Back to basics: Botanicals for skin health.

Botanicals have been used in traditional medicine for centuries, and they’re rapidly regaining popularity in modern applications— especially when it comes to skin and wound care. Luckily we now have the technology to investigate the safety and efficacy of botanical ingredients in skin care uses.

Cassandra L. Quave*, PhD, Curator of the Emory University Herbarium and Assistant Professor of Dermatology and Human Health at Emory University, shares this list of botanicals to seek out and some to avoid. Many botanicals stand out in helping to moisturize skin, while others provide barrier protection or prevent damage caused by free radicals, sunlight, and air pollutants, while others still are key in reducing inflammation.

Botanicals to improve skin health

Green tea leaf.

 Green Tea

Renowned for its long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine as well as a beverage for general wellness, green tea is also good for the skin. Green tea is rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, it can also help reduce skin damage and is even used in some pharmaceuticals to treat warts.

Oats in a small scooper.


Colloidal oatmeal helps soothe irritated, itchy skin and provides barrier protection.

St. John’s wort flower and small bottle of oil.

St. John’s Wort Oil

St. John’s Wort has long been used in traditional medicine to treat various types of skin inflammations and for improving wound healing.

Marigold flower and small bottle of marigold/calendula oil.

Marigold/Calendula Oil

Marigold/calendula plants contain elements that improve wound healing and help regenerate skin at wound bed sites. Marigold flowers can be steeped in olive oil to extract compounds to help protect the skin.

Coconut half.

Coconut Oil

This versatile oil provides great skin barrier protection, and also has some mild antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory elements.

Botanicals to avoid


Olive Oil

Avoid using olive oil directly on the skin, as it acts as “food” for certain types of skin fungi that like to grow at eczema sites. Use coconut oil instead.

Daisy Family

If you have allergies to botanicals from the daisy family, avoid skin care products that have chamomile, calendula/marigold or arnica, which could exacerbate an allergy.

*Cassandra L. Quave, PhD, is a Medline consultant. The views expressed in this article are those of the consultant and do not necessarily represent the views of Medline Industries, Inc.