Herbal Remedies for Acne

These natural remedies have potential for managing acne.

Woman popping pimple
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Acne is a skin condition involving inflammation of the glands in your skin responsible for producing oil. Although acne often appears as whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples, more severe forms can cause painful cysts


Overproduction of oil, bacterial buildup, and irritation of your skin's hair follicles all play a role in the development of acne. These factors may be driven by hormonal changes or imbalances, side effects of certain medications, or your own genetic makeup.

These changes generally take place during the teenage years and, as a result, acne is often (though by no means always) an issue that begins around puberty and clears up naturally in young adulthood.

For some people, acne is a relatively minor concern that can be easily treated with over-the-counter medications such as benzoyl peroxide and (for girls, at least) a few dabs of makeup. For others, it can be a major problem, leading to daily embarrassment and the possibility of infection and scarring.

Herbal Remedies

Typically, acne is treated with over the counter medications and, in severe cases, oral medications including antibiotics or retinoids. In some cases, these treatments are only marginally effective. If you are living with intractable acne, you might want to explore herbal options. So far, however, scientific support for the claim that any herbal remedy can treat acne is lacking. 

1) Vitex

Also known as chasteberry, some alternative medicine practitioners recommend vitex to treat acne by balancing hormone levels. But while the herb has been found in some studies to improve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, studies have yet to confirm that vitex can help reduce acne.

2) Dong Quai

In a 2003 study, scientists discovered that dong quai (a Chinese herb also known as Angelica dahurica or Angelica sinensis) had anti-acne benefits similar to that of erythromycin (an antibiotic often used as an acne medication).

The same study showed that licorice root also had acne-fighting effects.

3) Guggul

Guggul, an herb commonly used in Ayurveda (a form of alternative medicine practiced in India), may help relieve acne, especially among people with particularly oily faces, according to a small study published in 1994. The study included 20 people with cystic acne and found that taking guggul supplements daily for three months led to a progressive reduction in acne lesions.

Other Alternatives

Tea tree oil (an essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy treatments), a low-glycemic load diet, a dairy-free diet, and zinc (an essential mineral) may help relieve acne naturally. Learn more about using these natural acne remedies.


For help in stopping your skin from breaking out, try these self-care strategies:

  • wash your skin with a gentle cleanser twice daily
  • shower or wash up after exercising
  • avoid resting your hands on your face

Using Natural Remedies for Acne

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend alternative medicine for acne treatment. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care.

Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Loch EG, Selle H, Boblitz N. "Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus." Journal of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine 2000 9(3):315-20.

Nam C, Kim S, Sim Y, Chang I. "Anti-acne effects of Oriental herb extracts: a novel screening method to select anti-acne agents." Skin Pharmacology and Applied Skin Physiology 2003 16(2):84-90.

Schellenberg R. "Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study." BMJ 2001 20;322(7279):134-7.

Thappa DM, Dogra J. "Nodulocystic acne: oral gugulipid versus tetracycline." Journal of Dermatology 1994 21(10):729-31.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.