Herbal Acne Medication
Many different herbal medications have been recommended for treating acne, some of which are taken by mouth and some that are applied directly to the affected areas. You should talk with your doctor before using any herbal remedy for treating acne to discuss its potential side effects or allergic reactions, health risks and interactions with certain medications.
Acne is characterized by breakouts of pimples on the skin areas of the face, neck and back. Acne occurs primarily due to inflammation of the sebaceous oil glands in the skin, according to the University of Michigan Health System. You may develop acne from excessive hormonal stimulation of skin oil glands or from bacterial skin infections. Hormonal imbalances in your body may cause your skin glands to increase oil secretion, which is why common acne typically occurs around puberty and adolescence, as well as menopause, notes the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Several different herbal remedies are sometime recommended for treating acne. These herbs include tea tree oil, burdock, red clover and Ayurvedic herbal combination medicine. These Ayurvedic remedies for acne typically contain a combination of the herbs Aloe barbadensis, Azardirachta indica, Withania somnifera, turmeric, Terminalia chebula and Hemidesmus indicus, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Guggul and vitex, or “chasteberry,” are sometimes also recommended to treat acne brought on by menstrual cycles. No conclusive, widely accepted medical research supports the use of any herbal remedies for treating acne, however.
A 1990 comparative clinical trial conducted in Australia found that using a topical remedy containing 5 percent tea tree oil was equally effective as 5 percent concentration benzoyl peroxide in treating common acne, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Another controlled clinical trial published in the Journal of Dermatology in 1994 found that taking a twice-daily dosage of 500 mg of guggul extract orally was as effective as tetracycline in treating cystic acne. A monthlong, double-blind medical study of 53 individuals with acne that was published in 2001 in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that both topical and oral use of the Ayurvedic medicine substantially reduced acne symptoms, according to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Older studies conducted in Germany in 1967 and 1975 have found that using 40 drops of concentrated liquid vitex each day can help to improve symptoms of acne brought on by menstrual cycles. No significant studies have been performed on the use of red clover or burdock for treating acne, but herbalists often recommend these herbs for skin conditions.
How It Works
Tea tree oil appears to have antibacterial effects that may help to kill acne-causing bacteria on your skin, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Guggul has estrogen-like effects that account for its effects in clearing acne due to premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Vitex may also act in a similar way to treat premenstrual acne by helping to regulate hormone levels in your body, says the University of Michigan Health System. Burdock and red clover may have cleansing effects on your skin, which is why herbalists sometimes recommend these herbs for treating skin conditions, including acne.
Each herbal acne medication can produce its own potential side effects, health risks and drug interactions. For example, you should use tea tree oil only topically on your skin and avoid ingesting it, warns the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. You might experience skin irritation or an allergic reaction after using tea tree oil. Taking guggul may cause nausea, headaches, diarrhea or loose stools and rashes, as well as potentially cause negative interactions with blood-thinning medications, aspirin and thyroid medications. Vitex’s potential estrogenic actions may cause worsening of hormone-sensitive diseases like estrogen-sensitive breast cancer. You may also experience headaches, nausea, agitation, gastrointestinal upset and rashes while taking vitex, and the herb may interfere with oral contraceptives and certain medications that affect dopamine receptors like haloperidol or chlorpromazine.
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