Join the enews community - Terms
Filter by Categories

Soothing skin food

Reading time: 6 minutes

Natural preparations with medicinal plants can protect, help and heal all kinds of skin conditions and without the toxins found in ordinary products


I am a successful beauty consultant with a client`ele largely of people who live in Mayfair, London, and other well-to-do areas. I have no financial worries, but I suffer from unexplained depression, Raynaud’s phenomenon, fibromyalgia, hives, periodic labyrinthitis (inner ear infection) and, professionally most embarrassing of all, facial chilblains, dermatitis and other ugly rashes on my body. All I’m ever prescribed are antidepressants and topical corticosteroids, though one dermatologist suggested I might be suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity or TILT, but that tackling this condition could be “a very slow process with an uncertain outcome”. Can you help me in any way?-Ms A.D., London


Multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) is often viewed as a psychiatric disorder or an erroneous belief system and so is conventionally ‘treated’ with antidepressants and other psychotropic drugs. But since 1991, MCS has been seen by medical professionals as a consequence of exceeding your capacity to adapt to your total environmental load-in other words, ‘toxicant-induced loss of tolerance’ or TILT.1

About a third of all cosmetic products contain up to 16 endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), as the Swiss Bund or confederacy discovered, and professionally you’re constantly in contact with these products and perhaps use them yourself. Natural cosmetics are more often EDC-free, but not always, while ‘market leaders’ use harmful agents in nearly half their products. So, you may not just be harming yourself, but many of your clients as well.

In 2013 a German app called ‘ToxFox-App’ was launched on the internet to detect EDCs in cosmetics (

The product barcode is scanned by the iPhone camera, then a green or red symbol tells you whether the product is EDC-free or not.

If you don’t have a smartphone, you can use the tool via the Bund’s website at Before ending your search, you can send an email to the respective producer asking about the product.

Excluding offending products is the obvious therapeutic approach, but this will leave significant gaps in your professional armamentarium, so let’s see what else can help you.

You better than anyone will know that, in winter, our skins are exposed to exceptional stresses. But some medicinal plants can protect, help and heal-and perhaps even fill in those gaps left after excluding offending products.

Moisturizing oats(Avena sativa). Oats’ most important active ingredients are avenanthramides, zinc, beta-glucans and polyphenols, which have measurable antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing and overall skin-protective effects. Oats deliver moisture, calm sensitive skin, ease itchiness, and counteract blemishes and redness. For blemishes or irritated skin, an oat mask can help: mix 3-4 Tbsp of oatmeal with the same amount of water or goat buttermilk (if available), and apply it to a cleansed face; wash off with lukewarm water after five minutes. This can also be used as adjunctive therapy for rosacea, neurodermatitis and discoid lupus.

Certified natural cosmetics (some using oat extract) are available online from Aubrey Organics (soothing face-mask), Dr.Hauschka (cleansing milk) and Le Guide Sant’e (shower gel, liquid soap, shampoo), among others. Oats may also be a natural antidepresssant.2

Bewitching Hamamelis.Witch-hazel’s effects are anti-inflammatory, astringent and antimicrobial; it also stops bleeding and itching, and protects the skin’s small blood vessels. Most such preparations contain no tannins, but only essential oils. Witch-hazel is suitable for daily facial skincare, particularly for dry and sensitive skin.3 It’s exceptionally gentle for ageing skin, where the film (‘mantle’) that provides acid protection becomes thin, drier, harder to manage and prone to injury, or a tendency for itching, rashes and lacerations develops.

Cosmetics using witch-hazel are available from Dr.Hauschka (facial milk, shower cr`eme, cleansing mask), Lavera (deodorant spray, liquid soap, shampoo) and Dr Willmar Schwabe Pharmaceuticals (‘Hamentum’, for wound-healing).

Soothing St John’s wort(Hypericum perforatum). Although well known as an effective herbal remedy for mild clinical depression, you’ll be pleased to know it’s also good for the skin. It soothes dry, cracked or flaky skin; it halts bacteria, inflammation and itching; it heals minor burns; and ensures that small lesions heal without scarring. In rare instances, though, it can cause temporary light sensitivity when taken beyond threshold amounts.4 The active ingredients are hyperforin and hypericin, proven to be antibacterial and anti-inflammatory.5

St John’s wort is ideal for skin problems, including neurodermatitis (‘lichen simplex chronicus’, due to persistent itching and scratching). Dr.Hauschka offers various creams and body oils using St John’s wort, as does Aubrey Organics.

