Keeping your skin healthy matters. After all, healthy skin protects you from viruses and bacteria, controls your body temperature, and converts sunlight into usable vitamin D. While there are many commercially available creams, oils, and scrubs to help keep your skin healthy and glowing, your diet and nutrition can be just as influential to the health of your skin. Herbs and spices add flavor and vitality to our foods and beverages, but it isn’t the only benefit they provide.
Many herbs and spices provide you with crucial vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients when ingested, components your body needs to build and repair cells. Others are added to creams, oils, and lotions to help improve your skin’s health from the outside. The versatile herbs on this list pull double duty to improve our skin health from both inside and outside.
Chamomile has been employed as a medicinal herb for thousands of years, its use recorded in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics. There are two varieties of chamomile, German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) and Roman Chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile). Though these flowers are best known for their calming influence, chamomile is also a powerful anti-inflammatory. This makes it useful for conditions from teething and colic in infants to reducing wrinkles as we age.
The anti-oxidant properties of chamomile help to not only improve overall skin health, fade dark spots, and reduce the appearance of fine lines, but they may also be useful in reducing the severity of certain chronic skin irritations such as eczema. Chamazuline, the chemical primarily responsible for chamomile’s anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, is stronger in German Chamomile than in Roman Chamomile.
Drinking chamomile tea is a popular way to ingest this sweet-smelling herb, but it is also available as a supplement. Used chamomile tea-bags are often employed to reduce under-eye puffiness and several commercial creams, lotions, and oils incorporate chamomile oils or extracts in their formulas to brighten the skin and lighten dark spots and blemishes.
Fenugreek is a beautiful and beneficial plant high in vitamins A and C as well as dietary iron. It has a sweet, nutty flavor, and can be included in a number of dishes. Fresh fenugreek leaves can be incorporated into soups, stews, and curries, while greens and sprouted seeds are sprinkled into salads. Vitamin C in particular is important to skin health due to its role in synthesizing collagen, giving skin its elasticity.
Fenugreek seeds, also known as methi, are also included in Middle Eastern and African cuisines. Along with the vitamins and minerals previously mentioned, the seeds also have calcium, vitamin B, and manganese, all vital components for healthy, glowing skin. Fenugreek seeds are also sometimes employed as a mask to brighten both skin and hair. Ground more coarsely, and these seeds become an effective exfoliator to tone the skin and minimize facial oils.
Be cautious when adding fenugreek to your diet, however. Those who are allergic to peanuts, chickpeas, soybeans, or green peas may react to fenugreek as well. This herb may also cause bleeding if it interacts with the medication warfarin.
Turmeric is a key ingredient in dishes throughout Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. Adding this spice to your food or beverage adds a warm, earthy flavor to your dishes as well as a plethora of skin-nurturing health benefits, including plenty of vitamin C, potassium, and zinc.
Curcumin, a bright yellow compound found abundantly in turmeric, has proven anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant effects. But turmeric isn’t just a skin-healthy addition to your diet! Ground turmeric is also found to reduce inflammation, fight acne, and give the skin a youthful, healthy glow.
There is one detail to keep in mind when using turmeric. This brightly colored root is also a fabric dye in many countries. This compound leaves yellow or orange stains on anything that it comes in contact with. It also leaves a temporary yellowish cast to the skin. Although the yellowing from turmeric typically washes off with soap and water, it may take time. Give yourself a generous grace period if you have somewhere to be after you treat yourself to a turmeric mask.
Rosemary is a popular cooking herb, as it adds distinctive, sharp flavor to soups, stews, and roasts. This herb also stays crisp in the refrigerator longer than other herbs. Adding rosemary to your recipes also adds a generous dash of vitamin A and vitamin C to your diet as well as essential minerals like calcium, potassium, copper, and magnesium.
As tasty as rosemary is, the essential oils are the real skin health powerhouses in this pungent plant. Adding this herb to exfoliation scrubs, cleansers, and moisturizers is a fantastic way to refresh your skin health routine. Rosemary oil is both anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, but non-drying. This makes it a great option for reducing acne without leaving the skin dry and flaky.
While this herb is safe for most individuals, the compounds in rosemary may interact with certain medications. If you are taking ACE inhibitors, diuretics, or lithium, you should avoid taking this herb. Rosemary can also interfere with anti-coagulant drugs, increase the risk of bleeding and bruising for people who have bleeding disorders, and may make seizure disorders worse.
Lavender is an aromatic herb that makes frequent appearances in soaps, lotions, and perfumes. This herb also has a calming, soporific effect in aromatherapy.
Like rosemary, lavender has both antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, making it effective in reducing fine lines, wrinkles, and acne flareups. The cooling compounds found in this herb are also a great way to soothe puffy, sunburnt skin. Lavender may even have an active role in treating skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis.
While the majority of people in the United States don’t think of lavender when cooking, it is an edible herb. Add lavender to breads, drinks, and desserts for a burst of delightful floral flavor that adds vitamin A, calcium, and iron to your diet, all of which help to ensure that your skin remains vibrant and healthy.
While lavender has no major interactions with any drugs, but it may cause additional drowsiness when taken with sedatives
While the herbs on this list are generally safe to take, it is always important to discuss changes to your diet with a medical professional who is familiar with your background. The powerful compounds that make these plants so healthy for your skin may aggravate certain conditions or interact with medications you are already taking.
Ready to read more about herbs? Check out the herbs to take (and avoid) if you have autoimmune disorders!