What do stress, acne, and your immune system have in common? Actually, when you delve into it, quite a lot.
In fact, stress is hugely underrated in its ability to tip the balance when it comes to good health and clear skin. And while you can’t be rid of all the factors that cause stress, you can certainly help your body to cope with it. A better functioning immune system along with a good dose of stress support can work magic for your skin.
Acne and your immune system
There are a few ways your immune system and acne are linked. Your hormones, sleep patterns, and immune function are all affected by the body’s natural response to stress.
Your immune system and nutrient levels are depleted by chronic stress, along with hormonal changes or lack of sleep. Any combination of these and you’ve got a perfect storm of fatigue, moodiness, an increased susceptibility to colds and flu, and of course, breakouts on the skin.
The immune system is further implicated in acne by its response to build up skin oil, leading to increased bacteria which becomes trapped beneath the skin surface. Any kind of acne flareup is inflammatory, as the immune system’s natural response to hyperactivity of bacteria is to fire up and get rid of it.
How to support the immune system
So many of us don’t give a second thought to our immune system until it sends out the signal that something is wrong. As with so many health conditions, prevention is more effective than cure, and so supporting the immune system is more likely to reduce those SOS flares – and also lessen the severity of acne in the process.
Along with adequate sleep and a whole-food diet, there are several herbs which can make a big difference to your immune system and help to reduce acne.
This gentle herb is great for recovering from and preventing illness, as it stimulates the immune system. It also helps to increase macrophage activity – those white blood cells that eat up bacteria and other infective agents.
It’s been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, often added to herbal soups, and is known for restoring vital energy to the body.
Possibly the best known of all immune herbs, echinacea’s reputation as a treatment for infections is extensive.
Echinacea seems to work by both stimulating and modulating the immune system, meaning it can push those white blood cells to fight harder, or calm them down if they’re overreacting to acne bacteria. It’s also an anti-inflammatory herb, which is quite useful for an inflammatory condition such as acne.
More than a key ingredient for Sambuca, Elderberry is great for reducing catarrh, fever, and fighting against viruses and inflammation. It’s been hailed as a healing food since ancient times, used by the Ancient Egyptians for clear skin, Native Americans for infections and skin conditions, and the Ancient Romans for its cooling properties.
Elderberry is also a powerful antioxidant, rich in vitamin C and infection-fighting compounds, making it very useful for fighting the infective side of acne.
This warming herb is traditionally used for improving digestion, circulation, relieving congestion and reducing inflammation. It’s also thought to be antimicrobial and can even help to reduce anxiety.
Used in combination with other immune-supporting herbs, ginger is a useful addition to your acne-fighting toolkit.
This native Australian remedy comes with a crisp, fresh fragrance, which has quite an uplifting effect on one’s mood!
Lemon Myrtle is rich in zinc, vitamin A and vitamin E, all of which are essential for healthy skin. It’s also a potent anti-inflammatory and anti-viral herb, making it perfect for reducing acne.
Mem Davis is a naturopath, writer, and food lover. She loves feeling healthy and strong, and is a proud vegan nutrition advocate. In her spare time she goes hiking, attends live music events and hangs out with her cuddly cat.
Braun, L., & Cohen, M. (2005). Herbs & natural supplements (1st ed., pp. 437-440). Sydney: Elsevier Mosby.
Barak, V., Halperin, T., & Kalickman, I. (2001). The effect of Sambucol, a black elderberry-based, natural product, on the production of human cytokines: I. Inflammatory cytokines. – PubMed – NCBI. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11399518
Yance, D. (2019). The Monographs: Elderberry – Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism. Retrieved from http://adaptogensbook.com/the-monographs-elderberry/
Grieve, M. (1931). A Modern Herbal | Elder. Retrieved from http://botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/e/elder-04.html