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In holistic medicine, disorders of the skin are seen as manifestations of something deeper going on within the body. This may be related to digestion, stress, autoimmune disease, or a combination of things.


This is a very common complaint seen in herbal practice. There is a usually a family history of allergy and the condition may have been ongoing for a while.

Sometimes it is possible to pinpoint the source of allergy (eg. particular foods or food additives, dust mite, mould) and avoid it – other times, it is necessary to support the person’s overall health and immune system in order to break the cycle of disease. Herbal treatment for allergic eczema focusses on correcting digestion, reducing inflammation, supporting liver function, calming the nervous system and helping the patient incorporate long-term dietary solutions into their daily routine.

Herbs used in childhood and adult eczema include burdock, dandelion root, violet leaf, chamomile, nettles, barberry, cleavers, echinacea, chickweed, oats and calendula. Creams are often prescribed for symptomatic treatment along with either teas, tinctures or powders to take internally, and herbal baths can also be very beneficial.

Acne vulgaris

Acne is another condition that will have different triggers in different people, usually involving hormones, stress pathways and food intolerances. It may be the result of a deeper condition such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or a side-effect of certain medications. The effects on a person’s self-esteem are not to be underestimated, which can cause low mood and further contribute to ill-health.

Herbs are used to address hormonal fluctuations, calm the nervous system, control blood sugar levels and work on any other areas of physiology that are ‘out of whack’, such as digestion, circulation and detoxification. Topically, herbal cleansers and astringents like witch hazel, myrrh and rose help to control sebum production and tone and nourish the skin.

Herpes simplex

Viruses take hold of the body when defences are down, so it is important to support the overall physiology and immunity of a person suffering from recurrent herpes. 

Herbs cannot stop a herpes outbreak in its tracks, but they can be very effective if used as prevention. A vast array of anti-viral and immune-supporting herbs can help keep the virus at bay, including echinacea, astragalus, withania, Siberian ginseng, Cat’s claw, liquorice, St. John’s wort and lemon balm.

It is usually possible to pinpoint the triggers for an outbreak, such as menstruation in women, stress, lack of sleep, particular foods or following a cold or flu when immunity is low. Avoiding nuts, especially almonds, walnuts and peanuts, certain seeds, cocoa, coconut and other high arginine foods can also help prevent recurrence. 

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