Podcast 149: Our Top Topical Herbs for Acne

When you’re dealing with a skin problem, it’s good to come at it from both directions: internal and external. Today we’re focusing on the external remedies, highlighting some of our favorite ways to work with topical herbs for acne.

Steam is a great way to deliver aromatic herbal constituents to the whole surface of the face, and as the warmth opens the pores, these can get deeper in to the skin. A simple rosewater toner is great to tighten up the pores afterwards. Clay masks are good on their own, but even better if you mix herbal powders in to contribute anti-inflammatory activity. Echinacea and turmeric aren’t well-known for it, but they’re actually both fantastic herbs for acne – the trick is to apply them topically, not just ingest them.

So even if you already take herbs for acne by tea or tincture, or as supplements – and those can help in a lot of cases – don’t neglect the topicals!

Herbs discussed include: chamomile, yarrow, thyme, lavender, rose, echinacea, turmeric.

Our Integumentary Health course covers acne, naturally, but also a wide range of other skin troubles – whether we call it eczema, psoriasis, or just “that troublesome patch of skin”. Topical applications for common herbs play a big role in this work, and we also dig into the effective herbs you can take orally to see results on the skin. Like all our offerings, this is a self-paced online video course, which comes with free access to twice-weekly live Q&A sessions with Ryn & Katja.

As always, please subscribe, rate, & review our podcast wherever you listen, so others can find it more easily. Thank you!!

Our theme music is “Wings” by Nicolai Heidlas.

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Episode Transcript

Katja (00:02):
Hi. I’m Katja.

Ryn (00:02):
And I’m Ryn.

Katja (00:02):
And we’re here at the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism in Boston, Massachusetts.

Ryn (00:18):
And on the internet everywhere thanks to the power of the podcast. All right. So, this week we are talking about everyone’s favorite subject from your teenage years or your any time years, really.

Katja (00:33):
Yeah. It can happen any time.

Ryn (00:35):
That’s acne.

Katja (00:36):
That’s acne.

Ryn (00:36):
Good old, fun times acne.

Katja (00:38):
Listen, it happens to everyone. And, you know, some people can feel embarrassed, especially when you’re a teen, and it’s just awful.

Ryn (00:49):
There’s plenty to be embarrassed about already. So, just add this on top of it.

Katja (00:53):
Yeah. Man, it’s rough to be a teen. But listen, acne happens to everyone. And there are herbs who can help. So we’re going to talk about that today. But first…

Ryn (01:04):
First, the reclaimer where we remind you that we are not doctors. We are herbalists and holistic health educators.

Katja (01:09):
The ideas discussed in this podcast do not constitute medical advice. No state or federal authority licenses herbalists in the United States. And these discussions are for educational purposes only. Everyone’s body is different. So the things that we’re talking about may or may not apply directly to you, but we hope that they’ll give you some good information to think about and some ideas to research further.

Ryn (01:32):
And we want to remind you that good health is your right and your own personal responsibility. This means that the final decision when considering any course of therapy, whether that’s discussed on the internet or prescribed by a physician, is always yours. All right. So, we were putting together a list of things to talk about for this episode. And then we look back at it and realized that these were all things that were for topical application.

Katja (01:58):
Yeah. Which is, honestly, which is really appropriate. Now listen, when you just have like a one-off pimple, okay. That’s one thing. But if you have acne, then yes, the food matters. It absolutely matters. And also sleep, believe it or not, matters, and hydration matters. And there are some internal herbs that matter too, especially ones that stimulate lymphatic function.

Ryn (02:22):
Sure. Yeah. Or another big place that we would look from the internal side of things would be to see what’s going on in terms of liver and kidney activity. Or you could speak more broadly and use the modern phrase, which I always kind of struggle with, of let’s do some detox. Let’s turn up our detox functions in the body. But as long as we recognize that we’re not strictly talking about, you know, cleanses and purges and fasts and all of that kind of cool stuff. We’re actually talking about innate processes of your body that are running 24/7, and especially while you sleep, by the way, and are really critical. And then we can influence, you know, by working with herbs to stimulate the liver or enhance kidney flexibility or function or things like that. So that’s all super important stuff, and we would love to tell you more about it.

