Cellulite, a French word which causes dread in the heart of most women, describes a distressing cosmetic defect mainly of the thighs - and, very occasionally, the neck - where the subcutaneous tissue is disturbed.
The structure of female and male subcutaneous tissue is fundamentally different. This difference can be best observed when the skin on the thighs is pinched. On many women, the result is the so-called 'mattress phenomenon', with pitting and bulging resembling the undulations of a mattress whereas, on most men, the skin will only fold or furrow.
As women age and the connective tissue structures become thinned, cellulite may become more pronounced, contributing to the granular texture accompanied by a characteristic tightness and heaviness.
Men only experience the 'mattress phenomenon' when they have an androgen deficiency.
Slim women and female athletes hardly ever suffer from cellulite, so a dietary regimen that is low in refined carbohydrates and fats, but high in complex carbohydrates, should be the first port of call.
Losing weight gradually, undergoing courses of lymphatic massage, engaging in daily skin-brushing and taking regular exercise should also be the initial choice of treatment. When giving yourself a massage, use a string glove, loofah and essential oils.
The best combination of essential oils for this type of massage (for external use only) includes:
Almond oil 47 mL
Fennel oil 1 mL
Juniper oil 1 mL
Cypress oil 0.5 mL
Lemon oil 0.5 mL.
Gently massage the affected area twice daily. If the area is small, use five drops; for a large area, use 10 drops (Bartrum T, Bartrum's Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, London: Robinson Publishing, 1998, p 105).
Dichapetalum has been shown to be an effective treatment for cellulite. An experimental double-blind proving (producing the symptoms to prove the worth of the remedy) on a group of men and women, using a variety of dosages, produced cellulite on the neck of several female participants (Allgemeine Homoeopath Zeit, 1960, 24: 127). On the basis of my own experience, this remedy can be effective in such cases, but only when used at the lower potencies (3D, 4D or 6D).
Aescin, which is extracted from Aesculus hippocastanum (horse chestnut), has antioedema qualities. In the case of cellulite, it decreases capillary permeability by reducing the number and size of tiny pores in the capillary walls (Clin Terap, 1965; 297-328; Arzneim Forsch, 1964; 14: 892).
An extract of gotu kola (also known as Hydrocotyle asiatica, Centella asiatica, or South African or Indian pennywort) containing 70 per cent triterpenic acids has demonstrated impressive clinical results when taken orally in the treatment of cellulite. Several experimental studies have shown this remedy to have a normalising action on connective tissue metabolism by stimulating glycosaminoglycan synthesis, without promoting excessive collagen synthesis or cell growth (Clin Therap, 1981; 99: 507-13; Minerva-Cardioangiol, 1982; 30: 201-7).
Don't be tempted by the many herbal cosmetic formulas available on the market. Variations of most of them have undergone long-term double-blind trials, which have demonstrated that these products are no more effective than a placebo (Zeitschr Hautkr, 1973; 48: 1009-17).
Harald Gaier is a registered homoeopath, naturopath and osteopath.