by Prashanti de Jager
Just as the eyes are the “mirror” of the soul, so our skin is often a telling mirror of the state of our inner wellness, physically, physiologically, as well as mentally.
When it comes to skin care our herbal ally Turmeric is without doubt amongst the ruling paragons, with many of her names referring to Venusian-like beauty, like Sundari which literally means “a beautiful woman.” Turmeric's ability is based on the confluence of a broad spectrum of internal factors, from ensuring optimal liver function to supporting healthy collagen structures and formation. Millions of women credit their great complexions to this golden rhizome, a reflection of its ability to support deep systemic wellness at a plethora of levels.
In general you can optimize your herbal medicine practices by using herbs in formulas, which synergistically yokes their power. For instance using Turmeric, Neem and Amalaki together in Dr Narendra Singh’s wonderful tried-and-true Skin Renew Formula. Another good idea is occasionally alternating which herbs are dominant in a given period of time. Rotating which herbs you use also helps you find which ones are best for you in a given season. So in this newsletter we will focus on other herbs that wonderfully compliment Turmeric in supporting skin wellness, like Neem, Brahmi-Gotu Kola and Aloe.
Indians literally adore Neem for its ability to promote beautiful wellness. One of the names of Neem is RaviPriya, or “the Beloved of the Sun.” Another is BhishakPriya, “the Beloved of Healers.” Neem is sacred to India and extremely precious because all the parts of the tree including the bark, root bark, fruit, twigs, flowers, seeds, leaves and sap are used to effectively maintain general well-being, with a special affinity for purifying liver, blood and skin.
A very powerful blood purifier, Neem is used in everything from clearing toxins in the blood (fundamental in most skin conditions) to supporting the sanitizing of wounds, to cleaning pores.
Neem has a long history in skin care and beauty treatments and is effective for all types of skin, but because it has a cold potency, it is especially efficacious for hot skin that tends toward redness and rashes as it reduces heat and occasional inflammation. One reason why Neem, as well as Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Katuki, are so good for the skin is that they support organic sulfur metabolism, which is essential to creating the proper protein bonds in the tissue, including the skin, a key facet to supporting balanced tone. Also, because many of the most potent endogenous (innate) antioxidants, like Glutathione, are sulfur based, herbs like Neem, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Katuki are all the more valuable as they support our body’s innate intelligence of sustaining wellness.
Neem is especially good for skin care around the eyes because it simply is so good for the eyes in at least six major ways, including supporting kidney health whose diminishment is oft first obvious in puffiness below our eyes.
Like Brahmi-Gotu Kola, Turmeric, Tulsi (Holy Basil) and Triphala, Neem is excellent for skin care when applied externally and taken internally. Internally it is remarkable as it is one of the main herbs used to cool and purify the hot toxic blood that is anathema to healthy complexions.
Longevity, the maintenance of youthful vigor into the wisdom of maturity, is supported by Brahmi-Gotu Kola. Brahmi-Gotu Kola is also used by yogis to yoke themselves to increasingly deeper levels of a beauty, to a creative harmony so deeply seated in consciousness. In fact, that is what the word “Brahmi” refers to!
On many accounts, Brahmi-Gotu Kola is good for the complexion. It supports our innate ability to restore and strengthen the integrity of the skin by helping in normalizing keratinization (protein bonding), exfoliation, and maintaining healthy tone. Brahmi-Gotu Kola, especially when consumed with Turmeric and healthy oils like ghee, hemp, flax, and hyaluronic acid, can help us maintain that soft strong suppleness of normal healthy vibrant skin. And true to its adaptogenic nature, Brahmi-Gotu Kola also heals damaged and stressed skin by assisting healthy wound healing and the resolution of occasional inflammation.
One reason why Brahmi-Gotu Kola is so prevalent in skin care is that it is balancing for all types of people and skin. Most herbs are optimally used only for certain people in certain situations, but Brahmi-Gotu Kola, like the Triphala, can be used effectively in most situations.
Brahmi-Gotu Kola is traditionally used in many different forms for taking care of the skin. Creams are made from Brahmi juice and lanolin. Fine powder of Brahmi is dusted over wounds and skin eruptions. Fresh Brahmi juice and fresh macerated leaves are applied topically to reduce occasional swelling and deeply supportive masks and ubtans.
Beauty can mean many things to different people, but if beauty means revitalized spirit, mental clarity, spiritual wisdom, serene strength and supporting clear unblemished skin, then Brahmi-Gotu Kola is an herb for you. Brahmi-Gotu Kola is so excellent at supporting cognitive function that the ORGANIC INDIA product that features it is called “Memory.”
Marco Polo told tales of it. Aristotle raved about it. Alexander the Great conquered a country for it. Egyptians created mummies with it. For centuries explorers carried it around the world as a portable living pharmacy. And now this succulent from the Lily family is perched innocently on the sill of your kitchen window.
Throughout time and cultures it has been highly regarded as a cooling tonic so it is great for supporting skin health faced with hot stressors.
Aloe is a great healer because it is a cornucopia of healing substances. Aloe vera juice comes from the outer structure of the leaves, and aloe vera gel is the inner part of the succulent leaf. For most topical applications we are interested in the gel, which is 96% water that moisturizes and 4% biogenic stimulators that heal and rejuvenate, likely due to its ability to stimulate basal skin cells, or keratinocytes. Like Amalaki, also a great herb for the skin, there is Vitamin C in Aloe which is excellent for the skin. Aloe has many enzymes, amino acids, glycosides, saponins and minerals.
Aloe Vera is a great herb to take internally or apply externally to support other skin affinity herbs, especially in the summertime.
Herbs are like individuals, each with their own energetics and tendencies. Here is a little chart to help you decide which skin affinity herbs to use when.
|Seasonal and/or personal characteristics||Optimal Herbs|
|Late Winter into Spring||Moist, damp, congestive, thick||Skin Renew Formula, Triphala, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Turmeric, Brahmi-Gotu Kola, Complete Flexibility Formula|
|Summer||Warm, hot, intense, fiery, spreading||Skin Renew Formula, Triphala, Neem, Katuki, Amalaki, Brahmi-Gotu Kola, Aloe, Memory|
|Fall into early Winter||Dry, contracting, cold, light, thin||Skin Renew Formula, Triphala, Turmeric, Tulsi (Holy Basil), Shatavri, Aloe|
All the herbs mentioned can be used successfully at any time of the year, but this will help you optimize your herb practice! Notice that some herbs and formulas are good for all seasons. Also note that the seasons directly relate to different skin types. For example, if you have a ruddy complexion, then in general you may likely be better suited to “summer” skin herbs.
I once asked a dear friend, who is one of America’s all-time favorite super models, what her secret to maintaining her gorgeous complexion was. Being the natural Yogini she is, instantly she replied, “right sleep, early to bed and early to rise, and right water, ample pure potent water throughout the day.”
Skin health certainly supports healthy self-esteem, which is an important facet of a healthy person, and skin also can reflect just how deeply our wellness runs and how gracefully we are aging. So the true secret to beautiful skin is to live a balanced life in alignment with nature, with right sleep, with right food that supports sustainable organic biodynamic agriculture, and right drink, like Tulsi tea and pure potent water.