Acupuncture for Acne
Most people associate acne with teenagers, but this common skin condition can affect people of all ages. When acne strikes, it can be both painful and distressing. Furthermore, treatment options are limited and can cause a variety of unpleasant side effects.
This has led many people to wonder whether acupuncture could help. In this article, we take a look at the Chinese medicine view of the skin and discuss how acupuncture for acne works.
The Skin in Traditional Chinese Medicine
The skin is the largest organ in the body. It plays a vital role in protecting us from external dangers such as toxins, bacteria, and viruses. It also helps us to regulate our body temperatures and sense both pleasure and pain.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the skin plays a similar role. It is primarily associated with protection, and has a close relationship with the Lungs. The Lungs and the skin are responsible for circulating something called wei qi, or defensive qi. This is the TCM equivalent to the immune system.
Wei qi circulates around the exterior of the body, protecting us from invading pathogens. In western medical terms, we would see these pathogens as microbes such as bacteria, viruses, and fungus. However, because TCM developed thousands of years ago, ancient doctors did not know about the existence of these tiny organisms.
Therefore, they attributed infections to things that they could observe in nature, such as changes in the weather. Diseases were thus classified as being caused by excessive heat, cold, dampness, dryness, and wind.
Diseases were categorized further according to their various symptoms. For example, hot diseases would cause inflammation and fever, while cold diseases would lead to chills.
Therefore, any condition that causes redness of the skin is classified as a hot condition in TCM. If there is also itching, then wind is likely to be involved, and if there is pus or weeping, this is a sign of dampness.
Acne in Chinese Medicine
As you may have already guessed, in Chinese medicine, acne is seen as a combination of dampness and heat. This is because it involves a combination of inflammation and pus. Some people are naturally more prone to these kinds of symptoms than others. However, lifestyle can also play a role.
In TCM terms, one of the primary causes of excess heat is emotional stress. It can also be a result of too much spicy food, fried food, or red meat in the diet. These factors can all contribute to what the Chinese call shang huo, literally meaning ‘on fire.’ This situation can lead to a range of symptoms, one of which is acne.
Excessive dampness is also often a result of a person’s diet. Rich, greasy foods, refined sugars, and large amounts of diary can all contribute. These foods put a strain on the digestive organs, making them function less efficiently. The food essences then begin to accumulate in the body and can transform into phlegm or pus.
Therefore, from a TCM perspective, diet is one of the main factors contributing to acne. When coupled with the emotional stress that is so common in this hectic, modern world, these effects become even more pronounced.
Acupuncture for Acne
It is possible to explain the mechanism of acupuncture for acne in both eastern and western terms.
From a TCM perspective, acupuncture benefits acne by helping to clear excess heat and dampness from from the body. It can also be useful for restoring balance to the Lung system to promote clear and healthy skin. Finally, it acts to support the digestive organs and ensure that they process the nutrients from food efficiently.
In western medical terms, the main benefit of acupuncture for acne is that it helps to combat inflammation. By doing this, it reduces redness and soreness of the skin. Acupuncture also improves local circulation to speed up the healing process. It could also help to address any underlying hormonal imbalances.
When you have acupuncture for acne, you will find that the majority of points that your acupuncturist uses are on your body, arms, and legs. Even if you do not have acne in these areas, points here can help to improve the overall functioning of your body.
In some cases, your acupuncturist may also choose points on your face, neck, chest or upper back (wherever your acne is most severe). Although these points can be quite sensitive, most patients find that the results outweigh any discomfort.
The effects of acupuncture for acne can also be enhanced by using Chinese herbal remedies. Combining the two therapies helps to treat the condition from the inside, out. This can help to speed up the recovery process significantly.
Other Tips for Relieving Acne with Chinese Medicine
In addition to using acupuncture and herbal medicine for acne, there are a few steps that you can take at home to make your treatment more effective.
As we mentioned earlier, diet plays a major role in the development of acne from a TCM point of view. Therefore, making some simple changes here is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
Try to reduce your intake of heating foods and drinks. These include hot and spicy food, fried food, red meat, caffeine, and alcohol. You should also avoid smoking as this causes excessive heat inside the Lungs.
Instead, eat more cooling foods such as fresh vegetables and watery fruit (citrus, watermelon, cucumber etc.). However, you should try to cook vegetables lightly wherever possible rather than eating them raw. This is because raw foods are difficult to digest and can lead to a build-up of dampness in your body. Beverages such as green tea and peppermint tea are both great, cooling options.
Also, try to manage your stress levels by regularly practicing relaxation techniques. Some good options include breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, and yoga. You can combine these with moderate exercise which will help to relieve stress as well as improving Lung and digestive function.
Finally, choose natural skincare products which are light and non-greasy. It is best to avoid wearing make-up, but if you must, be sure to remove it properly at the end of each day. This will help to keep your pores clear and free from residue which can contribute to breakouts.
For more information on acupuncture for acne, feel free to get in touch and we will be happy to answer any questions.