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Skin (general health)

General characteristics

General characteristics

The skin is the largest organ of the body accounting for around 16% of body weight. It is made up of about 70% water, 25% proteins and around 5% fat. It has a variety of roles within the body such as acting as a protective physical barrier against external agents (environmental chemicals, UV exposure and bacteria etc), it holds the body together and maintains its shape, absorbs nutrients and water, helps in the manufacture of vitamins and hormones, helps insulate the body, helps cool the body (via sweating), is a major sensory organ, provides room for the body to grow due to its elasticity, helps regulate fluid balance and blood circulation and is a major excretory organ of substances such as urea (via sweat glands), uric acid, salts, water and ammonia. The skin is also capable of absorbing many substances so be mindful that whatever you put on your skin will probably end up in your blood withinin a short space of time.

The skin consists of 3 main layers - the outer epidermis, the dermis and the deeper subcutaneous fat layer. The outer epidermis contains the cells that are continuously growing and being shed and include the pigment making cells, the dermis contains the structures such as sweat glands, the roots of hair follicles, the sebaceous glands (producing the oily lubricant called sebum)and the cells involved in skin and wound repair. The subcutaneous layer contains fat and connective tissues. The outer layer of the skin is also home to around 3 million organisms to each cm2 of skin!

Your general state of health is often reflected in your skin. Problems such as rashes, itching, spots and other such blemishes and even wrinkles, oily or dry skin can indicate problems with other organs and body systems such as impaired liver and gallbladder function, bowel congestion, immune system problems and poor diet. They can also be caused by direct contact with an irritant such as a chemical, fungal or parasitic infection or wind/sun burn. The colour of the skin can also indicate changes within the body, reddened skin usually implies heat or increased blood flow through the skin, pale skin can indicate cold, pain or lack of blood flow, yellow skin can indicate gallbladder or liver problems and blueish tinges can be a sign of serious blood flow problems and lack of oxygen.

Whilst many reach for external creams and lotions to apply when skin problems arise, often the problem is solved quicker and more thoroughly and effectively by taking nutrients and healing remedies into the body via the mouth.

Objectives in achieving and maintaining healthy skin include ensuring the diet is rich in useful nutrients, having good skin/body hygiene, water and fluid intake is adequate, sleep and rest are maintained, protection from extremes of weather and temperature and that the skin is not regularly wrapped in man-made or tight fitting clothes or smothered in creams loaded with chemicals and clog the skin.


Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Foods rich in antioxidants provide excellent nutrients to the skin and lessen the damage from free radicals which can cause premature wrinkles and generally poor skin health. Foods that are rich in vitamins A, C and E as well as nutrients like zinc, silica and essential fatty acids (including omega oils) include fresh fruits (particularly berry type fruits) and vegetables, dark leaves, nuts (walnuts and almonds), avocados, seeds, whole grains (wheat germ), sprouted seeds, legumes, and oily fish and shellfish.

Drink plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated.

Have a bowl of muesli containing oats and dried mixed fruits, seeds and nuts for breakfast.

Avoid processed foods, refined carbohydrates, excessive amounts of meat and dairy, sugary foods, excessive alcohol, smoking, caffeinated drinks and fizzy drinks as these will all lower health generally when eaten regularly and impact on the health of the skin.

Include plenty of raw garlic and turmeric powder in your diet.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

See also acne, dermatitis, eczema, itching etc for more specific ideas and recipes.

Herbs that encourage and promote sweating (diaphoretics) when taken hot as a tea such as boneset, yarrow, elderflower, limeflowers, ginger, prickly ash and cayenne can help to cleanse the skin of toxins and wastes via the sweat.

Mix equal quantities of rose petals and marigold petals, make into a tea and apply to the skin to promote skin health.

Dandelion root tea can be taken regularly to improve skin function and health and keep elimination channels open.

Try a cup of alfalfa tea every few days for its high mineral, vitamin and antioxidant content. It feeds and strengthens connective tissue and has been used through history as an aid to youthful skin.

Applying aloe vera gel from time to time can help to keep the skin moisturised and provide valuable nutrients.

Chickweed tea and cleavers tea (or when used as a compress/poultice) is very softening, dispersing and complexion improving.

Coconut oil, vitamin E oil, wheatgerm oil, almond oil, shea butter, cocoa butter and similar are all good general moisturisers and conditioners for the skin, each having its own unique type of nutrition to add to the skin.

Comfrey leaf tea can make a nice face or general skin wash to add moisture and improve the overall appearance and health of the skin.

Occasional use of cascara bark can help with bouts of constipation and benefit the skin as can elecampagne root tea.

Neem leaf has some decent actions that help keep the skin healthy.


Natural healing

Natural healing

Skin likes to breathe so be mindful to allow air around your skin regularly and to avoid wearing tight fitting clothes, especially if they are synthetic.

Skin brushing is an ancient practice to promote healthy skin. It removes the layers of dead skin and encourages good circulation to and from the skin. Use a soft, natural bristled brush or a rough cloth after showering or bathing, once or twice a week.

Washing the face with essential oils like lavender, geranium and rose will help soften and moisturise the skin and give the face a healthy glow. Add them to the bath also with a dollop of coconut oil or similar.

Tried and tested recipes to apply to the face to make the complexion brighter and healthier include:

*egg yolk mask - beat one raw egg yolk with a teaspoon of honey and a teaspoon of glycerine or good quality vegetable oil. Apply to the face, leave on for 2 hours before rinsing off with warm water and a final splash of cold. This is repeated 2-3 times weekly.

*sour cream, natural yoghurt or buttermilk mask -  apply to the face leaving it on for several minutes before rinsing off with warm water followed by a final splash of cold water. You can also add fresh grated raw beetroot to the mix.

Try drinking a glass of water to which the juice of half a lemon and a tablespoon of olive oil has been added. Drink in the morning on an empty stomach and continue for several weeks. This simple but effective remedy acts as a mild liver flush and will help to expel toxins (a few spots initially may arise as a result) and encourage a healthy glow.

Always remove foundation creams or powders and other make-up from the face before going to bed (or even better as you arrive home) to allow the skin to breathe.

Wash the face with distilled witch hazel to help eliminate enlarged pores and blackheads.

Sunscreen (for me) is a no-no. I would rather use physical protection against long exposure to the sun such as a wide brimmed hat, long sleeved clothes or stay in the shade.

Apple cider vinegar can also help to improve the skin, take a teaspoon in water before meals up to 3 times daily (start with once daily) or wipe a mix of cider vinegar and water over the skin before washing off.


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