When it comes to the way we look, we often look for the fastest possible cure. If we have an acne breakout, we reach for the strongest spot treatments available. If we want to lose weight, we go on juice cleanses and restrict eating. It comes as no surprise that, when used in excess, these treatments can be detrimental to our overall health. Mainstream cosmetic medicine has prioritized efficiency over health for decades – but it doesn’t have to be this way.
Most common dermatologic disorders, the most-experienced form of cosmetic dissatisfaction, have safe and effective herbal treatments available. Reaching for an herb or naturally occurring ingredient will almost always be safer than the cosmetic treatment that promises unrealistic results. That said, some types of skin problems will require the help of a skin specialist or medical dermatologist. Below, we’ve broken down several herb treatments for common skin problems, but we’ve made sure to highlight exactly when you should see a medical professional for assistance.
Acne typically responds very well to fruit acids, such as citric, gluconic, gluconolactone, glycolic, malic, and tartaric acids. This is broadly believed to be a result of the acids’ exfoliative properties. Natural remedies, such as honey, most fruits, and some vegetables, can serve as excellent spot treatments and cleansers for mild acne, such as whiteheads and blackheads. Similarly, tannins have natural astringent properties, and they can be used topically to treat acne. The most common naturally occurring natural tannin is in witch hazel, which combines bark extract and water. Commercially available preparations of this product are not as powerful, so try your hand at making your own.
Some forms of acne, however, should require a trip to the dermatologist. Any skin lesions that are extremely painful, cystic, or unable to be identified (i.e. they don’t look like acne) should be examined by a licensed professional. Often, a quick skin check is all you need to get the medicine and care necessary to clear the blemish.
Bacterial and Fungal Skin Infections
There are many natural remedies available for both bacterial and fungal skin infections. Garlic, for example, contains ajoene, which has demonstrated both antifungal and antibacterial activity when both ingested and applied topically. While contact dermatitis has occasionally been reported with frequent exposure, this potential side-effect is minimal. Similarly, tea tree oil, when applied topically for treatment of fungal or bacterial infections, has shown to combat a wide variety of microorganisms, including Staphylococcus aureus, Candida albicans, and Propionibacterium acnes. It has shown symptom improvement in several double-blind studies, but users should caution against using the material on burns.
Most people don’t typically need to visit a dermatologist for typical fungal infections, but bacterial infections can cause a major health risk. If you notice itchiness, swelling, or excessive redness on or near your bacterial or fungal infection, make an appointment with your doctor.
Dermatitis is a condition that affects 16.5million Americans each year, and it can appear for a variety of reasons. However, certain herbal medicines are effective at treating the ubiquitous rash. For example, arnica, which is derived from the dried flowers of Arnica montana, has been used for centuries as an anti-inflammatory drug on sore muscles, bruises, insect bites, boils, and acne eruptions. The ingredient is also found in many seborrheic dermatitis and psoriasis treatment preparations, indicating that the medical community understands and respects its potential as a medicine.
German chamomile, a member of the daisy family, can also lessen dermatitis symptoms when applied topically. Topical preparations typically include a cream or ointment base, and studies have shown that topical chamomile is comparable with 0.25% hydrocortisone, which is a common remedy for dermatitis.
Dermatitis does not typically require a dermatologist visit, but if the rash is severe, painful, itchy, or bleeding/oozing, it’s safer to make an appointment. You may be prescribed steroids or anti-inflammatory drugs that will address the problem.
Psoriasis is a tricky dermatological condition because many believe its cause is rooted in the immune system. Most psoriasis medicines aim to decrease symptoms. Aloe vera has been used for centuries in wound healing and was found to be a potential treatment for psoriasis. In a double-blind study, the group of psoriasis patients treated with aloe showed a statistically significant improvement over the placebo group, and there were no adverse effects reported. Capsaicin has also been shown to alleviate some psoriasis symptoms. The ingredient, which is found primarily in peppers, has been shown to significantly decrease scaling and erythema when applied topically over a 6-week period.
If you have psoriasis, you should visit a medical dermatologist. Without symptom management and medical mitigation, the condition will only continue to get worse. While there is no cure for psoriasis, medical-grade medicines are typically the best way forward if you have moderate to severe outbreaks.