Tips for Radiant Skin from the Inside Out
Are you spending a lot on pricey skincare products? Do you have a cabinet in your home loaded with half-used exfoliants, expensive moisturizers and anti-aging products that never delivered the promised results? Could it be that these topical approaches to healthy skin are, well, just that, topical, superficial? Only “skin deep”? While I love to treat my skin with coconut oil, essential oils, and other topical products, the fact is, healthy skin begins within. Radiant skin happens from the inside, not just the outside. Good nutrition, hormonal balance, immune function, adequate sleep, and stress all affect the health and appearance of your skin.
In this post I want to introduce you to some of the herbs that can be used internally to promote healthy skin. Whether you simply want more vibrant, youthful looking skin or are suffering from a skin condition like eczema, psoriasis, acne, or rosacea, an approach that focuses on health from the inside, especially optimal functioning of your digestive, detoxification, and immune systems will improve the health of your skin.
Why Does Skin Age?
As you age, substances that keep the skin firm and elastic like collagen and elastin, gradually decrease. Genetics play a role, but so do diet and lifestyle. Skin damage occurs as a result of oxidation, a chemical process in which unstable molecules called free radicals steal electrons from healthy cells. On the skin, oxidative stress may show up us as wrinkles, thickening, discoloration and loss of elasticity. By the way, free radical damage is not just limited to the skin cells. Free radicals degrade healthy cells throughout the body, can impact functioning of your DNA, and are a factor in most chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
When it comes to skin, sun exposure and smoking are two of the most damaging causes of oxidative stress. If you smoke, stop. (and there are, of course, herbs to support you.) Sunlight, as enjoyable as it can be and important for Vitamin D production, is a form of radiation, specifically ultraviolet (UV) radiation. UV radiation leads to free radical damage and it can cause cells to mutate and turn cancerous.
So, what can you do to combat oxidative damage and help your skin stay firm and elastic? In short, a healthy diet, lots of water, rest, and herbs, of course!
A Skin-Healthy Diet
Given the basic science of skin health, one of the best things you can do for radiant skin is eat a skin-healthy diet. Skin is built from the inside out and draws its healthy glow from good nutrition. The best defense against free radical damage or oxidative stress is a diet rich in antioxidants. As the name makes clear, antioxidants combat oxidative damage by sacrificing their own electrons to feed free radicals, but without turning into free radicals themselves.
A diet rich in antioxidants is a balanced diet with lots of fresh high-quality, organic foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Fresh green leafy vegetables, carrots, squash, peppers, oranges, grapes and berries (blueberries, blackberries, raspberries) are all great sources of antioxidants as well as other essential vitamins and nutrients. Pecan and walnuts are also good choices. Wild Salmon is a good source of the antioxidant astaxanthin as well as Omega-3, an essential fatty acid that helps protect the skin from sun damage. Grass-fed meat and eggs are good sources of the important antioxidant known as glutathione.
And then there’s Water! Though it seems obvious, it bears repeating. A recent Center for Disease Control study found that 43% of Americans do not drink enough water. Water helps the body flush out toxins, supports the flow of vital nutrients into cells, and helps your organs function well. Plus, a well hydrated skin cell is plump and full, which will help your skin appear firm and clear. Though recommendations vary, the Institute of Medicine recommends at least 9 cups per day for women and 13 for men. (Keep in mind, caffeinated and alcoholic beverages don’t count because they increase urination.)
Herbs for Radiant Skin
When it comes to healthy skin, herbs offer multiple benefits. Herbs like Green Tea and Turmeric Root provide an excellent source of antioxidants. Other herbal antioxidants that also support healthy immune function include Astragalus Root, Panax Ginseng and Holy Basil.
Milk Thistle Seed supports your body’s detoxificationsystem and promotes your body’s production and utilization of the important antioxidant, glutathione. Milk Thistle is also of value for people with psoriasis due to its ability to promote healthy liver function (thereby reducing the load of circulating toxins) and inhibit inflammatory compounds that are one of the causes of the excessive skin cell replication seen in psoriasis. Sarsaparilla is also known to improve psoriasis and has a long history of use for chronic skin disorders. Burdock, Dandelion, Yellow Dock and Red Clover also support detoxification and are used for chronic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. You can find many of these herbs that support detoxification in our Balanced Detox Tea and Herbal Detox Extract
Gotu Kola A Special Herb for Healthy Radiant Skin
There are many herbs that will help you achieve radiant skin, but I want to give a special shout out to Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) which offers something very special. Native to India, China, Australia and the South Pacific, Gotu Kola flourishes in and around water. Historically, the entire plant was used medicinally for wound healing, eczema, psoriasis and even leprosy. Pharmacological studies have demonstrated that Gotu Kola stimulates hair and nail growth, increases the integrity of the dermis (the inner layer of the skin), exerts a balancing effect on connective tissue, and promotes formation of hyaluronic acid.
What’s hyaluronic acid, you say? Well, from the recent media hype (and price), you might think hyaluronic acid is the latest and most important man-made invention. In fact, it is a naturally occurring compound present in large amounts in the spaces between skin cells, where it provides moisture, plumpness, firmness and suppleness to the skin. It is also present in the eyes and in the joint spaces, where it acts as a natural lubricant and ‘shock absorber.’ We are born with high levels of hyaluronic acid, which accounts for babies’ plump and smooth skin, but unfortunately, the body produces less and less hyaluronic acid over time.
In addition to promotion of hyaluronic acid, Gotu Kola also supportd production of collagen and elastin. It’s pharmacological activity makes it is a valuable agent for the skin and its documented clinical uses include support for burns, dermatitis, skin ulcers, and would healing. Used internally, extracts of Gotu Kola have demonstrated good results on cellulite and keloid scarring. Gotu Kola has also demonstrated positive effects on varicose veins, an effect attributed to its ability to enhance connective tissue structure surrounding the veins.
Gotu Kola’s ability to promote your body’s production of collagen, elastin, and hyaluronic acid make it a great choice for everyday support for radiant skin, combined of course with a skin healthy diet and lots of water. Gotu Kola can be used in tea, as a tincture, or in capsule form.
At Nectar, we incorporate Gotu Kola in our Radiant Skin Tea along with herbs that are gently detoxifying (Red Clover Blossoms, Nettles, and Dandelion Leaf), and herbs that provide the skin with vital nutrients (Horsetail and Nettles). We also offer Gotu Kola extract.
While we all love to put rich, natural, moisturizing products on our skin, keep in mind that healthy skin is largely an inside job. Eating a skin-healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and supporting your body with herbs helps to create not only radiant skin, but radiant health. But whatever the appearance of your skin or the state of your health, remember that your true beauty is on the inside. My Mother who was a college beauty queen taught me that “beauty is on the inside.” She meant that kindness, generosity, and a loving heart make one beautiful. For me, this will be always the essence of beauty.
Thanks Mom ♡
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