Inflammation is at the root of many acute and chronic diseases including acne.  It should come as no surprise that the market is now saturated with medications to treat these inflammatory diseases.  Sadly, there is a dark side to these treatments.  Used over the long haul, these medications can lead to a host of unwanted side effects such as:

  • bone marrow depression
  • water and salt retention
  • gastrointestinal intolerance

Those pain in the neck side effects have researchers looking for new methods of treating inflammation. It’s a good thing too.  When the side effects start sounding worse than the symptoms, I think it’s time to look for some other options.  Herbs are rich in polyphenols, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and other beneficial effects.

The Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter recently recommended these powerhouses:

  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Cumin
  • Cinnamon


Experimental studies have shown that Dill is quite the little inflammation fighting powerhouse.  In addition to being anti-inflammatory, it is anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, and effective in curing urinary and brain disorders.  To sweeten the pot, dill has fewer side effects and a much lower cost.  It has a proven track record of success.  This aromatic, native plant of Iran has a long history of consumption and is used in some common Iranian foods.

Chemical analysis of Dill oil by gas chromatography showed that 90% of Dill oil consists of d-carvone, d-limonene, and α-phellandrene. The remaining 10% is comprised of components such as, flavonoids, protein, coumarin, and fatty acids.  Limonene and carvone not only have an anti-inflammatory effect, but they also have an analgesic, or pain relieving effect.  Add a little dill to steamed vegetables to reap the many benefits of this mighty herb.


Thyme is such an effective bacteria fighting herb that researchers have started testing ways to apply it to the skin.  Researchers from Leeds Metropolitan University in the U.K., prepared a tincture by steeping thyme, marigold, and myrrh in alcohol.   After testing the mixture on the bacteria that causes acne, they discovered a bit of gold.  The herbs had more antibacterial punch than the lab specimens exposed to plain alcohol.  Of all the herbs tested, thyme was the most powerful.

Thyme even worked better than benzoyl peroxide, which is the active ingredient in many acne products (including Proactive).  This is promising news for anyone who suffers from acne and sensitive skin.  Benzoyl peroxide is known to irritate the skin and even create a burning sensation in some.  It just goes to show that treating acne doesn’t have to involve using harsh products.  There are natural remedies that are gentle and even more effective than chemical treatments.

With that being said, Dr. Joshua Zeichner, Mount Sinai Medical Center’s assistant professor of dermatology, did offer a word of caution.  “How it works in the lab setting is very different than how it works on your skin,” he says.  Using it in a home setting may not provide the same effect.  Not to worry, you can still use thyme to give acne a run for its money.  Just add this inflammation taming powerhouse to your soups and stews for a flavorful skin friendly treat.


Oregano oil has been studied for its major phenolic components, carvacrol and thymol, that are known for their antimicrobial activity.  These components have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumoral activities.  One study evaluated carvacrol and thymol’s impact on staphylococcai, a persistent form of bacteria.   Killing that bacteria using conventional treatment has proven to be ineffective.  Why is that?

Conventional treatments have a tough time penetrating the protective coat around the bacteria known as the biofilm.  However, the study showed that in the presence of carvacrol, the amount of biofilm was reduced. Bacterial cells also grew as looser colonies.  Carvacrol and thymol were observed to prevent growth of preformed biofilm and block biofilm formation.

Carvacrol and thymol have the ability to destabilize bacteria’s biofilm because they have such strong antimicrobial properties.  One of the healthiest ways to add oregano to your diet is to make your own salad dressing using olive oil, oregano, and other spices.  You can also add oregano to your marinades.


Nigella sativa, often called black cumin has been used for centuries in many cultures as a natural remedy.  Studies show that black cumin has a wide range of pharmacological effects such as:

  • Immune-Stimulatory
  • Anti-Inflammatory
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Antihypertensive
  • Antiasthmatic
  • Antimicrobial
  • Antiparasitic
  • Antioxidant
  • Wound Healing
  • Anticancer Effects

In a clinical study, N. sativa oil lotion significantly reduced the amount of inflamed papules and pustules after 2 months of therapy.   Here’s the breakdown of the results of the test group: treatment was recorded as good in 58% and moderate in 35%. The remaining 7% recorded no response.  Patient satisfaction results are as follows: 67% were fully satisfied; 28% were partially satisfied; and only 5% were not satisfied.

