“Time heals all wounds” – except for when they leave a scar. An injury can leave behind an unwelcome scar, and a lasting mark on the body that can affect a person both physically and emotionally – even years after the fact. Some scars may be considered an aesthetic issue, while others may limit mobility, or even cause pain. Regardless of whether scars are a “beauty” concern or more of a health issue, they can certainly impact how we look and feel.
Thankfully there are natural ways to minimize scarring and often even help reverse the appearance of older scars.
Why do scars form?
Scars result from the normal biological process of wound repair in the skin. This also occurs in other organs and tissues of the body. Scarring often occurs after a trauma occurs such as burns, cuts or surgical incisions. Scars serve as a protective measure while the body is healing. The fibrous scar layer that forms from new collagen fibres is never as functional as the original tissue.
Although scarring is a common result of the body’s natural healing process, it is not meant to be permanent. In some people who are more prone to scarring it can become a major issue to deal with. Even relatively small scars may cause further problems, including limited range of motion, pain and restricted circulation in the body – often in areas that are not even in the immediate area of the scar. Scar tissue can be cause for discomfort in any part of the body.
How long does it take for a scar to heal?
Fine scars (such as after a surgery or minor injury) can take up to 2 years to fully heal. They may remain a different colour than the surrounding skin, but will usually become flatter and paler as time passes. Each person is different and many factors come into play such as:
- your body’s tendency to scar
- how long ago the injury or incision occurred
- how the injury or incision was originally treated
- the integrity of the skin and your overall health (ie. do you heal quickly in general?)
Internal scars are like adhesions inside the body
Sometimes scars may be inside as well as on the surface. If internal scarring occurs (for instance, after a surgery) this can form a type of fibrous tissue known as an adhesion. These form more like bands of scar tissue, often acting as anchors underneath an exterior wound. These scars may appear very small on the surface, but can act like a network of fibrous tissue inside the body. They often restrict circulation of fluids and occur most frequently in the abdomen and pelvis.
This is common with some scars after surgery, namely c-section scars or other types of abdominal surgery. The visible scar itself may appear flat and faded, but there may still be numbness in the area or even pain and discomfort that is being referred to surrounding areas of the body.
It can be frustrating to find relief, especially if scars are causing pain long after they have become less visible. There are a number of natural solutions for scars, to gently yet effectively help you heal.
Acupuncture Treatments for Scar Reduction
Acupuncture helps restore the healthy flow of blood and energy in the body, and increases local micro-circulation at the point at which needles are inserted. Although scar tissue can act like protection it is also seen as a “stasis” of blood and energy, a state which can cause disruptions such as pain. Eventually, it can also cause further imbalance in the body’s regulatory systems.
Acupuncture treatments for scarring can help increase blood circulation to the immediate area and break up old fibrous tissues. Increased blood and oxygen levels can help the body eventually absorb and dissolve this tissue naturally. Sterile, hair-thin acupuncture needles are placed surrounding the scar tissue during a treatment.
Along with Acupuncture, TCM has a number of partner modalities that work well on breaking down old scar tissue and encouraging fresh collagen to regenerate. I often use these together in a scar treatment:
Gua Sha (skin scraping or rubbing) with a flat instrument is often part of a scar treatment and can be used alongside acupuncture. This can help gently break up certain types of scar tissue and encourage circulation. It is mostly used with other methods as it not effective on its own for this issue.
Cupping is a traditional method used for moving blood, lymph and stagnant energy just under the skin’s surface. It often works faster than gua sha on certain types of scars. It also helps by breaking collagen scar fibres and aiding the body’s own detoxification efforts.
Essential oils for healing skin
A number of essential oils have been identified as having superior skin repair qualities, including scar tissue treatment. When using most essential oils on the skin, it is always necessary to first dilute correct amounts in a carrier oil, or to use a ready-made formulation.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum angustifolium) is one of the top essential oils traditionally used for skin repair and healing. It is also known as Immortell or Everlasting – and is often combined with other skin loving oils such as Carrot Seed (Daucus carota seed) and Lavender (Lavandula officinalis).
H-Scars Formula by Healing Natural Oils is a homeopathic blend that is meant to be applied directly to scar tissue.
A great addition to your at-home remedy kit – especially if you are healing from surgery or get frequent burns or cuts while cooking, gardening, etc.
It contains all three of these essential oils as well as Calendula officinalis 12C and Silicea 12. Learn more about the benefits of this natural oil blend here.
Castor oil to heal scars
Castor oil is derived from the bean of the Ricinus communis, and has been used therapeutically for centuries in folk medicine ranging from ancient India, China, Persia, Africa, Greece, Rome to the Americas. Among other uses it has been prized for skincare including treating scar tissue. Organic castor oils that are expeller pressed (hexane free) are a good choice.
But how does this oil work to heal scar tissue and dissolve adhesions naturally? The fatty acids in castor oil are deeply moisturizing to the skin, helping to soften adhesions, and allowing new skin cells to regenerate. Castor oil is also thought to benefit the flow of lymph in the body. In traditional medicines, it is used topically to gently cleanse congested tissues of the body – through the body’s own waste removal systems.
This non-invasive method works for both skin surface scars and internal adhesions. It is fairly easy to use, inexpensive and has few side effects. However, it is not a quick fix. It needs to be used consistently over a longer period of time. A one time treatment will not make much difference to scar tissue.
Castor oil can be applied directly onto skin surface scars, then covered with a warm wrap or compress – and even left overnight. Alternately, a series of treatments with a castor oil pack can be beneficial for gently encouraging the dissolution of internal scarring and adhesions.
Treating scars with Arvigo Abdominal Therapy®
The Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy® are a gentle, non-invasive abdominal massage that encourages blood, lymph and energy circulation to the reproductive and digestive organs. It can also increase circulation to resolve congestion such as internal scar tissue and adhesions in the abdominal and pelvic areas.
Beneficial for symptoms of issues that may be related to congestion or “stagnation” of blood and energy in this area – such as endometriosis and adenomyosis. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, menstrual pain and irregularity are also often thought to be related to congestion in the pelvic area. Old scar tissue from injuries, surgeries or infections may be gently resolved with a series of abdominal massage treatments, plus additional self care techniques such as castor oil packs.
Cautions with scar treatments
Remember that regardless of their unappealing nature – scars are still a natural healing phenomenon. Therefore, due to an increased risk of infection – always wait at least one month or more after the injury before starting any natural treatment on the scar. Certain types of scars – such as keloid scars – require particularly gentle care, so as not to cause further scarring. Persons who are diabetic, elderly, cancer patients and those with neurological disorders should first seek the advice of their health care professional before attempting any other natural therapies for their scars.
Yes, abdominal massage can be useful in dealing with the formation of new c-section scars, in addition to using topical treatments such as castor oil and essential oil blends for scarring. It is very important to wait until the scar has healed before performing any massage on the area.
Yes, it is possible to minimize the size and appearance of an old scar with this approach. Boosting circulation with targeted treatments can help increase the body's natural healing process.
Non-invasive natural methods require a commitment in order to see results. Unlike laser therapy or scar revision surgery, this gentler approach may take take longer to see a difference, but with less side effects. Using 'whole body' approaches such as acupuncture or Arvigo Therapy® benefits more than just the scarred tissue - many clients also report less pain and stress due to better circulation in the body. Topical treatments such as castor oil and essential oils also have immense benefits for skin health in general.
It is possible to minimize the appearance of old acne scarring with a dedicated treatment program. Options are customized for each individual and may include facial acupuncture, magnet therapy such as Qi beauty®, as well as self care methods to do at home. Topical treatments are usually suggested for at-home use in between visits.