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Ph. Everything from gritty city air to facial waxing. causing allergy-like reactions in the skin. from irritating cosmetic ingredients (lanolin. is an increasingly common condition. Because of the omnipresence of these toxic triggers. comfrey and licorice—persist today as a few of the most effective and safe ingredients for topically addressing skin inflammation that results from a variety of causes. itchy skin have their humble origins in the garden—oats immediately come to mind. cleaning products. environmentally sensitized skin may be very difficult to treat conclusively.D. solvents and fumes from innumerable toxic substances frequently present in the workplace and home). Three other familiar plants with ancient healing histories—chamomile. with a clinical colloidal oatmeal mask being the current interpretation of a soothing skin treatment that is literally centuries old. Environmental sensitization. artificial fragrances) to the many-headed modern monster we call stress can trigger the range of symptoms collectively known as inflammation. artificial colors. Many of the most effective antidotes to red.*LNE_AUG_2004-B_45-76 7/02/2004 10:34 AM Page 59 skin COOLRUNNING chilling out with antiinflammatory herbs complaints heard by professional skin therapists today. which is the skin’s response to a myriad of manmade irritants (cigarette smoke. ➤ I NFLAMMATION is one of the leading client by Diana Howard. August 2004 • Les Nouvelles Esthétiques Page 59 . carpet outgassing.

several of the flavonoids are believed to help strengthen capillaries and other connective tissue. a member of the daisy family. matricin and azulene. The oil contains alpha-bisabolol. as well as in contemporary alternative usage (e. luteolin and quercetin may be responsible for chamomile’s long history of use as an antiinflammatory. which simultaneously calm and hydrate the skin. but it is undeniable that chamomile brings with it a heavy-hitting history. delicate skin is in serum form. has been used by herbal healers for centuries. Modern use of chamomile began in the 1920s when a German firm produced topical chamomile cream for a wide variety of skin disorders including skin inflammation caused by radiation therapy and contact dermatitis such as poison ivy. traditional history. German (Matricaria recutita) and Roman (Anthemis nobile). combined with other antiinflammatory botanicals such as red raspberry.25 percent hydrocortisone cream without the negative side effects of hydrocortisone. chamomile is used to treat gum disease and canker sores. John’s wort St. teas and other internal applications.g. over the centuries. John’s wort is an effective partner with chamomile when used to calm mild to moderate (non-infected) acne lesions. In combination. The soothing. a class of water-soluble plant pigments. finally. One of the most effective methods of using chamomile to soothe sensitive.*LNE_AUG_2004-B_45-76 7/02/2004 10:34 AM Page 60 skin|cool running bisabolol and its derivatives contribute to the anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. eczema. while the Page 60 Comfrey Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). as well as tablets. arthritis and asthma. health food stores). meaning that it can do anything—and indeed. an herbaceous perennial plant. while others have demonstrated antioxidant and anti-inflammatory action on the skin. In many traditional cultures. insomnia. In German. wound-healing properties of chamomile also explain its popularity as a salve for bed-sores among elderly hospital patients.” believing that its presence in a garden kept surrounding plants healthy. some people even swear by chewing the comfrey leaves! Conservative Les Nouvelles Esthétiques • August 2004 . colic. While they are not considered vital nutrients. menopause and razor burn! Documentation of most of these treatments is anecdotal. Used both internally and externally. Two forms of chamomile are widely used today. Today. the range of conditions that are treated with chamomile include PMS. flatulence. calendula and cornflower. and disinfectant. Other active compounds that contribute to chamomile’s effectiveness include the flavonoids. which is the active ingredient in many topical skin products. anti-inflammatory. bisabolol oxides. insect bites. conjunctivitis. each with its own rich. Flavonoids such as apigenin. St. and aloe and chamomile used in tandem are an ancient duo. anti-neuralgic. a digestive. The latter is responsible for its deep-blue color. these extracts. anemia. The flowers of the chamomile plant yield the pale yellow essential oil. with a grandmotherly cup of tea to “calm the nerves” or to ease a gastrointestinal complaint. including acne and razor burn.. One double-blind study found that topical applications of chamomile were 60 percent as effective as a 0. chamomile teas and baths and warm abdominal compresses have been recommended as an analgesic. quickly help to reduce skin irritation. to name just a few of its uses. The Egyptians called chamomile “the plant’s physician. John’s wort is also an effective partner with chamomile when used to calm mild to moderate (noninfected) acne lesions. St. chamomile is often called alles zutraut. Chamomile oil is a deep-blue or bluish-green liquid that turns green and. brown when exposed to light and air. Chamomile Many of us associate chamomile.

