Cradle cap (or infantile seborrheic dermatisis) is the scaly or crusty patches of skin on your child’s scalp. While it’s completely harmless and not painful, it is unsightly. Baby Jack has had it nearly his entire life, and finely I found an herbal treatment for it.
If you’re new to creating your own herbal remedies, check out Herbal Academy’s new herbal starter kit: it’s got the herbs and step-by-step recipes to get your started making your own teas, tinctures and medicinal oils, like this one!
Cradle cap is caused by the skin producing excess oil on the scalp, which creates those scaly patches. I didn’t really try to cure it for the first few months. It was unsightly, sure, but most cradle cap clears up on its own.
It’s kind of hard to see in this picture, but it was the best one I could get! You can see dark scaly patches at the base of his hair in the middle.
Fast-forward a year and Baby Jack still has it. The original instructions say to apply the oil and leave it in overnight. On an infant, all you would have to do is apply the oil to the scalp, put a cap on so it doesn’t make a mess, and put the baby to bed. Because we co-sleep (and Jack uses every inch of our Queen-sized bed), I apply it in the bath, let him play for awhile, and then wash it off with a mild shampoo.
If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know I’m taking the Introductory Herbalism course from Herbal Academy and loving it! One of the recipes from the course was for a cradle cap treatment, and I knew it was time to tackle Jack’s cradle cap again. Even better – the recipe called for all local herbs I could wildcraft myself. Even better!
I walked around our new homestead and collected red clover and plantain. I popped them all in the dehydrator and dried them at the lowest setting (so as not to cook the herbs). You want to use dried herbs when making herbal oils so that they don’t mold.
The red clover contains tannins, which are drying – that’s why when you drink a strong red wine, your mouth gets dry! In this case, it’s safe enough to use on children’s skin to help dry out the folicles that are over-producing the oil. It also contains protein (including all of the amino acids) as well as minerals and vitamins, including vitamins B and C, calcium, chromium, magnesium, thiamine, niacin, phosphorus, potassium, nitrogen, and iron to nourish the skin into health.
Plantain has a world-wide reputation as a healing herb, especially for skin. It has been referred to by one Cherokee Elder as an “Indian band aid.” It can be found growing virulently all over, and is often used in a “spit poultice” – where the healer will simply chew up a few leaves of it and apply the plant/spit combination directly to a wound. Recent studies have backed up what people have known about plantain for centuries. Wounds treated with plantain showed faster healing times and greater collagen growth in the wounds. It also has great anti-inflammatory and astringent properties that make it a great herb for eczema, rosacea, shingles, etc.
Once they were thoroughly dried, I crushed them in my mortar and pestle to break open the leaves and allow the oil to access the volatile oils within the plants.
Then I added them to my crockpot with the sweet almond oil and let them cook on low for 4 hours.
Still warm, I ran the infused oil through a filter to remove the solids. You can use cheesecloth for this, but I tend to use a reusable coffee filter – it does the job and is reusable, so I’m not buying a million sheets of cheesecloth and throwing it away when I’m done. And I love that I never find myself mid project without a filter! Simply wash it, and use it for your coffee in the morning!
Once the oil has been filtered and allowed to cool, you can use it on baby. This is the fun part!
Baby was a little skeptical of it at first, but his grandparents were there to distract him!
Simply massage the oil onto baby’s scalp and let it soak in for awhile while he plays in the tub. Then you’ll need a fine-toothed comb. Comb out baby’s hair, gently dragging the tines of the comb against his scalp. The oil will help loosen up the cradle cap, and the comb will gently pry it off of his skin.
Comb it in all directions until your toddler swipes your hand away! You can see the built up scaly skin at the base of the tines of the comb. Once your baby has had enough, wash with your traditional gentle shampoo.
We had to repeat this process a few times, but I’m happy to report his scalp looks soooo much better! If he sits still for any amount of time, I’ll try to take another picture! We had tried this process before with straight coconut oil, but it seemed to almost dry out his skin too much, which then encouraged more oil and cradle cap.
Keep the oil in a jar in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Here’s the official recipe from Herbal Academy.
- 1/2 up dried red clover blossoms
- 1/4 cup dried mullein flowers (we didn’t have mullein locally, so I skipped it)
- 1/2 cup dried plantain leaves
- 2 cups sweet almond oil
- Infuse your dried herbs in the oil in a crockpot on low for 4 hours.
- Strain and pour into a glass container with a tight fitting lid.
- Once cool, apply a teaspoon to the child’s scalp.
- Leave it on overnight, covered by a cap, or comb the hair, prying up the scaly skin.
- Wash the oil out with a gentle shampoo.
Now it’s your turn! Did your baby ever had cradle cap? Did it go away on it’s own? What did you use that helped?