3 Ayurvedic Herbs For Clear Skin

February 6, 2019  •   5 min read


In an ancient land where little has changed, Ayurvedic healing remains a common practice where foraged herbs native to the soil are used in wellness.


My parents grew up in India, where the use of Ayurvedic and homeopathic medicine was commonplace. They carried these practices to Toronto, and growing up, I was so accustomed to having a few tulsi leaves every day. My mum’s pantry was always stocked with things like turmeric, fennel, ghee, cardamom, coconut oil, Himalayan salt, saffron, and rose water. Whenever we were unwell or in need of a hair or face mask, we mixed up a blend of these ingredients using recipes that had been passed down for generations.


India’s incomparably rich history of natural flora extends beyond the atavistic practices of the world, and has become a precious, revered and studied treasury of holistic healing. Within this folkloric anthology, we find herbs that have not only transcended generations, but that have crossed oceans to find themselves in the apothecaries of the West. These powerfully healing plants traveled great distances as they were recognized for their effects on the mind, body and soul.


As a nod to my cultural heritage, I will be profiling three compelling herbs that I love.  These herbs are neem, tulsi and frankincense. Their unique capabilities provide potent healing properties, often of which is lacking in modern skincare.




I distinctly remember visiting India when I was younger and seeing a neem tree outside my family’s home. Curious, as the leaves were a shape that were new to me, I asked about it. I learned about the powerful importance of neem trees in India, their incredible healing abilities, and how they are still relevant and widely used today.


Often referred to as the “miracle tree” in India, in Sanskrit, neem is called “arishtha” which means “reliever of sickness.” Having been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 5,000 years,  the neem tree and its leaves are a staple in Indian remedies. Due to its antibacterial nature, the tree is used to treat a melange of illnesses, and most often, skin-related concerns. While we slather on calamine lotion for chickenpox, in India, neem is the go-to remedy. 


You might also like: What Are Flower Remedies?


Neem in Skincare:

As neem is particularly important in skincare, it only makes sense to use it when addressing issues that are traditionally treated with chemicals. According to a 350-year old Palm leaf manuscript (one of the oldest forms of writing in India), neem can be used in the following ways (when derived from a high-quality, organic source):


  • The oil of neem, made from the leaves, is anti-inflammatory and therapeutic, helping clear acne, dermatitis, eczema and psoriasis, as well as topical wounds and rashes


  • Neem oil can also be used in cosmetics, helping to clear, beautify and rejuvenate the skin. This helps in reducing signs of ageing and providing a youthful glow


When it comes to haircare, I myself love using organic neem oil to coat my hair in. I leave it in overnight, and wash it out the next morning. Without fail, my hair is silky, shiny, and feels so healthy. Neem is excellent at keeping scalps healthy and dandruff-free.




The neem tree is not just useful for human health, but it yields abundance in many ways. The entire tree can be used in medicine and for environmental purposes. The neem tree is considered useful in rehabilitating waste land areas and enriching the soil, making it an excellent fertilizer.


The bark of a neem tree contains tannins which are used in tanning and dyeing. The colour the bark produces can range from golden yellow to dark brown, making it a beautiful, eco-friendly dye.  





Tulsi has been so integrated into my life, that I almost didn’t even notice it until it became trendy in the west. A revered plant in India, tulsi plants bless the entryway of most homes there. I grew up always having some shredded tulsi leaves sprinkled on my fruit in the morning (a very common religious practice in India, as the fruit is first given to god as an offering, that my parents continued here).


Known as “holy basil” in English, tulsi is often referred to as the “Elixir of Life”.  It is a herb that has strong cultural and religious ties in India. It’s a sacred plant for Hindus and it symbolizes purity, with the belief that it promotes longevity and life-long happiness. The plant has uses in both Ayurvedic medicine, as well as skincare. Tulsi is antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory properties, as well as adaptogenic properties that assist the body’s natural ability to resist stress.


Tulsi in Skincare:

When topically applied, tulsi is excellent at treating skin prone to inflammation and blemishes.


  • Tulsi works to prevent acne and pimples by acting as a natural cleanser to unclog pores and remove excess oil, dirt and impurities from the skin.




I’ve recently gotten into drinking tulsi tea – it’s delicate, delicious and balancing. I drink a mix of tulsi and rose teas, and it’s just the thing to warm the body on a cold winter evening. Adding a dash of honey is always in good practice as well.




Tulsi is widely grown and immensely popular in India, making it a thriving plant. Not currently endangered, tulsi is grown in abundance, allowing it to be easily used for human consumption and benefit.





A few years ago, I had an internship at a luxury home and fashion atelier in Mumbai. Everything this brand believes in is sustainable, ethical and conscious. They worked closely with craftsmen and artisans to develop their products, mixing traditional design with contemporary aesthetics. Frankincense was part of their scent profile, often found in many of their wellness and skincare products. I quickly fell in love with the warm, slightly spicy scent, and learning about its health benefits and history was fascinating.


The word “frankincense” is derived from the Old French expression “franc encens”, meaning “high-quality incense”, as the word “franc” in Old French meant “noble” or “pure”.  While commonly found in India, frankincense comes from the Boswellia tree, and is found world-wide, with the finest resin now found in Somalia. Unlike tulsi and neem which are themselves trees, frankincense is derived from the sap of the tree. This substance is also traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine, as well as in modern skincare.


Frankincense in Skincare:

Having been found to possess strong anti-inflammatory effects, frankincense essential oil works wonders for both skincare and aromatherapy.






Burning frankincense does amazing things for our internal peace, and I remember having its warm aroma envelope me daily as I stepped into the atelier in India. Starting the day off with a calming and rich scent sets the pace for a mindful and intentional way of being.




There is fear that frankincense tree populations are being threatened due to woodlands being converted into agricultural lands, as well as attacks by the longhorn beetle.  Because of this, sustainable sourcing is very important.


An integrated part of my life, all three herbs, Neem, Tulsi and Frankincense hold healing powers that far surpass anything synthetic. Foraging for our wellness is a practice that transcends time, and is something we can only derive the greatest benefit from.

This post was sponsored by Apoterra Skincare. With stringent requirements, I only work with brands whose visions and ethos align with my own. All thoughts and opinions remain my own.


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