Chinese Medicine world view of skin conditions, with the goal of managing symptoms
There is a wide variety of skin conditions that can benefit from the use of traditional Chinese medicine. Herbs are often the chosen modality in handling such conditions, as they work on the underlying factors within the body and are aimed at reducing heat, dryness, itch or moisture that appears on the skin. These individual features that are seen on the skin are taken into consideration when analysing the underlying cause of the condition and it is that underlying cause that often becomes the focus of the Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chinese herbs and ointments are individually designed and mixed for the patient with the aim of attempting to address the unique presentation for each individual. Below I will briefly touch on some common skin issues.
Rosacea, acne, and dermatitis are common skin conditions that can be managed effectively using Chinese medicine. The underlying causes and symptoms of each condition are examined and treated with a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary recommendations, and lifestyle adjustments. Chinese medicine considers each patient's unique presentation and focuses on restoring balance to the body's energetic system.
To manage rosacea symptoms, Chinese medicine practitioners aim to support the underlying loss of fluid (yin) in the body and add specific herbs that act locally on the face. They also focus on reducing further heat production in the body and supporting the process of fluid regeneration with more nourishing herbs. According to a systematic review published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, acupuncture and herbal medicine can be effective in managing rosacea symptoms (Xiong et al., 2017).
Acne-like symptoms, on the other hand, are often associated with an excess type of disorder and are seen as having a connection to the liver. In Chinese medicine, the internal state of the body and emotions of the individual are examined to deal with the symptoms more effectively and for the longer term. Herbs are again the more holistic choice, as the dose is taken daily and works to balance the energetics of the body to detoxify damp/heat (pus and unresolved fluids) and reduce the heat and its eventual rise to the face. A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that Chinese herbal medicine was effective in treating acne vulgaris (Ma et al., 2016).
Dermatitis or eczema-like lesions may present in many different ways. The practitioner needs to discern the underlying imbalances within the body and their causative factors to best assist with the presenting condition. Chinese medicine considers redness as a sign of heat, pus and exudate as dampness, and an itch involves wind. A randomized controlled trial published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that a Chinese herbal formula was effective in managing atopic dermatitis (Li et al., 2015).
Overall, Chinese medicine offers a unique and holistic approach to managing skin conditions by focusing on the underlying imbalances within the body's energetic system. Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be effective in managing the symptoms of rosacea, acne, and dermatitis, and dietary recommendations and lifestyle adjustments can also support the healing process.
Li, C. Y., Li, Y. H., Li, J., Zhang, Y. J., Wang, L. L., & Li, X. M. (2015). Chinese herbal medicine for atopic dermatitis: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 175, 218-224.
Ma, Y. X., Shi, G. X., Yang, Y. S., Yan, C. Q., Liu, Y., Wang, L. Q., ... & Liu, C. Z. (2016). A randomized controlled trial of a Chinese herbal medicine preparation(Huaier Granule) for the treatment of moderate to severe acne vulgaris. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22(11), 883-888.
Xiong, X. J., Wang, P. Q., Li, S. J., & Li, X. K. (2017). Acupuncture for rosacea: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 23(9), 696-705.
The primary objective of Chinese Medicine is to treat the whole person rather than a specific disease or its given name. It is an adjunct to Western medicine, with a distinct focus on identifying the underlying cause within Chinese medical theory and using it's principles in a safe and modern clinical setting.