Like most people, I like the way my skin feels when it’s healthy and to me that means smooth, soft and dewy. Overall dryness, itchy patches and Keratosis pilaris (aka “chicken skin” which usually appears on the back of the arms) are some of the most common skin problems we all face. While there are several external skin care routines that have proven effective for me, and the most remarkable changes occur when I work from the inside out.
Just as with most health recommendations, a diet that includes leafy greens, brightly colored vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds is the most essential part of any skin care regimen. Back up this healthy diet with plenty of water; six-to-eight glasses a day is the recommended amount. If you’re someone who drinks caffeinated liquids (like coffee, tea or soda) you should drink even more water to compensate.
Skin is the body’s largest organ and along with tasks such as controlling the body’s temperature and protecting the inner organs, it also assists the liver in waste removal. Of over 500 vital functions the liver’s most important purpose is to cleanse the blood of toxins, and if the liver gets overworked, it passes some cleansing tasks to the skin. Common factors that can stress the liver are a diet high in processed foods and unhealthy fats and sugars, unresolved food allergies, or hormonal changes. Then, if the skin is unable to function properly due to clogged pores, dehydration or a nutrient deficiency, the result can be dull, dry or acne prone skin, perhaps even eczema and psoriasis.
That’s right, herbs that are known for benefiting the liver will also indirectly support healthy skin: dandelion root, burdock root, artichoke, turmeric and milk thistle, just to name a few.
Turmeric aids in digestion by stimulating bile, fighting inflammation, and supporting detoxification. It’s the herb that gives curry its deepgolden color. Milk thistle can help repair, create and stabilize liver cells; enough said. Dandelion root also stimulates bile and eases the symptoms of liver diseases such as hepatitis. The bitter greens can be used in salads and will improve digestion. Artichoke leaves help to regenerate the liver and also increase bile production. Burdock root is known as a blood purifying, tonic herb and is one of my favorites. This herb increases saliva and bile secretion which then aids digestion and cleanses the liver. Burdock is also said to contribute to proper hormone balance. After using burdock for a few weeks, my skin is always smooth and clear.
I recently read a recommendation stating that burdock should be soaked in cold water for several hours, and then boiled for an hour before being strained and consumed. In the past, I have just let it steep overnight or used it in tincture form.
(Burdock may help normalize blood sugar levels. Diabetics should consult with a health care practitioner before taking burdock.)
The herb horsetail, also called shave grass, contains high concentrations of the essential trace element silica (also silicon). It strengthens connective tissue—muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bone, hair and nails by nourishing three structural proteins: collagen, keratin and elastin.
Ihave added horsetail to my daily tea blends on and off for years with good results so I was intrigued by the silica supplement Biosil. This product has been clinically researched and proven to be better absorbed by our bodies because it is choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid. The studies state that results were seen after 20 weeks. I admit that I’ve only taken half of the recommended amount for most of the last three months, so I can’t be 100% sure if it’s working for me yet. However I have spoken to three different customers that have used this product for over a year and they swear by it.
One final supplement needs to be included here, the infamous essential fatty acids (EFAs). Having the right balance of all three—omega 3, 6, and 9—is important for moisture content, skin repair and flexibility. I have been using borage oil to address my dry and sometimes itchy skin. It contains the highest concentration of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and can suppress chronic inflammation and may help with atopic eczema. Evening primrose and black currant oils also contain GLAs. The borage has been working pretty well but as I started taking fish oil regularly my skin’s texture has improved even more. My guess is that my EFAs were unbalanced by taking just borage (omega-6). At least now I’ve banished the Keratosis pilaris too.
There are other vitamins and minerals that are necessary for nourished skin (see sidebar) so take it upon yourself to do some research to discover what your individual needs may be.
There is plenty more information to be found online. Here are several websites that I found useful:
- www.florahealth.com/flora/home/USA/HealthInformation/Encyclopedias/_Main.htm. Scroll to the bottom for the search box.
- www.drnorthrup.com/index.php Enter “skin” in the search box.
- You can also check on the Living Naturally link on www.willystreet.coop or at the kiosk in the Wellness Department.