Herbal Remedies for Acne
Herbs are safe and effective treatment for acne.
Acne is a skin condition which mostly affects the face, the back and the upper parts of the torso. In mild to moderate cases, acne appears as comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), pustules, papules and red, scaly skin.
In severe cases, acne can have inflammatory presentations such as nodules and cysts as well as cause scars.
Acne is primarily caused by changes in the hormonal balance of the body. More specifically, the onset of puberty usually coincides with the first eruption of acne because of rising levels of androgens such as testosterone and its metabolite, dihydrotestosterone.
These male hormones change the nature of the sebaceous follicles and lead to the clogging of skin pores with plugs made of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.
Apart from the androgens, the other major cause of acne is the bacterium, Propionibacterium acnes. Therefore, treatment for acne can target either or both the bacterium and/or the increased productions of androgens.
Both herbs and conventional medications can treat acne by restoring hormonal balance and killing off P. acnes. Herbal extracts which are natural remedies, have far less side effects.
There is a long list of herbal remedies that can be used to treat acne. Most of these have antibacterial properties. Others also have anti-inflammatory properties and can provide a deep cleansing effect on the skin.
Some of the effective herbal remedies for acne are discussed below.
MSM or methylsulfonylmethane is an organosulfur compound sold as a dietary supplement.
While MSM is found in nature, it is only found in minute amounts. Therefore, even though it is a natural remedy, it is has to be synthesized to be produced in commercial quantities.
MSM is found in all living things. It is believed to originate from planktons in the sea. Upon release, it is converted to DMS, a precursor of dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO).
While the properties of DMSO make it an important industrial solvent for topical skin preparations, MSM has a different set of qualities. It is medicinal and can cross the blood-brain barrier. It is also a major contributor of sulfur in the human body and is especially useful for skin health.
MSM is used to treat allergies, arthritis and skin diseases. It provides sulfur which is needed in the production of collagen in the skin. This allows the flexibility of the skin and prevents premature aging.
The sulfur contribution is also essential to the importance of MSM in acne treatment. Beyond improving skin health, MSM can help kill off Propionibacterium acnes. More importantly, it has anti-inflammatory properties which help resolve the nodules and cysts associated with acne.
Gum guggul is the resinous sap of Guggul or Commiphora wightii. This flowering plant is an important herbal remedy in Ayuverdic medicine. It is still used today and extensively too. In fact, Guggul is currently classified as an endangered species.
The extract of the Guggul sap used is called guggulipid. Its major content is guggulsterone, a steroid. Herbal gum guggul preparations contain 10% guggulsterone.
This gummy resin is harvested from the bark of the plant by a process called tapping. It produces a fragrance similar to myrrh and is sometimes used in perfumes and incense.
Gum guggul is traditionally used to treat arthritis, obesity, oral infections, digestive problems and to lower blood cholesterol. It is also used to treat skin diseases.
Its exact mechanism of action in treating acne is unknown but because the active ingredient is a steroid, it is most likely that gum guggul possesses an anti-inflammatory property. It can, therefore, be used to prevent swelling, relieve acne cyst and nodules and prevent scar formation.
Both MSM and gum guggul can be found in Actimine, a product formulated with a potent mixture of herbal remedies which provide quick and lasting relief for acne sufferers.
Dong quai is also known as female ginseng. Dong quai is called female ginseng because it is an herbal remedy used as uterine tonic and to regulate hormones in women. However, it is not recommended for pregnant and nursing women.
Dong quai is extract taken from the dried roots of Angelica sinensis. It is useful in acne treatment because it contains estrogen-like compounds.
Since increased production of androgen hormones is responsible for acne even in women, estrogen which is a powerful female sex hormone is a known to have anti-acne properties. These estrogen-like compounds inhibit the effect of the androgens on the sebaceous follicles and, in this way, help treat the presentations of acne.
Care should be taken when using dong quai because it can make the skin overly photosensitive.
Vitex is a herbal remedy whose activity is similar to that of Dong quai. It is obtained from the dried fruit of Vitex agnus castus which is also known as Chaste tree and Monk’s Pepper.