Katja (03:10):
And in fact we do tell more about it in the Integumentary Health course, which is the skin health course. But today we really want to focus on five things, topically, that are super helpful, super effective, that you might love. And some of these you might already have in your home.

Chamomile & Yarrow Steams

Ryn (03:32):
Yeah. So the very first thing we want to talk about is steams. And they may not seem topical in the same way as like pouring something out of a little jar, and putting it in your palm and rubbing it around, and then putting it right on your face. But steam touches you just like the sun touches your face when you go out in the middle of the day.

Katja (03:54):
I feel like, I mean, okay. Thyme steams have always been like the official herbal whatever of the Commonwealth Center for Holistic Herbalism. But definitely since COVID our infatuation with steams has only grown, possibly into a full-blown, the good kind of obsession. But, you know, it’s not just for respiratory health. There’s so many ways in which steams are helpful. And really when we’re talking about acne, it’s one of my favorite things. By the way, also excellent if there is a stye situation going on. But it’s just that the warmth of the steam is very cleansing, it’s opening and cleansing. And then the herbs that we’re going to choose – we have two different combinations here that we’re going to talk about – all have anti-microbial volatile oils. So it’s really getting in there and like getting rid of any bacteria going on, or any pathogenic aspect that may be playing into the acne.

Ryn (05:02):
Right. Because you do have some friendly bacteria on your face right now. And they’re there. Right there.

Katja (05:04):
Right, right, right. So, but it’s like, steams get at the cleansing aspect. They open up the pores, and get the heat and the steam, you know, the moisture in there. They get at any bacterial co-situation going on. And also they moisturize the skin.

Ryn (05:26):
Yeah. So, one combination that we really like, as a topical or as a steam preparation for trying to reduce the presentation of acne, is going to be with chamomile and yarrow together. Yeah.

Katja (05:39):
One of our favorites.

Ryn (05:39):
Yeah, they are two wonderful, wonderful herbs, especially about the yarrow. One note I would just make here is that you want to make sure the yarrow you work with for this has good aromatic qualities to it. So, if you open the jar, it should, I don’t know how to say it, other than it should smell like yarrow. And that’s kind of a particular scent and smell profile.

Katja (06:03):
It’s sort of, wow. Is it like pungently green? Like there is a warmth too.

Ryn (06:13):
Right. There’s some floral qualities to it.

Katja (06:16):
Yeah. I mean it has a green smell. And then it has something that is not the same as chamomile, but is similar sort of to chamomile, but it’s much quieter than the green. And there’s some like bitter smell. But then there’s this other thing that is…

Ryn (06:34):
A little metallic almost.

Katja (06:36):
To me, it feels to me the only word I’m getting here is warm. Like it just smells warm. That doesn’t make a lot of sense. It doesn’t smell warm the way that ginger does. But just grab yourself some yarrow, some good yarrow, and, and smell it. And tell us what you think it smells like.

Ryn (06:54):
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, you know, really great to find fresh yarrow flowers in the blooming seasons, and smell them and get to know them there. And then compare them with the jarred stuff that you’ve got. Yeah. And I think also, especially finding a supplier that’s like closer to you, or maybe that you can get a little fresher, it makes a big difference here. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of the yarrow that we got from Foster Farm botanicals.

New Speaker (07:20):
Well, okay. Listen. The quality of everything they grow is just out of this world.

Ryn (07:26):
Yeah. For real, for real, a hundred percent.

Katja (07:29):
By the way, they give all of our students a 20% discount on everything. So, that’s pretty exciting.

Ryn (07:36):
Pretty good. Yeah. For the folks enrolled in the longer programs we teach.

Katja (07:39):
No. They offer it to folks enrolled in any program. Yeah. You don’t even have to be in one of the big ones. They offer it to folks enrolled in any program that we teach, any course that we teach. So if you enroll in the integumentary, in the skin health course or whatever, then yeah. That discount is appropriate for you. It is for you.

Ryn (08:03):
Ya’ll, we did not put that in the script. This emerged naturally in our conversations.

