Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
Herbs can be used to ease skin problems in two ways: topically for quick relief, and internally-in teas, tinctures, or supplements-to heal from within. I recommend using them both ways, as well as combining herbs with other specific nutrients.
From the Inside
According to traditional Chinese medicine, unhealthy digestion is an underlying cause of chronic skin problems. This is especially true with psoriasis, where the immune system attacks the skin, causing it to develop ridges and become flaky.
Oregon grape is a great basic herb for cleansing and restoring healthy digestion. It can be taken on an ongoing basis in supplements or tea. I also recommend flax seed fiber for regularity and detoxification, and probiotics to restore and maintain healthy bacteria in the digestive tract.
Impurities in the blood are another underlying factor for many skin issues, especially rosacea, which is triggered by inflamed blood vessels in the skin. Drinking tea made with red clover and burdock root can help cleanse the blood.
How to make herbal tea: Steep one teaspoon of dried herb per one cup of boiling water, 5-10 minutes for dried leaf and 10-20 minutes for a root.
From the Outside
There are two classic types of topical herbal remedies used to treat various skin conditions:
A tea wash: Make a tea, as if you were going to drink it. Once it cools, gently use it to wash the affected area. Try chamomile to soothe, comfrey to reduce itching and inflammation, or goldenseal for infection.
A poultice: For a more concentrated treatment, mix a dried herb with either vitamin E oil (soothing) or tea tree oil (antibacterial), and add a little honey to make it sticky. To soothe inflammation, use vitamin E oil and comfrey or goldenseal. If the skin is infected, use tea tree oil and comfrey. The quantity you need depends upon the size of the affected area. Apply the poultice like a face mask. Leave it on until it dries (about 15-20 minutes) and then gently wash it off.
Simple Home Remedies
Many helpful ointments contain aloe, vitamin E, comfrey, and soothing herbs such as calendula. Chamomile is especially versatile. Drinking it supports healthy digestion and cleanses blood, and in a tea wash, it soothes any type of skin irritation. Other skin conditions with natural solutions include:
Acne: Caused by bacteria that infect oil glands in the skin. Use tea tree oil topically, and take garlic supplements to fight the infection from within.
Eczema: Also called dermatitis, eczema is a rash or inflammation of the skin. If skin is itchy, use a burdock root tea wash. Herbs that heal from within include dandelion, goldenseal, myrrh, pau d’arco, and red clover.
Psoriasis: Use a cream that contains vitamins D and E, and take vitamin D and MSM supplements to help restore healthy skin.
Rosacea: To soothe, use a chamomile tea wash and routinely drink tea made with red clover and burdock root.
If you experience a sudden rash or redness, contact with an irritant is one common culprit. Food intolerance is another. In either case, a chamomile tea wash-or an aloe vera or vitamin E gel-can help soothe skin. Other symptom solutions:
For cuts and abrasions: Aloe vera and vitamin E gel soothe pain and irritation and improve healing.
For bruising or soreness: Arnica gel can help speed healing.
For infected skin: Try a colloidal silver wash, which is a natural antibiotic.
For itching: Comfrey is a traditional itch remedy.
For fungal infections: Tea tree oil can help eliminate both fungus and bacteria.
AcneAdvance blends cleansing herbs (including red clover and burdock) and natural anti-inflammatories shown to reduce blemishes.
Oregon Grape Root capsules deliver a potent, standardized form of this herb known for its cleansing properties and ability to help heal the skin.
Skin DeTox Tea with burdock and other herbs reduces internal impurities to support a clearer, glowing complexion.
Steven Rosenblatt, MD, PhD, (doctorrbrand.com) is an integrative physician in private practice in Los Angeles and a leading pioneer in combining Eastern and Western Medicine.