Herbs For Acne
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Acne develops when sebum is trapped in the pores of the skin, allowing for the growth of bacteria. Sebum is an oily substance that moistens and protects the skin. The skin is constantly shedding and replenishing cells. As skin cells are shed, sebum should move freely from the hair follicle to the skin's surface.
However, sometimes skin cells are shed unevenly and begin to clump together. This prevents the causes the sebum to become trapped in the pores, enabling bacterial growth. The hair follicle becomes enlarged, usually resulting in a minor case of non-inflammatory acne called comedones (whiteheads and blackheads). Moderate acne is characterized by inflamed pimples and lesions called papules (semi-inflammatory red bumps) and pustules (inflamed circular bumps with a white or yellow center). Acne is usually not considered severe unless nodules or cysts have formed. Nodules form under the surface of the skin as large red bumps with hard surfaces that are typically very painful. Cysts occur when nodules fill with pus, the result of increased bacterial growth.
What Acne Treatment Options Are Available?
Acne treatment options range from gentle over-the-counter remedies to extra-strength prescription remedies. In cases of intense discomfort, antibiotics are often prescribed. Choice of treatment depends on the severity of the case and the acne sufferer's willingness to wait before seeing results. For example, a course of antibiotics might produce results more quickly than a liver cleanse.
Topical treatments--both natural and pharmaceutical--are available over the counter and typically used in mild to moderate cases of acne. Natural and pharmaceutical remedies have been studied and compared for their effectiveness in treating acne. Studies show that certain herbal remedies can be just as effective as over-the-counter and prescription remedies.  The results of clinical trials indicate that tea tree oil is comparably effective (as a remedy for acne) to benzoyl peroxide, a popular over-the-counter remedy and pharmaceutical ingredient in products marketed to fight acne.  Herbal remedies are often considered safer than pharmaceutical products. For example, the non-antibiotic drug isotretinoin (Accutane) is associated with side effects which include depression, suicidal thoughts and severe birth defects.  Drugs like Accutane are seldom prescribed as an initial means of treatment.
When determining the effectiveness of treatment options, dosage is an additional factor.
Diet may also be taken into consideration when evaluating the cause of acne.
10 Herbs For Acne
The following natural remedies and herbs have been indicated by various researches for acne:
Burdock (Arctium lappa)
Native to Asia and Europe, burdock has a history of use as a treatment for acne rosacea, eczema, and acne vulgaris.  Traditional texts describe burdock root as a "blood purifier" and alterative. It was also widely used as a diuretic, which
can cleanse the body and remove acne-causing bacteria.
Used for ages in folk medicine, burdock has been the subject of scientific study in recent years. Studies show that the plant has anti-microbial properties which support claims of its having skin-clearing benefits.  Research shows that burdock can reduce inflammation and heal liver damage in animals, but whether the plant has a similar effect on humans has yet to be determined.  To maximize its liver-cleansing and anti-inflammatory effect, traditional herbalists recommend that burdock tinctures, teas, and infusions be prepared with other liver- and blood- cleansing herbs such as yellow dock, red clover and dandelion.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita and Chamaemelum nobile)
Medicinal use of chamomile dates back to Ancient Egyptians, for whom the plant was an important cosmetic, stress-reliever and sleep-aid.  Today chamomile is most commonly prepared as tea and often marketed as a mild sedative or relaxant. Chamomile tea bags can also be used topically as part of an at-home skin treatment in order to calm and tone the skin. Chamomile also has a lightening effect, which can reduce the appearance of acne scars. 
The term chamomile is used to classify two different plants. Matricaria recutita, commonly known as German or Hungarian chamomile, is distinct from Cha maemelum nobile (Roman or English camomile), yet both plants are used as remedies for the same ailments.  Both plants contain active constituents such as terpenoids (bisabolol, matricin, chamazulene) and flavenoids (apigenin, luteolin) that are documented as having soothing and anti-inflammatory effect on the skin. Chamomile extract, essential oil, and isolated constituents have anti-inflammatory properties that can greatly improve the appearance of skin disorders such as acne. 
Chamomile extract is a commonly-used ingredient in acne treatment products.
Chamomile is reported to be most effective as a treatment for acne when used as a heat compress applied to the face. The combination of heat, moisture, and chamomile has been reported to treat and prevent blackheads and reduce scarring. 
There are reported to be no known side effects of chamomile use. 
Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)
In documents dating back to the 1800s, the dandelion plant is described as a purifying herb.  Traditional herbalists used the root, stem, and leaves of the dandelion plant to make teas, tinctures and tonics for the treatment of various ailments, including skin conditions.
Dandelion is a natural detoxifier of the blood, liver, and kidneys. Detoxification helps to correct imbalances in the body and repair damage caused by them. Imbalances of the blood, liver, and kidneys can wreck havoc on the body and are often responsible for conditions such as acne. For example, the liver is responsible for "housecleaning" the toxins our bodies are exposed to. Especially damaging toxins take the form of fatty foods, alcohol, and chemical smog, all of which degrade the skin's condition. To keep the body healthy, the liver processes and expels these toxins to the best of its ability. However, when the liver is over-worked or weakened its ability to purify the body is compromised. Dandelion is also high in potassium, which is essential for tissue repair and skin growth.  Potassium imbalance is associated with high stress, which can worsen acne breakouts.
