Do you suffer with acne? Let’s take a look at the science for natural medicines in this article. Keep in mind your naturopath will consider your individual health case and underlying driving contributors as part of your holistic health plan.
Chronic acne commonly affects the skin of the face, back and chest. The pilosebacious unit is the tissue affected with hyperkeratinisation, overproduction of sebum, inflammation and propionibacterium underlying the characteristic pathophysiology. Psychological distress is also common with this condition making it paramount to address the nervous system as part of a holistic health plan.
In a systematic review of 23 clinical trials that assessed the benefit of botanicals in the treatment of acne vulgaris, the authors concluded that tea tree oil, seaweed extract, rose extract, basil extract, EGCG and green tea extract, kampo and ayurvedic formulas gave the most positive results.
Plant constituents that target the pathogenic pathways in acne when combined into a formula suggest positive results based on a synergistic and mechanistic understanding however clinical evidence is required.
The authors of this review note that limitations included only studies with positive results were reviewed suggesting possible publication bias, there were only 1 or 2 studies for each herb, and concluded that the results show promise although clinical trials are lacking to provide robust or high level evidence.
In clinic we recommend the following alongside diet and lifestyle advice, and a personalised herbal medicine formula to support the gut, liver and skin:
1/ Tea tree oil for topical application to lesions
2/ Green tea – Camelia sinensis to be used as a topical wash, and to include as a dietary intervention green tea consumption.
Please see the table below for mechanistic summary and rationale (Whitney et al. 2014, pp. 1137-1157).
Systematic Review – relevant mechanisms of action of plant extracts against acne vulgaris
|Green tea extract||x
Inhibits NF-KB and AP-1
Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) and polyphenon-60 demonstrated reduced inflammatory lesions (in clinical studies)
EGCG inhibits hyperkeratinisation, sebum production, inflammation and the specific bacteria propionibacterium (in vitro)
Including against propionibacterium – the active bacteria in acne vulgaris
Decreases synthesis of inflammatory cytokines
(Whitney et al. 2014, pp. 1137-1157).
Jean has a bachelor of health and science majoring in naturopathy and practices in the Sydney CBD and Glen Innes. She also runs a telehealth service for rural and remote areas of Australia such as Tamworth, Armidale, Inverell, Tenterfield, Deepwater, Emmaville, Stanthorpe, Guyra, Uralla etc.
Whitney, FA, Hadar, LTA & Raja, KS 2014, ‘Botanical and Phytochemical Therapy for Acne: A Systematic Review’, Phytotherapy Research, vol. 28, pp. 1137-1152, viewed 23 August 2015, http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.endeavour.edu.au/eds/detail/detail?vid=2&sid=67556100-b83c-464a-8908-94f6f73b0883%40sessionmgr4001&hid=4213&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmUmc2NvcGU9c2l0ZQ%3d%3d#AN=25098271&db=mdc