Walk around your 'harvesting space' (this may be your garden, a local park, field, hedgerows, allotment, canalside etc) and identify what plants are growing. If you can find them, pick and make tea with cleavers, chickweed and young nettles. If you can gather enough, add chickweed to a salad or stir-fry and make an oil and/or salve. With nettles make an iron tonic and/or soup. Make sure the area you are picking from is not frequented by dog walkers and rinse your harvest thoroughly before eating/cooking.
Research the function of blood and skin, looking particularly at why people develop acne and eczema. What herbs could be used to help control and alleviate these conditions?
Function of blood
Blood has three main functions: transport, protection and regulation.
Blood transports the following substances:
Gases, namely oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2), between the lungs and rest of the body
Nutrients from the digestive tract and storage sites to the rest of the body
Waste products to be detoxified or removed by the liver and kidneys
Hormones from the glands in which they are produced to their target cells
Heat to the skin so as to help regulate body temperature
Blood has several roles in inflammation:
Leukocytes, or white blood cells, destroy invading microorganisms and cancer cells
Antibodies and other proteins destroy pathogenic substances
Platelet factors initiate blood clotting and help minimise blood loss
Blood helps regulate:
pH by interacting with acids and bases
Water balance by transferring water to and from tissues
Function of the skin
The primary function of the skin is to act as a barrier. The skin provides protection from: mechanical impacts and pressure, variations in temperature, micro-organisms, radiation and chemicals.
The skin is an organ of regulation. The skin regulates several aspects of physiology, including: body temperature via sweat and hair, and changes in peripheral circulation and fluid balance via sweat. It also acts as a reservoir for the synthesis of Vitamin D.
The skin is an organ of sensation. The skin contains an extensive network of nerve cells that detect and relay changes in the environment. There are separate receptors for heat, cold, touch, and pain. Damage to these nerve cells is known as neuropathy, which results in a loss of sensation in the affected areas. Patients with neuropathy may not feel pain when they suffer injury, increasing the risk of severe wounding or the worsening of an existing wound.http://www.clinimed.co.uk/Wound-Care/Education/Wound-Essentials/Structure-and-Function-of-the-Skin.aspx
What causes acne
No one factor causes acne. Acne happens when sebaceous (oil) glands attached to the hair follicles are stimulated at the time of puberty by elevated levels of male hormones. Sebum (oil) is a natural substance which lubricates and protects the skin. Associated with increased oil production is a change in the manner in which the skin cells mature so that they are predisposed to clog the follicular openings or pores. The clogged hair follicle gradually enlarges, producing a bump. As the follicle enlarges, the wall may rupture, allowing irritating substances and normal skin bacteria access into the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately producing inflammation.
Inflammation near the skin's surface produces a pustule; deeper inflammation results in a papule (pimple); deeper still and it's a cyst. If the oil breaks though to the surface, the result is a "whitehead." If the oil accumulates melanin pigment or becomes oxidized, the oil changes from white to black, and the result is a "blackhead." Blackheads are therefore not dirt and do not reflect poor hygiene.
Specific Herbs for Acne
ALOE GEL has astringent & antibacterial properties and is applied topically.
CALENDULA promotes healing of skin tissue. You can make a strong infusion of this herb and use as a facial was or steam. It is also available in creams.
LAVENDER compresses are used to relieve inflammation.
ROSEWATER is applied topically for pain & inflammation.
TEA TREE OIL is a powerful antiseptic but must be diluted before applying to skin.
WALNUT LEAF is a useful astringent skin wash.
WITCH HAZEL has antibacterial & astringent properties.
ECHINACEA tincture taken internally promotes healing, reduces inflammation.
GOLDENSEAL is an antimicrobial which stops oozing.
Another common cause of outbreaks is a sluggish liver. When the liver is not functioning optimally it cannot clear excess hormones. When trying to clear acne it is important to balance the hormones and cleanse the liver.
BURDOCK ROOT and DANDELION contain insulin which improves the skin by removing bacteria.
MILK THISTLE is the most commonly used herb for cleansing and strengthening the liver. It also helps remove excess hormones through the stool by stimulating bile production.
