Medical herbalist Nicola Parker explains why skin problems should not be a thorn in your side
Most skin problems are mediated by inflammation, and addressing this inflammation is the key to quick results whether your problem is eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or just dry itchy skin.
Skin problems are one of my favourite health issues to treat. While they can be difficult and often require a bit more brain power than usual on my part, they are also one of the most rewarding. Results are visible and easy to monitor, leaving no question about how quickly my medicines are working.
Although they can be varied in appearance and diagnosis, most skin problems are mediated by inflammation, and addressing this inflammation is the key to quick results whether your problem is eczema, psoriasis, dermatitis or just dry itchy skin.
This is why steroid creams work so well. If you’ve come across a steroid cream before you may know it as hydrocortisone cream or a corticosteroid. They tend to be prescribed when normal prescription emollients or moisturisers don’t work. Unlike other creams, steroids get right to the key symptom of inflammation, taking away the swelling from the skin cells and reducing redness, itching and dry flakiness rapidly.
Unfortunately, steroid creams only work while you are using them and it’s quite common for persistent skin problems to return as soon as the steroids are stopped. Topical steroids are also known for having various side effects, including thinning of the skin. Thin skin leaves the area more vulnerable to damage and may mean that you bruise in that area more easily and leave you open to a worsening of your skin problem should you have another flare-up in the future.
Since steroids are such a potent medicine, most doctors will use them only if milder creams fail to work adequately and many patients seek to avoid their use altogether. That is where herbal medicine can come into play, and I’m frequently consulted on alternative creams to topical steroids.
Unlike steroid creams, which address inflammation but damage the skin, my skin treatments attempt to address inflammation while healing the skin.
“But doesn’t the skin heal itself?” I hear you ask.
The answer is yes! That is the very principal that steroid creams work on. Taking away inflammation so that the skin cells have time to replenish restore. However, if your skin isn’t healing between using steroid creams, then it definitely needs a helping hand.
My go to alternative is a range of creams called Salcura. Salcura contains high amounts of Sea Buckthorn (pictured), a tiny bright yellow berry that is rich in carotenes and omega oils. Carotenes, found in brightly coloured vegetables, (including carrots, squash and dark green leafy vegetables) are known for their protective effect on our skin and are especially important in keeping our skin safe from sun damage. Omega oils are found in seeds, oily fish and nuts and they play a role in keeping our skin cells moist and hydrated.
Salcura creams use the sea buckthorn oil to ensure that our damaged skin is provided with a direct source of these nutrients with which to heal itself, unlike steroid creams which can damage the skin while forcing it do all it’s healing unaided.
By promoting tissue regeneration, the sea buckthorn supports new growth to help it come back stronger, more protected and less likely to be vulnerable to future flare-ups once initial inflammation has died down.
Salcura provides products as spray or a cream. People tend to prefer a spray if they are treating a particularly sore or large area, as it covers a vast area easily and doesn’t require extra rubbing in which can sometimes irritate tender tissues. The cream is particularly useful for very dry areas that need extra hydration, especially the kind of skin that almost ‘drinks’ normal moisturisers while still remaining dry.
It’s extremely satisfying to see something working so I always keep a huge stock of free samples of Salcura in our shop for people to try before coming in to see me in clinic. A few days is usually enough time to see the benefit.
In the long run, drink plenty of water, eat healthy oils and load up your fridge with brightly coloured vegetables. Nourishing from the inside can sometimes be the key to avoiding topical creams altogether.
For more information or to book an appointment with Nicola, contact her clinic on 01524 413733.