Katja (08:07):
It’s just that I love the Foster Farms. So Foster Farms, they’re not that far away. They’re in central Vermont, and they’re also a wife and husband team. And we just love them. We see them every year – well, before COVID – at Herbstalk. And we keep wanting to get up to the farm, and either it’s busy or it’s COVID. So that hasn’t happened yet, but, uh, but we write to each other all the time. And we’ve collaborated on some things and it’s really fun. It’s not that normal to have a wife and husband business. And so…

Ryn (08:45):
Isn’t this the most natural thing in the world?

Katja (08:47):
Well, it’s pretty natural to us anyway, but it isn’t common. That’s what I mean. It’s not common. And so it’s fun to find another couple that is doing, you know, the married and working thing. Yeah. Anyway, we love them.

Ryn (09:04):
We do. But you know, really my thought there is like find an herb farm that’s close to you. And I would not be surprised if they had a bunch of yarrow. Anyway, so why do we like these? Well, with both of them, these do have a number of aromatic qualities and constituents that are going to come off in the steam, rise up through the air, and then get into direct contact with your skin and then exert activity right upon them. So as long as you’re getting a good strong scent from it, you know that that activity is ongoing. And with these, the primary way that we talk about their effect nowadays is anti-inflammatory.

Katja (09:45):
Or my new favorite, inflammation regulating.

Ryn (09:49):
Modulating? Yeah.

Katja (09:51):
Instead of anti-inflammatory, because of course a little inflammation is important. We need a little bit.

Ryn (09:57):
Yeah. Including with acne. So with acne there’s some unfriendly bacteria in the skin, and they’re making a little colony. And your body’s trying to fight that off. There can also be blocked pores. And now there’s just like stagnant fluid or kind of stuff backed up. So there are different…

Katja (10:13):
Well, I mean, there can also be like detox stuff. Like maybe stuff is detoxing out through the skin. And then on top of it, now there’s a blocked pore. And then hey, some pathogenic bacteria just happened to be around and noticed, wow, there’s some food for me there. And now we have the trifecta.

Ryn (10:29):
Yeah. So, you know, lots of different things kind of coming together there. Rarely is it like only one of the buffet of options. But then the nice thing about these is that they’re going to help to reduce the excessive inflammation. They’re going to also directly help to fight microbial critters that are unfriendly to you. And they do seem to help with the pores themselves, with their flexibility, and kind of get them into a Goldilocks place of not too tight, not too open, but in a good range in the middle there.

Katja (11:03):
Also, normally when we think about steams, we’re thinking about…well, okay. Not normally. But commonly, when we think about steams, we may be thinking about like thyme or oregano, because we often think about steams in a respiratory context. And those are completely appropriate for acne. Absolutely. But if you’re going to do this like every day, or frequently every other day, every couple of days, then after a while thyme and oregano and those sharp mints get to be less fun. Like after a while, it’s just like, oh, this is so sharp in my nose.

Ryn (11:43):
Yeah. This really came home for us in COVID because we were just steaming so frequently. And after the fourth or fifth time around with the thyme, it was like, uh-huh, we’re going to need to get some lavender next time. How about a chamomile steam. Won’t that be a lovely break. And it was.

Katja (12:00):
Yeah. So it’s nice that there’s a totally different like nasal bouquet. Is that what they call it? Like the smell profile.

Ryn (12:10):
That’s what everybody calls that. Yeah. Ask anyone.

Katja (12:13):
Yeah. A totally different, anyway, smell profile. And so it gives you kind of a nice opportunity to switch things up. But it is not just about pleasantry there. It is also about when we have a totally different profile of the scents, that reflects that there is a totally different profile of the volatile oils. Which means, especially because the volatile oils are really performing a lot of that anti-microbial work, this allows us to have a very broad spectrum of anti-microbial action. You’re looking at me like I said something wrong.

Ryn (13:02):
No, you’re doing fantastic. I’m just smirking to myself over here, because I’m trying to come up with a new pop culture reference for this. Because I always talk about the Borg, you know. And I’m realizing more and more that that’s kind of outdated. But the reason we talk about that in the context of changing up your herbs to support antimicrobial activity is in the Star Trek shows with the Borg, it was like the laser phaser frequencies had to change to zap them, because they kept getting adapted to it. Phasers didn’t work anymore. So that works. And I was here trying to think of another one. And the best I could come up with was like, most of you all remember from Final Fantasy III on the super Nintendo.

