Purple rice

Also known as black rice or 'Forbidden rice', this was revered by the Chinese emperors for its exceptional nutritive and healing properties. It is abundant in flavonoids and anthocyanins (which are what give it the purple colour) that benefit the digestive, cognitive, and cardiovascular systems, and help regulate blood sugar. Research shows that purple rice extract improves circulation and reduces skin inflammation, and is especially beneficial for dermatitis. Try: Origins Modern Friction Cleansing Stick with White & Purple Rice ($40.00,, which uses the rice's antioxidant action to buff and brighten dull skin.


These stunning flowers have been part of Chinese culture for centuries, and over 50 different species feature in the oldest known medical texts for treating a variety of ailments, from insomnia to hypertension. Used in skincare, orchid is a humectant, meaning that it helps attract and hold moisture to the skin, while simultaneously healing, soothing and conditioning it. Try: Dr Lewinn's Sensitive Cleansing Milk ($32.95, from Priceline), which blends sweet almond protein and softening aloe with gently hydrating orchid.


No wonder this is one of 2017's top superfoods, with studies showing that its active ingredient curcumin (which gives the spice its vibrant golden colour) has extensive anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties; it's even being touted as an alternative for pain medication. Traditionally, Hindu brides would rub turmeric into their skin to create a beautiful glow; it is also a boon when used in today's skincare products, especially for any condition that causes inflammation, such as acne and pimples. It may help with reducing the appearance of fine lines and some raised or discoloured scars, as it helps to heal and regenerate damaged skin. Try: Golden Grind Turmeric Face Mask ($24.95, with Australian sandalwood powder, orange peel, and Fuller's earth.


Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has long been used to promote stamina and wisdom. Over 300 studies demonstrate its wide range of actions in the body, from balancing blood sugar and boosting energy to improving immunity and libido. It also tones and strengthens skin and helps lift sagging skin and reduce the appearance of lines. Try: Jurlique Nutri-Define Superior Retexturising Facial Serum ($145.00, from department stores and pharmacies), which pairs ginseng with Evodia rutaecarpa, which is another stimulating herb used in traditional Chinese medicine.


Despite its Western connotations, the rose is a native of the Orient and was traditionally used as a liver and digestive tonic in Chinese medicine, as well as being a prized specimen in Imperial gardens. It is also highly valued in the cosmetic industry worldwide, being variously used to reduce redness and the appearance of fine lines, heal broken capillaries, and restore suppleness and tone to skin. Try: Aromatherapy Associates Rose Infinity Moisturiser ($248.00,, a luxurious anti-ageing formula with jasmine and ylang ylang.

Green tea

The history of green tea in China dates back over 3,000 years, when it was originally chewed in leaf form, but its use in tea started in the eighth century when it was discovered that steaming the leaves inhibited their oxidation. Since then, numerous claims have been made for the anti-ageing, hydrating, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory actions of green tea's antioxidant catechins; preliminary research has even shown the potential of one particular catechin in preventing skin cancer. Try: Skinstitut Multi-Active Mist with Vitamin B3, Ginseng, Green Tea & Licorice Root ($45.00).

Swertia chirata

Also known as Indian gentian, this is a bitter herb that has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to reduce fever and treat infection, as well as support liver function. Clinical trials also shows that it, when used topically, it improves skin tone, and strengthens and plumps up dry, thinning skin by slowing the loss of keratinocytes, resulting in an improved appearance of photo-aged skin, pigmentation, and fine lines around the mouth. Other research points to its ability to speed repair from burns and that it has some anti-cancer properties. Try: Edible Beauty Bloom of Youth Infusion Mask ($49.00 for six,, which combines bamboo and swertia extracts with regenerative hyaluronic acid.

Lisa Tristram is a natural skincare expert, aromatherapist, organic educator, and mind-body wellness teacher.