A venous leg ulcer is a chronic wound. These can take months to heal. They are painful and may itch. If you have a skin ulcer, the surrounding skin can swell and you can feel unwell. Having a chronic leg ulcer can have a dramatic impact on your quality of life. Yet conventional medicine offers few options for the treatment of a skin ulcer.
The standard care for a skin ulcer combines cleaning and dressing of the wound. Plus compression therapy stockings or a compression bandage to improve blood flow to the area.
In some cases, a doctor might recommend topical or systemic antibiotics for a patient. And, of course, it’s true that many leg ulcers harbour bacteria. But, only someone with an active infection should use antibiotics due to the threat of antibiotic resistance.
There’s a theory that bacteria in a such as a protect themselves by forming biofilms. These bacterial biofilms help to make the bacteria resistant to antibiotics. They make more difficult because these biofilms can also slow down the of ulcers.
So, if antibiotic treatment does nothing to help heal the ulcer, is there anything that does?
Can herbal medicine help to heal skin ulcers?
There are many herbs with wound healing potential. Many have a long tradition for this purpose. Herbalists describe this medicinal action as vulnerary.
Herbs with vulnerary action include:
- Aloe vera
- slippery elm
- gotu kola
Now, with an increase in antibiotic resistance, attention is turning back to herbal remedies. Researchers are studying herbal remedies to find new antimicrobial treatments. What’s more, their findings often confirm the traditional herbal use. Including the wound healing properties of plants, known since ancient times. In fact, several research studies show the effectiveness of herbal remedies for healing leg ulcers.
In addition to promoting skin ulceration healing, many herbs have other medicinal benefits. Such as reducing inflammation, improving blood circulation, soothing the skin and preventing infection.
Here are some examples:
Marigold or Calendula
The bright yellowish-orange marigold flowers are a wonderful wound healing herb. Prepare the whole flowers as an infusion, healing balm or ointment.
Calendula speeds up healing by stimulating production of granulation tissue. The herb also has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Herbalists use marigolds whenever there is infection, inflammation or damage to the skin or other tissues.
In a scientific study, a marigold ointment was used to treat lower leg venous ulcers. Applying ointment twice a day for three weeks. After three weeks the marigold ointment treatment healed the ulcers better than the comparison treatment.
But this was not the only evidence. In this study, researchers compare a marigold extract with a control treatment. Checking the healing every two weeks. Skin ulcers in the marigold treatment group healed in half the time of those in the control group.
Gotu kola or Centella asiatica
This is a herb from the ancient Ayurvedic tradition of herbal medicine. But, herbalists practising Western herbal medicine also use this herb.
Gotu kola is a tonic herb that is also useful for skin problems, wounds and digestive health. This review suggests Gotu kola increases collagen synthesis and improves skin healing. You can use gotu kola as an ointment, cream or gel. But, the gel may be the best preparation for wounds and ulcer healing.
Pine bark extract or Pycnogenol
Venous disease can lead to leg ulcers. The herb extract Pycnogenol is effective for treating venous disease. So scientists are interested in its effects on healing ulcers associated with venous hypertension.
In this six-week study, one group took the remedy pycnogenol. While another patient group took oral pycnogenol and also applied pycnogenol to the ulcer.
The ulcers healed better in those having combined oral and local treatment, rather than the oral treatment only.
I have written about Pine bark extract before. You might like to read my post 8 natural alternatives to NSAIDs.
The gel of the Aloe vera plant is a wonderful healing aid for any inflamed or damaged skin. It sinks into the skin leaving it softened, soothed and moisturised. For this reason, you will Aloe vera as an ingredient in many cosmetic products.
A study compared using Aloe vera gel for chronic leg ulcers against conventional treatment. Aloe vera gel was applied twice a day. Treatment progress was assessed after one week and then monthly for three months.
After three months the Aloe vera patient group were 93% healed. Whilst in the control group only 47% had healed. What’s more, the ulcers in the Aloe vera group healed in half the time.
I have written about Aloe vera before. You might like to read my post The most important herb in my kitchen.
Together, these studies indicate that herbal remedies have a lot to offer in the healing of skin ulcers.
Have you tried herbal remedies to promote wound healing? I would love to hear from you. Sharing your experiences in the comments box may help others to benefit from the healing power of herbs.
Learn to make your own remedies
You can learn to make professional-quality remedies yourself in your own kitchen. In my Herbal Medicine Making course, I show you how. Watch me make alcohol tinctures, decoctions, capsules, herbal cream, balms, herbal honey and more. There are step-by-step instructions and over-my-shoulder videos to make everything easy. You will have your own herbal first aid kit in no time at all.