Katja (13:42):
Ya’ll, I do not remember.

Ryn (13:43):
When you go through the factory, right? And you’re riding on the train car, and then there’s that guy at the end there with the weird arms. And he does the wall change, right? And first you have to use ice, and then you have to use fire, and you have to keep changing it up. It’s exactly like that.

Katja (13:56):
No clue what….so, okay but…

Ryn (13:59):
This reference is for four of you. And y’all can email me and make sure you let me know that you got it.

Katja (14:04):
Okay. But what I thought was going on with the thoughtful look on your face while you were thinking about, what is it? Final…

Ryn (14:13):
Final Fantasy III. I mean, in the U.S. it was that.

Katja (14:16):
How can there be three Final Fantasies?

Ryn (14:16):
So, in Japan that would have been what? Final fantasy VI, right? Yeah. Because the numbers…

Katja (14:21):
Is there not only one final. It’s final. The definition of final is the last.

Ryn (14:27):
Yeah. See, this was around the time that I stopped playing them. So I’m good at your like first two generations of video game technology, but I don’t know what happened after that. Yeah.

Katja (14:36):
Okay. Well, anyway, what I thought was happening when you had that look on your face was like the other day when we were filming. And I was supposed to be talking about St. John’s wort. And in fact I was talking about St. John’s wort. But all I could say was Solomon’s seal every time. And we had to keep stopping the film because I kept just talking about St. John’s wort, but saying Solomon’s seal. And it was like every single time. Okay. Well, anyway, so I did not do that. But I was afraid that I had done it again. But the whole point here, whether it is not actually final video games, penultimate video games, I don’t even know, or the Borg or just the bacteria on your skin. Because that is where we were with all this tangent-y goodness. The whole point here is that when we present a broad array of anti-microbial actions, then we are able to fight off a broad array of microbial situations.

Ryn (15:39):
Yeah. So when you smell different smells, you’re bringing different weapons to the battle, or you’re bringing different inducements to the negotiating table. How about that?

Katja (15:50):
Cupcakes to the party? I don’t even…

Ryn (15:53):
Yeah. You’re shifting up your strategy and your toolset. So, chamomile, yarrow, thyme, lavender, certainly plenty of other herbs could be helpful there. But those are some that we found really good results with in steam, specifically for acne. It helps that these are also plants that can support health in the lungs and in the sinuses and the mucosa.

Katja (16:17):
Right. Because if you’re doing it, you’re going to breathe.

Ryn (16:20):
Right. And it’s also not unlikely that somebody who has skin troubles also may have some trouble in the lungs and in the respiratory system, because that is another one of your pathways of elimination. And when we look at something like, especially more kind of severe acne or chronic acne, that’s often an indicator that your body is having trouble coping with the amount of things that are either getting exposed to, getting ingested, or being generated internally that are waste products or toxins of various categories and need to get eliminated. And it’s usually not just one pathway of elimination that needs a little bit of support. So we talked before about like liver and kidney kind of situation, but we can also think about crossing over between skin and respiratory. And I think a steam is really the single best place to find that happening.

Katja (17:08):
Really true.

Ryn (17:09):
Yeah. All right.

Rose Water & Vinegar Spray

Katja (17:11):
Well, after your steam, one of my favorite things is rose water. And this can be tea that you make out of rose petals. It can be rose water that you get from the grocery store. Both are fine. If you get rose water from the grocery store, it’s shelf stable. If you make tea out of rose petals, then you need to make it fresh every time.

Ryn (17:33):
Yeah. And listen y’all. When you’re going into the grocery store to get your rose water, there’s going to be like these fancy bottles of it – usually with a pink label for some reason. I don’t really know exactly what’s going on with that – over in the health and body section. And they will be one price. And then over in the ethnic food segment, they’ll have other bottles of rose water. And they’ll be like a quarter of the price by volume.

Katja (18:02):
Yes. So like definitely…

Ryn (18:04):
It’s the same thing. It’s the same thing. Don’t worry about it.

