Itchy skin can be maddening. I bless the day I found Aveeno.

  13. Damayanti9:18 AM

    If your skin is affected from the itchy and hot symptoms, you should use sandalwood oil to make it cool.


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