Everywhere you turn there seems to be a commercial heralding a new wonder beauty product. But as more and more people demand to know what they’re putting into their bodies, and on their skin, many are turning to more holistic options to gain a healthy, glowing complexion.
For centuries, the edible seeds, berries, roots and leaves of our natural environment have been used to treat both skin conditions and the effects of aging, and today they also have science to back them up.
Here’s 10 spices you should be using on both your food and your skin.
Cinnamon is chock full of antioxidants – more than blueberries – so adding it to foods or beverages can help enhance the appearance of your skin. Antioxidants protect skin from free radicals, which can damage skin cells and increase the signs of aging.
When applied topically, cinnamon stimulates the skin so easily that it increases circulation at the skin’s surface, helping to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin. It also can help balance out oiliness and assist in the treatment of acne.
For a quick rosy lip, try rubbing some cinnamon onto your lips.
Fennel is especially good for sensitive skin. It is a natural antiseptic that helps to reduce inflammation and is perfect for homemade facial cleansers, toners or even after-sun care.
Fennel is packed with B vitamins and vitamin C and is thought to promote the formation of collagen to keep the skin firm and tight. A 2012 study found that a cream containing fennel extract resulted in anti-aging effects on the skin, improving skin texture and moisture.
Make yourself a fennel seed mask by adding a tablespoon of fennel seeds to half a cup of boiling water. Let the “tea” steep for 30 minutes. Add the solution to a Tbsp of oatmeal and a Tbsp of honey to form a paste and smooth onto the face. Leave on for around 20 minutes and remove with lukewarm water.
We all know chamomile makes a calming tea that can soothe our body and mind but chamomile also has amazing properties that heal and soothe the skin.
For centuries it’s been used in traditional medicine as a remedy to treat wounds, eczema, gout, bruises, burns, canker sores and for lowering pain in general.
In fact, recent studies suggest that topical applications of chamomile can heal wounds faster than corticosteroids and, in the treatment of atopic eczema, it was found to be around 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone cream.
Nutmeg is another powerful anti-inflammatory for skin irritation but as an added bonus it also reduces the signs and scars of acne. It can also rejuvenate dry skin, because it’s both extremely moisturizing and exfoliating.
Ancient Romans used nutmeg to give them a pep in their step and to incite brain activity. In Chinese medicine, nutmeg is used to treat inflammation from joint pain and arthritis. In Ayurvedic medicine it’s famed for being antiviral and antibacterial and is used to unclog pores.
Make a paste of nutmeg, cinnamon, honey and some lemon juice and leave it on your inflamed pimples for a few hours at a time.
Paprika is rich in antioxidants, including vitamin C, and is a natural “vasodilator”, causing blood vessels to temporarily expand and giving your complexion a healthy, rosy flush.
Paprika is also packed with beta-carotene, which helps to prevent the occurrence of freckles and age spots. Beta-carotene is high in vitamin C (ascorbic acid) which restricts the production of melanin that causes skin pigmentation.
6. Curcumin (Turmeric)
Curcumin is a compound that comes from the famed “golden spice”, turmeric, and is known as the king of anti-inflammatory spices. It’s been praised in ancient Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and is considered to be an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial and an antifungal. Curcumin has also even proved itself to help in the against fight skin cancer (melanoma) and in the treatment of wounds, reducing wound-healing time. Is there anything it can’t do?
Clinical studies also agree that curcumin can play an important role in the treatment of chronic pigment conditions such as vitiligo as well as having a protective role against air pollution.
Ginger has the ability to improve skin tone and lighten age spots. It’s full of anti-aging antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds and minerals that can be of great benefit to sufferers of rosacea, acne, eczema, and psoriasis. Potent compounds in ginger roots also inhibit allergic reactions which may make it useful for the treatment, and prevention, of allergic conditions.
For healthy skin, rub a piece of fresh cut ginger root across your face to soothe inflammation from breakouts and to fight bacteria.
Sesame oil is full of zinc, which is essential to the production of collagen and the healing of damaged tissue. Research shows that sesame seed oil is also a potent antioxidant that can neutralize oxygen free radicals beneath the skin.
Sesame oil is also naturally antibacterial against skin pathogens like staphylococcus and skin fungi, and is ideal for those battling acne. Unlike most oils, sesame oil actually helps to soothe and control eruptions and sweep the bacteria away rather than adding to the problem.
Sesame seed oil has long been used in India as a moisturizer, to remove toxins from the skin, to improve skin elasticity and to reduce the appearance of scars.
Oil of cloves has shown to have antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. The essential oil has also been shown to effectively treat itchy skin.
Researchers from the University of Buenos Aires set out to determine which bacteria clove is the most potent on and found that clove has the greatest antimicrobial ability over E. coli and Staph aureus (which causes acne).
To use as a remedy against acne, mix one part clove oil with 10 parts of a basic carrier oil such as olive oil or coconut oil. In its pure form clove oil can be so potent it may cause burns so never use it on its own.
Saffron is prized in Indian Ayurvedic traditions for healthy skin especially for brightening the complexion. It unclogs pores, promotes circulation in the face, erases the appearance of dark circles and reduce fine lines. Indian women often use saffron in their skincare routine as an eye or face cream and some even bathe with it. It’s also perfect for use as a facial toner.
For a quick, easy saffron toner, mix saffron in rose water and let its colour leak into the water. Dab onto the face with a cotton ball.
If you’re concerned about the hidden ingredients in your current skin regime, or if you really need to to tighten up your finances, there are so many incredible beauty alternatives at your fingertips – that will literally cost you spare change. Get experimenting and see what works best for you. Then you can kick back with a homemade mask and relax in the knowledge that you’re feeding your skin the purest of nature’s ingredients.