For thousands of years, traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners (Chinese physicians) have used acupuncture and herbs to treat a wide variety of common skin ailments. That same wisdom can be effectively applied today.
TCM views health as a balance within the body’s internal landscape and the environment. Disease can occur if there is too much or too little Qi (energy), blood, yin, and yang. Also, the impact of environmental conditions such as wind, heat, cold, dampness, and dryness, can affect illness. Skin diseases are often caused by both internal and external factors.
In mapping the organs of the body, TCM uses the same names as Western medicine, but sometimes identifies the functions of each organ in different ways. In addition, TCM groups the physiological and psychological functions of the body together because the mind has an impact on physical health. Where an organ may be in disharmony and thus a source of the problem according to TCM, Western medicine will not always view the situation in the same way.
Getting Beneath the Surface
In diagnosing skin conditions, TCM considers physical, emotional, and environmental factors. By taking the pulse, asking in-depth questions, and observing the tongue and skin, the TCM practitioner will diagnose the condition according to TCM patterns.
Skin diseases are generally caused by internal disharmonies, such as lack of Qi and blood, or environmental influences, such as wind, dryness, dampness, and heat. Stress, diet, and the individual’s constitution also contribute to these patterns.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs treat skin diseases in a unique manner. TCM addresses both the root (cause) and the branch (symptoms) of a condition. The treatment and diagnosis are tailored to each person’s symptoms. Depending on the condition, treatment may involve acupuncture, Chinese herbs, or both. Often, one treatment cycle is once or twice a week for 12 weeks. Some conditions will clear rapidly, but others may take longer.
- Acne: Acne is a common adolescent skin condition that sometimes continues into adulthood. According to Western medicine, it is generally associated with reactions to hormones, bacteria, and oils in the skin. In TCM, it is most often associated with dampness, heat, and in severe cases blood stagnation. Once the dampness and heat are cleared from the system, the skin will also clear.
- Eczema: Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic allergic reaction which causes the skin to become red, inflamed, intensely itchy, and in some cases to blister. People who have eczema often also have asthma and allergies. All of these conditions are caused by heat, wind, and dampness, and can be treated effectively with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. The goal of the treatment is to clear heat, dispel the wind and dampness, and move the blood.
- Other conditions: Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can also be used to treat psoriasis, shingles, vitiligo, uticaria (hives), warts, rosacea, and dermatitis.