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  • Writer's pictureDr. Juliette Sweet, ND

Vibrant Health, Glowing Skin!

Herbs for supporting a healthy complexion from the inside out

Ayurveda speaks of radiance as a representation of one’s overall health. It is known as Ojas in Sanskrit, which translates to bodily strength, energy, vitality, and lustre (8). This is apparent when a person enters the room. Is the individual energetic and lively? Does he or she have glowing skin, luscious hair, a passion for life, and a sparkle in their eyes? Although this may be called vis (Naturopathic Medicine), Qi and jing (Chinese Medicine), or something else depending on the medicinal philosophy, practitioners often evaluate a patient’s ojas as part of the physical exam.

Why is the skin one of the aspects we observe for determining health? Our skin is a mirror of our internal health. When imbalance is occurring inside our bodies, in various organs or in the blood, the skin reflects this. According to Dermatologist, Mary Logue, MD, “the skin and the mind are also intricately connected. At the most basic level, as an embryo, our skin and nervous system developed from the same cells. The immune system also plays a key role in maintaining healthy skin. Many internal diseases, such as gut dysbiosis and poor mental health, can all have external manifestations or “signs” on the skin” (5).

Rebel Herbs has created a balanced herbal formula that targets various aspects of skin health. Complexion plus is comprised of amla, manjistha, neem, turmeric, and black pepper. These herbs have a rejuvenative effect on the body and are called rasayanas. We will discuss each of these herbs in Complexion + along with some other tips to support vibrant health, for glowing skin. But first, let’s discuss antioxidants and how important they are for the entire body, including the skin.

Anti-oxidants help us combat oxidants or free radicals that cause damage to cellular DNA. These oxidants are a result of stress on the body which comes from illness, environmental toxins, processed foods, and trauma. Most chronic diseases and ‘aging’ is a direct result of free radical damage (2). Foods and herbs that are high in antioxidants help protect and repair our cellular DNA which promotes health and longevity.

Phyllanthus emblica, also known as Indian gooseberry, amalaki, or just amla, is growing in popularity in the United States. It is a small superfood fruit with one of the highest amounts of antioxidants, including vitamin C and quercetin, on the planet. Vitamin C is not only supportive for our immune systems, it promotes collagen synthesis, a main building block for the skin. Amla has been shown to be effective in supporting wound healing. In a research study, Amla decreased the amount of time it took for wounds to close and heal compared to placebo by combating oxidants and promoting collagen formation through the ERK 1/2 signaling pathway (9). You may have heard about quercetin over the last year and a half as a treatment for protecting the body against illness and decreasing the inflammatory response. It is an extremely helpful compound for strengthening as well as regulating the immune system if it is overactive, known as immune modulation (6). In my opinion, amla is the ultimate ‘food as medicine'.

We have to consider allergies when it comes to the skin, whether the allergic reaction is internal and being expressed through the skin or as a result of external allergens in the environment. Vitamin C and quercetin help minimize the release of histamine and pro-inflammatory cytokines or cell signaling proteins present in allergies (6). Amla truly has the perfect combination of immune supportive and allergy reducing compounds.

Rubia cordifolia, called manjistha or Indian madder, is also full of antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It is known for its action as a lymphagogue, an herb that promotes lymph movement and purifies the blood. The lymph is an integral part of our immune system and it runs throughout our entire body. You may have heard of lymph massage or dry skin brushing to stimulate the superficial lymph but did you know the largest amount of lymph tissue is actually in our gastrointestinal system?

In Naturopathic Medicine, the skin is directly linked to the health of our gut. We look at the diet as well as the microbiome or intestinal flora, food allergies, nutrient absorption, and elimination. In a double-blind placebo controlled study, manjistha and triphala (which contains amla) both promoted the growth of healthy bacteria in the gut and eliminated unhealthy bacteria (7). It is no wonder why these herbs are used for promoting healthy skin from the inside out.

Neem, or Azadirachta indica, has also been used for thousands of years to stop the growth of bacteria, parasites and viruses. It is known as ‘India’s Pharmacy’ because it is often used as a first line antibiotic. Along with being taken internally to promote a healthy microbiome, it can be used topically on the skin. Neem was shown to kill 107 strains of MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus), a hospital pathogen resistant to many antibiotics (4). It is my favorite treatment for treating an overgrowth of Candida albicans, the most common yeast infection, especially when it is resistant to Nystatin. In the future, keep an eye out for Rebel Herbs topical Neem Powder!

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) has been used for thousands of years as an everyday spice in Indian food but also topically for a variety of skin conditions. It is India’s claim to fame and for good reason, it is and can be used for pretty much every condition. When it comes to the skin, turmeric has been shown to be effective in treating acne, alopecia, atopic dermatitis, facial photoaging, oral lichen planus, pruritus, psoriasis, radiodermatitis, and vitiligo (10). One of the most popular constituents in turmeric is curcumin. A systematic review claims, “A growing amount of evidence confirms that curcumin might modulate those phenomena involved in inflammatory, proliferative, and infectious disorders of the skin. They also state, it is a low-cost and well-tolerated substance (11). What I love about using turmeric as