Katja (18:05):
Get the culinary kind. Yeah. But that’s really great, because for like $3 you get a bottle of rose water. You put that in a spray bottle at home. It’s going to last you for like more than a month. And that’s pretty exciting because I love it when things that work also don’t cost very much money. So after your steam, a really nice rose water spray. And I really like to do rose water and vinegar if I have like, I don’t know. It’s my period or whatever, and I’ve got like a couple of pimples. If it’s just one pimple, you just put some vinegar on with your finger. But if it’s a couple, it’s nicer to spray it.

Ryn (18:47):
You can make it as a spritz. Yeah. For sure. And the two of them together. You always worry so much.

Katja (18:54):
I do.

Ryn (18:54):
You always worry when you put vinegar on you’re like, I’m going to smell like a salad.

Katja (18:57):
That’s my voice too. That’s exactly what I sound like.

Ryn (19:02):
That’s apparently your voice today, sorry. That was terrible. But no, I mean, you always worry about it. And it literally never has occurred to me, oh, my wife is a salad today.

Katja (19:10):
I do. I always think of like, oh, I’m going to smell like a salad.

Ryn (19:14):
Yeah. But you mix it 50:50 with the rose water and then you don’t worry as much.

Katja (19:18):
Right. Yeah.

Ryn (19:18):
Yeah. That’s pretty good.

Katja (19:20):
Yeah, okay. So anyway, that is super simple, super easy. I just keep it around. And it’s a nice follow-up. You know, you do the steam. You do the rose water and vinegar spray. It’s just lovely.

Ryn (19:35):
Yeah. They’re tonifying to the skin, you know? So the steam has got all your pores big and open. You get away from that. Kind of rinse your face a little. And then you spritz with this stuff. And it kind of tightens them back up a little. The vinegar is helpful there, you know, just to give a little bit of acidity to the skin. Your skin has what they call the acid mantle, which totally sounds like an industrial rock album.

Katja (19:59):
I was going to say volcanic, but okay. Yes.

Ryn (20:02):
The acid mantle.

Katja (20:02):
No, you’re right. It does, in fact, sound like an industrial band. Yeah.

Clay Mask with Powdered Herbs

Ryn (20:07):
That’d be good. Cool. What’s next? Oh, clay. Clay plus powdered herbs. Yeah.

Katja (20:13):
Oh, this is so nice. Okay. So here’s the problem with this. I’ll tell you the problem first, and then I’ll tell you all the wonderful things. The problem is that sometimes it’s difficult to make the time. And I don’t understand why this is a problem, because it takes like 10 minutes. It’s not that big of a deal. But I really let the time be a barrier. And so here’s the solution to the problem. We’re going to do a clay mask. You go brush your teeth. You put on your clay mask. And then you’re going to go in the kitchen and set up your nettle & friends tea for the next day. And feed the cats before you go to bed. And get your glass of water with magnesium in it. This is what I do at night. And then go back and rinse your face off. Like that is not that hard. And yet I often am just like, oh, there’s just no time. So now that I have described the solution, I am going to work harder to do this.

Ryn (21:22):
Yeah. We’ve got to make you an index card that says, start your clay mask now. And then like put it near the thing that you’ll grab at the right time.

Katja (21:32):
Notes like that work very well for me. Okay. So a clay mask is super easy. I like to get powdered chamomile, powdered lavender, and powdered rose petal. And mix those together with bentonite clay, so that you have at least 50% bentonite clay, but really I like even 70% the clay. And at that point you have a choice. So I just leave it powdered in the jar, because as long as it’s powder it won’t mold or anything like that. It’ll keep forever. And as I mentioned, sometimes I do not do this as often as I would like to. So it’s good that it keeps forever. But this is my new plan. I’m going to do it after I brush my teeth, but before I set up tomorrow’s tea and feed the cats. It’s going to be good.

Ryn (22:20):
Right. If we also kept like a little dish and a little spoon in there right next to the little jar with the clay mask mix in it, then you’re like, well, now I have everything I need. I just grab my spoon. I get my clay. I put it in here. Stir some water in or put rose water in to moisten it together.

