After becoming fed up with a dermatologist who immediately prescribed long-term antibiotics for a seemingly random outbreak of adult acne, showing no interest in getting to the root cause, I decided to bite the bullet and look for a more holistic approach to the disaster that was my skin.
That’s when a colleague pointed me in the direction of Daniela Turley, a London-born, New York–based medical herbalist with 15 years of experience. “Daniela’s a genius when it comes to that stuff,” she told me after hearing my complaint, adding that she’d seen some amazing results herself. I scheduled a session for the next day.
Daniela began our appointment by asking me detailed questions about my sleeping patterns, health problems, diet, work life, and medical history, taking notes the entire time. She explained that an herbalist is a “complementary therapist who recommends herbal extracts to help bring the body back into a healthy state,” and said that while the training varies from country to country, she studied in the U.K., and went through a four-year degree with residency that included working in a hospital. In other words: She’s legit.
One thing that struck me right away: Instead of thrusting a prescription my way and ordering me to get more sleep, she spent two and a half hours examining me and explaining in detail the various herbs supplements and diet changes she recommends. It’s only been a week since we met, but my skin’s looking great (no breakouts!) and she’s also given me natural fixes for my poor immune system, chronic period pain, and stress.
Here’s what Daniela recommended—anyone struggling with a crappy immune system, adult acne, period pain, or stress should really read this.
Side note: I’ve left out the measurements on purpose, as dosages are different for everyone depending on weight and symptoms. To get accurate recommendations for your own health problems, you should go ahead and pencil in an appointment with a medical herbalist.
I’m the kind of person who often gets sick when I go on vacation or let myself slow down for a few days. I also find I pick up whatever virus is hanging around the office, which is incredibly annoying. After I told Daniela about my shitty immune system, she asked a bit about my medical history before pointing out that prolonged antibiotic use as a kid (I had chronic malaria for a couple years, but that’s a different story) and then as an adult to treat acne was probably to blame. Specifically, she suggested it was likely “a combination of causes, including spleen deficiency, poor gut flora, and stress hormones” that’s causing me to get sick so frequently. Here’s how she recommends people naturally treat that.
Yeast-free diet: I’m now following a two-pronged response and will boost my immunity by not only taking herbs and supplements, but also overhauling my gut health by killing off the bad bacteria and then reintroducing healthy bacteria. This means following a special diet for one month that cuts out certain foods, particularly those containing yeast. Daniela gave me a full meal plan that involves swapping out bread and wraps with wheat-free alternatives, while avoiding mushrooms, cheese, yogurt, sugar, artificial sweeteners, fruit, honey, mustard, nuts, and alcohol.
“For at least one month—two or more in serious cases—you should completely avoid yeasts and sugars. There are several snack foods that are allowed on the diet; these include rice cakes, Ryvita, or oatcakes. These should ideally be eaten with some protein like fish, homemade hummus, or a recipe made with no added vegetable oil and unsmoked meats,” Daniela explained.
She also recommended anyone following this kind of diet should take antifungal supplements such as U.K. brand Biocare’s Candistatin, Biocare Oregano Complex, or caprylic acid, and then after two weeks start taking a probiotic: “Most good probiotic formulas contain at least the acidophilus and bifidus varieties and often other types. Follow the label recommendations, although the doses can usually be increased if recommended by a health practitioner,” she said.
If you do try this at home, be hard on yourself: “Follow the diet rigidly, as any lapse can slip you back. Do not start until you have enough food and drink substitutes and self-control to support the new diet,” warned Daniela.
Echinacea: The MVP of immunity-boosting herbs, it’s regularly also used to treat chronic and acute infections.
Astragalus: It’s been used as a spleen tonic for hundreds of years and is also believed to increase energy and vitality and reduce auto-immune response.
Period pain and PMS
Daniela told me that period pain and mood swings were (unsurprisingly) a common complaint among female clients, but something she usually sees clear up in just a few months, which was music to my ears.
She explained that dysmenorrhea (painful periods) in her clients is commonly due to “blood stagnation, hormonal imbalance, and possibly endometriosis,” the latter of which is trickiest to fix. She prescribed me daily doses of the below supplements and liquid herbs.
Vitex agnus castus: When women come to Daniela with chronic period pain, she often recommends a liquid dose of this Mediterranean plant that boosts progesterone and normalizes pituitary function, relieving PMS in 91 percent of women within three cycles. She told me I could possibly see a difference as soon as one month.
Angelica sinensis: Known among herbalists as a blood tonic or purifier, this supplement is used to manage infertility, period pain, and irregular periods.
Wild yam: Because it contains steroidal saponins, wild yam is said to relieve cramping of hollow organs such as the digestive tract and the uterus, which causes period pains.
Magnesium: Found in vegetables such as spinach, chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, and collard greens, Daniela explained that this mineral is key to healthy body function, particularly “the formation of energy, the control of blood sugar and involved in reducing inflammation.” She said that correcting magnesium levels should help with energy levels and period pains.
Like a lot of people, I went straight to my dermatologist, panic-stricken, when I was hit with a random bout of adult acne recently. His first response was to put me on a low dose of antibiotics, which, now that my skin’s cleared up, I’m now starting to wean myself off. For anyone who’s experiencing what I was three months ago, it might be worth seeing an herbalist for a natural fix before you hit up a dermatologist and go straight for the antibiotics. In addition to the yeast-free diet I mentioned earlier and possibly cutting out dairy, she also suggests supplements and herbs.
Vitex agnus castus: “It always varies depending on the individual, however if the acne appears to be hormonal, I would recommend vitex agnus castus,” Daniela said.
Skin-cleansing herbs: “Common skin-cleansing herbs which are useful include burdock, yellow dock, red clover, bayberry, echinacea, and calendula. There are over-the-counter blends that contain a variety of these herbs. I will often also recommend zinc, an antioxidant blend, and a probiotic, all of which can be helpful,” she said.
Despite my assuring Daniela that I handle stressful situations well, she picked up on the fact that my adrenaline hormone function was pretty out of whack—a sign of acute stress that can be addressed naturally.
She prescribed a daily dose of the below liquid herbs:
Licorice: In natural medicine, licorice is used to correct cortisol insufficiency and for adrenal support, which can help manage stress. It’s also used as a digestive tonic, to help the body absorb certain minerals, and has been shown to be anti-inflammatory.
Siberian ginseng: Good for adrenal support, while also reducing fatigue, improving well-being, and helping to normalize blood sugar.