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Finding a good herbalist

The general recommendations in this article are entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Case Histories

The treatment of acne with a natural approach takes time and commitment but if the person is ready to put in the work then past experience suggests that it is highly likely they will get an excellent result.

I'm 30 years in practice at the time of editing this page. Many people; teenagers, young adults, even people well into adulthood, have come in to get help with bad acne over this time. Each case is different and needs an individualised approach but there is also much common ground between people.

The following two cases are typical examples amongst many. One theme that comes out in nearly everyone is the distress that this condition causes. Anyone who thinks that acne is a skin-deep, superficial problem has never had it bad, or worked closely with people who do because, in fact, it can be psychologically devastating.

Treating acne naturally, from the inside, is hard because it's slow, and it takes patience and perseverance. However, it is a problem I am always willing and happy to work with because, eventually, we nearly always achieve a great result and the joy that comes from being free from the torture of a visible skin condition makes any amount of time and effort seem entirely worthwhile...


Madeline first came to see me in her mid-20s. She'd had a calling from a young age to help others and was now working every day, up close and personal, with people in the public health system. Madeline was doing what she wanted in life, but she was in agonising stress because of the severe condition of her skin and how it made her feel judged and condemned by everyone she came in contact with.

In her teens she had quite a few breakouts around the time of her period but for much of the month her skin was not too bad. However, as she approached 20 her skin on her face started to get steadily worse and she began to get deep cystic acne around her jaw, and on her chest and upper back.

She had tried different oral contraceptives, but they had either made no difference or had given her unpleasant side effects in other areas. Over the years she had tried many courses of antibiotics. The pattern was that her skin would temporarily improve and then the acne would come back again after she stopped, often worse than ever. Plus, she felt her immune system was run down from taking the drugs, she would get recurrent fungal and viral infections and felt fatigued both during and after each course of treatment. She had been recommended to use it but had read too much about the potential side-effects of Roaccutane (Isotretinoin) to be willing to try it. Like most people with severe acne, Madeline had tried many different kinds of scrubs, exfoliants, cleansers, moisturisers etc. but, after a while, came to see them as doing more harm than good.

Madeline had read a lot about diet and the skin and had progressively removed all sugar and processed food, then all dairy products, then all gluten products, and then finally all animal products entirely. Each time she restricted something else it would seem that her skin would initially improve but would then eventually get worse again. By the time we met she had been a vegan for nearly a year, and her skin was in a very bad state, she had multiple infected pimples over her face, forehead and upper body. She was desperately unhappy about her skin, sure she was never going to meet someone and was severely anxious and depressed about having to go out into the world.

Madeline was a Bear constitution (more about that in a section below) and her tongue and pulse showed signs that she especially needed help in the cleansing phase of the healing cycle (likewise, more about that below). We started a treatment program of

The Prescription

Cleansing Formula

Dandelion root 120mls
Burdock root 160mls
Barberry 80mls
Celandine 60mls
Juniper 80mls
Licorice root 60mls

These are some of the most potent but safe cleansing herbs to take internally in all of Nature. We make our own tinctures from organic dried herb, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners,

The above liquid extracts were combined into a formula to make 560mls. This will just fit in to a 500ml amber pharm round bottle and is enough to last 28 days, or 4 weeks, if taken at the maximum safe and effective dose of 10mls twice a day, which is what we prescribed.

Cleansing Tea

To further help the cleansing process we used a special tea. The details, for anyone who would like to know the recipe and instructions are found here

Echinacea & Astragalus Capsules (540mgs per capsule of the two herbs combined, both organic and freshly milled before being encapsulated by a local company, the Echinacea being the species angustifolia obtained from the US)

The dosage was 3 capsules twice daily to support her immune system to fight the infection in her skin and to help her to heal.

Vitex agnus -castus

We started this important hormonal herb in the 2nd month, i.e. after one month of the cleansing program, the dose was 30 drops once a day in the morning before food.