Katja (22:35):
Right. Well, so okay. That’s the next step. So you have this jar of powder. And if you don’t have a bathroom that’s big enough to have also a little dish and a little spoon, which we definitely don’t. But if you don’t have a bathroom that’s that big, it doesn’t matter. You don’t need it. Just take like the size of a, hmm. Not a quarter, but not two quarters. Do you remember 50 cent pieces or like a Sacagawea dollar or something like that? They’re like a little bigger than a quarter, but not a lot bigger. Like a quarter and a nickel. That’s how much you’re going to put in your palm. A quarter and a nickel. Okay. What?

Ryn (23:17):
That’s good. That’s very helpful.

Katja (23:21):
Okay. So you put that much clay in your palm. And now you’re either going to mix in just some rose water – because it’s right there and it’s easy – until it makes a paste. And then you’re just going to smear it on your face. Or if you have two extra minutes and you want to be fancy, put honey in there instead of the water and make it into a paste with the honey.

Ryn (23:45):
Wow.

Katja (23:46):
Oh, that’s extra fancy. It’s great.

Ryn (23:48):
Now we’re talking.

Katja (23:48):
Yeah. And smear it all over your face. The end result here is that whatever it is that you make is getting smeared on your face is the key. And so you’re going to do that. You know, you wet your face, and I wash it or whatever. You don’t have to wash it with soap. You can just wash it with warm water. And then smear the clay all over it, and now go make your tea. Go get your cup of water that you’re going to take to bed with. You go feed the cat, do whatever so that it’s been like five or 10 minutes. You’re done. Go back to the bathroom, rinse off your face. And when you do this, the clay has this drawing action. As it dries. It’s like sucking stuff out of you. And the stuff is okay, some moisture, but also the crud that’s in your pores. And so if you have never done this before, the first time that you do it can be like, oh, you’ve brought a whole lot of stuff to the surface, but not all the way out. And so the first time that you do it, like the next morning, maybe your face isn’t its best. So this isn’t the thing to do for the very first time before your sister’s wedding or something. But if you get into the habit of doing it regularly, then it just becomes like a maintenance routine where there’s a constant, it’s like improving the circulation. But it’s not circulation of blood in this case, it’s the circulation of stuff leaving your skin. You are keeping the assembly line flowing, or in this case I guess it’s the de-assembly line, the disassembly line. You’re removing it at any rate. And so even though you can be like, ah, this is hard. I don’t have time. It really doesn’t take that long. And if we just take a minute to figure out where it fits in your day, then it really is a lovely and very effective way to just keep everything flowing out of your skin so that nothing has a chance to get clogged up and create a pimple.

Ryn (25:58):
Yeah. And you know, of course lots of folks are doing masks with the clay and the green clay and all of that. But I think adding in that like 30% or so proportion of the powdered herbs is really helpful. Because again, chamomile, lavender, rose, those are all going to have anti-inflammatory effects, cooling effects. They are going to offer some of their own astringent compounds. Even some antimicrobial qualities are coming through in this. So, you know, they’re definitely powering up the clay.

Katja (26:28):
Yeah, for sure.

Echinacea Compress

Ryn (26:30):
All right. So the next herb we wanted to talk about was echinacea. And you could apply this in a similar way, although… No, that would work out fine.

Katja (26:44):
Yeah. But honestly, I prefer, my favorite is to do a decoction. And then just make a warm compress and lay that on the face.

Ryn (26:56):
So, yeah. So we’d take echinacea root. Put it in a pot with some water. Boil it, cook it down, and then soak a cloth in that. And then put that, just lay that over your face and lay back and rest for a while. Yeah. So why echinacea? Some of you may be out there wondering what does this have to do with immune boosting?

Katja (27:11):
Right. Well, it turns out that this is actually much closer to the traditional way that people work with echinacea. It is really about bringing crud that needs to exit the body up to the surface and out of the body. So traditionally you would see echinacea with snake bites or boils or an abscess, something like that. And not just traditionally, it still is excellent. Although if you have a snake bite, please go to the hospital.

