You are what you eat! Here are some tips to get you feeling good on the inside and reflecting it on the outside.
1 // For beautiful glowing skin: hydration! Drinking plenty of water throughout the day will eliminate and flush out any toxins, you should be aiming for 1.5 to 2 litres in small, regular amounts a day. Herbal teas count but juice and any fizzy or caffeinated drinks do not. Oils are often overlooked as an important factor in having hydrated, plump skin as even though water is the main hydration factor, applying oils on the skin provides hydration to skin as they are humectant and retain moisture, but also incorporating oils in the diet is also necessary in bringing moisture to the skin. Some examples of the best sources are fresh avocados. extra virgin olive oil (not heated it is best raw e.g as a salad dressing), oily fish such as salmon or mackeral and nuts/seeds. There is no need to be afraid of fat in the diet it is essential for many chemical processes in the body to keep you running! Many studies are now starting to show that 'low-fat' products do not help people lose weight and often they are worse for your health because they are laden with sugar and starch substitutions. There are still correlations between animal sources of fat such as cheese and red meat contributing to higher risk of cardiovascular disease but as with foods such as these we know these should be limited as treats anyway and red meat ideally would only be consumed 2-3 X a week.
2 // Slow down signs of ageing with antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent and reduce free radical damage which mainly comes from UV rays which age the skin faster and in more dire circumstances can cause cell mutation and therefore cancer. Sun is good for us as it is a good source of vitamin D but as the UV rays can cause cell damage it is important to wear a high factor of sun cream (at least SPF 30) and for most of us in Britain we are likely to be low on vitamin D, particularly in Winter months so we can supplement vitamin D, whilst protecting your skin with clothes, hats and suncream and then we are not worrying about sun damage. Turmeric is a wonderful source of antioxidant as well as being anti-inflammatory, the root can be used fresh or dried and added to many dishes such as most commonly curries and soups but also in your eggs or try a traditional golden milk. Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, especially those that are brightly coloured which is why it's so important to eat a rainbow of colour. A rich and easily incorporated source is berries, add fresh or frozen berries such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries to yoghurt as a snack or they're great in your morning porridge.
3 // Treat breakouts by clearing the liver and increasing gut flora. You may have heard that the skin is an organ in itself, when breakouts and acne occur there could be several reasons, most of them stemming from internally such as hormonal activity or the gut flora being out of balance and not having enough 'good bacteria' in the digestive system, or the liver could not be efficiently clearing certain toxins or hormones ending up them being recirculated into the blood system and could then resurface through the skin. Probiotics is one of the easiest and most effective ways to re-balance the gut flora, through foods such as bio yoghurts, sauerkraut, kefir and slippery elm. To give the liver an extra boost, take your 'bitters' as us Herbalists call them, they are your friend as they increase bile secretion and ensure more effective digestion. These are foods such as cruciferous vegetables; broccoli, kale, swiss chard and brussel sprouts and herbs such as gentian (Gentiana lutea), dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) and Aloe vera.
4 // Destress with adaptogens and ensure you're getting enough beauty sleep. An adaptogen is a particular property of a few plants we use in herbal medicine which means they help you to adapt and cope with stressful situations and bring you back to state of normality, they all have a slightly different approach but your herbalist would choose the best one for you whether you needed an energy boost, regulation of stress and anxiety, healthier sleep pattern to maintain energy throughout the day etc. Some examples are ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera) an Ayurvedic herb used to help with sleep and anxiety, Schisandra chinensis which helps to sharpen the mind and also helps with digestive complaints, Rhodiola rosea a lovely herb for a gentle energy boost for those going through depression or hormonal issues such as menopause and the ginsengs either Chinese variety (Panax ginseng) or Siberian (Eleutherococcus senticosus) are particularly energy boosting and can be beneficial in times of convalescence, low immunity, chronic fatigue syndrome and general debility. Sleep of course is one of the best and most important things you can do for your health it allows your body and rest and repair and gives you enough energy to get up and go the following day. There could be many reasons for poor sleep but some simple remedies for herbal treatment when dealing particularly for those with a mind that won't shut off could be drinking a tea before bed made up of chamomile (Matricaria recutita), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), hops (Humulus lupulus) or oats (Avena sativa) may help to relax and encourage a restful sleep.
5 // For strong and healthy hair and nails. Ensure you're getting enough vitamins and minerals in particular vitamins A and E, zinc, iron, selenium and calcium are important in healthy skin, hair and nails. A really good source of these is through eating nuts and seeds especially pistachios, brazil nuts, almonds and pumpkin seeds. Nettles (Urtica dioica) are a really good source of iron, silica and selenium when drunk as a tea but also a hair rinse when combined with rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), infuse the two together with hot water, leave to cool and strain then use as a hair rinse after washing your hair and they both stimulate the scalp to encourage healthy hair growth and leave it looking shiny.
My name is Helen Davison and I'm a NIMH registered practising Medical Herbalist based in Ramsbottom, Lancashire. I've had a keen interest in herbal remedies since my early teens and would experiment creating my own balms and bath bombs using natural ingredients, which prompted me in discovering and pursuing a career in Western Herbal Medicine.