Green Clay masks and Tea-tree oil washes

Clay mask to use every third or fourth night according to her response and preference, the face wash with Tea tree oil to use once a day (details on both of these treatments are provided below in the section on general recommendations)

The Work

I see the first step in the healing journey being the one in which Nature can help us back to health. We come to a point where we need to ask for help and then these ancient allies, these herbs, are there to support and help us to get well. The first step is the prescription as shown above.

The next step is what I call the 'work'. It is what the patient does to help themselves. Underlying all the old ways of healing is an understanding that all living organisms have the innate ability to self-regulate and self-repair, unless something is obstructing that self-healing intelligence. The 'work' is usually about doing something that helps to remove the obstacles that are getting in the way of their getting well.

In Madeline's case there were two things that were clearly damaging her well-being and therefore her ability to heal herself.

The first was her anguish at the state of her skin, which was being made a hundred times worse by literally having to face the public as a health professional each and every day she went to her job. No-one should underestimate how much damage stress can cause to our ability to get well and no-one should underestimate how much stress a visibly bad skin condition can cause.

The second major obstacle to her healing process was that, as well as being very anxious about putting any kind of products on her skin, she had also become overly fearful of what she was eating and was showing signs of malnourishment and depletion from being on an overly restrictive diet.

Whilst it is usual practice to put someone on a 'cleansing diet' when we use cleansing herbs, Madeline had already been on a far too limited and cleansing a diet for far too long. Even though she was eating very 'clean' food, the diet can only go so far in this matter. Used correctly, herbal medicines can powerfully activate the liver, the kidneys and other mechanisms into increased internal cleansing, diet alone can do much less and if one stays on a cleansing diet for too long it begins to do harm.

Madeline was too depleted, too cold, and her skin was taking longer than ever to heal. She was advised to eat a warming, nourishing diet, e.g. plenty of slow-cooked meat and vegetables with tasty herbs and spices.

Equally importantly, she was gently advised to start using some concealing 'make-up' when she went into work. This last suggestion triggered a great outburst of emotion when she heard it. Someone had convinced Madeline that using any such products was forbidden. The relief that she would be able to put on some kind of a shield, a mask, before entering the world was immense. Visible acne can be very hard for men too but truly it can be a torture for women.

Of course, it is not ideal to use anything that can block the pores, but this small amount of potential harm was insignificant to the harm that she was receiving by becoming so anxious and depressed about her appearance whilst feeling there was nothing she could do about it.

Madeline took everything and did everything as instructed. The reason she came to my mind when I started thinking about some cases to share is not that her case was especially more severe than many others I have worked with, but actually because it took her a particularly long time to get completely well!

I am sure that other people who work in health will remember their tough cases more readily than their easier ones. I well remember Madeline's courage and the way she patiently and faithfully kept going and how each time we met her I could see her gradually improving. Slowly getting better in her confidence, slowly becoming more the beautiful young woman she was meant to be. We did 3 months of intense cleansing at the above doses (in many cases just one month of this will be ample before reducing doses or stopping) and in the 2nd month, after some pulse-testing, we added a small amount of the potent hormonal herb Vitex Agnus-Castus to her program, 30 drops, once a day in the morning.

After 3 months, her skin on her face was about 70% better and she had completely stopped getting pimples on her back and chest. We stopped the cleansing tea, reduced the cleansing formula and the capsules to taking them just once a day and continued with the Vitex for 4 months in total.

Madeline kept taking her treatment for 10 months, almost a year, before stopping. My notes show that I did not see her again for almost 3 years, when she came in for a different and quite minor health issue. The notes report that she said she would still get the occasional outbreak around her period, but they went away again just as quickly and didn't bother her anymore. I also wrote that she said she was a in a new relationship, and that this was her first serious boyfriend. I do not need my notes to remember how she appeared that day; a radiantly happy, beautiful young woman with all of her confidence back.



Karl first came to see me with his mother when he was 17 and near the end of his second to last year of high school. I recall Karl's case, and have carefully reviewed his file, because his was one of the worst conditions I have ever seen; virulent, inflamed acne covered much of his face and his nerves, understandably, were being shredded by the stress of it all.

