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Sunday, February 27th, 2011 at 2:00 am
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Health

Getting Under Your Skin

As we emerge, blinking, out of winter and into spring one of the first things we tend to notice is how out of condition our skin has become during the dark months. It is easy to forget that the skin is the largest organ in the body, and not only is it the largest but it is the only organ that we can see easily and on a daily basis! Our skin is as good an outward reflection of our inner health and well being as it’s possible to have.  In this month’s regular column from Napiers the Herbalists, three practitioners take a look at ways to help get your glow back.
Dee Atkinson
Medical Herbalist
There are many different types of skin problem, the most commonly seen in my clinic include psoriasis and eczema.
Skin problems cause a huge amount of physical discomfort as well as emotional stress and many of the prescribed medicines that I see patients using are simply giving a bit of topical relief, but are not treating the under laying cause.
Eczema and dry skin
This is the most common skin problem in my clinics. Some foods can trigger eczema, dairy products, colourings and preservatives and caffeine are all possible triggers. I always work from the inside to the outside with a patient and one of my most commonly prescribed supplements is an essential fatty acid such as hemp seed oil, flax seed oil or evening primrose oil. This will relieve dryness and irritation.
To reduce allergic reactions and itching try drinking a herbal teas such as Chamomile  and Nettle.
Topically, creams containing Starflower oil or Chickweed are soothing and healing and will help to reduce inflammation and irritation.
Psoriasis
This is an auto immune disease which can affect the joints as well as the skin. Using Essential Fatty Acids, often in large doses, is important. I combine this with Slippery Elm powder and probiotics as leaky gut syndrome can be one of the trigger factors
Topically use ointments with Marigold and Poke Root. An ointment is often best on very dry flaking patches and is good to use at night. Creams are easier during the day.
The range and breadth of herbal options for treating skin is huge. Herbalists look at the whole person, and work well beyond the presenting problem. Allergies,bowel problems, stress, hormone imbalance… these are just some of the factors that can affect the skin. Correcting these can have a marked effect on the presenting problem.
Shona Hamilton
Food Sensitivity Testing
Reactions to foods and the resulting effects on the skin can be varied and include rashes and itching. The close connection between the skin and our gut means that if there is a sensitivity or intolerance to certain foods a problem may be seen in the skin. Any reactions may not be immediate but could appear several hours or days after the food has been eaten. It may be helpful to note that food sensitivities, or intolerances may be influenced by many factors, including hormones, stress and emotional state.
Foods that may be causing you problems can be indicated by a consultation carried out by me at Napiers. During your consultation, I will discuss any symptoms as well as general diet and lifestyle. I will also test your reactions to a range of foods and food additives. Once a food or food group is identified as being a possible cause of problems you can discuss removing them from your diet for a short period. They can then be reintroduced and your reactions monitored.
I regularly see people suffering from eczema and skin rashes and have been able to help many improve their quality of life.
Gail Brewster
Aromatherapist
Aromatherapy and essential oils have been used in skincare for thousands of years, from the use of rose and myrrh by the Ancient Egyptians to the modern application of skin creams containing frankincense, geranium and neroli.  Essential oils are easily absorbed by the skin and are applied through the use of lotions, gels or creams to help nourish and rejuvenate dry or tired skins. Each oil has individual characteristics that are chosen for their benefits with different skin types.  For example, rich oils such as rose, geranium and frankincense are often used in creams for drier or mature skins as they are thought to help encourage tissue regeneration and firm the skin.  Another commonly used oil in skincare is tea tree, which is used in preparations for oilier or acne-prone skin.  Tea tree has been used for many years in cleaners or moisturisers to encourage tissue healing and help reduce the spread of infection with many people finding it helpful in reducing the oily appearance of their skin.
It is not only essential oils that are used in aromatherapy for skincare but also hydrolats, or floral waters, as part of a daily skincare routine.  These are produced during the distillation of essential oils and are very gentle, simple preparations for delicate skins.  Rose, lavender and witch hazel water are now widely available and can be used after cleansing to tone and refresh the skin.
Aromatherapy also uses a number of fixed, or carrier, oils to apply essential oils to the skin.  Some of these plant-based oils are used to provide additional benefits, for example avocado and evening primrose oil are rich in essential fatty acids which can help combat dry, flaky and tired skins.  Wheatgerm is popular in aromatherapy because of its high vitamin E content, emollient properties and is often used in preparations for mature skin or during pregnancy.  If suffering from irritated or inflamed skin conditions you will also find many products now contain neem oil, an ayurvedic preparation that has traditionally been used with these symptoms.
Aromatherapy has much to offer in the way of skincare, from everyday preparations to specialised blends that can help with problem skin.  You can even try blending your own unique products by adding one drop of essential oil to every 10ml of base product used.  Always consult with a professional aromatherapist if you have any skin conditions or suspect you may react to any products.
To make an appointment with Dee, Shona or Gail call Napiers on 0131 315 2130.
For a full list of other treatments and practitioners go to www.napiers.net
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