Integumentary System Herbal Protocol


Illness/ Disease Definition

From David Hoffman’s Medical Herbalism:

 “A common inflammatory pilosebaceous disease characterized by comedones, papules, pustules, inflamed nodules, superficial pus-filled cysts, and, in extreme cases, canalizing and deep, inflamed, sometimes purulent, sacs.”

Etymology (terms)

  • Blackheads- glands plugged with excessive material that discolors on exposure to air
  • Nodules/Papules- red and inflamed areas of more extensive infection
  • Whiteheads- small collections of pus within glands

Etiology (causes)

  • Genetic disposition
  • Hormonal changes in adolescence
  • Skin flora
  • Nutrition


Acne is very common in adolescence with a peek in the late teens, but can start later and/or persist into the 40s and 50s.

Allopathic Treatments

  • Topical medications such as: Retinoids and retinoid-like drugs, Antibiotics, Salicylic acid & Azelaic acid, & Dapsone
  • Oral medications such as: Antibiotics, Combined oral contraceptives, Anti-androgen agents, & Isotretinoin
  • Therapies such as:  Lasers and photodynamic therapy, Chemical peel, Extraction of whiteheads and blackheads, & Steroid injections

Signs & Symptoms

Blackheads, nodules/papules, or whiteheads often on the face, back, shoulders, and chest

Body Systems Affected

Endocrine System & Immune System

Actions needed

Alterative, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Astringent, Diuretic, Hepatic, Hormone Normalizer, and Lymphatic Tonic

Melaleuca alternifolia
Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic, Antiviral, Immune Stimulant
Vitex agnus-castus
Emmenagogue, Galactagogue, Hormone Normalizer, Uterine Tonic
Iris versicolor
Alterative, Anti-inflammatory, Antirheumatic, Aperient, Bitter, Cathartic, Cholagogue, Diuretic, Emetic, Hepatic, Laxative, Purgative (Liver), Sialagogue, Stimulant (Liver)
Arctium lappa
Alterative, Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Antifungal, Antifurunculous, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antioxidant, Antipyretic, Antiseptic, Antitumor, Aperient, Bitter, Cholagogue, Demulcent, Detoxifying, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Hepatoprotective, Hypoglycemic, Tonic (Digestive)
Echinacea angustifolia
Alterative, Antibacterial, Anticatarrhal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic, Antiviral, Aphrodisiac, Diaphoretic, Immuno-stimulating, Sialogogue, Vulnerary
Galium aparine
Alterative, Antibiotic, Anti-inflammatory, Antispasmodic, Aperient, Astringent, Detoxifying, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Hypotensive, Laxative (Mild), Styptic, Tonic (Lymphatic & Urinary), Vulnerary
Urtica dioica
Alterative, Astringent, Diuretic, Expectorant, Galactagogue, Hemostatic, Hypotensive, Pectoral, Rubefacient, Tonic
Calendula officinales
Alterative, Antibacterial, Antifungal, Anti-inflammatory, Antimicrobial, Antiseptic, Antispasmodic, Antiviral, Astringent, Aperient, Cholagogue, Demulcent, Diaphoretic, Emmenagogue, Emollient, Immuno-stimulant, Lymphatic, Vulnerary
Hamamelis virginiana
Anti-inflammatory, Anti-pruritic, Antipyretic, Astringent, Hemostatic, Refrigerant, Sedative, Tonic, Vulnerary
Scrophularia nodosa
Alterative, Anodyne, Anthelmintic, Anti-inflammatory, Antitumor, Bitter, Detoxifying, Diuretic, Emetic, Laxative, Purgative, Stimulant (Cardiac)
Polygonatum multiflorum
Anti-inflammatory, Astringent, Demulcent, Emetic, Steroidal, Tonic
Trifolium pratense
Alterative, Antibiotic, Antineoplastic, Antispasmodic, Detoxifier, Diuretic, Expectorant, Lymphatic, Phytoestrogenic


  • Infusion:
    • Calendula, Nettle, Red Clover, Chaste berry, Figwort
  • Tincture:
    • 1 part Blue Flag, 1 part Burdock, 1 part Echinacea, 1 part Cleavers.  Up to 5mL tincture 3 times a day
  • Topically:
    • For every 2 oz of Witch Hazel, add 3 drops Tea Tree Oil.  Use as a toner throughout the day.
    • Decoction of Solomon’s Seal used as facial rinse


  • Blue Flag: Don’t use if pregnant or breastfeeding. May cause severe irritation if it comes into contact with eyes, nose, or mouth. May cause dermatitis in some people. Excessive doses cause vomiting.
  • Burdock: May cause allergic reactions in people sensitive to plants in the Asteraceae family. Do not use if taking insulin or other drugs for diabetes. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Calendula: Do not use if pregnant or breast-feeding.
  • Chaste: Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or if you are trying to become pregnant.
  • Cleavers: Do not use if diabetic.
  • Echinacea: Not for long term use. Use caution if allergic to plants in the daisy family. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Figwort: Do not use if you have tachycardia (abnormally rapid heartbeat) or other heart conditions. May potentiate the effects of cardiac glycosides. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Nettle: Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. Consult a doctor before use in children or the elderly. Fresh nettle causes urticaria (skin rash) if applied topically. Do not use while taking diuretics.
  • Red Clover: May potentiate the effects of anticoagulant drugs. May cause infertility and growth disorders and may foster growth of estrogen-related tumors. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. May interact with blood thinners, drugs that affect platelets such as aspirin, and oral contraceptives.
  • Solomon’s Seal: Do not take internally except under professional advice. The aerial parts, especially the berries are harmful if eaten.
  • Tea Tree Oil: For external use only. Do not use if pregnant or breastfeeding. People with sensitive skin should dilute with a carrier oil, such as almond oil.
  • Witch Hazel: Do not use if pregnant or breast-feeding.  Do not use internally.

Recommendations for Diet and Lifestyle

  • Diet:
    • Avoid refined foods, red meat, and high-fat or carbohydrate-rich foods.  A diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fruit is indicated.
  • Supplements:
    • Vitamin A: 100,000 IU/day for 3 months
    • Vitamin E: 400 IU/day
    • Vitamin C: 1,000 mg/day
    • Zinc: 50 mg/day (as picolinate)
    • Selenium: 200 mcg/day
    • Brewer’s Yeast: 1 tablespoon twice a day
  • Lifestyle Recommendations:
    • Keep hands away from the face
    • Do not squeeze pimples or blackheads
    • Keep your hair off your face
    • Avoid cosmetics that contain synthetic chemicals

References & Resources:

A Modern Herbal, Mrs. M. Grieve.

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH

Foundations of Medicinal Herbalism, Teresa Boardwine RH.

Mayo Clinic.

Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman, FNIMH

The Complete Guide to Herbal Medicines, Charles W. Fetrow, Pharm.D. & Juan R. Avila, Pharm.D.

The Herb Book, John Lust.

The Scientific Validation of Herbal Medicine, Daniel B, Mowrey, Ph.D.