OTC (over-the-counter) products labeled ‘herbal’, ‘organic’ or ‘natural’ are often marketed as acne treatments. There is little western science to back up these claims, mainly because few clinical trials have been conducted on them.
There have been studies of the most common herbal remedy suggested for acne, tea tree oil, which has been shown to have some effect on acne. When compared to benzoyl peroxide in one study, it was shown to be slower, but effective in reducing acne. However, tea tree oil is also a known cause of allergic contact dermatitis, depending on its concentration.
Tea tree oil is still considered an herbal remedy, and though some studies have been done on it, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate the herbal and supplement market. So, long story short, there’s no government watchdog looking over the shoulder of companies promising natural acne treatment options.
Also keep in mind that any herbal treatment is still a ‘drug,’ meaning that it will interact with your body in some way, and may even affect other acne treatments you’re using. Every drug has side effects, and many drugs are made from natural and organic substances. ‘Natural acne treatment’ does not necessarily mean safe.
Unfortunately, because they’re not regulated, the quality of herbal acne remedies can vary a lot from one place to another and one manufacturer to another. Side effects vary depending on what you’re taking, amount of dosage, what your body chemistry is, and numerous other factors.
It is very important that you consult with your doctor or dermatologist before using anything labeled an ‘herbal acne remedy’. Herbs and supplements are not regulated by the government and, as such, may not actually be effective or safe.