In fact, as my intake notes report, his father, his Doctor and his friends were all urging him to go on Roaccutane and Karl himself wanted to do it right away. It was only his mother that was standing in the way and she was bringing him to see me in the hope that I would support her and would have a viable alternative for him. She wanted me to talk Karl out of going on the drug because she shared how a close friend of hers had seen her own teenage daughter become suicidally depressed when using it and was already deeply concerned about the state of her son's mental health.

Karl was obviously a very bright young man, but over the year his grades had badly slipped and it was uncertain whether he was going to pass the school year. He now stayed up late every night each night in his room playing computer games and had withdrawn from his sports teams and no longer engaged in any social activities. Previously a high achieving athlete, he never used to be into junk food but to the further despair of his mother he had lost his appetite, was now eating high-sugar foods, had poor bowel health (going once every 2-3 days) and was losing weight.

Karl and I hit if off well from the beginning. I began by expressing to him how well I recognised the psychological devastation of having a visible skin problem. about the feelings of shame that it brings and how damaging they are to a person's self-esteem. I also explained that, whilst not in the least philosophically anti-drug, and that I recognised that there was a place for everything, that I have also met a number of people that have experienced great physical and mental harm from Roaccutane. Of course, he knew people that it had helped and had only ever heard about his mother's friend by way of a negative example and had probably dismissed the psychological reaction as non-related. Hearing from someone that had met many whom it had damaged gave him pause for thought.

We agreed that the drugs were still 'on the table' but only as a last resort, and that there were several things that we could try first so long as he was willing to be patient and to do whatever it might take to get well. Without hesitation, Karl showed that he was 100% ready, so we got started.

The Prescription

Gentian 30mls
Ginger 20mls

Take approx 15-16 drops, one-three times daily before food. The 'King of Bitters', Gentian, is to quickly restore his appetite and improve his digestion (often an essential step in the successful treatment of acne) He was to start using them 2 or 3 x a day until appetite and good digestion was restored and then to drop the dose back to just once daily, before breakfast.

Plantago husks

Take between 2-4 heaped tsps, slurried into water, once a day. Emphasis on getting the technique right (as discussed in the article on Plantago here) to make this process as easy as drinking a glass of water. The range of dose is for him to find the level that brings about the optimal result, i.e. a good bowel motion at least once a day. He was not going to the toilet every day and this would certainly be impairing the health of his skin, as everyone with the exception of conventional doctors instinctively realises.

St John's wort capsules (standardised to a high dose of hypericins)

Take two capsules once a day. St John's has many benefits to the nerves, the immune system, and the mind. It can be like a light in a dark place for some, helping to relieve low moods, anxious nerves, and to bring back some lightness of spirit.

Valerian & Kava root capsules (equal parts, approx 480mg per capsule)

Take 4 capsules each evening before bed, it is also ok to take a second dose of another 4 capsules if and when needed. The Valerian & Kava was to treat his anxiety and to help him get to bed earlier and to get a better night's sleep. If he was not obviously getting relaxed and sleepy from them within an hour at most he was to take a second dose of 4 capsules.

Sarsaparilla root 140mls
Burdock root 140mls
Dandelion root 100mls
Celandine 60mls
Barberry 60mls
Yellow Dock 60mls

Take 10mls twice daily. Again, these are some of the great cleansing herbs from Nature. You will see that it is similar to the formula above with some differences such as the inclusion of Sarsaparilla (often helpful as both a hormonal and cleansing herb for bad acne), and Yellow Dock, to further improve bowel function.

Green Clay masks and Tea-tree oil washes

Clay mask every second night, face wash with Tea-tree twice a day. A higher than usual dose of both of these as it was seen that Karl's skin would not be too sensitive to handle it.

The Work

I would have had a low to moderate expectation, if we relied on the above prescription alone, that a case like Karl's could improve quickly enough for him to stay the course and not give up and go on drugs.

Herbs are not as effective as drugs at getting rid of symptoms, they don't really work that way anyway. They more help the body to heal itself, but that can't happen if something major is getting in the way.

To get outstanding results in holistic medicine you must attend to the causes of what is stopping the body from healing or balancing itself automatically. You must think of the skin as being a part of the whole. Whatever is going on internally must be affecting it and there is no one part that is inherently more important than any other. It is whatever is lacking, or in excess, or out of balance that must be attended to.

