Herbs for the management of acne.
THE skin is the largest organ of the human body, both in terms of surface area and weight. It accounts for 15% of total body weight.
Skin is essential in many ways. It acts as a physical barrier and prevents harmful substances and microorganisms from entering the body. It protects body tissues and the network of muscles, bones, nerves and blood vessels against injury. It also controls the loss of fluids like blood and water, helps regulate body temperature through perspiration, and protects from the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays.
The skin consists of three layers (outer – epidermis; middle – dermis; and lower – subcutaneous tissue). It also contains structures like sweat glands, sebaceous glands, hair and hair follicles.
Sebaceous glands secrete an oily substance called sebum and are found over the entire surface of the body except for the palms, soles, and dorsum of the feet. They are largest and most concentrated in the face and scalp – the sites of origin of acne. Sebum protects hair and skin, and keeps them from becoming dry, brittle, and cracked. It also inhibits the growth of microorganisms on skin.
Acne is a common skin disorder, affecting virtually all adolescents and adults at some time in their lives. Although overall health is not impaired, acne is not a trivial disease, as it can produce cutaneous and emotional scars that last a lifetime1,2,3. Numerous psychological problems stem from acne, some even resulting in decreased employability in adulthood4.
Acne is characterised by whiteheads, blackheads, and inflamed red pimples. Acne commonly appears on the face and shoulders, but may also occur on the trunk, arms, legs, and buttocks.
This condition is most common in teenagers; three out of four teenagers have acne to some extent, probably caused by hormonal changes that stimulate oil (sebum) production.
People in their 30s and 40s may also have acne. Young women are more likely to have intermittent acne due to hormonal changes associated with their menstrual cycle.
Each skin pore is an opening of a hair follicle, which contains a hair and a sebaceous gland. When skin pores are blocked due to excessive sebum secretion and accumulation of dirt, debris and bacteria, acne is produced.
This blockage further leads to inflammation and painful cysts. Severe acne can lead to serious and permanent scarring. Although the exact cause of acne is not known, certain factors such as greasy and fried foods, greasy cosmetic products, drugs, birth control pills, stress, and humidity can trigger acne.
Skin care regime
Good skin care calls for a mix of internal and external cleansing. Internal cleansing refers to removal of toxins in the blood and other inflammatory mediators that can give rise to various skin problems.
Regular skin regimes include the use of the right cleansers, toners, lotions and moisturisers for a healthy and clean skin. An unhygienic, poorly protected and undernourished skin is susceptible to acne.
Maintain good skin hygiene; clean your skin and remove dirt, grime and make-up by using mild soap, lemon or honey. Lemon removes grime and oil, while honey has antibacterial and antiseptic properties and prevents scar formation.
Avoid excessive or repeated washing of skin. Use non-greasy and water-based cosmetics. Avoid squeezing, pressing or pricking pimples. Be relaxed, and avoid tension, stress and excessive worry.
A number of herbs are used in Ayurveda for the treatment of acne and pimples.
Lentil has been cultivated and valued as an article of food since ancient times. It has also been used medicinally in many European countries.
Lentil is valued for its high protein content. It is astringent, nourishing, blood-enriching and effective in skin diseases. It is used as a natural cleanser for clarifying and enhancing skin complexion. The astringent, cooling and anti-inflammatory properties of L. culinaris help in reducing the inflammation due to acne.
Kumari/Aloe barbadensis/Barbados Aloe
Aloe barbadensis is a perennial plant with long, erect leaves that contain a sticky juice. The leaf juice forms the main source of this herb.
Aloes have been used for a host of diseases, particularly those connected with the digestive system. A. barbadensis possesses emollient, astringent, cooling and healing properties and is widely used in various creams, lotions and shampoos.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of A. barbadensis have also been well documented5,6,7. It is beneficial in various skin disorders such as acne, sunburn, bruises, and dermatitis.
Nirgundi/Vitex negundo/five-leaved chaste tree
Vitex negundo is a large, aromatic shrub. It has astringent, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, membrane stabilising and antioxidant properties8. These properties make V. negundo an excellent and effective herb in the treatment of skin disorders.
Shalmali/Salmalia malabarica/silk cotton tree
Salmalia malabarica is a large and tall, deciduous tree. It is astringent, cooling, styptic and anti-inflammatory. Hence, it is beneficial in acne and skin eruptions. S. malabarica also possesses antibacterial and antifungal properties, which are attributed to “shamimin”, one of its active constitiuents9,10.
Acne involves both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. The presence of inflammation-causing substances and toxins in the blood and the damage brought about by factors such as pollution and free radicals work together to cause acne, pimples and other skin problems. Ayurveda prescribes various herbs, such as Neem, Haridra and Manjistha, for internal cleansing and to keep the skin healthy and glowing.
Neem is a useful tree that is indigenous to India and is cultivated all over the country for its bark, leaves and fruits. Since time immemorial, all parts of the neem tree – the leaves, flowers, seeds, fruits, roots and bark – have been used for the treatment of inflammation, infections, fever, skin diseases and dental disorders.
Nimbidin is a major active principle of Azadirachta indica that helps in inflammation. Neem leaves and their constituents exhibit immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anticarcinogenic effects11. These properties are of immense value in skin conditions like acne and pimples, eczema, and dermatitis. It is also useful in preventing free radical-induced skin damage.
Turmeric has been used traditionally as a spice in Asian cuisines for its powerful antiseptic properties. It has anti-inflammatory properties and is an excellent antiseptic. It possesses antioxidant, tonic, blood purifying, anthelmintic, and digestive properties.
Studies have demonstrated the potent antioxidant activity of curcuminoids, active compounds found in Curcuma longa, and their ability to prevent skin damage caused by free radicals12.
Ayurveda believes inner toxicity to be a key factor behind many skin disorders. Therefore, skin problems, including acne, can be better managed by attending to overall health, not just skin. Healthy, glowing skin is, in fact, a reflection of a healthy body.
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This article is courtesy of Himalaya Healthcare.