If you’re like many people who have been battling acne blemishes and breakouts, you’re frustrated, tired, and embattled, having spent time and effort on countless treatments, both traditional and fad. Maybe some help, maybe they don’t. Maybe some even seem to make your frustrations worse. Is there yet another approach you can try? And is it really worth spending the effort to research? We give that question a resounding yes! Traditional Chinese Medicine can help to clear up acne, so you definitely want to sit up and take notice.
Traditional Chinese Medicine For Skin in a Nutshell
Getting back to natural seems to be an increasing popular theme these days, and for good reason. People are waking up to realize that health and wellness doesn’t just happen on a piece by piece basis. Each of your organs and body systems are intimately connected and not only the blood that flows through your body, but the energy, as well, has an impact on all other systems. The body is a complex network of interconnected parts, through which your life force, or qi, flows.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, doesn’t just treat skin ailments with topical washes and creams, but looks at the whole picture, believing that problems that manifest on the skin are actually a sign of an imbalance elsewhere in the body.
When a TCM doctor gives an exam, they look at all sorts of different seemingly unrelated aspects of your body: from what you eat, how you sleep, the color of your tongue (truth!), the flush of your cheeks, and the consistency of your stool. In addition, the location, pattern, color, and consistency of your pimples are a factor. They put all of these pieces together to determine where your qi energy could be stagnating or where there may be an excess.
Treating a condition like acne isn’t just a matter of using acne-specific herbs, though there are a few standards that are regularly used, but is more a matter of creating an individualized whole-body treatment plan based on each individual’s symptoms. It takes a holistic approach that involves a number of modalities including diet, herbs (both topical and ingested), acupuncture, exercise, stress relief, and more.
Diagnosing Acne Through Traditional Chinese Medicine
Western medicine typically looks at acne primarily as a hormonal disturbance that can lead to an excess production of sebum, resulting in breakouts. The TCM approach sees it as one or a combination of two different troubles.
Stagnation in the System or Dampness
A commonly-noticed problem in TCM, stagnation occurs when circulation becomes too slow. The blood and fluid systems become congested. This can come from congestion in the fluid system, called phlegm in TCM. When the circulation slows down, the body’s fluids become thick and dense. When this happens, you could notice cysts, whether in the form of facial cysts, or deeper in the body like with ovarian cysts.
When blood stagnation occurs, you’ll notice pimples with a dark red or purplish color. They may be painful and stick around for a long time. You may notice that this acne tends to rear up when you’re experiencing pain elsewhere in the body, too, such as with menstrual cramping or other chronic pain.
This is a condition frequently seen with acne and is known as excess internal heat. Think of it as your body overheating in one system or another. Usually with acne, it’s originating in the lung system, menstrual/blood system, the stomach system, or because of a presence of a toxin in the system.
Traditional Chinese Herbs For Acne
While topicals are a portion of TCM treatment, they are an important mainstay, and one of the things that makes TCM unique. There are certain herbs that are staples in the TCM practitioner’s cabinet that are used for acne. In addition, a treatment plan is formulated individually for each patient, taking into consideration the factors and symptoms we discussed above.
Adaptogens are a popular group of herbs that have the ability to reduce stress, helping it to adapt to your environment. It’s a way of helping your body restore balance.
If a stagnation of phlegm is noted, a formula such as Tao Hong Si Wu tang might be used, as well as herbs that are known to get the blood circulating like Angelic root, Peony root, and red peony.
If heat in the lungs or stomach is deemed problematic, herbs such as Phellodenbrium, Rhemannia root, Scuttellaria, or Tree peony root might be chosen.
Topically, look for herbs and extracts that are cooling and provide anti-inflammatory effects that help to fight infection.
- Dandelion extract can help fight infections
- Peppermint can relieve skin irritations
- Lavender is anti-inflammatory
Some cosmetic companies have harnessed the power of some of the best herbal therapies and natural healing of plants and incorporated them into products that are ready for your use to take the guesswork and legwork out of it for you. At Dr. Wang Herbal Skincare, their formulas incorporate the combination of Eastern herbal tradition and Western science to nourish and comfort your skin through the healing process.
Their Nourishing Youth Serum is the perfect addition to your routine if you suffer from acne. It has the distinct ability to help calm your skin and aid the process of rebuilding and replenishing the barrier. In addition, it’s luxuriously moisturizing, making it an excellent two-in-one product. That’s especially good news if you’re also using conventional acne treatment products that contain retinoic acids or other medications that typically really dry your skin.
TCM Diet For Acne
Let’s go back to the concept that TCM considers acne a manifestation of a stagnation or excess of heat somewhere else in the body. A TCM approach to diet will do more than just focus on foods that are known to help calm inflamed skin. The foods that you eat can play a key role in helping you balance yin and yang. The list of foods you should avoid (and eat) will be just as unique as the herbal supplements utilized. For instance, in the case of qi stagnation or stomach food stagnation, patients should avoid potatoes and beans. But if heat is a problem, a patient may be reactive to chives, ginger, peppers, goat meat, rooster, and barbecued foods.
In general, acne sufferers would do best to increase the yin foods in their diet. These are more calming and are typically wet and moist. These would include:
- Egg white
- Rock salt
- Sesame oil
- Sunflower seeds
- Green tea
- Water chestnut
- Water cress
- Wheat germ
At the same time, decrease your consumption of stimulating yang foods like:
- Black tea
- Egg yolk
- Green onion
- Pine nuts
- Sweet potato
Acupuncture For Acne
Acupuncture is the practice of placing tiny (you can’t really even feel them) needles into precise pressure spots on your body that correlate with points along your energy lines, the meridians. It can help to regulate hormones and soothe an irritated gut lining, both of which play a big role in your skin’s health. It can also help to clear heat, drain damp, and nourish the yin. It also encourages the skin to heal, activating new collagen production in the areas of question. Needles aren’t always applied directly to the face, especially during times of an active breakout.
At the heart of healthy skin is a healthy you. Getting the right amount of the right kind of exercise is essential to your whole body, including your skin! Moderate sweating is important for eliminating toxins and balancing out hormones, but you don’t want to overdo it. Stressing your body out will only cause more trouble. You’re looking, ultimately, to relax it. In addition to your workout, look into yoga, Qigong, or Tai Chi. These forms of exercise are designed to strengthen your mind and get your qi flowing in the right direction.
Steven Wang, MD and Gui Wang, LAc have over 60 years of combined experience caring for patients. By combining Traditional Chinese Medicine with modern technology, this father-son duo has formulated a natural line of skincare products that are ideal for use in spas or at home.
We are healers at heart. All of our products are made with the goal to promote healthy skin, use the knowledge we have gained over years of dedicated practice, and to make an effective, natural product.
For more information, please read about our story!