In Karl's case, as well as the raging hormones that were setting the scene, he was also suffering from stress, inadequate sleep, poor bowel function and poor diet.

Getting Karl to eat a good breakfast was an essential part of the treatment plan. It is not just what we eat, it is how we digest and process it that plays a profound role in the health of the whole body, including the skin. A bitter herb like Gentian is almost guaranteed to restore appetite when taken correctly, it certainly worked for Karl.

Getting to sleep earlier and getting good quality sleep was also clearly a critical part of his recovery. Karl's pulse was edgy and 'wired', his system was too tense for his body to heal itself even when he did sleep.

However, computer games were his refuge from the world, the one place where he could escape for a while and forget about himself. He was encouraged to keep playing but to agree to a switch-off time when he would then take his night time herbs and start getting ready for bed.

The method I used in this area was to ask him what time he thought he could actually make happen and could make a promise to me to keep. It is far more powerful for a young man to make and keep their own commitment than to be told what to do by someone else.

It cannot be overemphasised how important good bowel health can be to the skin. Taking a product like Plantago husks is not something anyone wants to do for fun but if they understand how to work with the dose to find a level that keeps everything working perfectly then, assuming they will miss some doses and see how they are without it, they will usually keep themselves going for as long as they need. In other words, it is the kind of treatment that I put people in charge of right away. Firstly, work out how much they need for it to work, then find out if they still need it by seeing if they miss it when they stop.

Karl had plenty of 'work' with his treatment plan, including taking all the medicines, doing the masks and washes, getting to bed much earlier, eating a regular, healthy diet.

Many young people, or indeed people from any age, would not be ready to make those kinds of commitments. They might be willing to take a few pills or to use a cream but not to take medicines like Gentian and Plantago, give up sugars, get offline earlier than their friends, get more sleep. really make any If their skin can't get better from taking a few tasteless pills or putting on a cream, then they won't last the distance with what is required to get a good result.

If I get a sense that a person might not be ready to go the distance in the first appointment, I will try to gently ask the right questions in an open way to gauge if they really are ready to do whatever it takes or if it is really just their parent that wants them to be there and they aren't ready to do the work.

In those cases, I prefer not to start. Instead to maybe just talk about what would be involved and invite them to come back if and when they were ready. You probably won't get a second chance in situations like this. If you don't get a good enough result, they won't keep trying and you will have missed the one great opportunity you had to show a person how taking herbs and looking after themselves can help them heal from just about anything. I would far prefer to delay starting until a person was truly ready than to miss that one chance.

However, in the case of Karl, he was clearly entirely committed from day one. He did everything asked and stuck to his promise to get a lot more sleep and start eating regularly etc. On our one-month follow-up I saw him smiling for the first time and I could already begin to see the young man underneath the terrible skin. He stopped getting new outbreaks quite quickly into the treatment program and his existing skin was healing fast.

He was probably nearly 50% better in a month, which is unusually fast but obviously tremendously gratifying to all concerned, especially Karl! We had one further visit a month later where I put him in charge of his treatment program, i.e. he was going to be the one to decide when to stop any part of the treatment and to gauge if he still needed any of it by how he felt and how his skin responded. I do this with everyone as soon as I can. No-one but us can be a better expert on ourselves. If we are willing to be honest, we will quickly get the answers we need from our bodies about medicine, about food, about sleep, about everything...

I see from his notes that Karl did stay on his treatment program at what must have been a once a day dose for quite a few months, but I didn't see him again until over 10 years later, when he came in for a general check-up and bought with him his fiancée, a beautiful, smart, professional woman in her mid-20s who had some gynaecological problems which they wanted some help with before they got married and started a family.

I found that he had flown through his final year of school with distinction, gone on to get an advanced professional qualification and was now going exceptionally well in life. We had only met 3 times before this, long ago, but I remembered him well and it filled my heart with joy to see the handsome, confident, brightly-futured man that he had become.


