Saturday, March 31, 2012

Acne and Eczema – Springfield Sanctuary Research Task

As part of our research on the function of skin and blood, we were asked to look at why people develop acne and eczema, and to explore which herbs might be helpful.

Acne occurs when hair follicles become plugged with dead cells and oil. As we learned earlier, hair follicles are connected to sebaceous glands. These glands secrete sebum, an oily substance which lubricates your skin and hair. Sebum normally travels up the hair follicle and out onto the skin, but when there is an excess of sebum or dead skin cells, these can plug up the end of the hair follicle and form a soft plug where bacteria can thrive.

skin2                            (picture from WikiMedia Commons)

This plug may cause a whitehead (closed comedone) by producing a bulge in the follicular wall. A blackhead (open comedone) is formed if this plug is exposed to air. Blockages that occur deep on the hair follicle produce cysts. Pimples occur when these blockages become infected or inflamed. Hormones, certain medicines (such as androgens, lithium, and corticosteroids ), and diet may all trigger or aggravate acne.  Overactive sebaceous glands may cause acne. We might see acne on the face, head, chest and back if this is the case. Contact irritants such as laundry soaps, dryer sheets, soaps, lotions etc may cause or aggravate acne. Experiment with removing or changing these products, especially if you use fragranced ones.

I do want to share what I learned about acne that develops in adult women may be a sign of pregnancy, polycystic syndrome or rarely Cushing’s Syndrome, so things to be aware of. It is not uncommon for acne to be related to normal hormone fluctuations related to menstrual cycles, or puberty.

Possible Herbal Helpers for Acne:

My friend Helen Compton, was a consultant on this timely article about using Thyme is the treatment of acne.

My dear friend Lucinda, suggest Viola may be of benefit in both eczema and acne in this post.

Other suggestions to help control or alleviate acne, could be:

Garlic oil to combat infection. Perhaps rub a cut clove on the affected area. Add garlic to the diet

Basil which you can apply the leaves directly, make a wash or apply the tincture with a cotton ball.

Tea Tree oil or Lavender oil ( anti-pruretic, or anti- itch, anti- inflammatory, antimicrobial) –diluted 1 part to 10 parts water and applied. Alternatively, a couple drops of either oil could be added to bentonite clay and a little water, and applied as a paste to draw out and dry up acne.

Cabbage is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Liquidize fresh leaves and witch hazel, strain, add 2 drops lemon oil and use as a lotion. ( Penelope Ody recipe)

Rose petals, to remove the heat. Use as a water infusion, a distilled rose water.

Calendula taken as an infusion or tincture may help with overactive sebaceous glands. As could borage, taken in the same way.

Sebaceous acne might be helped by combining peppermint and elderflower in a pot of water, brought to a steam and then used as a steam bath. Follow with a an astringent toner of witch hazel with yarrow flowers ,  which are anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial.

The cause of eczema is unknown. Atopic dermatitis is the most common form.  Dermatitis refers to inflammation of the skin, but atopic refers to allergic tendency, which is inherited.  While the atopic dermatitis is not cause by an allergy, eczema sufferers have a high risk of having or developing allergic conditions like hay fever or asthma.  Typically eczema can cause skin to be red, dry, itchy, even cracked or leathery. Serum may even ooze from the raw patches. Crusts of this serum may form. Lesions may bleed. It tends to run in families (genetics). Stress, sweat, heat, wool, synthetic fabrics, and different soaps can all be triggers, as can an allergic reaction to pet dander, mold or pollen. Winter time low humidity, living in a dry climate, not lubricating after bathing, being too hot or too cold, all could be triggers. Makeup, chlorine, dust, the list seems endless of things that can trigger or aggravate eczema. Just having dry skin can worsen the condition.  Perhaps an abnormally function immune system may be a cause.

Babies have a thick, crusty rash on their heads, which is sometimes referred to as a form of eczema and commonly called cradle cap. Studies suggest it might be related to a lack of biotin. Nursing mothers might eat more Swiss Chard, a good source of biotin. Externally, rosemary, burdock or heartease may be used as a wash. The nursing mother might consider drinking Violet leaf tea. Swiss scientist have suggested maybe massaging a small amount of borage oil onto the spots, and then gently brushing away the loosened bit.

Possible Herbal Helpers for Eczema:

My sweet friend Latisha shares her Eczema Dream Cream recipe featuring Hibiscus here. She also suggest Creosote bush.

Stellaria, chickweed, is demulcent and emoillient, refrigerant, a wound healer, blood cleanser and anti-itch and may be of benefit. May be used as a tincture, infusion, or in a bath using either the infused chickweed or chickweed vinegar added to the bath water. And of course, should be used in foods.

Borage oil, a source of gamma linolenic acid, an omega fatty acid and an omega 6 fatty acid, and essential fatty acid, may help by locking in moisture.

Evening Primrose contains essential fatty acids needed to maintain healthy skin. Take as a capsule or use as a simple.

Stinging Nettle, may help. It is astringent, a circulatory stimulant so is useful if poor circulation is a cause of the eczema, which is not uncommon as we age. It is also tonic. Take internally as an infusion or tincture or of course, as a food. Externally it can be made into a cream or ointment. Plantain may also be useful in this type of eczema.

Birch leaf tea

Other blood cleansing herbs such as red clover, cleavers, figwort, heartsease, yellow dock, dandelion and burdock may all be helpful in both eczema and acne. Use them as simples, as foods, in combinations with each other. Purifying your blood and system of toxins with these herbs may be of great benefit! Of course, Sassafras root bark is a great blood purifier also.

A non herbal helper for eczema to be considered might be light therapy.

In the book Herbal Medicine From the Heart of the Earth, Dr. Sharol Tilgner suggests this skin formula to help acne, eczema and other conditions which are indicated by dry, itchy, scaly skin. She also stress that the underlying condition be address, be it stressors, poor liver function, etc

Skin Formula

Burdock  30%- 45%

Oregon Grape 20% – 30%

Sarsaparilla 10% – 20%

Nettle 10% – 15 %

Horsetail 5% – 15%

This assignment has me perking my “ears” everytime I am reading one of my herbal folklore and ethnobotanical  books now too! I think I will save some of those finding for another post in the future though, as they warrant a post of their own!

Herbal and Honey Hugs to all who visit Comfrey Cottages xx


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