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Top 5 Spring Herbs for Glowing Skin from the Inside Out

And the myth of "cleanses" and "detoxing"


Ah, Spring. The time of year when nature starts coming out of her Winter slumber and so do we. With the promise of warmer, longer, sunnier days ahead, nature conveniently (though not likely coincidentally) provides us with exactly the nourishment our bodies need to transition out of a sleepy, low energy Winter and into a more active and energized Summer.


As we navigate this transition, both our insides and our outsides might need a little support. Our diets likely weren't full of fresh produce through the winter, leaving us feeling perhaps a little drained or sluggish and not quite raring to go. Our skin may be feeling dry, chapped, and nowhere near ready to face the rigors of outdoor activities...


Spring's herbs have our backs though! Not only do the plants I'm going to share with you have beautiful topical skin healing benefits, but they're also all considered alteratives.


What the heck are alteratives?


Alteratives (all-TEAR-uh-tivz is how I pronounce it, but I'm sure others say it differently) are plants that support the body's own elimination organs to optimally perform their jobs of ridding the body of waste. This allows the gradual restoration of overall bodily function, vitality, and metabolism.


That doesn't sound nearly as sexy as the way these herbs are more commonly marketed, which is as "detoxifying", "cleansing", "blood purifying", or "cure-all" herbs. Yikes.


No, you don't need a "detox" or "cleanse" and your body isn't full of poisons. Your elimination organs (which are your liver, kidneys, skin, bowel, and lungs) work constantly to make sure of this.

The need to filter waste products is an expected part of being a human. That's why these organs have evolved to do this so well.

Yes, our modern environments present some new substances that need to be eliminated in the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat. But even our ancestors, who we might imagine having exclusively eaten hunted and gathered wild foods, drank the purest stream water, and breathed the freshest air... still pooped and peed.


Their bodies still eliminated "toxins". They metabolized what went into them, turned it into energy, and produced waste products from this metabolism. Metabolic waste is a normal part of human design. There is no level of "purity" in your diet, environment, or lifestyle that can avoid it.


All that said, the subtle but important difference is that alterative plants are not "miracle detoxifiers" themselves, as they are often marketed to be. More accurately, they nourish and support our bodies to do what they already do more efficiently.


Alterative plants provide specialized nourishment to our elimination organs so that they aren't fighting an uphill battle due to added environmental pressures.


If our systems responsible for elimination become sluggish, we can experience:

  • low energy,

  • chronic inflammatory conditions,

  • skin issues,

  • autoimmune conditions,

  • degenerative diseases,

  • and poor digestion


That's why incorporating these herbs into our routine, not only topically, but also internally, can help support healthy skin from the inside out.


I get asked about herbs for acne, eczema, and psoriasis all the time. Most people are expecting a treatment they can apply topically because that's where the issue appears, but more often these issues need to be addressed internally. They can be caused by a number of different things, from allergies and autoimmune responses to hormone imbalances and sluggish elimination organs,


When our elimination organs like our liver, kidneys, bowels, and lungs can't quite keep up with removing the inflammation caused by these conditions, the only remaining option is for it to appear on the skin: our fifth elimination organ.


We might not be able to see when our overworked kidneys are causing low energy, Or when our sluggish liver is failing to keep our hormones in balance. Or when our bowels are backed up... But we can certainly see when our skin is having to pick up the slack for these other organs.


This is why topical treatments often only work temporarily before the issue returns. The call is coming from inside the building and some or all of our elimination organs might need some extra TLC.


That said, lets get into the Top 5 Spring Herbs for Skincare


1. Plantain Leaf (Plantago spp.)

Plantain is rich in allantoin, a compound that has shown to promote cell proliferation and tissue growth.


This helps damaged tissue heal faster and promotes collagen production.


This makes plantain one of the first plants many herbalists reach for when it comes to first aid, hemorrhoids, acne, abscesses, toothaches, eczema and other skin irritations.


Internally the plant is highly anti-inflammatory and can support healthy bowel function.


This makes plantain a wonderfully gentle spring tonic that may also be indicated for UTI, cystitis, bronchitis, dry cough, or diarrhea.


Plantain leaf can be:

  • Crushed and applied topically as a poultice,

  • Steeped in hot or room temperature water as an infusion then either rinsed over the affected area or drank as a tea (1-2 tbsp of fresh chopped herb per cup),

  • Dried and infused into oil to be applied topically, or

  • Eaten fresh in salads, smoothies, or recipes in place of spinach.

Plantain is generally considered quite safe and there are no known contraindications or medication interactions.


2. Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Cleavers contains tannins which are astringent and constrict tissues so that skin can protect itself and heal.


This makes cleavers wonderful for weepy skin conditions such as psoriasis.


Cleavers is also rich in coumarins which thin the blood when taken internally, allowing it to more easily be transported through the cardiovascular system. This, in turn, encourages the lymphatic system keep lymph flowing smoothly.


This also supports the kidneys to remove waste in the bloodstream that could otherwise cause skin issues if not removed.


Because of this, cleavers is often indicated internally in cases of urinary & kidney issues (UTI, cystitis, kidney stones), prostatitis, lymphedema, fibrocystic breasts, or high blood pressure that's due to fluid retention.