Constitutions & the Healing Cycle


I mentioned above that Madeline was a 'Bear'. Karl was a 'Tiger' constitution through and through. This ancient way of understanding our differences, according to how we are naturally either hotter or cooler, and at the same time dryer or damper, underpins much of the approach of what kinds of foods, herbs etc, will best help a person.

For example, I also mentioned that Madeline had gone on to a Vegan diet, which whilst this will suit some people, very rarely serves people from the cooler constitutions well, which is part of what a Bear is.

Bears and Tigers are the 'damper' constitutions and I would say that at least 95% of the bad cases of acne that I have seen in practice have been with Bear or Tiger people, they are naturally a lot damper than dryer and this reflects in how much and how thick the oil that their sebaceous glands produce.

The important and interesting subject of the constitutions is introduced here, and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are is found here

The Healing Cycle

After getting a sense of whether a person is naturally cooler or hotter, dryer or damper, the next level of knowledge to take the kind of personal approach that can be essential to a great result is to look into the healing cycle. There are four stages in the cycle; cleansing, activation, nourishment and rest.

This is a fascinating subject in itself and understanding it can give great insight into what needs to be done to treat the cause and help healing happen naturally.

You can see that there was a strong emphasis on 'cleansing' in the above cases, indeed some kind of cleansing formula and clean diet nearly always forms the foundation of my approach to acne but, by itself, this would often not be enough to effect a cure.

In Madeline's case we also needed to work on 'nourishing' her body with more warming foods and likewise 'activating' her immune system with herbs and giving her nerves a 'rest' from stress by helping her to be in the world with less raw exposure.

In Karl's case, along with the cleansing programs, his work was to get more 'rest' at night and to improve his 'nourishment' with getting back his appetite, eating breakfast etc. As he became better he then naturally began to 'activate' himself back into his studies and into life...

Before I put the link for anyone who wants to learn more, I want to say that I fully recognise that many people are not ready to take the kinds of steps you see being talked about in the case histories above or in the general recommendations below.

They would rather use prescription drugs and get on with their lives with as little disturbance to their habits as possible. Yes, probably, if there are underlying issues that aren't being dealt with, there will be further trouble to come, but none of us are getting out of this alive no matter what we do and I deeply believe that people should choose their own paths as much as they possibly can.

So, these old ways are not for everyone but, that said, I can also say that, if a person is ready to let Nature in and work on the causes of whats stopping them get well, then it can be seen that they can get better from just about anything. To learn more about the cycle of healing read here

This chart can be seen in more detail in a PDF found here


General Recommendations

I trust that the above examples have illustrated that the holistic treatment of severe acne requires an individualised approach that seeks to treat the underlying imbalances and, as mentioned at the beginning, if your condition is very bad or you know you need some guidance in person then I hope you will be able to find a good herbalist who will get involved and help personally guide you to doing or getting whatever you need to get well.

However, it also may be that your condition is not so severe, or even that it is but you just don't have the option of working with a holistic practitioner. In these instances, I want to share some general suggestions, starting with some reliably effective medicines from Nature, that are both safe and highly likely to help anyone.

Internal Cleansing

All traditional systems of medicine around the world, with the exception of Western pharmaceutical medicine, see chronic skin problems, such as acne, as a clear sign from the body that it needs help with internal cleansing. Only working with a skin problem from the outside is seen as not understanding that the skin is an organ of elimination, as are the kidneys, the bowel and even the lungs.

We can ease the burden on the skin to need to remove excess wastes by using herbs to help the body with its internal cleansing. There are many potential allies in the plant world to help with internal cleansing but two that have been seen to provide exceptionally safe and reliable help are Dandelion root and Burdock root.

Dandelion & Burdock

Dandelion and Burdock work especially well together to activate the liver and the kidneys and to cleanse the blood. In my experience there hasn't been a single case where there wasn't at least some improvement from using these two herbs if they were taken in big enough doses for long enough and they typically form the cornerstone of my internal cleansing programs for people with severe acne.

It may be most convenient, when wanting to use them over a longer time-frame, to take them in tincture form as shown in the case histories above however, it is also an entirely appropriate, effective, and easily obtainable option to use them in the form of a decoction.

