Botanical and herbal remedies have been widely used to treat and relieve all types of skin injuries and irritations throughout recorded history. The ancient Greeks, Romans and Chinese made note of treating acne with a variety of different naturally occurring compounds.
In arid areas of the world, a plant called aloe vera or medicinal aloe was used to treat a variety of ailments before the introduction of prescription drugs. It is a staple of Ayurvedic or traditional Indian medicine, which is still widely practiced today.
The juice is consumed to relieve digestive complaints, such as heartburn and irritable bowel. It is applied topically to help heal burns and soothe irritations of all kinds. Modern day studies concerning the benefit of aloe vera in the treatment of acne have returned conflicting results. Some practitioners believe that conflicting results are seen because the wrong part of the plant is used.
Aloe is a succulent, similar to cacti. The leaves are thick and filled with juice, even though the plant grows in the driest soil.
If you have your own plant and you wanted to use the juice to soothe blemishes or reduce bacterial growth on your skin, you would choose the inner leaves that are less green in color. The juice from the inner leaves is soothing and has mild anti-inflammatory activity. The green outer leaves secrete an irritating compound called aloin.
If you purchase a ready-made product, you will need to rely on the manufacturers' knowledge of the plant. Assuming the right parts of the plant are used, an aloe vera gel may reduce inflammation, which would help heal current blemishes and the slight antibacterial activity could help prevent additional blemishes from forming.
Other plants that have proven benefits in treating acne include tea tree oil and turmeric. These are available in over-the-counter ointments. They are valued for their antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activity. Modern research supports the use of both turmeric and tea tree oil.
One of the positive benefits of using botanicals and other natural ingredients is that they do no harm to the skin, which is something that cannot be said of synthetic ointments popular today.
Retinoids, for example, are commonly prescribed for the treatment of acne. They are a synthetic form of vitamin A. While they seem to be beneficial for reducing outbreaks, they often cause redness, itching, flaking and burning that worsen the condition.
The best advice is to start with the most natural approaches that you can find, whether they be dietary changes, special cleansers or antibacterial ointments. The effectiveness of these natural remedies vary, but they won't make your problem worse.