The big five for the skin

Our skin is the organ that is most exposed to external influences. This can easily damage her and make her sick. In addition to skin diseases caused by pathogens such as viruses, bacteria and fungi, there are also allergic or hormonal skin problems such as itching, acne, psoriasis and eczema. Finally, there is mechanical damage to the skin, such as abrasions and cuts, bruises and burns. Plants play an important role in the treatment of skin complaints, especially in self-care. Inhibition of inflammation and promotion of the healing process are in the foreground. However, the application of herbal medicines to the skin is largely based on experience; Unfortunately, this is rarely well documented clinically. However, in a number of cases results from pharmacological research are available that support the traditional use of such preparations. Finally, it should be noted that the ointment, cream or gel base, or alcohol as a solvent, partly determines the final effect.

The big five for the skin: Arnica, Marigold, St. John’s Wort, Comfrey and Chamomile

Arnica flowers [Arnica montana L. (arnica), Arnica chamissonis Less ssp. foliosa (Nutt.) Maguire; Asteraceae]

Used externally for bruises, bruises and swelling. An Arnica-based massage oil is also effective for muscle pain after exercise or for prevention. The most important ingredients are sesquiterpene lactones, volatile oil, flavonoids and coumarins. The sesquiterpene lactones (including helenaline, arnifoline, cha-missonolide) have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. In addition, arnica has an antibacterial and analgesic effect. Arnica should not be applied to broken skin. This can cause dermatitis with edema, followed by eczema, blistering and even necrosis. The sesquiterpene lactones in arnica can lead to allergic reactions in sensitive individuals.

Marigold (Calendula officinalis L. (Asteraceae)

Used for its wound healing properties. Calendula also inhibits inflammation of the skin and mucous membranes. Triterpene alcohols and esters are mainly responsible for the antiphlogistic effect. The wound healing properties are attributed to carotenoids, while triterpene saponins, volatile oil with mono- and sesquiterpenes, and flavonoids have antibacterial and antifungal effects.

Chamomile blossom [Matricaria recutita L. (true chamomile); Asteraceae]

Used for skin inflammation. They have an antiphlogistic, antispasmodic, antibacterial effect and promote wound healing. Chamomile contains volatile oil with the sesquiterpene lactone matricine, which produces the characteristic blue-colored chamazulene during distillation of the oil. Alpha-bisabolol, bisaboloxide A and B, spiroethers, chamazulene, flavonoids (particularly apigenin) and coumarins are mainly responsible for the effect of chamomile. Extracts and various compounds isolated from them have an inhibitory effect on the enzymes 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, which explains the anti-inflammatory effect.

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale L.)

Because of its mucilage, it is very soothing for rough skin, cracks and the like. The substance allantoin is cell regenerating and can be used for poorly healing wounds. But comfrey is especially effective for bone fractures and joint problems. Compresses from bruised leaves or even better from the crushed root.

St. John’s wort oil

Obtained by maceration of fresh flowers of Hypericum perforatum in oil, usually olive oil. St. John’s wort oil promotes wound healing and is used for sunburn, minor burns, to prevent bedsores and against itching. The oil owes its characteristic red color to decomposition products of hypericin.

Tannin plants

For example prepared from hamamelis leaf or bark [Hamamelis virginia-na L. (witch hazel); Harnamelidaceae] are used for small wounds, mild inflammatory reactions of the skin and hemorrhoids. Tanning agents have an astringent effect. Tannins form a precipitate containing proteins, which covers the affected area and protects it from bacteria. They inhibit the permeability of capillaries and the secretion of healthy surrounding tissue. Furthermore, tannins have a hemostatic, local, mild anesthetic and antipruritic effect.

The new generation of skin herbs

The development of phytotherapeutics (and cosmetics) based on aloe gel, cardiospermum, mahogany and tea tree oil is quite recent. Aloe gel (from Aloe species; Liliaceae) is attributed with wound healing, antibacterial and moisturizing properties. Aloe gel has a soothing, anti-itching effect and protects the skin (against weather, wind, cold, sun).
Extracts of Cardiospermum halicacabum (Sap indaceae) are used for itchy, eczematous skin conditions and for their antiphlogistic and antipruritic properties.
Extracts from the bark and root of Mahonia aquifolia (Berberidaceae) are used for psoriasis and acne. Its action is anti-proliferative, inhibits the accelerated growth of skin cells, antiphlogistic and antibacterial. Tea tree oil (from Melaleuca alternifolia Cheel; Myrtaceae) has a bacterial, fungal and virucidal effect and shows beneficial results in the treatment of acne (similar to benzoyl peroxide).
Other interesting plants in the field of dermatology are the purple coneflower [Echinacea purpurea (L.) Moench; Asteraceae] and balm (Melissa officinalis L.; Lamiaceae). Echinacea preparations are used for poorly healing, superficial wounds and to treat inflammatory skin conditions. Extracts of balm leaf have a virus-static effect and are used to treat herpes infections (herpes labialis).
Info photo: Red dye hypericin from Hypericum perforatum L.

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