Do you find photosensitizing herbs to be a mystery?
In a recent “Ask the Herbalist” Q & A time in our Facebook group, I shared more about what you need to know if you think you might be experiencing a reaction due to photosensitizing herbs.
Today I want to address these questions:
What are photosensitizing herbs?
What are the most common plants that cause photosensitivity?
What causes photosensitivity?
Photosensitivity is an unusual skin related response to ingesting or topically applying an herbal remedy or a combination of herbs. It usually occurs only on sun-exposed areas of skin, such as the face, neck and hands.
When someone thinks they may be having such a reaction from an herb or plant, I always ask if the person may be taking any medication. I suggest they check with their dr if they are not sure. The reason I ask this right away is that herbs often get blamed for problems that end up being related to medications, or foods. It could also be related to their lifestyle and especially emotional issues that may have come up. I see this often with hives, which can happen in a situation of increased stress.
If you are fairly certain about the connection between the herbs you are taking and your skin response, discontinue use immediately. Most of these kinds of problems clear up within 24 hours, usually much sooner than that
Photosensitizing herbs that can create reactions in humans are usually the ones that contain a phytochemical called coumarin. Scientists think coumarin exists in plants because they provide a microbial or protective response for the plant. So, viruses and bacteria stay away from these plants. They do this for us as well, providing antimicrobial protection with medical therapy. For example, St Johns Wort is used in medical therapy to heal skin conditions like Psoriasis and Vitiligo.
Here’s a link to a great article on photosensitive herbs: Go to Article
What are some photosensitizing plants?
Plants in the Apiaceae family for starters:
- Bee Balm
- Anise seed
- Celery seed
Another note to remember is that often it’s over time that these sensitivities can arise.
If you feel like you may be having a photosensitivity reaction, rather than immediately seeing your dermatologist, reach out to an herbalist you trust. Ask them if something you are taking or eating could be a plant that causes this type of response.
If you like to watch the question and answer session where I talk about this and also answer other questions, head over to our Facebook group and join us!
Mo Horner is a professionally trained Registered Herbalist, specializing in botanical support for women and families. From hormones problems to emotional ups and downs, you’ll feel better about plant healing. Mo co-founded a donation-based community clinic associated with Herbalists Without Borders. She has two Omaha-area practices where she serves her clients in person or online, for those outside the area. Consultations are available by appointment.
Email Mo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402-933-6444.
You can read more about Ramona’s story HERE.
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