According to a 2009 study, dandelion can enhance the body's ability to avoid bacterial infections and reduce susceptibility to conditions such as acne. Bacterial growth occurs in the skin when the hair follicles are blocked as a result of lipid accumulation. Blockage is caused by the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes. 
Dandelion has also been studied for its healing effect on the pancreas. The pancreas releases insulin, which is known to remove bacteria and improve the appearance of the skin. 
a case study was conducted where a 23 year old patient was suffering from mild to moderate acne outbreak along the back, face and chest. A bitter tincture of dandelion leaf together with other herbs like Gentian and Oregon grape root was administered to him at a dose of 2 dropper-full before meals. Combined with healthier diet over a 3 month period, his acne outbreak was shown to have considerably reduced. 
A hormone balancing herb, dandelion root has been proven to eliminate excess pimple-causing hormones in the body. It's also enriched with vitamins A and D essential for skin repair  and promoting clear skin. 
The genus Eucalyptus includes over 600 species of trees, many of which are native to Australia and have been used medicinally by Aboriginal peoples. Eucalyptus oil, which is made by steam-distilling the leaves of the tree, has many medicinal uses. Most commonly used as a remedy for colds, eucalyptus oil has recently been recognized for its acne-fighting properties and is used today as an active ingredient in acne washes, toners and ointments. 
In a 2004 study, the antimicrobial properties in various species of eucalyptus were examined for their effect on several different acne-causing pathogens. Researchers determined that the species Eucalyptus globulus, Eucalyptus maculata and Eucalyptus viminalis have the potential to fight the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes. 
The acne-fighting action of the eucalyptus can be explained by its active ingredient eucalyptol (1,8-cineole), which has antiseptic qualities.  While bacteria and fungi are considered to be an underlying cause of acne, the redness and swelling associated with breakouts are often the result of inflammation. Eucalyptus also contains chalconoids, which not only protect against fungi and microbes but also can reduce inflammation.
Eucalyptus oil is a powerful astringent. Not to be confused with its milder relative tea tree oil, eucalyptus oil is so potent that it can possibly do more harm than good unless properly diluted. Eucalyptus should not be used on open wounds or mucous membranes.
Neem (Azadirachta indica)
The bark, leaves, and roots of the neem tree, Azadirachta indica, have been used for centuries by practitioners of Ayurveda (traditional Indian medicine) to treat and prevent inflammation, parasitic infection, head lice and malaria. In the Ayurvedic tradition, neem is classified as having a bitter composition.  Today, neem is recognized for its effectiveness in the treatment and prevention of pimples, blackheads, cysts, eczema, itching, rashes, scabies, and other skin conditions. Research has determined that neem contains extracts which have antiseptic, antiviral, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties. 
Neem oil is often an ingredient in soaps, salves, serums, ointments, and other skin care products used to fight acne. It can also be purchased as pure oil; in capsule form; or as a powder that can be made into a paste (mixed with water) and applied as a mask to draw out impurities from acne pimples. Neem oil has not been reported to cause the types of harmful side effects associated with chemical acne-treatment formulas such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics and retinoids. 
The results of a 2008 study indicate that neem is a safe and effective alternative to chemical acne-treatment products. Like an antibiotic, neem can prevent and treat acne by killing the bacteria that clogs the skin's pores. Neem can also be taken internally, in capsule form or as tea. The American Cancer Society recommends that individuals consult their doctor before altering their healthcare regimen. The effects of internally-administered neem have not been studied for potential interactions with over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Named by naturalist Carolus Linnaeus in 1753. Red Clover has a history of use as a treatment for respiratory ailments such as asthma and bronchitis.  Also called cow clover, meadow clover, wild clover; red clover is native to Europe, Western Asia and northwest Africa. Recognized for its effectiveness in treating bacterial infections, viral infections, and certain types of cancer, red clover is used as an alternative (non-prescription) remedy for acne. Red clover has also been described (in historical texts) as a remedy for female conditions associated with hormonal changes.  For this reason, red clover is often used by woman undergoing menopause. Caution should be taken before red clover is used as a substitute for other remedies--the plant itself is not unsafe but reportedly has caused problems in some cases.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Also called melaleuca oil, tea tree oil is extracted from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia. According to historical record, the indigenous people of Australia used tea tree as a remedy for skin disorders. Although the plant is native to the Australian coast, its oil is sold today in many regions of the world and is widely used as an ingredient in skin care products, including those marketed as treatments for acne.
The results of clinical trials suggest that tea tree oil is effective in treating skin conditions such as acne.  Found to have antimicrobial, antiviral, antibiotic and antiseptic properties, tea tree oil is used as an ingredient in commercial acne treatments and also as a simple home remedy. Skin-condition research indicates that acne is often caused by bacterial infection of the sebaceous glands, and that the antibacterial components of tea tree oil might combat the spread of bacterial infections such as those that cause acne.