Ryn (27:45):
Yeah. But if you happen to have some echinacea tincture in your hiking pack, then definitely squirt that all over those bites as soon as you can. So, you know, tincture application, just because I brought it up, that is something you can do for acne, whether that’s on the face or on the back or wherever you happen to get it. And it can help. Just the repeated applications of the tincture, the alcohol is going to really dry that skin. Maybe that’s all right if it was like a really oily sebaceous patch. But if it’s a dry area and you keep applying the tincture to it, even though the herb is helpful, the alcohol itself could be too drying for what you’ve got going on.

Katja (28:20):
Yeah. It kind of just depends on the person.

Ryn (28:23):
Yeah. But the poultices are fantastic. It’s just a little messy and a little weird to put a poultice on your face. If you have a pretty good cheese cloth bag, or like a double layer cheese cloth, maybe you could set that up. But it might still, I don’t know. I’d have to check your emotions on that one.

Katja (28:43):
But for me a compress is really the way to go. And this is super helpful when there is cystic acne. When you get like one of those pimples that’s really big and painful but it’s deep. This helps to bring that out so that you can get rid of it. And so, if you are watching TV or something, or it’s COVID times, if you happen to be a person who can work from home, then that’s bonus. You can just have a compress on there while you’re working. But if it’s the end of the day, and you’re like relaxing a little and watching some TV or something, then just have a compress on that spot while you’re watching TV. Now you’re fighting acne and entertaining at the same time.

Ryn (29:38):
Indeed, that’s what to do. If you could do that multiple times a day, if it was like more serious, you know, like things were really breaking out all at once. And if you’re going to work with this, you are going to want to apply it several times in the day.

Katja (29:50):
Yeah. Or if it’s one of those really painful ones. It’s just going to go so much faster if you can do this three or five times a day.

Ryn (29:59):
Yeah. And if you’ve got an abundance of echinacea, then while you’re taking your poultice or your compress application topically, you can also take some internally. And that’s going to be more helpful the more chronic the acne is if it is a long standing issue like that. Echinacea is not only an immune stimulant. It is a classic alterative that helps with a number of inner detox functions and eliminative activities. So yeah, it’s not only for fighting colds and flu, is basically what we’re saying.

Katja (30:29):
In fact, arguably it’s not actually the most, best cold and flu fighter ever. I know that might sound like, wait, Katja, what are you saying? But I’ve heard. I.

Ryn (30:45):
What is this blasphemy?

Katja (30:45):
I know, I know, but it’s not my favorite way to work with that plant.

Ryn (30:50):
Yeah. But this application of echinacea is kind of, I don’t know, underappreciated maybe. We just think it would be lovely to hear it spoken about more.

Katja (30:59):
Yes, yes.

Ryn (31:01):
So, we’re modeling that in the world for you.

Katja (31:02):
Yes.

Turmeric Paste

Ryn (31:03):
Speaking of which, our next herb is actually really similar in that regard. We’re going to talk about turmeric.

Katja (31:08):
Yes. So here’s the thing with turmeric. If you have heard of turmeric then you probably have heard that it’s anti-inflammatory. And you may have seen those capsules that are blended with pepper and whatever else so that they’re more absorbable. Like you might have heard that it’s hard to absorb. And I think that is kind of, I don’t know, it’s not the way that I like to work with turmeric. Because it’s true that turmeric does not easily pass through the digestive tract. There are other herbs that do that can be employed for helping regulate inflammation. But what turmeric does better than so many herbs, like it’s really good at regulating inflammation on whatever it can touch. So whenever I see all these expensive products that are specially designed to try to make it squeak through the intestinal tract better, I think, but we’re spending all this money and we’re missing the point. Which is put the turmeric directly on the problem. So that might be in the digestive tract. Because when you eat turmeric that is topical. It is coming into direct contact with the digestive tract, and that’s awesome.

Ryn (32:36):
Yeah. I mean, it’s great for a lot of different areas of inflammation, whether that’s like a stomach ulcer or an intestinal ulcer situation, like when people have Chron’s and that. It is helpful for leaky gut. It has some astringency on the tight junctions and everything. And that’s all in addition to the famous anti-inflammatory power. So yeah.

Katja (32:55):
But it’s really doing that work where it can touch. And so that’s where turmeric comes into today’s story, because you can put turmeric on your skin.

