(NaturalHealth365) Acne, which currently affects between 40 and 50 million Americans, is the most common skin disorder in the United States. In addition to causing considerable psychological and emotional distress, acne exacts a substantial financial toll.
The American Academy of Dermatologists estimates that, as of 2004, a staggering 2.2 billion dollars has been spent across the nation on prescription and over-the-counter medications to treat this unsightly and uncomfortable condition.
With the billions being spent on acne treatment, it is ironic that the key to safe, inexpensive and drug-free relief from acne could reside in the cheerful yellow blossoms of a common ornamental garden plant. Calendula officinalis, commonly known as marigold, has been used by natural healers since the days of ancient Greece to soothe skin rashes, prevent infection and promote wound healing. Now, modern medical research is confirming the amazing powers of calendula.
Why should I consider calendula for acne?
Calendula flowerheads contain high levels of antioxidant flavonoids, including isorhamnetin, quercetin, kaempferol and rutoside. These help speed the healing of acne lesions by supporting healthy circulation, promoting the growth of new blood vessels and increasing collagen metabolism at the site of the lesions.
As evidenced by their brilliant orange-yellow color, calendula blossoms are rich in beta-carotene, the same beneficial plant pigment found in carrots and pumpkins. This antioxidant substance not only has anti-inflammatory properties, but is converted by the body to form vitamin A, essential for healthy skin.
Yet another group of calendula constituents, triterpenes, have been shown in animal studies to limit leukocyte infiltration, giving them documented anti-inflammatory effects. Calendula also contains various polysaccharides, which are mucilaginous, meaning that they have demulcent or skin-soothing properties. These polysaccharides also contribute to calendula’s healing effects.
Looks like calendula was designed specifically for acne by nature
Skin experts attribute the overproduction of skin oils, clogged and inflamed hair follicles and infection by the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria as the three main causes of acne. Calendula’s astringent, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties allow it to go to work on all three of these acne-causing factors.
Calendula proves to be a natural cure for acne
In addition to antioxidant flavonoids and skin-soothing polysaccharides, calendula contains phenolic acids, including caffeic, coumaric and salicylic acid. Salicylic acid, an established medical treatment for acne, has been shown in comparative studies to be more effective than benzoyl peroxide in reducing the number of acne lesions. The fact that it occurs naturally in calendula gives credence to the plant’s efficacy, and to its use as an herbal weapon against acne.
Still more acne-fighting powers arise from calendula’s tannins, which have astringent properties that can help tone and cleanse excessively oily skin. In addition, calendula has antimicrobial action against the P.acnes bacteria.
What does research say about the value of calendula?
Although clinical studies on calendula and acne are scarce, animal and cell studies support the herb’s healing powers. In an animal study published in 1994 in Planta Medica, researchers found that the triterpenoids in calendula extract caused an anti-inflammatory action equal to the pharmaceutical medication indomethacin.
In an evidence-based review published in the prestigious American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, the authors credit calendula with containing anti-inflammatory and antibacterial compounds, and recommend it for cleansing and soothing acne-affected skin.
The University of Maryland Medical Center confirms calendula’s anti-inflammatory properties, and reports that it has been shown in some clinical studies to prevent skin inflammation and irritation in breast cancer patients following radiation therapy.
How do I use calendula to alleviate acne?
Skin cleansers, toners, lotions, creams and ointments with calendula extract can be found in health food stores and pharmacies; simply apply as directed.
You can also obtain calendula’s systemic and detoxifying benefits by drinking it as a tea. NYU Langone Medical center advises pouring boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried calendula flowers and allowing the mixture to steep for 10 to 15 minutes. The online dermatology reference Skin Care Guide notes that you can apply the cooled tea directly to acne-affected areas as a tonic and cleanser.
Calendula is regarded as generally safe, with no serious adverse effects reported from either topical or internal use. Still, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist before using calendula to treat acne.
As with any plant or food, allergic reactions are possible; an allergy to members of the aster family — such as chamomile, chrysanthemums or ragweed — can make a reaction more likely.
In high doses, calendula is a mild sedative and may reduce blood pressure, so don’t combine it with central nervous system depressants or blood pressure medications. Calendula – drug-free, safe, effective and eco-friendly – seems poised to take its place as the gold standard for natural, herbal treatment of acne in the 21st century.
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