Many mirrors have framed saddened faces of countless teenagers as they struggle through the incidence of pimples located across their face and other parts of their body—a condition most of us know as acne. Though this is most commonly the affliction of those in their teens, people of all ages endure this inflammation of the skin on and off throughout their lives. It has been reported that over 85-percent of teenagers are affected by acne.
Our skin is able to remain waterproof and moist because it contains glands that secrete an oily substance known as sebum. These glands excrete this substance through many tiny holes in the skin known as pores. There are times, however, when an excessive amount of sebum is excreted and the pores get clogged.
When this happens, there is a buildup of dirt and bacteria, which in turn can lead to inflammation of the skin. Acne is the incidence of this inflammation.
Western medical practitioners instruct acne patients to clean their skin with soap, avoid the use of greasy products on the skin, and conduct other preventative measures that lessen the incidence of oil. Western medicine also offers to treat acne with over-the-counter medication such as benzoyl peroxide, as well as prescription medications like orally administered antibiotics and topical antibiotics. These medicines are intended to kill the bacteria that cause the inflammation of the skin.
Given its relationship to inflammation and excess heat in the skin, Ayurveda primarily associates the incidence of acne with an aggravation of the Pitta dosha. Pitta energy is used to sustain the digestive fire in the stomach, and when this energy is aggravated through poor digestion and excessive heat in the body, eruptions in the skin can occur. These are toxins which have not been burned off by the digestive fire and have found their way into the blood and skin.
Digestion is responsible for the breakdown of food into waste and nutrients, and when this doesn’t happen efficiently, toxic matter forms and circulates throughout the body. Digestion may be hindered by consuming dense foods of low water content like red meat and other animal products, spicy foods, and elimination problems like constipation. Acne is also caused by excessive heat born from too much worry, stress, and masturbation.
As the incidence of acne is based on the buildup of heat, many of the therapeutic processes utilized by Ayurveda are based on cooling off the body and stabilizing the digestive fire in the stomach. This can be done with a Pitta-reducing diet, cooling herbal remedies, yoga and breathing practices that can help to cool the body, and other therapies that settle the inflammation in the skin. The other way is also to reduce the fire in the system if it has been aggravated. For this, purgation is needed to eliminate stagnant dry feces and trapped gas in the colon. This treatment also lowers the heat of the skin, which helps to cool it down.
Ayurveda promotes the use of oil both on the face and as a food, as it helps to lubricate the bones and muscles. This also promotes healthy teeth, hair, and skin. Oil is used on the face where the toxic matter does not collect and is very beneficial to the health, elasticity, and texture of the skin. Take half or one tablespoon (depends on size of person) of Castor Oil in half cup of warm water every night for 3 to 4 days then change to every other night for a few weeks. Do not eat 2 to 3 hours prior to taking the oil and take it one hour before bedtime. The effect should be mild purgation where the feces come out in a loose way but not very violently. If this creates gassiness, take less oil.
When we neglect to establish the root cause of one illness, it can turn into another, stronger illness in the future. The first step in resolving a specific ailment or disease in the body is to assess the nature of our lifestyle and make general modifications. Living our day-to-day life with a deliberate intention to improve our health will help us to both resolve the disease we are suffering from and prevent further incidence of it and other diseases in the future. The following lifestyle changes will help to reduce heat in the body and lessen the toxicity associated with acne:
Ayurveda teaches us that disease and sickness are derived from poor digestion and inappropriate food choices. We then have an opportunity to make deliberate and more conscious decisions as to what foods we do and do not put in our body which increases the chance of resolving the body’s imbalance.
Food needs to be in season, in moderate combinations of one or two food groups, not too hot or cold, in a modest enough quantity to allow for room in the stomach later, consumed without too much liquid which hinders digestive power, and should be fresh and not left over for more than a few hours. The following foods will help settle heat in the body and therefore resolve symptoms of acne.
Rice (White Basmati)
While some foods can help to balance an aggravated dosha, other foods can cause further imbalance. Dry and cold foods, as well as pungent, bitter, and astringent tastes will dry out the body and aggravate the Vata dosha.Sour, salty and pungent tastes as well as spicy foods will add more heat to the body and aggravate the Pitta dosha. Sweet, sour and salty tasting foods will add heaviness to the body and aggravate the Kapha dosha. The following foods will aggravate the fiery Pitta element in the body and will therefore intensify acne symptoms:
Sour foods (like yogurt, sour cream, and pickles)
Generally, Ayurveda discourages the consumption of too many cold beverages, as doing so hinders the strength of the body’s digestive fire. Instead, favors room temperature or hot beverages to encourage the strength of the digestive fire.
Herbs are used in the Ayurvedic system much like Western medicine utilizes drugs and vitamins and can be taken like tea 2 to 3 times a day. Herbs aid in the digestion of food, the breakdown and elimination of toxins, and help to strengthen the cellular structure of our system for greater vitality. Herbs become more potent once mixed with other herbs of similar properties. Mix together 2 to 4 different herbs from the below list by adding a quarter to a half teaspoon full of each, for a total of 1 teaspoon. Drink these in half cup of hot water. The following herbs will help resolve the heat in the body associated with acne:
Aromatherapy utilizes the fragrances of essential oils when applied to the skin. Essential oils can burn the skin and therefore must be diluted with a base oil such as sesame, coconut, sunflower, canola, or mustard oil. Mix 1 fluid ounce of base oil with about 12 drops of essential oil before applying to skin. You can also just mix 5 drops of base oil to one drop of essential oil if using on one spot.
Ayurvedic tradition suggests that repeating certain words or sounds can help a person suffering from an ailment to restore subtle balance to nerve tissue and enhance one’s mental clarity. Different sounds are prescribed to either repeat mentally or chant outwardly. These sounds are also used and repeated in the mind for the purpose of spiritual growth.
Controlling the breath is a central practice toward developing peace and stillness in the mind and body. When the breath is under our control, we are no longer at the mercy of the senses that are stimulated by everything and lead to greater fluctuations of the mind. When applied to the context of resolving specific ailments, the breath is used as a tool for developing lung capacity, heating and cooling the body and resolving mental afflictions like anxiety and stress. Like with the yoga postures above, breathing exercises are likely to be of significant benefit to those who suffer from considerable amounts of stress.
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