5 Skin-Detoxing Herbs That Can Heal Your Acne Naturally

It doesn't take expensive chemical acne medicines or creams to see a huge change in your skin.

May 17, 2017
acne herbs

Believe it or not, we use plants to heal everyday. From a refreshing cup of peppermint tea to warming turmeric curry, we’ve integrated these edible tools into our life often without realizing just how powerful their healing potentials are. In fact, until recently, I had no idea that some of my favorite rituals (like sipping on a big mug of green tea and honey) had positive impacts on my body, and that I could introduce new ones. 

(Slash your cholesterol, burn stubborn belly fat, solve your insomnia, and more—naturally—with Rodale's Eat For Extraordinary Health & Healing.)

I learned more about herbal remedies when my holistic dermatologist suggested I introduce a few herbal tinctures (herbs extracted into alcohol) into my daily routine to help treat my late-onset cystic acne. This practice has been used in Asia for centuries, but there has been recent scientific research into its benefits.

Related: 8 Powerhouse Herbs You Need To Add To Your Beauty Routine

Today, two years after I began altering my lifestyle, my acne is 90% gone. It wasn’t strictly the herbs that cleared my skin, as Alex Caspero, MA, RD, head dietitian for HUM nutrition explains: “While the mechanism of acne is still not fully understood, research suggests that a combination of normal body processes, increased hormonal stress, inflammatory responses, and dietary factors play a contributing role.”

So while herbs and supplements are important, she also strongly recommends a diet low in sugar and milk, and high in omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, water, and antioxidants. I followed a diet similar to this one and had great success. 

Related: 7 Natural Changes That Helped Heal My Acne

It’s important to note that in different modalities, like Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), herbs are rarely taken alone. “We formulate prescriptions for each individual patient and these herbal prescriptions may contain 10 to 15 different herbs in very specific dosages,” explains Diana Hermann, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist, and practitioner of Chinese Medicine at Zi Zai Dermatology.

But for beginners, like me, who are just starting to learn about the ancient practice of herbs, it’s okay to introduce one or two to see shifts in your skin. The great part about playing with herbs is that they can be taken via tea, tinctures, or capsules and even used topically in some cases. Here's your guide to the best herbs to help support your body in healing some of the underlying causes of acne. 

Related: 6 Most Important Beauty Products To Buy Organic

red clover
Red clover

From a TCM standpoint, red clover is thought to support cardiovascular health and blood flow, says Ellen Evert Hopman, herbalist and author of the book Secret Medicines From Your Garden. When taken orally, this vibrant plant is known as an ‘alterative’, which means it helps stimulate the immune system, clear infections, and support the liver and kidneys, which, if compromised, can be underlying contributors of acne, explains Dr. Gabrielle Francis, naturopathic doctor at The Herban Alchemist. Red Clover is bitter, so try mixing it with flavored tea. And watch out for the ‘detox’ effect—more urination and bowel movements—from this one.

Buy it: Herb Pharm Organic Red Clover Extract, $13, Amazon.com 

Related: 4 Solutions For Annoying Summer Skin Problems

chaste tree
Chaste Tree berry

Known as an ‘amphoteric’ herb, Chaste Tree helps normalize hormone levels. It has been studied for its potential to act on the pituitary gland to increase progesterone levels and reduce estrogen (a culprit for premenstrual acne). The dried fruit has a pepper-like aroma and taste.

Michigan University reports that in a preliminary and double-blind study, 20mg per day of Chaste Tree extract was shown to reduce PMS symptoms, like tender breasts, cramps, and acne, after three cycles. Women who are on birth control pills, pregnant, or nursing should avoid this herb. 

Buy it: Gaia Herbs Organic Chaste Tree Berry, $12, Amazon.com

Related: 11 Skin-Care Products You Can Safely Use When You're Pregnant

Douglas Vigon / EyeEm/getty

Echinacea is another well-known alterative herb, which has been shown to reduce a pesky bacterium called P. acnes that contributes to acne, through inhibiting and reversing its inflammatory effects. A bonus: it’s also celebrated for fighting off illness quickly—like an immune superhero. If taken orally via tincture, the herb will cause a slight numbing effect in the mouth and has a neutral taste. I like to add mine to a cup of tea or mix drops of the tincture in with water.

Buy it: Maxi Health Organic Echinacea Supreme, $17, Amazon.com 

Related: The Natural Way To Treat Those Stubborn Red Bumps On Your Arms


This fresh water, single-sell algae herb (Betcha never thought about sea plants as herbs!) is buzzing right now, as it’s showing up in more smoothie add-ins and supplements. And rightfully so, as it has nine essential amino acids along with vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorous and more, that inhibit pro-inflammatory molecules and support the health of your skin and other organs, explains Caspero. It increases good gut bacteria, enhances immunity, and eliminates toxins among other impressive qualities.

Start slow and increase to the recommended amount gradually to avoid symptoms like diarrhea, gas, and some stomach cramping from starting with too much at once. I like taking mine in pill form or mixing this powder with water for a boost in the morning. It has a seaweed-esque taste, but it can be pleasant once you get used to it. 

Buy it: Kyolic Kyo-Green Energy, $29, Amazon.com
Hum Daily Cleanse Capsules, $25, Humnutrition.com

Related: How To Make Your Own Castor Oil Detox Pack

red sage plant
I love Photo and Apple/Getty
Salvia root/Red sage

Salvia root, commonly known as red sage, is great for helping the skin heal lesions or pimples that are no longer active but still have that lingering dark pigment, which is also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, notes Hermann. She totes Salvia Root as the preeminent herb for late-onset acne in women. When taken through a tincture, one study reported thirst and gastrointestinal side effects, so take it only a little at a time at first. This herb has a bitter flavor, so consider taking capsules or making it as tea and sweetening it with honey.

Buy it:
Planetary Herbals Salvia Tablets, $20, Amazon.com
Red Sage Tea, $9, Amazon.com