Traditionally this condition has responded well to a combination of herbs.
When treating acne it is important to take a two-fold approach:
Internally and Topically
Generally speaking, just treating the skin topically does not address the internal causes of acne and skin eruptions.
Internally, a good combination for cleansing the liver and blood would be a tincture of MILK THISTLE and DANDELION. The traditional dosage is 30 drops in a little water 3 times daily.
Topically, you can combine any number of herbs such as CALENDULA, LAVENDER, TEA TREE OIL, WITCH HAZEL and ROSEWATER, depending on the specific condition of your skin.
What are the causes of eczema
Doctors do not know the exact cause of eczema, but a defect of the skin that impairs its function as a barrier, possibly combined with an abnormal function of the immune system, are believed to be important factors. Studies have shown that in people with atopic dermatitis there are gene defects that lead to abnormalities in certain proteins (such as filaggrin) that are important in maintaining the barrier of normal skin.
Some forms of eczema can be triggered by substances that come in contact with the skin, such as soaps, cosmetics, clothing, detergents, jewelry, or sweat. Environmental allergens (substances that cause allergic reactions) may also cause outbreaks of eczema. Changes in temperature or humidity, or even psychological stress, can lead to outbreaks of eczema in some people.http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/hp.asp
Eczema herbal remedy
The Aloe Vera plant has been used for centuries for a variety of skin conditions including burns and dryness. In fact, you will most likely find it as an ingredient in your favorite skin care product. So why is aloe vera an effective eczema herbal treatment? For one, aloe vera contains complex sugars, called polysaccharides, that naturally moisturize and hydrate the skin. Aloe also helps to kill bacteria, as well as increase oxygen availability to the skin cells. Aloe vera is also great for soothing irritated skin and prevent future infections.
You can find many topical products that contain aloe vera, but the best source is from the plant itself. To use, simply cut a leaf from the plant, and directly apply the gel to the skin. With time, Aloe vera will help to reduce eczema symptoms and improve the skin’s overall quality.
Turmeric is a powerful Indian herb that is used for both cooking and medicine. Curcumin, The active ingredient in turmeric, is an anti-inflammatory agent that can help to lower histamine production in the body. Turmeric also contains anti-oxidant properties that will help the skin maintain a youthful appearance.
Turmeric as an herbal remedy for eczema can be used internally and externally. Turmeric spice is readily available at almost any grocery store, and adding it to your meals may prove to be beneficial. Alternatively, you can find turmeric as a supplement at natural food stores. Create a topical treatment by making a paste mixing turmeric powder. Apply the paste to the affected areas and rinse with warm water.
Chamomile is one of the most popular eczema herbal treatments. The German and Roman chamomile varieties are the most commonly known plants; Germain chamomile is the most commonly used plant used a an eczema herbal remedy. Chamomile contains a compound called alpha bisabolol, an anti-inflammatory and anti-itching ingredient.
Chamomile is a topical treatment and can be found in essential oil and herb form. Chamomile oil, diluted with a carrier oil such as almond, can be directly applied to the skin. Adding chamomile herbs or flowers can be added to a warm bath to soothe itching and inflammation.
Originating from North America, witch hazel is a potent herb that has been used for conditions such as hemorrhoids and cold sores. Witch hazel is also a good eczema natural remedy, due to its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
Tea is a very popular way for administering witch hazel. To create a witch hazel tea, add 2 to 3 grams of witch hazel leaves to boiling water for about 15 minutes. Witch hazel tea can be taken two to three times a day. You can also find witch hazel in liquid form at any drug store. Bottled witch hazel can be applied to eczema problem areas as well.
Rosemary is one of the best eczema natural remedies because of its antiseptic and antioxidant properties. Rosemary is known for reducing skin inflammation and stimulating blood circulation. Rosemary also has a powerful aroma that helps to relieve stress.
Rosemary is available as an essential oil, oil capsules, and teas. The best way to use rosemary for eczema is by adding a few drops of oil to bathwater and soak. You can also opt to use topical creams and/or cleansers that has rosemary as an ingredient. Rosemary is also a uterine stimulant, so it should be avoided during pregnancy.