Cleavers is best worked with in its fresh form, and can be:

  • Crushed and applied topically as a poultice,

  • Steeped in hot or room temperature water as an infusion then either rinsed over the affected area or drank as a tea (1-2 tbsp of fresh chopped herb per cup)

  • Dried and infused into oil to be applied topically

  • Juiced and frozen in ice cube trays for future use.

Cleavers is generally considered quite safe and there are no known medication interactions. That said, large amounts of plants that contain coumarin, such as cleavers, can thin the blood, so caution should be taken for those on blood thinners or before any surgical procedures.


Also, due to cleavers being such a powerful diuretic, it is suggested that it should not be taken by those who have diabetes since this fluid loss might adversely affect glucose metabolism.


If working with cleavers for painful or inflamed conditions, always combine them with a demulcent herb.


3. Violet (Viola spp.)

Violet flowers and leaves are rich in mucilage, which forms a cooling, slippery protective barrier over skin so that it can better heal itself.


Topically the plant is often worked with for eczema, inflamed gums, oral ulcers, and cradle cap.


Internally, mucilage can do the same thing in the bowels and respiratory tract, supporting healthy elimination through both of these systems.


Because of this, violet may be indicated for dry cough, bronchitis, lymphedema, or as part of a UTI protocol.


Violet leaves & flowers can be:

  • Crushed and applied topically as a poultice

  • Steeped in hot or room temperature water as an infusion, then either rinsed over the affected area or drank as a tea (1-2 tbsp of fresh chopped herb per cup)

  • Made into a syrup by mixing the hot tea with an equal part of sugar

  • Dried and infused into oil to be applied topically

Violet is generally considered quite safe and there are no known medication interactions. It is particularly beneficial for children since it is such a gentle yet effective tonic.


4. Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

Dandelion flowers are rich in antioxidants that can protect tissues from free-radical damage and inflammation.


Internally, the leaf acts as a diuretic, flushing waste through the kidneys, and the root can support liver function which can have a whole world of benefits downstream in nearly every system of the body.


This can also have significant effects on how our bodies process medications so make sure to talk to your doctor before taking dandelion if you are on any.


The entire plant is both edible and medicinal, and can be worked with in many different ways, depending on which part you're working with and if there is a specific purpose:

  • The flowers or leaf can be steeped in hot or room temperature water as an infusion then either rinsed over the affected area or drank as a tea (1-2 tbsp of fresh chopped herb per cup)

  • The root should be simmered in water for about 20 minutes (1oz by weight of dry herb per quart of water)

  • The fresh or dried leaf or root can be tinctured in alcohol

  • The entire plant can be infused into apple cider vinegar for a mineral and antioxidant-rich beverage or salad dressing ingredient.


5. Chickweed Stellaria media

-Chickweed is rich in Vitamin C and mucilage, soothing and protecting skin with its cooling anti-inflammatory properties.


This makes chickweed wonderfully calming topically to hot angry conditions like czema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and conjunctivitis,


Internally, chickweed's saponins support elimination of waste through the bowels.


This can make chickweed a powerful remedy for constipation, an overly acidic diet, a feeling of overall internal congestion (such as thick mucous, stiff inflamed joints, ruddy complexion, etc), or inflammation and pain in the joints, muscles, or fibrous tissue as seen in conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.


Chickweed is best worked with fresh and can be:

  • Eaten fresh in salads, smoothies, or recipes in place of spinach.

  • Crushed and applied topically as a poultice,

  • Steeped in hot or room temperature water as an infusion then either rinsed over the affected area or drank as a tea (1-2 tbsp of fresh chopped herb per cup)

  • Dried and infused into oil to be applied topically

  • Juiced and frozen in ice cube trays for future use.

Chickweed is generally considered quite safe and there are no known medication interactions. Eating too much chickweed can cause diarrhea, however, and plants high in saponins should be avoided by those who are pregnant.

 

There are several other plants I love that are also considered alteratives. The plants above are just a few that you might be able to find right in your backyard this Spring.


Other alterative plants not to be forgotten include:


*Garlic Allium sativum

*Black Cohosh Cimicifuga racemosa (endangered)

*Purple Cone Flower Echinacea spp. (endangered)

*Plantain Plantago spp.

Violet Viola spp.

*Chickweed Stellaria media

*Burdock Arctium lappa

*Cleavers Galium aparine

*Red Clover Trifolium pratense

*Nettle Urtica dioica

*Oregon grape Mahonia aquifolium

*Dandelion Taraxacum officinale

Goldenseal Hydrastis canadensis (endangered)

Yellow Dock Rumex crispus

Very strong-use with caution:

Poke Phytolacca americana

Bloodroot Sanguinaria canadensis (endangered)


*Herbs that are profiled in-depth in my Roocraft courses


For a deeper dive on how and why to work with Alterative herbs such as these yourself, check out my Herbal Actions classes either in my Rootcraft 10-month Online Herbal Intensive, or in my Module 4: Herbal Actions course! Click here to learn more


Or, if you're looking to have someone else process these herbs into skin-loving goodness for you, they can all be found in my Spring Apothecary Collection! Check it out here



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