The Ayurvedic Approach: General Remedies & Practices
In the first part of our acne series we went into detail about why acne occurs, the three different types of Doshic skin eruptions and why the conventional medical approach is typically not effective at healing the skin and the underlying problems actually causing the acne. For part 2, we go into the many remedies and practices that you can prescribe your Ayurvedic clients to help bring their Doshas back into balance and clear up their skin for good! Let's get started.
The first thing to address (like always) is diet. Everything put in and on the body affects it on a much deeper level than modern medicine talks about. In Ayurveda, food is evaluated by its effect on the body after it has been digested, the way it either heats or cools the body, the effect it has on the Doshas and whether or not it will turn into toxins once digested. You can prescribe all of the herbs and remedies that you want but if your clients’ diet is unhealthy there won’t be much of a positive result.
The Ayurvedic diet and remedies are very effective but to see lasting results recommend that your clients stick to the following instructions for at least three to six months, though there may begin to be an improvement in the skin in as early as a week or two!
The rest of this article is general advice for the overall healing of acne and can be printed out and given straight to your clients. For instructions according to the type of blemishes you are experiencing see Part 1 where we offer specific suggestions for Pitta, Kapha or Vata Acne.
Daily Practices for Healing
Eat fresh, organic, wholesome foods that are warm and cooked. Stick to vegetables, grains, beans and fruit. It’s even better to eat fruits and vegetables that are in season by shopping at a local farmer’s market.
Completely avoid all junk food, processed food and leftovers. This basically goes without saying! Leftovers have no prana. Old food has lost its nutritional value and will not digest well, becoming toxins in the digestive process. Eating freshly made food is key!
Closely monitor how you feel after you eat. You can even keep a daily wellness log where you jot down a few sentences about how your digestion feels after each meal. Do you have gas after eating? Stomach cramps? If you notice these problems, something about how or what you are eating is causing indigestion.
Completely avoid spicy, sour, very salty and fermented foods. This is especially true for those suffering from Pitta-type acne but must also be followed by anyone suffering from skin disorders.
Eat a light breakfast, larger lunch and a light dinner. Make sure to put at least three hours between each main meal. Having a small snack of fruit or cooked veggies in-between the main meals is okay, given there is at least two hours between the meal and the snack.
Incorporate all six tastes into your meals to further balance the Doshas. Sweet, sour, salty, bitter, astringent and pungent.
If experiencing Vata or Kapha type acne, drink plenty of warm or room temperature water throughout the day. In the case of Pitta acne, drink cool water. Drinking enough water is vitally important for overall health and is especially necessary to clear up acne. When you wake up in the morning one of the first few things you should do is drink a glass or two of water and a cup of herbal or ginger tea. This will begin the cleansing and rehydration process. Warm (or cool in the case of Pitta acne) water is important because very cold water weakens Agni (digestion).
Avoid or minimize raw vegetables, salads and dry, crunchy food like chips. They are harder to digest than cooked foods and can create more toxins in a digestive system that is already weak. They also increase Vata Dosha.
Completely avoid frozen and cold desserts and drinks. Things like ice cream, popsicles and frozen yogurt are examples. They will weaken your digestion so the next time you eat, even if it is an Ayurvedic meal, you won’t digest it well and toxins will be created, causing acne.
Cut out yogurt, alcohol, coffee, vinegar, tomatoes, onions, garlic and aged cheese. This is particularly important for those with Pitta-type acne because those foods increase Pitta, but it holds true for anyone suffering from skin eruptions.
Drink ½ cup of room temperature, organic aloe vera juice each morning on an empty stomach. If you are experiencing cystic acne, drink it twice a day, once in the morning and once before bed. Aloe cleanses the liver and blood and reduces Pitta Dosha.
Cook regularly with turmeric. Turmeric has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-septic properties.
Sip a warm herbal tea throughout the day made with cumin, coriander and fennel seeds. Boil 5-6 cups of water each morning and add ½ teaspoon of each seed. Drink this daily for at least three months and watch as your digestion and your skin begin to heal. These spices help to strengthen your digestion and get your bowels moving – they are also great to add into your cooking.
Relax! Even modern medicine considers stress a reason for acne. Stress has an immediate and powerful negative impact on the digestive system, which creates toxins and consequently, acne. Feeling overwhelmed can also make it difficult to stick to a healthy diet and consistent schedule. A daily meditation, even if it’s only for five or ten minutes in the morning and evening can help to manage stress levels. Yoga, moderate exercise and pranayama are also tools to use to stay calm.
Take 3-5 grams (1/2 - 1 tsp.) of Nimbaharidradi Churnam twice a day. This choornam is useful in healing Pitta and Kapha disorders related to the skin because of its powerful detoxifying effects. It can be used for a period of 2-3 months.
Practice daily abhyanga with Eladi Coconut Oil and take 1 - 2 Mahatiktam Kwatham Tablets twice a day. Eladi Coconut Oil balances both Vata and Kapha Dosha and is especially effective in people with Vata-type acne. Mahatiktaka Kwatham Tablets balance all three of the Doshas, especially Pitta Dosha, and in combination with Eladi Coconut oil can greatly reduce pus and inflammation because of their many active ingredients, several of which are Haridra (turmeric), Triphala, Nimba (neem) and Shatavari (asparagus), all of which are scientifically proven to heal skin disorders (Kumar et al., 2005). In the case of a Kapha type person with oily skin, the Eladi Coconut Oil should be left on for only 5 minutes and then rinsed off with water and soap. For drier skin it can be left on for up to an hour and then rinsed off in a shower or bath without soap.
Having acne can make anyone feel uncomfortable, stressed and vulnerable. But like this article just showed you, there are numerous ways to quickly and thoroughly heal acne without using harmful medications and harsh chemicals. Plus there are no downsides! Working on getting rid of acne naturally will improve health overall.
If all of these suggestions seem like too much at first to you or your Ayurvedic clients, pick one or two and incorporate those fully. Then the next week, incorporate one or two more. Taking Nimbaharidradi Churnam twice a day, drinking the herbal tea described above and practicing abhyanga are simple places to start and will begin the process of cleansing toxins from the body. Remember, small but consistent changes lead to big results.
Happy healing from all of us at Kottakkal Ayurveda!
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Contributing Editor & Doctor: Dr. JV Hebbar
Kumar, S. M., Chandrasekar, J. N., Nanjan, M. J., & Suresh, B. (2005). Herbal remedies for acne. Nat Prod Resour, 4(4), 328-34.