Support the skin from within
Skin health is as dependent on what happens inside our bodies as what we apply to the outside. At nutu, we love—and are great believers in—topical creams and potions. Our Moringa Face Oil and Moringa Rose Salve have powerful healing properties and are essential elements of our own skincare routine. But before any creams and lotions touch our face, the first line of defence is ensuring it is cared for from the inside out. The skin is the largest organ in our body; it is the intermediary between our internal and external – but what does that really mean and how can we give our only external organ the support it needs?
The secret to glowing skin isn’t a quick fix, one-size-fits-all approach: it is a commitment to making sound lifestyle choices that support overall health. We asked Susan Staley, a Vermont-based herbalist (and resident tea-blender at nutu), what the cornerstones of skin health are, and she refined it to this point: “Our skin reflects basic health. All the topical treatments are helpful, but you can’t fake it with skin: you either have the glow or you don’t. A lot of what is going to be influencing that is diet.”
The key is to take a holistic approach, and ask yourself: what choices will support me most for my overall health? We want to make sure we get good quality sleep: this means getting to bed before midnight, and avoiding late night screen time (which can have consequences for hormonal balance). We also want to make sure we drink lots of water to stay well-hydrated, and eat well. Intuitive, but easy to forget.
If the baseline for skin health is a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, which foods and herbs can we incorporate to make sure we are nourishing our skin in a sustainable way? At nutu we are of course all about plants; and plants like moringa can reduce inflammation, boost immunity, detoxify the blood and provide essential vitamins and minerals. All of these factors translate to excellent skin health.
But there’s more we can do to support our largest organ. Staley says: “Having a diet that has sources of good fats is essential — any high-quality oil, sunflower seed oil, olive oil, avocado, ghee, grass fed butter, seeds, eggs, even wholegrains. You want to have a good Omega-3:Omega-6 ratio and hormone balance. Foods that are going to give your body what it needs to function well. We also want to incorporate foods that are high in vitamins and minerals: dark leafy green vegetables, nettle, milky oats, alfalfa, moringa, raspberry leaf, red clover, and gotu kola.”
We need support for liver, kidney, digestive and circulatory health, too—keeping these in good working condition is important for overall health and in turn can give your skin that glow. Burdock root, dandelion root and nettle are all excellent herbs to support liver health. Staley says “In this case specifically part of why they’re so good is because their support of the liver. I was taught that every pore on the skin is kind of like a little liver.”
Incorporate these herbs into your diet to support your skin and overall health.
How to work with: fresh root cooked into food (such as carrots), decoction*, tincture**, fresh powder.
Good for: lymphatic system, liver, digestive, very grounding.
Staley says: “Burdock is a really oily kind of a root, which is good for skin, especially dry skin.”
GOTU KOLA LEAF
How to work with: tea, tincture, fresh powder.
Good for: Connective tissue, circulatory tonic, bioflavonoid rich.
Staley says: “This is really helpful for strengthening the connective tissues of the body, circulation.”
TULSI LEAF and FLOWER
How to work with: as tea, fresh in food, elixir, tincture.
Good for: super antioxidant, liver, stress, mood, overall health.
Staley says: “This adaptogen is super antioxidant. You can make an after-sun spray with Tulsi for inflammation and oxidation.”
How to work with: Food—eat them!
Good for: hydrating the skin, silica-rich.
Staley says: “An awesome place to get to is when you ask the question: is this food or is this medicine? Am I eating cucumbers because they’re delicious or because of their high silica content?”
How to work with: Food—eat them!
Good for: protecting the skin, anti-oxidant.
Staley says: “You can take this as an herb, and the dose would be half a cup a day!”
MILKY OATS (OATSTRAW and MILKY TOPS)
How to work with: Infusion or tincture (fresh tops***).
Good for: nervous system, restorative.
Staley says: “This mineral rich herb has a super strong nervous system component, full of vitamins and minerals which is very restorative to the nervous system.”
How to work with: As food, infusion, powder, or tincture.
Good for: liver, general vitality.
Staley says “You can make an overnight long infusion with nettle to really pull out a lot of the minerals, nettles are really nourishing to the body and very supportive to the liver. You can also eat nettle whole, adding it to food: which goes back to the leafy green concept.”
How to work with: powder, tincture, in food.
Good for: general vitality, minerals and nutrition, antioxidant, balance
Staley says “Moringa leaf is deeply nourishing and rejuvenating. This means inside and out. Moringa balances body function on many levels which means more balanced skin tone and vibrancy—because when you’re feeling good inside, you’re looking good on the outside too.”
*Decoction: Instead of doing an infusion by pouring water over herbs for tea, a decoction is called for when working with roots, berries, and spices. Prepare a decoction on the stove stop by putting herbs and water in a pot over low heat. Cover and simmer for at least 15 min, then strain.
**Tincture: A tincture is an alcohol-based herbal extract. They can easily be prepared at home or ordered online.
***Fresh Tops: Avena sativa, oats, are the same plant you find in your breakfast bowl. However, before the seed ripens into our familiar grain there is another medicinal prep to be found—the milky oat top. The seed (when not yet ripe) contains a milky mineral-rich liquid that offers amazing benefit to the nervous system. At this stage the fresh milky tops can be harvested and dried for teas or made into a fresh tincture. The lower leaves of the oat plant are what is known as "oat straw" and also make a fantastic herb for infusions.