With the exception of antibiotics and the contraceptive pill, the majority of treatments for skin problems in orthodox dermatology relies on treating the skin with external remedies. Many of these treatments are based on steroids, which help to reduce inflammation, but long term use is not usually recommended.
In naturopathic dermatology the focus of treatment for skin problems is usually based on correcting internal imbalance as well as using soothing external remedies. A Medical Herbalist will work on supporting good eliminative function, correcting hormonal imbalance, optimising immune well-being and building a sound nutritional foundation for health.
Although there is no doubt that there is a genetic predisposition to some skin problems, Medical Herbalists believe that the skin reflects the internal health of the individual sufferer and that positive steps can be taken to bring about a clearer complexion and good skin integrity. During a consultation they will ask lots of questions about your overall health and medical history as well as diet and lifestyle factors. They are looking for patterns and trends, the clues as to what may have triggered the problem and therefore ways that they can help to resolve it.
Sound nutrition is important for good health and for a clear glowing complexion. A diet high in sugar, junk and processed food is not conducive to clear skin as it both lacks essential vitamins and minerals and lays more burden on the detox pathways. Certain foods may also exacerbate skin problems, especially in the familial problems of eczema and psoriasis where underlying food intolerance can mediate an inflammatory response. Like wise in urticaria and rosacea a close look at diet is important to help pinpoint any histamine stimulating foods that may be triggering inflammation. Fungal skin infections will often respond favourably to reducing yeasty foods and sugar from the diet whilst also correcting any underlying gut dysbiosis. No matter what the health problem a good look at diet will never harm and will almost certainly bring positive benefits.
This approach is very different to that of a GP or dermatologist, who do not draw the connections between diet and skin, but they work with a different set of tools from a Medical Herbalist and therefore will view the problem from a different angle. It’s not a case of what is the right approach or wrong approach, it’s about what works for you and people will often consult a Medical Herbalist because orthodox medicine has not worked for their particular problem.
As well as taking a close look at nutritional status a Medical Herbalist also has a large number of remedies at their disposal and will tailor make a prescription for each and every client. As well as the traditional blood purifying herbs such as burdock and yellow flag, there are herbs that correct constipation and tone gut function, herbs that reduce allergy, herbs that help to repair and knit, herbs that fight infection, herbs that reduce the impact of stress on the body and herbs that help to balance hormones.
By carefully considering each and every client, their constitution and overall health and well-being a Medical Herbalist can map out what they see as the key nuances and then prescribe accordingly. One person with eczema may find their prescription will contain many nervous system herbs, whereas another eczema sufferer may have herbs to reduce allergy and another herbs to tone digestive function. It is this ability to treat each patient as a unique individual that is the strength of herbal medicine practice.
Skin problems won’t resolve overnight with herbal treatment and sometimes it can take several weeks to see a noticeable difference. In some cases once the problem has resolved then herbs can be stopped and the problem stays away. With other skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis or teenage acne the herbal treatment sometimes needs to be maintained over a longer period of time to maintain healthy skin. The beauty of prescribed herbal treatment being there are no cumulative or damaging side effects from long term use.
Should you wish to speak to a Medical Herbalist about your skin complaint before making an appointment please ask a member of staff to arrange for a practitioner to contact you.