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"Plants have powers, and herbs and spices are no exception," says Lizz Starr, executive director of global product development at Origins. "They are powerful antioxidants, potent anti-inflammatory agents and strong promoters of skin cell turnover."
Although interest in botanicals has blossomed alongside the growing eco movement, the idea of using herbs and spices for their beauty benefits isn't new, says Dr. Pratima Raichur, a New York-based practitioner of Ayurvedic medicine and author of Absolute Beauty: Radiant Skin and Inner Harmony Through the Ancient Secrets of Ayurveda. In fact, herbs and spices have been staples in Ayurvedic medicine for more than 7,000 years. Typically they were eaten, but the under-lying philosophy of their health benefits is relevant to skin care as well.
According to Raichur, the very herbs and spices that Ayurvedic teachings say we should eat "for balance" are precisely the ones we should apply topically (such as the cumin and coriander paste she prescribes for acne-prone complexions). "Our skin eats it," explains Raichur. "It is that simple."
Now, some dermatologists are jumping on the spice trail too. "More studies need to be done, but so far the evidence suggests that common herbs and spices can indeed have benefits for the skin," says Dr. Paul Cohen, a Toronto-based dermatologist. "Their anti-oxidant properties have people very excited."