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[Herbal Rootlets]: No. 121 – Herbs for Teens: Liver Support for Healthy Skin

Is acne a frustration for your teen?

Do they spend hours in front of the mirror, agonizing about the condition of their skin?

Are they embarrassed about blemishes and try to hide their face from the world?

If so, you and your teen might find this week’s article helpful.

The Bane Of Every Teen’s Existence: Acne

A big concern of many teens is acne.

As their hormones sky rocket, their bodies try to compensate, often causing skin to become oily and susceptible to acne.

Add in a diet filled with sugary, processed foods, a lack of water, little exercise, and poor sleep habits, and your teen has a cocktail of acne madness.

While lifestyle choices alone do not cause acne, they can exasperate it so it’s important that your teen work on creating healthy living habits to help their liver do its job.

What’s The Liver Got To Do With It?

The liver is the toxic dumpsite for the body and often gets bogged down, causing the skin to erupt.

Hormones, which are fluctuating wildly during puberty, processed foods, and sugary drinks all contribute to liver congestion.

Through liver support and nourishment, especially when combined with dietary and lifestyle changes, the skin is also supported and becomes clearer.

Besides controlling the clearness of the skin, a taxed liver can also cause excessive anger, impatience, resentment, and frustration. If your teen is feeling overwhelmed with this emotions, it’s another sign the liver needs some TLC.

How Do You Support The Liver?

There are many ways to support the liver. I have found that a combination of supports work the best.

There are many herbs that are supportive of the liver that can be considered, some are especially great for teens.

And, as I mentioned before, dietary and lifestyle considerations are extremely important as well.

Dietary Support For The Liver

First, let’s take a look at dietary support.

Everything that we consume, whether it be food, drink, supplements, or medications, gets filtered through the liver.

While it would be great to throw out processed foods, sodas, and junk food, having two teens in the house (and having lived through 4 more growing into adulthood), I know how hard that battle can be.

Try to get your teen to compromise – perhaps before every soda they drink, they drink 8-16 ounces of water.

Or for every sugary, greasy, or salty snack they eat, they eat a piece of fruit before they eat the less healthy snack.

If you can get them to commit to this, especially before they consume the less than healthy treat, chances are good they will eat or drink less of that treat.

This is a great habit to get your younger kids into doing as well – having a bit of “growing” food or drink will fill their bellies so that they are satisfied sooner when they start to eat the junk food.

Talk to them about good meal choices as well.

A hamburger and fries from a local fast food restaurant may appeal to their taste buds, but it does not appeal to their liver.

Compromise with one junk meal a week, while the rest of the meals are healthy and wholesome.

Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and limited amounts of dairy and meat will help to support the liver.

Cruciferous greens such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, and mustard greens support the liver as do nuts, fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, and sardine, and avocados are all great liver supporting and nourishing foods.

Finally, if your teen likes to have a late night snack, suggest they stop eating 2-3 hours before bed to give the liver time to properly process and cleanse at night.

Exercise and Sleep For Liver Support

In addition to eating healthy to keep the liver healthy, getting enough sleep every night and enough exercise every week are important.

Help your teen to create an exercise routine that they can enjoy, whether it be dance, skating, bicycling, swimming, or another form that is fun for them and help them to create a plan to do that exercise 4-5 times a week.

Exercise helps the liver by increasing oxygenation of the blood, which brings oxygen to the liver and other vital organs more quickly.

It’s recommended that teens (aged 13-18 years) need 8-10 hours of sleep every night.

Unfortunately, many teens stay up late and then have to rise early for school, often squeaking by on 5-6 hours of sleep every night, and sometimes less.

As a body that is still growing, the proper amount of sleep is so important!

If your teen complains about trouble sleeping between 1 and 3 am, that’s another signal that their liver is needing support; according to Traditional Chinese Medicine, that is the time that the liver processes and cleanses itself and if your liver is struggling with that process, it will sometime show up in the form of insomnia during that time period.

Herbal Support For The Liver

Adding some herbal support to the previous protocol will go along way to help support and nourish the liver so it can do its job efficiently and not use the skin as its dumping ground.

Herbs can be great, but sometimes, they can be very slow to act, so consistency is the key to seeing results.

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

This is one of my favorite herbs for supporting teens through acne. It is incredibly slow to start working but once it does, it does a pretty terrific job! Burdock helps with skin eruptions such as psoriasis, eczema and acne. Decoctions or tinctures internally and oils or tinctures externally will help heal the cause of these irritations. They must be taken several times daily for at least 3 weeks before seeing any improvement and sometimes longer but it is worth the time for the results.

For tincture, use 30 drops, 3 times daily in water. Results can be seen in 3 weeks but it can take up to 3 months for lasting results.

For decoctions, follow the how-to’s from my decoction article for making and drink 1 cup 3 times daily. It can be sweetened with honey or sugar and cream or drank as is. For a more favorable drink, try the chai recipe in the decoctions article.

For using the infused oil (for how-to’s on making an infused oil, check out my article on the topic here) or tincture externally, use an eye dropper to place a drop on your finger or a cotton swab and dab it on the pimple 5 times daily.

Combining an internal and external use of Burdock, it will support the liver internally while attacking the blemish externally.

Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus)

Though often thought of as an herb for women, Vitex is helpful for both young men and women during puberty to help soothe hormones, allowing for more even emotions.Vitex has also been found to be helpful for many types of acne, including cystic acne when combined with other herbs such as Saw Palmetto. While Vitex does not work directly on the liver, by supporting the reproductive system and hormones, it helps to decrease the strain on the liver from excessive hormones being filtered through the liver.

Vitex is slow to act on change in the body and it is suggested it should be taken for 3 months straight before expecting any results.

To use Vitex, take 60 drops in a cup of water in the morning and another 30 drops in a cup of water in the early afternoon.

Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)

Herbalist Matthew Wood has done a lot of work with Wild Lettuce and shares his experiences in using this plant with teens for acne:

…any acne where the face is involved and there is a rough, cystic form with deep cysts slowly coming to the surface; the whole causing unsightly roughness and scar tissue. It will clean this up from the inside, reducing the acne…for several weeks. Then a new crop…will boil up at about the third week and cause a new outbreak.”

Continued use of Wild Lettuce will then resolve this outbreak, reducing the scars as the acne heals.

Dosage for tincture is 30-60 drops, three times daily. If taking for longer than 4 weeks, take a 1 week break for every 4 weeks of consumption.

Adding Herbs To Food For Liver Support

In addition to utilizing herbs as herbal remedies, many herbs can be added to foods for additional liver support. Those herbs include Burdock roots (roasted), Chicory leaves and roots, Cinnamon, Cumin, Dandelion leaves and roots, Garlic, Ginger, Stinging Nettles and Turmeric.

Want More Tips On Acne Care For Teens?

All this month I’m posting on teen herbalism over on Instagram. Follow me and get additional tips, recipes, and ideas for helping your teens navigate their ever changing bodies using herbs. Be sure to go back to the beginning of the month to read through all the posts!


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