Comfrey root as a salve and ointment is particularly well-documented as a cell proliferant and epithelization (skin growth) stimulant. A candy-store favorite. which can be toxic. is also useful in products such as oil-controlling moisturizers for oily and acneprone skin. hard calluses embedded within the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. The benefits of incorporating comfrey or allantoin into a cosmetic formulation are many: it is used to decrease skin sensitivity. the flavor associated with licorice actually is anise. there is some controversy surrounding how far the beneficial effects of comfrey actually reach. Colloquially. cosmetics. Hard-core comfrey devotees still claim that the topical application of comfrey Page 62 Licorice Licorice is a popular botanical ingredient with a long and rich history. In many cases. For this reason. comfrey is used widely in skin care products. Allantoin. There are reports that allantoin helps soften skin by promoting the skin’s ability to bind water molecules in the intercellular matrix. comfrey or allantoin is used in a wide array of skin care products. where simultaneous calming and nourishment of the skin are desired. to masks and moisturizers. algae extract and other calming botanicals such as licorice and burdock. such as deep. which has been demonstrated to promote new cell growth and repair tissue damage when applied topically to the skin. The benefits of incorporating comfrey or allantoin into a cosmetic formulation are many: it is used to decrease skin sensitivity. comfrey has been called “knitbone. used for conditions ranging from slow-healing leg ulcers (ulcus cruris) to treating and preventing common diaper rash. Still others claim that allantoin actually dissolves the intercellular “cement” that holds the cornified cells together. panthenol and witch hazel. In ancient times. comfrey is also reported to dramatically reduce discomfort associated with these skin conditions. the FDA has withdrawn comfrey root from the marketplace because of its high alkaloid content. The genus continues Les Nouvelles Esthétiques • August 2004 . We now know that the fly larvae not only consume the necrotized tissue damaged by the injury itself. As with chamomile. It is often used in combination with antioxidant vitamins. but that they also excrete allantoin. physicians observed that wounds infested with blowfly maggots healed faster than those that were not similarly infested.*LNE_AUG_2004-B_45-76 7/02/2004 10:35 AM Page 62 skin|cool running poultices speeds the healing of broken bones and eases the pain of ankle sprains. During World War I. soaps. as unsavory as it sounds. as well as in “counter-irritants” that soothe skin that becomes inflamed in response to detergents. help soothe skin redness and help restore suppleness to skin. ideally in combination with components such as bisabolol. Today. which helps generate healthy tissue and speed wound closure.” and poultices made from crushed comfrey leaves are included in the earliest recorded herbal healing records as a soothing agent for wounds and burns. from cleansers. A recent and appropriately grisly illustration of this was the maggot-aided healing of Russell Crowe’s wounds in the film Gladiator. Because of this keratolytic (softening) effect. comfrey preparations are specifically effective in breaking down horny accumulations. help soothe skin redness and help restore suppleness to skin. Similar formulas are also effective in preventing and treating chapping and chafing of all kinds. comfrey was used to treat serious battle injuries. which confectioners traditionally combine with licorice. chemical residues and environmental factors. One of the primary active ingredients in comfrey is allantoin. contemporary research cautions against internal use of comfrey.

