Acne is a common skin condition characterized by the presence of pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, and, in severe cases, cysts. It is a skin condition that affects millions worldwide. Even though it is not a fatal skin condition, it can take a toll on a person’s self-confidence and emotional well-being. While there are multiple skincare products and medications that claim to fight acne, there is a growing awareness among individuals who are seeking natural remedies to address acne. One such herb that can offer potential relief from acne is ashwagandha. Let us explore what Ayurveda and modern science have on acne and the potential of ashwagandha in dealing with it.
Ayurveda considers acne as one of the kshudra rogas (minor ailments). According to many Ayurvedic experts, vitiation of Kapha dosha (resembles with excess sebum production), Vata dosha (resembles with hyperkeratinization), and rakta dhatu (may refer to inflammatory mediators in blood) are the prominent potential causes that lead to acne development.
Acne is commonly observed amongst individuals between pubescence and 30 years of age, it is called yuvanpidika or tarunyapidika wherein yuva or taruna refers to adolescence and pidika means skin eruption. Apart from that acne is also referred to as mukhadushika, due to its inflammatory and scarring lesions. There are some physical attributes of the skin condition that have been recognized, which include, saruja (mildly painful), ghan (firm on touch), and medogarbha (filled with oil/sebum). According to Ayurvedic experts, there are mainly two types of treatments for acne. These are, shodhana (purification of body) and shamana (treatment by oral and topical medicines).
Acne can be categorized into four groups based on the characteristics of the doshas (energies) and dhatus (tissues) involved. These groups are vataja, pittaja, kaphaja, and raktaja.
Acne is a chronic inflammatory condition of skin that affects both males and females. The condition is characterized by formation of non-inflammatory and inflammatory lesions and cysts, etc. It can be caused by hormonal, bacterial, and immunological factors. According to modern day studies and research, several factors can be attributed to causing acne. Some of which include, bacteria, fluctuation in hormonal balance (androgen), hyperkeratinization, excess sebum production, accumulation of excess sebum, keratin obstruct, etc. According to modern science, the treatment for acne includes antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs, etc.
Ashwagandha has been mentioned in the Charaka Samhita, Sushruta Samhita, Astangahridaya, Chakaradatta, and Nighantus, etc. extensively and is a revered herb in the Indian Ayurvedic wisdom. Due to its potential properties, ashwagandha has been used as a rejuvenator, a health tonic, and a potential remedy for multiple health problems4.
Modern research has highlighted that the herb has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, cardioprotective, and anti-diabetic properties, has anti-neurodegenerative effects, may potentially help improve stress resilience, reduce anxiety, deal with hypothyroidism, and enhance muscle strength and recovery, etc5.
It is important to understand that there are multiple ways in which ashwagandha can help deal with acne. These include:
Helps lower stress:Stress and acne are two seemingly unrelated aspects of our lives, but there is a profound connection between the two. Even though stress might not trigger acne in all cases, studies6 indicate that it has the potential to make it worse. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen7, a herb that can be potentially used to fight and reduce stress. Numerous modern-day studies have examined the role of ashwagandha in reducing stress. and the studies have shown promising results, with ashwagandha potentially helping reduce stress and anxiety8.
Regulation of female hormones: Hormonal health plays a substantial role in our overall well-being, and affects everything from mood, skin, and energy levels to reproductive health. During puberty, hormonal acne often appears on our skin in the form of blackheads, whiteheads, and small pimples. The hormones involved in acne include androgens, estrogens, progesterone, insulin, etc. One herb that has gained tremendous attention for its potential to support hormonal balance is ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is classified as an adaptogen, known for its ability to help the body adapt to stressors and potentially impact hormonal health positively9. Research highlights the ability of the herb to affect other hormones including insulin, reproductive hormones, and more10, 11, 12. Thus by balancing multiple hormones, ashwagandha may help be helpful in reducing acne associated with hormonal imbalance.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Acne, a common skin condition, can be both frustrating and uncomfortable. It can result from a combination of factors and in some cases, inflammation aggravates the formation of pimples, cysts, etc. Ashwagandha possesses potent anti-inflammatory13 properties that can benefit individuals dealing with acne. This herb also contains withanolides that help cleanse dirt and grime from the pores of your skin while controlling excessive sebum production. With powerful antimicrobial14 and anti-inflammatory properties, ashwagandha helps reduce redness and inflammation while healing acne scars.
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Ayurvedic measures that support healthy skin and fighting acne include:
Acne is one of the most common skin problems all over the world. While adolescents are most susceptible to acne, it can happen to any person in any age group. It has been observed that both science and Ayurveda have shown substantial similarity in the understanding of acne in terms of causative factors, symptoms, and methods of treatment. According to Ayurveda and modern science, hormonal changes, stress, excess sebum production, blood impurities, etc., are contributory factors for acne development and that treatment could include the use of herbs that target the root cause.
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