Itchy, flaky skin or pesky spots? Who needs them? Take a holistic approach to these annoying skin complaints and soothe your complexion the natural way.
Chronic skin complaints such as eczema or rosacea can be seriously aggravating and while conventional treatments can bring temporary relief they usually only treat the symptoms and not the root cause. It pays to take go down the holistic route and make healthy changes to your diet, lifestyle and both physical and emotional health as these conditions are often exacerbated by hormonal imbalances or a challenged immune system. What’s more, there are also lots of complementary therapies and remedies that can help. Here are a few of our favourites:
According to the National Eczema Society, one in five children and one in 12 adults in the UK have some form of eczema. Also known as dermatitis, it can be caused by a combination of hereditary and environmental factors including allergens, foods such as dairy products, eggs, nuts and seeds, soy products and wheat, and irritants such as soaps and detergents. In mild cases the skin is dry, scaly, red and itchy while in more severe cases it can cause it to weep and bleed so the aim of treatment is to soothe inflammation and help boost the skin’s protective barrier.
● A registered naturopath will prescribe herbs according to your type of eczema. Some possible options are wormwood, peony root and Chinese gentian while dittany bark and puncture vine fruit may help with itching. Other remedies include drinking an infusion of burdock, chamomile, heartsease, marigold and red clover, all of which are anti-inflammatory herbs. Aloe vera gel from the leaf of the plant can also be very soothing.
● Increase your intake of omega 3 oils (found in oily fish such as sardines and mackerel) and try taking an evening primrose supplement, as both have anti-inflammatory properties. Other important vitamins are vitamin A, found in liver, eggs and red and orange vegetables, and vitamin C, which act as a natural antihistamine.
● Aromatherapy oils can help to relieve itching. Try a combination of essential oils of sage, chamomile, geranium and lavender in a carrier oil such as sweet almond.
● A homoeopath will take tailor any remedies to your needs. These might include sulphur for hot, itchy skin, graphites if the skin is infected, petroleum if it is cracked and weeping and urtica urens for a nettle rash-type itchiness.
According to the Psoriasis Association, this auto-immune condition affects over three percent of the population. It occurs when cells are triggered into acting as if they are fighting an infection or healing a wound. This leads to the rapid production of skin cells which build up to form characteristic raised ‘plaques’ on the skin, often on the elbows, knees, shins, scalp and lower back. A flare-up can be triggered by a number of factors, such as stress or anxiety, injury to skin, hormonal changes, or certain infections or medications. For this reason treatment varies from person to person.
● Traditional Chinese medicine often prescribes dittany bark and puncture vine fruits to help with itching while herbalists recommend liquorice, yarrow and nettle.
● Due to their soothing nature, oils such as lavender, bergamot and chamomile can reduce the stress that exacerbates the condition.
● UVB phototherapy can be an effective. Treatment involves exposing the skin to an artificial UVB light source for a set length of
time to slow the growth of affected skin cells.
● Homoeopathic remedies include kali ars for scaly skin, arsenicum for burning, hot areas and sulphur for patches that become worse after a bath and in heat.
● Flower essences can help combat psoriasis by targeting the negative emotions that affect it. Therapists might recommend impatiens which is very useful for people whose rashes are associated with feelings or irritability.
● Increase your intake of vitamin A (as beta carotene), vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and B complex vitamins.
Rosacea is a common but poorly understood condition that mainly affects the face. Symptoms often begin with episodes of flushing and redness but can also include burning and stinging sensations, spots and visible blood vessels in the skin. Treatment often focuses on avoided physical and emotional triggers and strengthening skin health.
● Avoid external triggers such as ultraviolet light, spicy foods, alcohol, exercise, stress, and extremes of heat and cold.
● Herbs such as sarsaparilla, burdock and hawthorn can all help while a topical solution of calming lavender and anti-bacterial marigold will soothe the skin. Other healing herbs include feverfew, liquorice and green tea, all of which can be used in a compress.
● Eat lots of whole grains, almonds, and dark leafy greens, which contain anti-inflammatory B vitamins
● Redness and visible blood vessels can also sometimes be successfully improved with vascular laser or intense pulsed light (IPL) treatment.
We all get the occasional spot but full-blown acne is another matter entirely. It is often caused by hormonal changes, especially around puberty, which lead to an increase in the activity of sebaceous glands. Sweating can aggravate acne, as do some oral contraceptives, lack of sunlight, poor skin hygiene, face creams, cosmetics and exercise so addressing all these triggers can help.
● Because acne is often triggered by hormones, a healthy diet is essential, so increase your intake of skin-supporting vitamins A and E and the mineral zinc and cut out all processed foods.
● Homoeopaths will look at your diet, mental and physical health and lifestyle before prescribing a unique remedy. It might contain silicea for scarring, ant tart for infected pimples, kali brom for itching and inflammation or hepar sulph for large spots.
● Try a facial steam with chickweed, elderflower and marigold to soothe and draw out infection or make a cleansing tea of echinacea and burdock root.
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