How did the control group stack up against the test group?  After 2 months of therapy, no significant reduction of acne was reported.  Treatment was reported as good in 8% and moderate in 34%.  The remaining 58% reported no response.  Patient satisfaction was reported as follows: 8% were fully satisfied; 24% were partially satisfied, and 68% weren’t satisfied at all.

NO side effects were reported in the group treated with the N. sativa oil lotion at 10%.  The good results were credited to the oil’s antimicrobial, immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects.  Can’t find a lotion with black cumin?  Throw in some black cumin seeds with your bean dishes or salads to add some major acne fighting yumminess to your meals.


Cinnamon gets its anti-inflammatory activity from Cinnamaldehyde which inhibits the production of nitric oxide.  Why is this important?  Nitric oxide is responsible for inflammatory conditions in our bodies.  Cinnamon also puts the breaks on the production of COX-2, a pro-inflammatory agent.  Research shows cinnamon has powerful antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cinnamon and honey pair very well together. Full of antioxidants, honey attacks vicious free radicals that promote inflammation.  It has an acidic property which keeps bacteria from growing.  Like cinnamon, honey also works as a natural bacteria killing antibiotic.  It does this by releasing hydrogen peroxide which in turn gets rid of bacteria and clears acne.

The sweet, golden acne fighter even reduces the redness that comes with acne because it has anti-inflammatory properties.  You can add cinnamon to spicy stews and meat sauces or try a honey and cinnamon mask.


If you decide to add herbs to your diet, here are a few tips to help you get the most benefit from them:

  • Get more flavor by chopping or grinding the herb into smaller amounts
  • Throw in your herb of choice at the end of cooking your dish to up the flavor factor
  • Start small – too much of an herb can make the dish taste bitter

Bon appetit!


Join the Conversation

My favorite part of doing these posts is getting your feedback. Each week, I ask one question. This week, it is this:

Which of these herbs would you use to knock out acne?


The information contained on this site is provided as an information resource only.  It is not to be used or relied upon for any treatment or diagnostic purposes.  This information is not intended to be patient education.  It should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment.  The statements on this site have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.   This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.  Please consult your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition, such as if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a mental condition.  Please read all product packaging carefully and consult with a healthcare professional before starting any diet, exercise, supplementation or medication program. Cosmetic products have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.


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“Herbal Powerhouses,” Remedies, September 2017

Elin Julianti, Kasturi K. Rajah, and Irda Fidrianny, “Antibacterial Activity of Ethanolic Extract of Cinnamon Bark, Honey, and Their Combination Effects against Acne-Causing Bacteria,” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5489923/

Mohsen Naseri, Faraz Mojab, Mahmood Khodadoost, Mohammad Kamalinejad, Ali Davati, Rasol Choopani, Abbas Hasheminejad, Zahra Bararpoor, Shamsa Shariatpanahi, and Majid Emtiazy “The Study of Anti-Inflammatory Activity of Oil-Based Dill (Anethum graveolens L.) Extract Used Topically in Formalin-Induced Inflammation Male Rat Paw,” Iran J Pharm Res. 2012 Autumn; 11(4): 1169–1174, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24250550

Salih H.M.Aljabre, Omar M.Alakloby, Mohammad A.Randhawa,  “Dermatological effects of Nigella sativa,” Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery, Volume 19, Issue 2, July 2015, Pages 92-98 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352241015000286

Antonia Nostro, Andrea Sudano Roccaro, Giuseppe Bisignano, Andreana Marino, Maria A. Canatelli, Francesco C. Pizzimenti, Pier Luigi Cioni, Francesca Procopio, and Anna Rita Blanco, “Effects of Oregano, Carvacrol, and Thymol on Staphylococcus Aureaus and Staphylococcus Epidermidis Biofilms,” Journal of Medical Microbiology (2007), 56, 519-523

Joseph Nordqvist, “Oregano: Health benefits, uses, and side effects,” Last updated Tue 15 August 2017, Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266259.php

Denise Mann, “Thyme’s Time as Acne Remedy May Be Coming Soon,” http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/acne/news/20120412/thymes-time-as-acne-remedy-may-be-coming_soon#1