Skin Problems - A Herbal Approach
Carolina IJben & Andrew Cox MNIMH
We are often asked for advice about skin problems beyond matters of skin type. The most common skin problems we see are those labelled rosacea, eczema and psoriasis (which take many forms and can evolve from one form to another over a period of years). Warts and acne are also very common, especially in young adults, as are fungal infections. And although not skin problems as such, we are also often asked for help with varicose veins and shingles.
In the majority of cases of skin problems the origin is mysterious. Even the most reputable of dermatology specialists will admit to being baffled in some cases, despite the many labels and theories they have for skin disorders. Only rarely are skin problems only problems of the skin (such as a simple 'contact dermatitis' caused by contact with irritating synthetic or natural substances which resolves once that contact ceases).
Mostly skin problems are symptoms of a deeper imbalance. The chain of cause and effect is usually highly complex, weaving among different internal processes, such as those of elimination, absorption, defence, coordination, acidity, psychology and emotions, and external factors such as the mix of skin microflora. The skin is a great mirror of the state of our internal environment.
This means that the best approach is one that combines appropriate internal and external treatment plus possibly some modifications of diet and habits of thinking and relating.
If we try to treat most chronic skin problems only with a cream, lotion or salve we may succeed in hiding the symptoms, such as redness or itchiness but, sooner or later, the symptoms will pop up again, perhaps in a different way. This is especially true of petroleum or mineral oil based products and hydrocortisone creams. Even nourishing plant-based products must be carefully selected for the particular problem and skin type.
Herbalists understand the skin to be a remarkable, living, breathing, intelligent organ. It is not only the 'bag' that keeps everything in place! When internal functions are under pressure for any reason, the skin tries to take on some of those functions to ease the pressure. So, for example, if the liver, colon and kidneys are having a difficult time eliminating toxins from the body, the body will try to push them out through the skin.
If we are going through a lot of emotional/psychological stress, including prolonged frustration, anger, grief or lack of joy, the skin will often reflect this state to bring it to our attention. If the digestive processes are not optimal, for example, in cases of 'leaky gut', Crohn's, etc, the skin may attempt to increase its absorption function, making it more open than usual to less desirable substances.
As herbalists we look at the human being as an interacting totality and as a constitutional type, rather than as a collection of semi-independent 'mechanical' systems. So instead of trying to find the cause of a skin problem in the digestive system, the hormonal system, the immune system or the nervous system, etc., we look at the state of the basic functions of defence, elimination, assimilation and modify these – strengthening, calming, supporting, nourishing - using herbs internally.
Herbs are wonderfully suited for bringing about such modifications in harmony with our body.
Externally, we will use appropriate plants preparations that nourish and support the skin so that it can heal the damage caused by the symptoms.
We offer a professional consultation service with a qualified herbalist:
Consultation - Cost & Location
Currently consultations are available only in English language.
First consultation (in Hoorn or Midwoud) (1.5 hours): € 65.00
Subsequent consultation (only Midwoud) (0.5 hours): € 35.00
Typical prescription: € 30 per month
Payments in cash at the end of each treatment session.
Cancellations must be notified at least 24 hours in advance, otherwise the full cost will apply.
Andrew Cox is a British herbalist, a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (UK) and a plant spirit medicine practitioner with many years of clinical experience. His extensive training included including physiology, pathology, orthodox and holistic / energetic systems of diagnosis as well as pharmacognosy and the traditional preparation of and relationships with medicinal plants.