Mark’s review of Nurture My Body’s Acne Serum got me thinking about plant extracts and acne treatments. Acne can be treated in a variety of ways – control of sebum, antibacterials and/or the use of anti-inflammatories. Consequently, different plants have differing mechanisms. As more bacteria become immune to antibiotics, scientists are looking to plants for effective alternatives and although the research is still young, there are many plants that seem really promising for the treatment of acne and psoriasis. If you have troubled skin, here are handful of botanicals that are worth keeping an eye out for.

Dandelion

This plant is not well studied and although there are claims that it is a powerful antioxidant the research is sparse and confined to animals. Dandelion is generally regarded as useful for treating acne, but no one seems to know quite how.  It might work by stimulating the elimination of toxins. There is also speculation that dandelion stimulates acid secretion in the stomach (there is some German research that suggests a correlation between low stomach acid and acne). Additionally, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, dandelion contains vitamins A, B, C and D as well as potassium, zinc and iron, all of which promote clear complexions. Flavonoids and coumaric acid derivatives have been identified, giving it antioxidant properties that seem to work synergistically with tocopherol (vitamin E).

Oregon grape

Not a grape, but related to the barberry, Oregon grape has one of the most convincing scientific pedigrees when it comes to treating skin disorders. It possesses a component that inhibits lipoxygenase (an enzyme involved in psoriatic skin cell production). Recent studies indicate that M. aquifolium contains a specific multidrug resistance pump inhibitor (MDR Inhibitor) named 5'methoxyhydnocarpin (5'MHC) that works to decrease bacterial resistance to antibiotics and antibacterial agents. In a Slovakian study on 20 different strains of acne bacteria, Oregon grape extract was an effective treatment and another study published in the Journal of Dermatological Therapy found that: “oregon grape root had synergistic antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and bile-stimulating properties which make the crude extract useful in the treatment of acne.”

Burdock root (Arctium lappa)

According to a study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, arctium lappa fruit extract helps protect against chronic tissue inflammation and stimulates collagen synthesis. Although it has long been used to treat boils and abscesses and as an acne treatment, there isn’t much research to back it up. Last March a 6-month clinical trial was begun to study the effects of burdock on teenage acne. The results are not yet available. A 2005 study did, however, confirm that it is a strong antibacterial.

Usnea barbata

Usnic acid is the major constituent of beard lichen (Usnea barbata). It is one of the best known and reviewed compounds present in lichens and has lots of things to offer such as antibiotic, antitumor and UV filter effects. Scientists think that its ability to protect against UVB might make it useful in the topical treatment of UVB-mediated inflammatory skin conditions. A study in Phytomedicine concluded that usnea (along with some other plants such as rosemary) was an effective antibacterial that could be topically applied to treat acne.