Although it is safe to use as a topical remedy, tea tree oil is toxic when taken internally. Symptoms of toxicity may include stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, drowsiness, confusion, hallucinations, and coma.  Tea tree oil should not be applied to broken skin, and care should be taken to avoid contact with mucous membranes (especially the eyes). Excessive application of tea tree oil has been reported to cause mild to severe dryness, itching and irritation of the skin, and allergic reactions such as contact dermatitis. 
The results of clinical trials suggest that tea tree oil is as effective as benzoyl peroxide (a commonly-used active ingredient in commercial and over-the-counter acne treatment products) in targeting the bacteria that causes acne. 
Magnolia stem bark
Studies that directly apply magnolia stem bark on the skin of healthy human volunteers demonstrate it to be non-irritating as well as effective in reducing inflammatory causing acne.  Its inflammatory property is due to active compounds like honokiol and magnolol which, as another study has found, significantly reduced inflammatory elements of acne and have been suggested to have possible applications for acne-fighting cosmetics. 
Research has shown this anti-bacterial and anti-viral herb to be a very potent herb that penetrates fast to soothe and revitalize the skin.  Aside from this, there are reports that lavender essential oil can promote growth of new skin cells. 
As you may have noticed, herbal treatments to fight pimples do so through different means: detoxify, correct hormonal imbalance, combat microbes, reduce inflammation or repair the skin. Although with acne herbal remedies, a combination of these usually works best with the compounds working together to alleviate acne of various causes.  And as clinical trials have revealed, a comprehensive solution of several herbs with lifestyle and dietary changes provide optimal results. 
Garlic is known to be antibacterial: Topical application of a slice of raw garlic a few times per day is reported to be able to clear up acne quickly, as well as assisting with painful spots.  Also, garlic is widely considered to be an overall "cleansing" herb for the system - and less toxins should mean less breakouts.
Herbs For Acne - References:
 Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. 1988. Pp 23–4.
 Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. 1994. Pp 9–101.
 Lin CC, Lin JM, Yang JJ, et al. Anti-inflammatory and radical scavenge [sic] effects of Arctium lappa. Am J Chin Med 1996. Pp 24:127–37
 J. Graf, MD. Herbal Anti-Inflammatory Agents for Skin Disease. Skin Therapy Letter 2000;5:3–5.
 H.P. Hörmann and H.C. Korting. Evidence for the efficacy and safety of topical herbal drugs in dermatology: Part I: Anti-inflammatory agents. Phytomedicine. Volume 1, Issue 2, September 1994, Pages 161–171
 Kapoor, Shweta and Swarnlata Saraf. Topical Herbal Therapies an Alternative and Complementary Choice to Combat Acne. 2011. Research Journal of Medicinal Plant 5(6) 650-669.
 Bruton-Seal Julie and Mathew Seal. Backyard Medicine: Harvest and Make Your Own Herbal Remedies. New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing. 2009.
 Foster, Steven and Johnson, Rebecca L. Desk Reference to Nature's Medicine. National Geographic Books. 2008.
 Sutcliffe, Joyce A. et al. 2010. United States Patent Application Publication. Pub. No.: US 2010/ A1.0226983
 Martin, Bob. The Healing Herbs: Powerful Healing Properties of Herbs. Online (ebook).
 Herbal Medicine for Acne Vulgaris. http://www.touroinstitute.com/herbs%20and%20acne.pdf
 "Letters in Applied Microbiology"; Antimicrobial activities of eucalyptus leaf extracts and flavonoids from Eucalyptus maculata; T. Takahashi, R. Kokubo, and M. Sakaino; July 2004
 Kapoor, Shweta and Swarnlata Saraf. Topical Herbal Therapies an Alternative and Complementary Choice to Combat Acne. 2011. Research Journal of Medicinal Plant 5(6) 650-669. http://scialert.net/fulltext/?doi=rjmp.2011.650.669&org=10
 Ma, Kristen. Beauty Pure and Simple: The Ayurvedic Approach to Beautiful Skin (2011). Trumpeter Books, Boston.
 K.K. Singh. Neem: A Treatise (2008). IK International Publishing House Pvt. Ltd.
 Kumar, Anil; Baboota, Sanjula; Agarwal, SP; Ali, Javed; Ahuja, Alka. Treatment of acne with special emphasis on herbal remedies Expert Review of Dermatology, Volume 3, Number 1, February 2008 , pp. 111-122(12)
 Bassett, IB; Pannowitz, DL; Barnetson, RS (1990). "A comparative study of tea-tree oil versus benzoyl peroxide in the treatment of acne." The Medical journal of Australia 153 (8): 455–8.
 Anti-infammatory effects of active constituents extracted from Chinese medicinal herbs against Propionibacterium acnes. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21999396
Article researched and created by Kelsey Wambold and Cathy Ongking, © herbs-info.com 2013
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