Mellow mallow(Malva sylvestris). Mallow leaves, used in traditional Austrian medicine as a tea and as a bath for skin disorders, has proven efficacy in clinical trials.6 You’ll find a mallow facial toner, a mallow gentle cleansing milk, and an antiacne and rosacea treatment mallow ointment online at!.

Caring chamomile(Matricaria chamomilla). A multitalented botanical medicine, you may know this as a tea with antispasmodic and calming effects, but used topically in skin cosmetics, it’s an emollient with anti-inflammatory effects.7 It contains bisabolol, a sweet floral scent long used as a fragrance, but also known to have anti-irritant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties; it can also enhance the skin absorption of other molecules beneficial to skin health.8 Bisabolol has also been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in models of leukaemia, removing cells with damaged DNA and so cancerous potential.9 Chamomile also contains matricine, an antioxidant essential oil, and apigenin, a bioactive flavonoid with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer properties. Topical application of apigenin has inhibited chemical-induced skin tumours, and reduced the incidence of ultraviolet light-induced cancers while increasing tumour-free survival.10 Apigenin may also reduce hyperresponsiveness of
the airways in asthma while having antiallergenic effects.11

Using cottonwool, apply a cooled-down chamomile infusion to a cleansed face for rashes and neurodermatitis. Washing with cold chamomile tea can also slake the itching (urticaria) of nettle rash. For psoriasis, I recommend washing affected areas with lukewarm chamomile tea whereas, for rosacea, c
old chamomile compresses can alleviate redness and inflammation (but keep it away from eyes). Skincare products containing chamomile extract are suitable for delicate, dry, irritated or blemished skin, and products for sensitive baby skin often include chamomile.

As some people may have allergic-type reactions to chamomile, I suggest testing for tolerability before the first full application. Certified natural cosmetics containing chamomile are available everywhere, such as in the ‘sensitive-skin’ ranges from Alverde, Dr.Hauschka, Lavera and Primavera, to name but a few.

Viva aloe vera.This succulent plant, known in homeopathy as Aloe Socotrina, can reestablish physiological equilibrium after much dosing with chemical and allopathic preparations and in cases where disease and drug symptoms are mixed.12 Frequently cited in the literature of herbal medicine since the 16th century BC, aloe has been in continuous use as a topical multipurpose skin treatment for such diverse problems as sunburn, cold sores, frostbite and chilblains.

Nowadays, aloe vera is best known for its lubricating and anti-inflammatory properties, but it can also heal burns, and skin conditions like eczema, acne, sores and insect bites.

You could even make your own aloe vera skincare treatment (say, a revitalizing face mask or exfoliating facial scrub) for your professional practice at minimal cost. Whether you use the juice from the leaves or a commercial aloe vera gel, the skin-boosting properties will be evident (see

See page 72 of February issue of WDDTY for more soothing skincare options.



Bascom R. Chemical Hypersensitivity Syndrome Study: Options for Action, a Literature Review, and a Needs Assessment. State of Maryland Department of Health, 1989; Ashford N, Miller C. Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, 1st edn. New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1991: 232


Arraey H et al. ‘Antidepressant-like effect of ethanolic extract of Avena sativa L. in the forced swim test and tail suspension test in male mice’, in Proceedings of the 2nd National Congress of Medicinal Plants in Tehran, Iran, 2013


European Medicines Agency Committee on Herbal Medicinal Products (HMPC), 2009, online at


Klemow KM et al. ‘Chapter 11 Medical Attributes of St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum)’, in Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, eds. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2nd edn. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 2011


Phytomedicine, 2003; 10 Suppl 4: 31-7


J Ethnopharmacol, 2013; 149: 750-71


Mol Med Report, 2010; 3: 895-901


Molecules, 2010; 15: 9252-87


J Transl Med, 2011; 9: 45


J Nutr, 2003; 133: 3800S-4S; Cancer Res, 1990; 50: 499-502; Anticancer Res, 1997; 17: 85-91


Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol, 2010; 32: 364-70


Boericke W, Boericke OE. Pocket Manual of Homeopathic Materia Medica With Repertory, 9th edn. Philadelphia, PA: Boericke & Tafel, 1927: 30-2

Harald Gaier, one of the UK’s leading experts on alternative medicine and a registered naturopath, osteopath, homeopath and herbalist, practises at The Allergy and Nutrition Clinic, 22 Harley Street, London. Visit his website at

If you have a question for our Medical Detective, write to us at the usual address or

What do you think? Start a conversation over on the... WDDTY Community

  • Recent Posts

  • Copyright © 1989 - 2024 WDDTY
    Publishing Registered Office Address: Hill Place House, 55a High Street Wimbledon, London SW19 5BA
    Skip to content