Herbal Remedies for Acne

Published: 22nd February 2008
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Copyright (c) 2008 Mary Ann Copson

Acne is a prevalent and difficult skin problem to treat. Not only does acne cause physical discomfort and blemish, it also can be the cause of stressful angst and embarrassment leaving the acne sufferer with less than positive feelings about themselves.

Standard treatments range from various over-the-counter and prescription drugs, ultraviolet radiation, oral anti-biotic treatments, hydrocortisone based lotions, oral contraceptives and a variety of abrasive topical treatments.

Acne is often thought of as a teenage affliction but men and women in their 20s, 30s, and 40s make up half the acne population. Young children and elderly adults don't seem to get acne. Teenage acne is equally distributed between girls and boys but adult acne is more common in women.

The medical establishment blames acne on a combination of hyperactive oil glands in the skin, hormones, and a tendency for cells lining the pores to clog. Research by Nicholas Perricone, however, shows that acne is actually the result of a cascade of inflammatory reactions in the body.

An inflammatory response - created by eating pro-inflammatory foods, high levels of stress and not getting adequate and restful sleep - creates inflammation on a cellular level. Cellular inflammation accelerates the aging process, as well as the onset and course of many diseases like cancer, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, and acne.

As Perricone states in his book The Acne Prescription, "Inflammation always comes first and it is the inflammation that is the cause of the clogged pore '" His research points to the fact that acne is a systemic inflammatory disease that happens from the inside out.

Herbalists have traditionally treated acne from the inside out. Rather than relying simply on external topical treatments to rid the skin of acne, herbalists have sought to rebalance key internal processes:

Hormone production



Liver health

Lymphatic health

Digestive health

Bowel function

Skin health

The new ' and the traditional ' approach to acne is to treat it as a systemic imbalance in the body - as an inflammatory response supported or prompted by imbalances in several different body functions.

A 'one treatment works for all approach' to clearing up acne doesn't work, so how do you know what's behind your breakouts and which treatment approach will work best for you? A through diagnostic evaluation mapping out your own personal imbalances can help target effective treatments for your situation. Successful treatment of acne calls for a multi-tiered, individually designed approach including:



Herbs taken internally

Topical treatments

In addition to an anti-inflammatory approach, there are some time honored herbal approaches that have been shown to be helpful when used as part of multi-modality program.

Burdock ' a deep cleansing herb that helps the liver and skin more effectively cleanse waste and toxins. A liver that is not functioning at its best is slow in breaking down and clearing out hormonal by-products that can worsen acne. Burdock has strong liver purifying and hormone regulating actions with a special affinity for the skin.

Burdock contains inulin, which helps remove bacteria in the skin and some research suggests that burdock has anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. The root is most often used and promotes sweating and urination.

Dandelion ' stimulates liver and digestive function and promotes bile flow. The liver is the major organ in the body that helps get rid of toxins and excess hormones, including those that are related to acne breakouts. Dandelion root is anti-inflammatory and may help get rid of skin bacteria associated with acne.

Dandelion leaves are vitamin and mineral rich ' and make a tasty green veggie. The vitamins and minerals in dandelion greens are thought to support and maintain healthy skin.

Calendula ' is a traditional skin remedy. It is anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory and boosts immune function. Calendula can be used both externally and internally to reduce inflammation and speed wound healing. Calendula is considered to be the best herbal tissue healer for skin problems. Calendula is on par with witch hazel as an astringent and is one of the best antiseptics.

Chasteberry - If you are a woman and your acne has a hormonal link, chasteberry might be just the thing for you. Chasteberry has a long history of balancing women's hormone problems. Chasteberry appears to regulate higher progesterone levels that are related to acne outbreaks. Chasteberry may be called for if your acne occurs along with PMS and if acne reappears as you enter menopause.

Sarsaparilla - has long been used to clear up skin problems. Sarsaparilla appears to work to clear up acne by balancing hormones and improving the function of the lymphatic system.

Yellow Dock ' another favorite herbal remedy, clears skin problems by improving digestion and regulating bowel movements. Herbalists have long noted a connection between constipation and skin problems.

Oregon Grape and Goldenseal ' Both of these herbs contain berberine, which is a potent anti-bacterial agent and may help rid the skin of bacteria related to acne. Plus, both of these herbs work to improve digestion and liver function, helping the body get rid of toxins.

Oregon grape is particularly effective for all types of skin problems. It stimulates bile secretions and is a glandular tonic. Through its stimulatory and regulating effect on the liver and gallbladder, it is useful in overcoming problems with constipation. It is what herbalists call a blood purifier and promotes healthy functioning of the spleen and lymphatic system. Through its combined actions it can work wonders to restore a clear, smooth complextion. Caution ' Do not use either of these herbs internally during pregnancy.

Herbs for External Treatment:

Reduce inflammation ' cat's claw, nettles, cleavers, licorice, chamomile, chickweed

Deep pore cleaning ' ginseng, ginkgo

Antibacterial/ antifungal ' echinacea, white willow bark, calendula, goldenseal, blue flag, nettles, cleavers. Lavender kills germs on the skin, stimulates new cell growth and helps heal acne scars.

Astringents 'calendula. Witch Hazel is an old fashion remedy that kills bacteria and helps remove excess oil on the skin.


Mary Ann Copson is the founder of Evenstar Herbs and the Evenstar Mood & Energy Wellness Center. With Master's Degrees in Human Development and Psychology and Counseling, Mary Ann is a Certified Licensed Nutritionist; Certified Holistic Health Practitioner; Brain Chemistry Profile Clinician. Find more herbal remedies at


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