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It used to be common practice to wrap wounds in leaves to speed healing,
and pluck medicines from the wild when in need of first-aid. These time-proven herbs are three top choices when it comes to cuts, scrapes, and scars. Whether you want to prevent a scar from forming or fade an existing scar, these herbal healers can do the trick—and research proves their benefits aren’t just an old wives’ tale.
A member of the parsley family, gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a well-known scar remedy. Applying gotu kola to wounds and even acne eruptions can reduce scarring. It helps to increase blood flow to wounds, reduce the formation of excess scar tissue, and improve skin elasticity.
Gotu kola’s active constituents are triterpenes, steroid-like compounds that have a balancing effect on connective tissues. These triterpenes increase the function and structural integrity of the collagen matrix and support the basic “glue” that holds our cells together. The leaves are anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
In several studies, research has confirmed that gotu kola compounds promote rapid healing in wounds. The herb has been found to actually heal and promote the growth of new skin, gently closing and repairing even lesions and skin ulcers. Several studies have shown impressive results in the treatment of even dramatically damaged skin.
Gotu kola has long been recommended for the treatment of keloids (tough, irregularly shaped scars that tend to enlarge). In a clinical trial, 227 patients were treated with either oral gotu kola alone, or surgical scar revision plus gotu kola, over 18 months. Subjects took 60–150 mg of gotu kola daily. In the combined surgery and gotu kola group, 72 percent experienced improvements in inflammation of scar tissue. In the gotu kola-only group, inflammation disappeared in 82 percent of subjects—10 percent better than when surgery was included!
Gotu kola can be used topically as an ointment or tincture. It may be even more effective when taken internally in capsules (try 450 mg per day) or drunk as a tea. Gotu kola also makes a tasty cooked green vegetable. Carefully clean the dried herb, remove the stems, and soak it overnight. Cook it much like spinach, with which it can be combined in a recipe. It’s a little bitter, but palatable. Warning: Do not take gotu kola if you are pregnant or nursing.
Though it looks like a cactus, aloe is a member of the lily family, along with its cousins onion and garlic. The aloe vera plant is widely used around the world for a variety of ailments. It is most popular in Western cultures as a burn remedy, and you might already think of this aloe gel as a remedy for sunburn. It can help reduce inflammation, fibrous tissue formation, wound contraction, and scarring. A recent South African study found that aloe even reduced the production of melanin, the pigment that comprises age spots.
Aloe vera’s thick leaves contain the clear healing gel. This inner-leaf gel, which contains 96 percent water, can be consumed as a liquid or applied to the skin. It is its moisturizing and anti-inflammatory properties that assist with wound healing, helping the skin to repair itself as well as lessening irritation. The gel also helps wounds rid themselves of dead skin. Aloe vera can lessen surface swelling and help repair damaged skin cells, as well as protect newer, healthier ones. The gel helps to increase the amount of collagen your skin produces to promote healing and help to fade existing scars. Drink 2 ounces of pure aloe vera gel daily, or apply generously to the affected area daily.
Ayurveda turns to castor oil, an oil derived from the seeds of the castor plant (Ricinus communis), to treat age spots and scars. Ayurvedic practitioners consider this oil to be the foremost remedy for both these disorders when applied generously and consistently to affected areas.
Castor oil protects the skin from scar formation, especially when applied to wounds, such as from surgery. Several studies support this. Castor oil has been shown to increase the number of lymphocytes in the body, which play an important role in wound healing. Babies have a high level of lymphocytes so their wounds don’t leave scars. When you apply castor oil on the skin, the level of lymphocytes increases, thereby making you less prone to scars. Additionally, castor oil moisturizes the skin. Existing scars also become less noticeable when castor oil is applied, including acne scars. The oil doesn’t clog pores, and reduces bacteria and inflammation.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa, DN-C, RH, is an herbalist, nutritionist, educator and president of the American Herbalists Guild. Visit his website at kpkhalsa.com.