When combined with other classic calming agents such as allantoin and oatmeal. and to protect skin from further environmental assault. and marketing for Redken. has been shown to ease the solar sting and inhibit the formation of sun damage-triggered dark spots. when combined with Szechwan pepper. Licorice salve is also marketed as treatment for herpes lesions and is an ingredient in many hair-loss products.com/professional. everything is chemical. but since licorice candies contain little if any of the actual licorice essence. Howard has worked in research and development. Extremely popular in centuries of Chinese herbal formulations. It is naïve to think that everything that emanates from a plant source is benevolent. King Edward I of England placed a tax on the import of the popular root in 1305 to finance the repair of London Bridge. But the truth is. licorice becomes a soothing component in non-soap (syn-det) cleansing bars (vs. Licorice and its chemical components have been investigated for many uses as a topical skin care ingredient. lavender and cucumber. Zotos and La Costa Spa Products. do botanicals have a place among the new pentapeptides and other state-of-the-art discoveries being crafted in the lab? Absolutely. we have only begun to understand the potential of herbs and plants to heal. licorice is used there today as an antacid. glycyrrhiza glabra and glycyrrhetinic acid are sought out as ingredients in skin care products. candy lovers are probably in no danger. especially those dealing with hyperpigmentation issues. licorice is effective when suspended in liquid form. is the vice president of technical development for Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute and has a Ph.dermalogica. barks. supporting at least the external portion of centuries of folkways and naturopathic uses. Licorice root has been chewed. raspberry and cucumber. However. intended to reduce hyperpigmentation without irritation. employ licorice along with other Page 64 The future of herbs In terms of their use for skin therapists. possibly more.D. can help reduce the healing time and pain of both oral and genital herpes lesions. giving us more reason than ever to protect Earth’s botanical resources. the new breed of hydroquinonefree skin brighteners. fruits and pollens. rich in antioxidant glabradine fractions. stewed and brewed by humans both as medicine or simply for its earthy.D. in biochemistry from UCLA. For this reason. and so the distinction does not serve us any longer. More recent studies have shown that licorice extract. Call her at 1-(800) 611-SKIN or visit www. For environmentally sensitized skin. Recent studies have shown that licorice extract. including the acids. particularly if ingested. people want to draw a distinction between a botanical or “natural” source and a “chemical” source. Some licorice aficionados even make the claim that licorice stimulates adrenal activity and is helpful in restoring and maintaining mental acuity. Licorice. there is controversy surrounding the consumption of licorice in large amounts as a medicinal herb. ideally in combination with Canadian willow herb. These compounds were shown to inhibit the anti-inflammatory response of skin reddening and itching triggered by the arachidonic acid cascade. leaves. Les Nouvelles Esthétiques • August 2004 . inhibits melanin biosynthesis as well as scavenges free radicals when used as a topical ingredient. Clinical studies have shown that topical application of licorice components. inhibits melanin biosynthesis as well as scavenges free radicals when used as a topical ingredient. Some of the earlier work has demonstrated that glycyrrhetinic acid and glycyrrhizin (primary components in licorice) are even more effective than topical cortisone in treating eczema in children. comfrey and burdock. a few of granny’s cures will fall by the wayside as no more than quaint folk practice. seeds. Asia and Europe. Botanicals and herbs are powerful. and somehow gentler than a manmade source. Glycyrrhizinic acid has been shown to reduce edema or swelling of tissues and have anti-viral activity. botanical brightening agents such as bearberry. rice. and what they represent in terms of enhancing human health. When teamed with concentrated vitamins.. covering the Americas. Without a doubt. extremely sweet flavor for at least a thousand years. The applications for licorice as a topical anti-inflammatory are nearly as numerous as the skin conditions that are treated with it. The essence of a flower petal is chemical. Some are potentially dangerous. traditional bar soaps.*LNE_AUG_2004-B_45-76 7/02/2004 10:35 AM Page 64 skin|cool running Glycyrrhiza contains about 20 species. Today. roots. Likewise. which are highly alkaline and often perfumed with irritating synthetics). So often. rich in antioxidant glabradine fractions. licorice helps desensitize irritation and reduces redness in the form of a “recovery” mask for stressed-out skin. Australia. Our very survival depends on it. Napoleon’s licorice-chewing habit supposedly is what turned his teeth black. The good news is that we are now uncovering the scientific properties of petals. as well as in many other applications. kiwi and mulberry (this is a particularly effective combination when left on the skin overnight). ■ Diana Howard. and misted lightly over the face to reduce irritation and stress. as science replaces cherished home remedies and recipes. Ph.

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