Ryn (33:07):
Yeah. Now it is going to leave a mark. And it will put a little bit of a golden glow onto the skin there.

Katja (33:15):
Okay. Actually, it will be glowing or depending on the tone of your skin. If you have pale skin, it’s going to be a big old orange mark.

Ryn (33:24):
Right. So, if your acne isn’t on your face, if it’s a part of you that’s often covered, then maybe that won’t disturb you or bother you. Let some folks who see you with fewer clothes on know beforehand maybe. Just so you don’t take your shirt off and then suddenly they’re like, wow, what’s that yellow going on?

Katja (33:41):
I don’t know. Or you could like artistically employ the color yellow onto whatever.

Ryn (33:46):
Yeah. You could like draw the outline of a dragon with the wing spread with it too. I mean, while you’re at it, why not? So there’s that, but if it’s not on your face. Or if you’re just blessed with more melanin, if you have darker skin of a variety of different tones, then the color that the turmeric adds may not show up, or it may be appealing there. So this is an application for turmeric that we’ve heard about over and over again from students of ours. So we teach pharmacy students who are in their last year of training at a couple of the universities here in Boston. And they come from all over the world. And we’ve heard from a number of students from Southeast Asia, from Africa, a couple of different places, that they learned these methods of working with turmeric in their family tradition, like from their grandmother, to make a mask with turmeric and put that on the face for acne. Also for like wound care.

Katja (34:47):
That’s the first I heard of it. And it was, I don’t know, 10 years ago or something and we were talking about turmeric. And I was complaining about all these expensive turmeric products and it works where it can get into contact. And then one student who grew up in Vietnam was like, well, yeah, that’s what we do all the time. We put it on our skin. And I was like, whoa, wait a minute. I never thought about that part. Like I was thinking about indirect contact with the digestive tract. And then we had a lot of fun with that. And she said that her grandmother would put it, anytime that they got a wound, would put it on. And then they knew you had to put more on whenever the yellow disappeared. And that was the first that I heard about it. But yeah, like every group, somebody will talk about that.

Ryn (35:38):
Yeah. So now I kind of know to ask or to angle for that or other kinds of information about the way that folks have been working with herbs in their family tradition. And it’s always really revealing. So check in with your grandma. See if there’s any herbal traditions in your family that maybe slipped by you up till now. And try that turmeric for real. Like you said, as long as the color is in the skin, the turmeric compounds are there. Present, actively working, actively reducing inflammation for you. Helping to keep a check on that process and help to control the swelling and the redness and all of that.

Katja (36:16):
Yeah. And that’s not just applicable to acne and wounds, but also eczema, psoriasis, any kind of topical disturbance.

Ryn (36:28):
Yeah. And with turmeric you can make just make a paste with it – turmeric powder and water – and apply that. You could mix it with clay in some proportions and do it that way. But one thing we’re saying is that turmeric alone, or especially with clay, is going to be really drying. And if you don’t need any more drying to your skin, then the better way to go would be to mix it with honey. And have a honey turmeric paste and work with that. That will balance out the drying effect quite effectively.

Katja (36:56):
Yes. Plus then it’s extra fancy because honey.

Ryn (37:01):
Yeah. For sure. All right. I think that was everything that we have.

Katja (37:05):
That’s our list.

Ryn (37:06):
Yeah. That’s our list.

Katja (37:07):
That’s our list. Our five favorite things to put on your acne.

Ryn (37:14):
Cool. So if you’re interested in skin health or skin issues in a broader sense, then check out our integumentary health course available now, uploading new videos every day.

Katja (37:26):
Yeah. You can find that and all of our courses at online.commonwealthherbs.com. So check those out.

Ryn (37:38):
Yeah. We’ll be back next time with some more Holistic Herbalism podcast for you. Until then take care of yourselves, take care of each other. Drink some tea. And try putting turmeric on your face and see what happens.

Katja (37:50):
Yes. Yes. I think you should. If you put it on the part of your face where you wear a mask, then only the people in your household will know about it.

Ryn (37:59):
Nice. If you’ve been getting mask acne, hey, it’s going to be hidden anyway. Perfect. Perfect. All right. See you next time.

Katja (38:05):
Bye bye.

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