Back when Dawson’s Creek wasn’t waiting for their lives to be over and Noxzema ruled the pharmacy aisles, I was a high school freshman with stupid hair and OK skin. Puberty was facially kind to me (it was not, however, kind to my zinc aluminum allergies) during my wunderkind years.
My older brother, however, was a total pizza-faced skater boi--yet he was the popular one. While he was never that obsessed with his looks, the acne really bummed him out and, more so, our mom, who forever will pick at her children’s physical appearance with the lovingly brutal hawk eye of a Korean mother.
Rather than suffer through inescapable extraction sessions with her and a hot needle, my aunt tipped her off to a natural acne remedy in the form of a tea made from arrowroot stock packets.
She boiled the stuff in a stockpot, chilled it (because it was summer and also because the taste took some getting use to) and ordered my brother to drink two tall glasses a day. Magically, bro’s acne was effectively ghosted in only a week or two. The change was noticeable enough that even one of his skater punk friends asked my mom to make a batch for him.
Fast-forward to circa my college graduation when I experienced the cruel and ill-timed backlash of a merciful adolescence. Adult Onset Acne be thy name. Real cool, hormones, real cool. NOT. Luckily, I did not even have to remember my mother’s remedy for my brother’s acne because the next time I saw her, she was already buying me packets in bulk. Thanks, Mom.
Arrowroot generally is a pretty healthful herb. It gets its name from its initial use as an antidote to treat wounds from poison-tipped arrows. Nowadays, it’s most popular in a powder form and used in cooking and baking as a thickening starch. Health-wise, it’s a bit of a cure-all for digestive problems because of its soothing effects on irritated bowels and mucous membranes, but it’s not unusual for some cultures to make it into a poultice and apply it directly to irritated skin.
In powder form, some report it has a slight laxative effect, but I’ve never experienced that via root form. Honestly, I haven’t found any published sources that vouch for it’s acne-extinguishing properties, but I can only wager that since it is most noted for soothing inflammation pretty much anywhere in your body, that ought to do the trick. I can only speak from real-life experience. I doubt it would Accutane your zits away, but my brother and I (plus his greasy friend) definitely experienced vastly diminished breakouts, and they were no longer of the reddened, angry variety.
I find drinking it the most convenient way to incorporate it into my daily regimen, and it’s stupid-easy to make. You’ll find these stock packs in your local Asian grocery store, and they’re like $1 a bag. I found mine at Hong Kong Market in Chinatown. The stock pack also includes sugar cane and sometimes sliced carrot. Shrug. It’s never tasted particularly carrot-y, but the sugar cane is subtly sweet and definitely enhances the flavor, which I can only describe as “starchy.”
You just boil one pack in a stockpot. The amount of water is up to you; more water will dilute the flavor but since that’s not my main concern I usually just make a big heaping ol’ pot and then store it in jars or water bottles to ration throughout the week.
Bring the water the boil, dump the stuff in, and let it simmer for an hour, and then shut off the heat and let it cool on the stove for a few hours. Go outside and run some errands or something. I generally chill it because I like it as an iced tea, but if you want to soup it, by all means.
Generally, I ration it so one batch lasts about four to five days. On top of clearing up my skin, I feel healthier drinking herby water.
Thankfully, in the twilight of my twenties, my skin has calmed down, but things were kind of crazy for a minute there. My skin was acting like a recent divorcee, running amok and sowing seed around zit city. It’s since settled down and learned how to behave.
I’m pretty sure skin goes through phases at different times in your life, your late twenties being one of them. Now that I’m over adult-onset acne for the most part, I can retire into my years of wintery bouts of eczema that at least are easily treated topically.