Summer holidays in the sun are great for your health in many ways and hopefully we return home feeling healthy and relaxed. However, one thing that many people bring back from holiday with them is skin that has had too much sun exposure. Now, I’m all in favour of getting out in the sun and reaping the benefits it has in our bodies, but everyone knows nowadays that excess sun damages the skin. So if you’ve over-indulged or if your skin is feeling a bit the worse for wear, here are some interesting thoughts about how the natural world can help heal the damage.

Gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is a plant that is used widely in herbal medicine for healing and a recent study showed that topical use of a compound called madecassoside, extracted from gotu kola, reduced wrinkles,  improved skin tone and  reversed damage to the network of skin fibres in sun-damaged skin (Haftek et al.,2008). Another study showed that a cream containing gotu kola extract and extracts from frankincense (Boswellia serrata) and milk thistle (Silybum marianum) also increased skin firmness and elasticity. The common seaweed, bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus) has also been studies for its effects on the skin and topical use was shown to reduce signs of skin aging (as measured by thickness and elasticity).

Scientific studies on herbs like the ones above are limited, but there are also many local plants that have been used traditionally for their healing and protective properties that can help skin to stay healthy: Comfrey grows prolifically if it gets the chance and chamomile and marigold flowers are common in the summer months.


Haftek M et al.(2008) ‘Clinical, biometric and structural evaluation of the long-term effects of a
topical treatment with ascorbic acid and madecassoside in photoaged human skin’. Exp Dermatol. 17(11):946-52.

Martelli L et al., (2000) ‘Topical formulation of a new plant extract complex with refirming properties. Clinical and non-invasive evaluation in a double-blind trial’. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2000 22(3):201-6.

Fujimura T et al., (2002) ‘Treatment of human skin with an extract of Fucus vesiculosus changes
its thickness and mechanical properties’. J Cosmet Sci. 53(1):1-9.