Many dermatological conditions have a genetic basis that is expressed by environmental, immune or hormonal triggers. Often these triggers are varied and highly individualized. Conventional Dermatology focuses on the manifestation and symptoms presented while Chinese Medicine seeks to identify and treat the cause at its root. This often makes for a thorough and long-lasting eradication of the presenting skin disease.
While not often thought of as such, the skin is an organ. It breathes with respiration that is different from the Lung. However, in Chinese Medicine it is said that the skin is a ——— of the Lung, the pores are the doors to the Qi and fluids. It is home to a diverse microbiome of bacteria that protect, nourish, and tend to the skin’s health. It is an organ of elimination. It expels unwanted toxins from the inside of the body through sweat. The anatomical name for skin tissue is called epithelial tissue and as such, it is not just what we see on the outside of our bodies, but is also what lines our sinuses, stomach and intestines both Large and Small as well as the Bladder, Uterus, and Vagina.
Diseases of the skin and these associated organs are not therefore just rashes to be suppressed using anti-inflammatory medicines, however, there is a time and place for this when situations become extreme. They are in reality manifestations of a deeper disharmony within the body as a whole. Often these disharmonies are of the immune system initiating its reactivity via inflammation too self-tissue, commonly known as Auto-Immunity. In other cases, they relate to hormonal fluctuations, blood sugar regulation, and surely external exposures to outside influences. Despite the name given to a particular skin condition, it manifests differently in different individuals, but most importantly speaks to a deeper level of disharmony crying out to be corrected.
Chinese Herbal Medicine has a long history and a well-delineated approach to the treatment of skin conditions. In fact, the Chinese Medical Texts list over 600 separate and treatable skin diseases. Using an individually differentiated approach that treats the person, not the disease, Chinese Medicine has had a hugely successful tradition of not only controlling but often eliminating what are otherwise thought to be chronic conditions. It does this through a combination of both internal and externally applied herbal medicines, along with dietary and lifestyle modifications.
Unlike conventional Dermatology that can effectively suppress the manifestations of these debilitating skin conditions, only to have them return when treatment is stopped, Chinese Medicine addresses the root cause. In most insances the condition is eradicated after a course of treatment and does not return.
I have focused my practice of Chinese Medicine on the treatment of a variety of Skin Disorders focusing primarily on Psoriasis, Psoriatic Arthritis, Eczema, Acne, Hives or Urticaria, and Acne Rosacea. I have had the good fortune to have studied extensively with Mazin Al-Kafaji a well-respected practitioner of Chinese Medicine who has run the world-famous Avenencia Dermatology Center in Brighton England for the past 30 years.
PSORIASIS: Psoriasis is an auto-immune condition that manifests in different ways creating different subtypes of Psoriasis. In some cases, people can have more than one sub-type of Psoriasis at a time requiring different topical treatments simultaneously. The types of Psoriasis treated by Chinese Medicine include:
Each of these subtypes are approached in different ways and treatments are customized to the particular differences inherent to each individual person. As the condition heals and the symptoms change, the treatment adapts to address the new manifestations. This is the beauty and complexity of this 4000 year old medicine, it addresses the body in different ways as it goes through it’s changes of the healing process.
Like Psoriasis, Eczema sometimes called Dermatitis, has a variety of subtypes and manifestations and each is treated somewhat differently. Eczema can range from isolated dry patches that come and go, to horrible body-wide itchy lesions to fissured patches that cause great discomfort and infection. Unlike Psoriasis, Eczema can start as young as 2 months. I have effectively treated babies by adding herbal decoctions to their bath water along with applying soothing lotions which can be highly effective and a welcome relief to the unhappy baby and sleep-deprived parents. Eczema while immune generated is not auto-immune like Psoriasis.The sub-types of eczema treated effectively by Chinese Medicine include:
Acne Rosacea is a reddening of the cheeks, nose, and chin and less often forehead of the affected person. It is more likely to occur in middle age and beyond but can afflict younger adults. The most prominent symptom is a diffuse reddening of the skin in these regions often accompanied by the breaking of small blood vessels. In many cases, pustules or pimples form similar to adolescent acne which may of may not contain pus. Rosacea is treated very well by Chinese Medicine and usually responds rather rapidly to treatment.
Acne is one of the most common conditions in dermatology. While it is commonly associated with and is common in adolescence it can extend into or even begin in adulthood. While most common the face, it affects other areas rich in sebaceous glands such as the upper back, chest, back of the arms, and occasionally the abdomen. It can range from simple small white or blackheads sometimes exacerbated by a woman’s menstrual cycle, to severe Cystic Acne that can be associated with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome and Diabetes. Acne can include pus, a mild to severe reddening of the skin, and not uncommonly scarring. It is always associated with increased oil production and often hormonal imbalance or fluctuations. Like Acne Rosacea, Adolescent, Adult onset and Cystic Acne normally responds very well to treatment with full resolution.
URTICARIA OR HIVES:
Hives, sometimes called wheals, is often a sudden onset, highly itchy manifestation, of transient but sometimes stubbornly persistent papules. They can range from pea-sized to palm-sized mildly swollen patches of skin that itch often with great intensity.
Hives are experienced by upwards of 20% of the population. People who are prone to hives often experience a condition called dermographism where the skin becomes raised and red when scratched or otherwise exposed to external irritation. While acute isolated episodes are usually treated effectively with antihistamines, chronic recurrent cases require a deeper eradication of the underlying cause. Chinese Medicine can be quite effective in such cases. Hives can be triggered by food, drug allergies, emotional upset, infections or chronic auto-immune diseases, insect bites, and even changes in weather or sun exposure. While not injurious to the tissue the persistent intensity of the itching can be destructive to the quality of both life and sleep.
In addition to the above mentioned conditions. I have successfully treated various types of warts, fungal infections, Alopecia Areata, Perioral Dermatitis, Seborrhoeic Dermatitis, Lichen Simplex, Lichen Planus, Impetigo, as well as various types of Herpes.
While not highlighted above, Chinese Medicine is invaluable in identifying those factors that prematurely age the skin as well as providing strategies for maintaining healthy radiate skin as the body ages. As with the above conditions aging skin is as different as the people it covers. What may be right for one person is not for the other. The skin is often a “report card” of what is going on inside. Its health, luster and radiance are dependent upon a wide variety of factors such as diet, nutrients, sleep, stress management, our intestinal and epithelial microbiome, blood flow, hydration etc, etc. Finding out those factors unique to you, and addressing them correctly can work wonders for both the inside and the outside of your body.
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