Acne is not only a teenager’s problem. Just ask the scores of adults who suffer from the effects of acne, which is caused by a particular bacteria. Alas, there is a health breakthrough in the treatment of acne and it comes from herbal medicine. It also comes, in a way, from your kitchen’s spice rack.
Researchers have just reported that herbal preparations of thyme could be more effective at treating skin acne than prescription creams. As they test this further, we could start down the road to effective, but gentler treatments for the common skin ailment.
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The study tested the effects of thyme, marigold and myrrh tinctures on “Propionibacterium acnes.” This is the type of bacteria that causes acne by infecting skin pores and forming spots, which range from white heads through to puss-filled cysts. Researchers found that, while all the preparations were able to kill the bacterium after five minutes of exposure, thyme was the most effective of the three. What’s more, they discovered that thyme tincture had a greater antibacterial effect than “benzoyl peroxide” — the active ingredient in most anti-acne creams or washes.
What we’re talking about here are tinctures. The plant material is steeped in alcohol for days or even weeks to prepare a tincture. This process draws out the active compounds from the plant. While thyme, marigold and myrrh are common herbal alternatives to standard antibacterial skin washes, this is the first study to demonstrate the effect they have on the bacterium that causes the infection leading to acne.
They tested the effect of different substances applied to the skin. The tinctures were measured against an alcohol control, proving their antibacterial action was not simply due to the sterilizing effect of the alcohol they are prepared in.
As usual, more studies are needed to examine just how thyme works in this way. If the thyme tincture is proven to be as clinically effective as it appears, it may be a true natural remedy for acne.
A herbal treatment for acne would be very welcome news — particularly for acne sufferers who experience skin sensitivity. The problem with treatments containing benzoyl peroxide is the side effects they are associated with. A burning sensation and skin irritation are not uncommon. Herbal preparations are less harsh on the skin and just may be just as effective as chemical treatments. Or more effective.