Once again we're here talking about what seems to have become my favorite subject; treating acne naturally. And what makes this post a little bit different from the others is I’ll be talking more about herbs, which ones work best, how to use them, and where to buy them.
The Many Causes of Acne
If you have acne, no matter how small the breakout may be, I’m sure you’ve tried more than a few things trying to get rid of it. What most people tend to miss here is what actually causes their acne in the first place. People tend to want to know the “how” of things and forget the “why” of them. When dealing with acne, the "why" is crucial to getting clear skin. You can’t get rid of acne 100% without knowing the root cause of it.
What Causes Acne?
Among the many reasons people get acne, there are two main causes. The first is hormonal imbalance. The second is Inflammation.
Women in particular experience hormonal fluctuations that can be mentally, physically, and emotionally devastating. Those who tend to get acne during their cycles almost always have a related hormonal imbalance. Since balancing hormones can be a bit complex, the easiest way to get them back to normal is to nourish and care for yourself by limiting stress, eating a whole foods diet, getting plenty of meaningful sleep, and getting the right amount of exercise.
You can also speed up the process by getting your hormones tested to see exactly which ones are out of alignment. I did this using EverlyWell, but there are tons of options online to explore.
Acne Caused by Inflammation
Acne caused by inflammation is caused by what you eat. It’s very important to control and limit your intake of inflammation-causing foods (usually acidic foods) and increase the amount of alkaline foods.
• Low quality oils like canola, safflower, and vegetable oils. Oils that go rancid when cooked (i.e. olive oil)
• All processed sugars, especially high fructose corn syrup
• Processed foods like bread, pasta, or anything that comes in a box or a can
• Food that you’re allergic to or react to like dairy, corn, soy, or wheat
Anti-inflammatory Foods (alkaline foods)
• Lots of fresh produce, especially dark leafy greens
• High quality fish oil
• Fruits high in antioxidants
• High quality meats and raw dairy (these aren't necessarily alkaline in nature, but it's important to swap out conventional meats with higher quality versions or go with a more plant-based approach)
• Fermented foods like kimchi, kombucha, and kefir
• High quality coconut oil
Herbal Remedies for Acne - Cleansing The Liver
Cleansing the Liver
One of the best ways to get clear skin is detoxing and decongesting the liver. Clogged, acne prone skin most often indicates a clogged and sluggish liver because the liver has become overworked. Excess estrogens that can't be processed by an overburdened liver re-circulate throughout the body causing all sorts of havoc….one of which is acne - particularly acne on the chin and jawline.
The liver is one of the most important organs in the body. Everything that filters through the liver, whether it be vitamins, minerals, hormones, viruses, cholesterol, enzymes, or bacteria, has to be examined then sent off to their destinations to be turned into energy or waste. The liver filters 3 pints of blood every minute and carries out over 500 different functions, so you can imagine what can happen when it can't do its job properly.
The liver is also highly regenerative. Did you know that it only takes 40 days to renew and regenerate every liver cell?
If your acne is influenced by a toxic liver, just imagine if you deeply supported and nourished it, clear skin would be just on the horizon, perhaps a mere 40 days away!
Herbs for Cleansing the Liver
Milk Thistle Seed (Silybum marianum )
One of the best herbs to use for effective liver cleansing and support is Milk Thistle. This member of the daisy family promotes the growth and regeneration of liver cells, protects it from toxins, and improves function. Using this herb as a daily tonic will support and cleanse the liver while improving your complexion in the process. It's also a gentle herb to use and will not cause a "detox reaction" while using it.
Effective Forms of Milk Thistle Seed (least effective to most effective) include:
• Strong tea or decoction
• Capsule- 200-400 mg
• Tincture (20-40 drops 3-4 times per day)- works best for less severe liver congestion and acne.
• Seeds ground into a fine powder. Take 2-3 TB per day mixed into a smoothie or mashed fruit
Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Stinging nettle cleanses the body of metabolic waste while building and nourishing the blood with its rich source of vitamins and minerals. It also cleanses the liver, keeping it running smoothly and efficiently.
Nettle Miso Soup Recipe
What You’ll Need
• 4-5 cups of spring water
• 4-5 TB of your favorite miso paste (you can use alternative versions too!)
• ⅓ cup sliced mushrooms like shitake or maitake
• A good pinch of dried wakame seaweed
• 2 cups fresh nettle leaves (you can use dried too, but use less)
• Toss in the wakame seaweed into the water and bring to a boil.
• Add the mushrooms and reduce the heat to a simmer for 5-10 minutes
• Add the miso (you can whisk it in some spring water beforehand to help it dissolve better) and stir in
• Turn off the heat when the mushrooms are fork tender
• Throw in the fresh nettle leaves and cover for 3 minutes
• Serve and enjoy!
To preserve the miso’s probiotic properties, stir it in once the water has cooled to about room temperature.
Another way to enjoy stinging nettle is to make a very strong nourishing herbal infusion. It’s so easy to do this! Just boil some spring water and pour it over a ¼-1 cup of dried nettle leaves. Let it steep overnight in a mason jar or a coffee press and then drink it within 2 days.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
One of the easiest, most effective, and safest herbs to use for liver cleansing and purification is the noble dandelion. You can use all parts of the plant for medicinal purposes, but most often, the roots are used, especially for liver cleansing.
Dandelion is diuretic and bitter, making it perfect for eliminating toxins via the urinary system. Its bitterness (mainly from the fresh leaves) is a very effective tonic that stimulates the release of bile, an important component for healthy digestion and the assimilation of nutrients.
What You’ll Need
• 1 bunch fresh dandelion greens
• 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic sliced
• A splash of high quality oil (you can use coconut oil or grass fed butter)
• Heat the oil/butter and add the fresh greens
• Cook a few minutes stirring often
• 2 minutes before it’s done add the sliced garlic
• Serve and enjoy!
You can also eat the greens raw in salads, throw them into smoothies, or even drink dandelion root coffee.
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)
Yellow dock is an excellent blood purifier and is often used for cleansing toxins from the body. It is especially helpful for the liver in its ability to soothe the liver, improve the flow of digestive juices, stimulate the release and production of bile, regulate the bowel, and aide in the breakdown of fats.
My favorite way to use this tasty root is to pickle it in raw apple cider vinegar.
Yellow Dock Vinegar
What You’ll Need
• Slice the clean roots into thin rounds and fill the mason jar to the top.
• Pour in the raw apple cider vinegar
• Let macerate for at least 4 weeks
• You can strain the vinegar but I like to eat the roots like pickles
Yellow Dock Vinaigrette
What You’ll Need
Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and drizzle over your favorite salad or even use as a meat marinade/dipping oil
You can also take yellow dock as a tincture 20-30 drops with meals. Yellow dock is very safe to use every day.
Chicory Root (Cichorium intybus)
Chicory root has a long history of use as a functionally supportive herb for the liver. Chicory is known for its ability to fight against liver ailments like jaundice, stones, indigestion, constipation, headaches, and even depression. I usually use this herb as a tincture 20-40 drops per day. You can also enjoy chicory as a coffee alternative.
• Fresh turmeric root- protects and regenerates liver cells
• Peppermint- Breaks down fats, stimulates bile production, and relaxes bile ducts, all of which make the liver’s job easier.
You may also enjoy reading:
Is Vitamin D Deficiency Causing Your Acne?
Are Food Sensitivities Giving You Acne?
How to Treat Hormonal Acne Naturally
Natural Acne Spot Treatments That Really Work!
Essential Oils for Boosting the Immune System and Fighting Cold and Flu
Essential Oils for Hormonal Acne