Which herbs are best to help problem hair, nails, and skin? And which not only heal but protect from skin cancer, hair loss and inflammation?
The skin, hair, nails and oil and sweat glands are all part of one system, known as the integumentary system. “The skin is the largest organ in our body, and its function involves the regulation of body temperature, elimination of wastes and reception of temperature, pressure and pain signals. The skin, as a sense organ, also has a connection with the nervous system. In ayurveda, skin is believed to support both physiology and psychology.
There are specific herbs, called adaptogens, that work especially well for problems of the integumentary system.
Amla has been used as a hair tonic, enriching hair growth and hair pigmentation. It strengthens the roots of the hair and helps maintain color and luster.
Astragalus treats disorders of the skin including burns. It also has been used for the treatment of skin tumors. For topical use, mix the powder with sesame oil and apply.
He shou wu has been used for centuries to help maintain the youthful color of one’s hair and also to help diminish hair loss.
Holy basil contains ursolic acid and is one of the cosmetic industry’s latest favorites because not only does it quickly heal the skin but it also improves elasticity and removes wrinkles. It also shows benefits for preventing skin cancer. A poultice made from the herb is used topically for its antifungal and antibacterial actions.
Licorice is used topically for herpes, eczema, psoriasis, and allergic dermatitis. Licorice has been found to boost the body’s natural steroid hormones to counteract inflammation and irritation.
Schisandra relieves allergy-induced skin conditions, including hives and eczema.
Shatavari root infused in oil is used topically to treat skin diseases. The leaves can be infused in ghee and applied to boils and sores.
Adapted from Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, and Stress Relief, by David Winston and Steven Maimes (Healing Arts Press, 2007).