Decoction recipe

In the evening take approximately 8 grams of the dried, cut root of each herb (16 grams in total), place in a saucepan and pour over approximately 3 cups of freshly boiled water. Cover and soak overnight, then in the morning bring the mixture up to the boil, then turn the heat down and vigorously simmer for around 5 minutes. You should be left with about 2 cups after the simmering and some water absorption into the roots, you then strain this decoction into some kind of container, e.g. a drink bottle or a thermos.

It is up to you whether you drink the decoction hot or cold, it will work just as well either way. These two cups are an entire day's dose but should not be taken in one sitting. Divide into at least two doses or drink throughout the day. Most people find it quite palatable, many say they come to enjoy it.

You can read more about the wonderful Dandelion here and the potent, deep-acting Burdock here

Even though these are the safest herbs I could generally recommend, if taken in high enough doses, which the decoction and tincture examples above are giving, they may still provoke a 'healing crisis' in some people, where things get worse before they get better. This subject, and other important matters, are discussed in more depth in the article 'what is detoxification' found here

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)


External Cleansing

Many people who come to the clinic with bad acne have tried every mask, exfoliant, cleanser, lotion, cream, antibiotic and antiseptic there is. The common pattern is initial improvements that turn out to be temporary and then, after enough strong drugs and applications, the skin starts getting a ‘raw’ damaged appearance.

The spots of acne are caused by the thicker and 'dirtier' sebum, i.e. oil, creating a plug in the tiny sebaceous glands of the skin This oil is a veritable feasting ground for bacteria and if an acne spot gets any white pus in it, this means it has become infected by those bacteria.

Cleansing the skin is very important but it must be done with great care. Enough to deal to the bad bugs and clean the pores, not enough to create more inflammation and damage.

A two-fold approach has been seen to be widely beneficial. Firstly, Tea-tree to act as a daily cleansing disinfectant, secondly periodic clay-masks to draw out the excess sebum from the skin.

Tea-tree wash

Tea-tree is an exceptional natural antimicrobial; it is effective against a multitude of bacterial and fungal infections. The challenge is to get the dosage exactly right, not too weak and not too strong and, as people's skin sensitivity greatly varies, there must be a willingness to carefully experiment to get it just right.

A 1:20 dilution should be a good starting point that will suit many people. In practical terms this translates to 10 drops of Tea-tree oil to 200 drops, which is about 10mls of water.

Using any method of application that is convenient, apply this diluted Tea-tree wash directly to the affected skin and allow it to naturally evaporate, i.e. do not wash it off after applying. Very few bacteria will be able to survive a daily wash even at this strength.

Most people do well with a once a day application but, if things are badly infected, starting out with twice day treatments may be advisable so long as your skin tolerates the treatment without any trouble.

Reduce the number of drops of Tea-tree or increase the amount of water if you feel any kind of adverse reaction to this wash. e.g. it makes your skin feel too sore or tender. However, if you feel your system is entirely tolerant of this treatment, i.e. no redness, no sensitivity, you may benefit further by increasing the strength of the dilution and, depending on the amount of liquid you need to cover the affected areas, you may choose to do this by decreasing the amount of water or increasing the amount of Tea-tree oil.

Melaleuca alternifolia (Tea-tree)


Clay masks

Clay has been with us as a treatment for acne for thousands of years, but it can sometimes make the skin seem worse before it gets better, so you must carefully read and understand the following if you will use this ancient treatment for the skin.

The balancing act

People who have not used clay masks before need to know that the immediate affect can be to make the spots seem bigger as all that blocked up sebum is drawn to the surface. This is not a bad sign as the pore soon starts to 'breathe' again and the spots tend to heal much faster once that starts happening.

Also, don't be surprised if your skin seems to get noticeably drier, at least at first. This is because of the action of the clay to draw out the oils from your skin. Resist the urge to re-moisturise your skin, in fact try to avoid putting anything on it for a good 8 hours after doing the mask if it all possible.