Vitex is a traditional remedy for treating female hormonal imbalance caused by childbirth, menstruation, menopause and infertility. It is especially effective in the treatment of acne caused by hormonal changes during menstrual cycles.
Vitex stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone from the pituitary gland. This hormone goes on to increase the production of progesterone, a female hormone produced in the ovaries.
The increase in the levels of female hormones helps counterbalance the effects of androgens found circulating. This, in turn, reduces the damage caused to the sebaceous follicles by the male hormones.
Vitex is also not recommended for pregnant women and should be used with care in nursing mothers.
Aloe vera is a popular home remedy for skin infections. It can be applied topically or taken orally.
There are 2 major ways by which Aloe vera can benefit acne sufferers. First, it is a great moisturizer and cleanser. This popular herbal remedy can penetrate the layers of the skin to nourish the follicles and soothe skin irritation. It can also speed up the healing of acne scars.
Secondly, Aloe vera contains at least 6 antiseptic agents which can provide a broad antimicrobial cover for the skin. Therefore, the herb can kill off the bacteria and fungi which cause or worsen acne symptoms.
This herbal remedy is taken from the leaves of olive trees or Olea Europaea. Its use can be traced back to the ancient Greek civilization.
This extract has antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. When taken orally, it can help detoxify the body and regulate hormone balance.
Therefore, olive leaf extract can normalize the production of androgen and other hormones in the body. It can also kill the microorganisms which promote the formation of acne.
Since this herbal remedy is a detoxifier, users may experience the symptoms of detoxification such as headache, nausea and muscle aches.
Burdock is the name given to the herbal extract taken from the roots of Burdock. The plant extract has long been used for treating skin diseases in traditional medicine.
Burdock has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Therefore, it can help kill off Propionibacterium acnes and other bacteria contributing to the development of acne. Furthermore, its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the swelling associated by acne nodules and cysts as well as reduce the acne scars formed from such inflamed lesions.
The extract of dandelion root is known as a detoxifier and regulator of hormone levels. It is also a rich source of essential nutrients such as Vitamins A, B, C, D and some trace elements.
Therefore, dandelion root extract can be useful in acne therapy for promoting skin health and reducing the amount of androgens produced.
Licorice is an ancient herbal remedy which was commonly used by the ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Chinese to promote vitality and improve general health.
This herb has anti-inflammatory properties useful to relieving the swelling caused by acne cyst and nodules. It provides a soothing effect when applied topically and it can also relieve the red, scaly appearance of the skin caused by irritants during acne breakouts.
Licorice root should be avoided by pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Tea tree oil is obtained from steam distillation of the leaves of Australia tea tree oil or Melaleuca alternifolia.
The oil obtained is traditionally used to treat skin infections as well as heal skin burns and cuts. Its active ingredients are terpenoids and the most abundant of these compounds is tepen-4-ol.
The terpenoids are responsible for the antimicrobial activities of tea tree oil. Its use in acne treatment is, therefore, mostly to kill of the bacteria responsible for acne.
In a comparative study done by researchers in the Department of Dermatology of Australia’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, tea tree oil was compared to benzyl peroxide in the treatment of acne with or without inflammation.
The study took 3 months and both anti-acne medications were proven to be effective. However, benzyl peroxide was more effective than tea tree oil and had a faster onset of action. On the other hand, tea tree oil produced far less side effects and in fewer study participants.
Lavender oil is a natural herbal remedy known for its analgesic, antibacterial and antiviral properties. It can be applied directly to the skin but only after dilution with grape seed oil since lavender oil is very strong.
It is useful for killing off the bacteria responsible for acne. The oil can also deeply penetrate the skin to ease the pain, redness and inflammation associated with acne. Lastly, lavender oil soothes the skin and promotes skin health.
Red clover is a popular traditional herbal remedy for treating skin diseases ranging from eczema and psoriasis to acne. It is believed to be a detoxifier and a blood cleanser which acts internally to prevent the break out of acne lesions.
Green tea is an ancient Chinese herbal remedy. When combined with honeysuckle, it is known in many Asian cultures as “pimple tea” and used for treating acne.
Green tea is taken for its antioxidant property which is attributed to its polyphenol content. These antioxidant compounds help mop up free radicals that can damage the skin and cause hormonal imbalances.
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