Herbs and herbal remedies have been widely used since before written history. Many cultures have oral and written traditional herbal remedies. Examples include Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and Umami, which is traditional Arab medicine.

During a large portion of the twentieth century, Western medicine took a dim view of herbal remedies. Science was king and pharmaceutical medicine was its main tool. However, those medicines had to be made from something. Most of it came from plants… herbs.

Science has since come back to the roots of medicine; an exploration of plants for new medications. As can be seen in the opioid crisis, synthetic medications can be more harmful than helpful. With that resurgence in the benefits of herbs comes the need to understand them.

When coping with some issues, it’s crucial to consider the method of delivery. Most people think of medicines and herbs as something that needs to be swallowed to be useful. That’s not always the case. The largest organ in the human body is the skin, and the topical application of herbs and medicines is beneficial.


There is one other benefit to using herbs on the skin. It’s called aromatherapy and is another area that was once looked down on. There is no doubt that scent affects the human body. We recoil when something smells terrible, and some odors can trigger changes in our mood. It can also help resolve problems.

Herbal remedies that can be used topically include some that people have heard of and some that they haven’t. Comfrey is not something most people know about, but it is often used for pain and to help heal bone and tissue injuries. Due to some harmful alkaloids, it shouldn’t be swallowed. Topical application is the only safe method for its use.

Comfrey leaf and root can be used for this purpose. The important thing is to gather what is growing the most at the time. In the spring and summer, that would be the leaf. In the fall and winter, it would be the root. Most of what is available for sale is dried root.

Another herb that can be used for pain can be used at the same time as comfrey. Very few people know that before aspirin was invented people used willow bark for that purpose. The chemical found in aspirin is called salicin, and it is useful on the skin and internally.

Pain causes a lot of things, including stress and anxiety. Here is where aromatherapy can help in coping. Essential oils are found in plants, and these oils can do many things. Some of them are even used in cooking. When used aromatically, Lavender, Chamomile, Passionflower, and Jasmine can help soothe stress and anxiety.

This is why these scents are added to many products made for topical use. Of course, they are also often associated with pleasant things,
but the underlying purpose is to help people stay calm and focus on feeling better.

Pain and anxiety aren’t the only areas where the topical application of herbs can be useful. Acne is something most people have to deal with at some point in their lives. For some people, it can last a lifetime. However, some things can be done, and almost all of them are topical.

Pimples are from clogged skin pores. Many things can clog them, including the oils naturally produced by the skin. Dirt and other debris… including dead skin cells… can also be part of the problem. Keeping the face clean is of paramount importance.

It is important to choose skincare products carefully. It is also important to use more than one. Most recommend a cleanser, a toner, and a moisturizer. It may seem counterproductive to put a moisturizer on after the others, but even oily skin needs protection.

A fourth product may also be used, and that is an exfoliator. Here it is even more important to choose with care. Some products use chemicals for this process and that can be harmful to the skin. Herbal products are usually safer.

There are a large number of herbs that can help with acne. Witch hazel makes an excellent toner for this purpose. It also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will help deal with the infections that cause blackheads.

Black walnut is another topically applied plant. While it can be used for acne, it is primarily used for poison ivy as a drawing agent. Black walnut does have one other use, and that is as a dye. Anything that touches it will turn a shade of brown. It has been used in hair dye, as ink and in other products. It is even used as a food coloring in some cases.

Baking soda is another item that can be useful as a drawing agent. It can be used on bee stings, insect bites, poison ivy and on acne. It may be added to products in order to increase their usefulness. In fact, some kinds of toothpaste use baking soda to help whiten teeth.

People who want to use herbal remedies for a problem must consult with their doctor and pharmacist before using them. Sometimes what seems to be a simple problem is something more serious that requires medical attention.

Medications can interact with herbs and herbs can interact with each other. The pharmacist will know what can interact and whether or not it’s safe to use. There are also medical conditions that make the use of some herbs more dangerous.

Pregnant or breastfeeding women should talk to their doctor before using any herbal product, whether topical or internal. Some essential oils can harm the baby, both via smell and by crossing the placental barrier. Herbs that are swallowed can also be passed on to the baby. 

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