It is a balancing act. Like swinging a pendulum. You deliberately make your skin dryer so that it naturally produces more oil but, what should happen is that oil glands start producing a thinner, cleaner and less sticky oil to re-moisturise your skin.

In other words, firstly your skin needs to get too dry before it can naturally re-oil itself. Ultimately, once it is producing a healthy amount of good oil, one that doesn't block your pores, your skin will be healing and balancing itself. The less products you then use on it the better.


Clay masks are easy to make. There are a number of products that contain premixed clay but it may be best to get your own powdered clay, with nothing in it but the clay itself, and that you can then make thicker or thinner to your preference.

The clay and water mix must be spread over the skin in a mask that is thick enough to draw out the debris as it dries out. Apply the wet clay to the face or any other areas of affected skin then relax and wait for the mask to dry out and start to crack. When it is dried it will wash off with water.


Any kind of clay will work, but if you have a choice there are some subtle differences as follows.

~ White Clay:    
Easily the gentlest of the clays. Will soften skin whilst lightly cleansing

~ Pink Clay:       
The next most delicate after white, good for sensitive, easily damaged skin

~ Yellow Clay:
More stimulating and cleansing than Pink but still quite gentle

~ Blue Clay:       
Quite strong cleansing actions with deep effects on the pores

~ Green Clay:    
Green is the strongest of the cleansing clays, good for skin with very blocked pores. I mostly just use this one.


Diet matters

Much of the conventional medical literature will tell you that diet has nothing to do with acne and that it only happens because of hormonal changes that start around puberty. This is frankly wrong and badly misleading. Almost all young adults in modern civilisation get at least some acne whereas almost no young adults living in traditional hunter-gatherer tribes get acne. The difference is in their diet.

The two biggest dietary drivers for acne are

Cleansing Diet

The over-consumption of refined carbohydrates and processed foods impact on our body, our blood, and our hormonal balance, especially our insulin levels, which in turn affects the hormones that cause acne. The cleansing diet that addresses this issue, and is widely recommended in my practice, is described in detail here

Food Intolerances

Undiagnosed food intolerances are a major issue for some people with bad acne, especially when it continues into later adulthood. If there is any childhood history of eczema or asthma, then food intolerance must be seen as a likely part of the cause. Frequent bloating or indigestion are some other common indicators. When it is an issue, it needs careful diagnosis and diligent treatment, details here


Hormonal Herbs

Whilst hormones are unlikely to be the only issue, they are still often a major part of chronic acne. Changes in puberty that involve the increase of hormones called androgens cause an increase in the production and the thickness of the oil, i.e. the sebum, from the sebaceous glands in the skin.

I could not recommend hormonal herbs to any person without first meeting them in person. The potential to do harm with the wrong remedy in the wrong dose is much too high. Even when I can be with someone and there are some clear indicators to use one or more hormonal herbs I am still highly likely to use the ancient art of pulse testing to get an intuitive sense from their own body as to the suitability of one herb against another, this process is written up in detail here

This said, when they are the right herbs for the right person, hormonal herbs can be exceptionally helpful. Vitex and Sarsaparilla are shown here as just two examples of herbal medicines that have been seen to be particularly beneficial in many cases.

Vitex (chaste-tree)

Vitex is a remarkably potent hormonal herb and it can be especially helpful to women who get a patterning of deeper (cystic) spots around their chin and jawline and who get breakouts that are obviously in conjunction with their menstrual cycles. However, this is by no means a herb for everyone and it must be approached with a great deal of respect for its ability to change things for the better or worse!

When it seems to be the right herb for the right person, I will typically use Vitex for acne at around 20 to 30 drops once a day in the morning. It is often wise to use it for 3 or 4 months and then to take a break for 2 months or more to see how things go.

Vitex has also been used with much success for some men with bad acne, however here we use higher doses, e.g. maybe as much as 5 or 6 mls in a day.

In any case, if you will consider using this important herb then learn more about it here


Another hormonal herb that may be of value to be either men or women with acne is the herb Sarsaparilla, rich in substances called steroidal saponins that effect the hormones. A typical dose is the equivalent of about 1-2 grams of the herb per day,
more information about it here

Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-tree)

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd