Let me first tell you that you are not alone!! Acne is the most common of all skin problems. Contrary to some conventional beliefs, it’s a problem suffered not only by teenagers. Many people are plagued their whole lives with constant outbreaks of acne.
Acne is a disease of the sebaceous hair follicles. At the base of each hair follicle are glands called sebaceous glands, which make sebum. Sebum is an oily substance, and under normal circumstances it travels along the hair follicle to the surface of the skin. In acne however, the normal transport of sebum out of the follicle is impeded. This leads to an accumulation of sebum, which provides an enriched breeding ground for bacteria.
Factors that contribute to acne include heredity (genetics), oily skin, hormonal imbalance, monthly menstrual cycles, and candidiasis. Other possible contributing factors are allergies, stress, and the use of certain drugs such as steroids, lithium, oral contraceptives, and some anti-epileptic drugs. Nutritional deficiencies and/or diets high in saturated fats, hydrogenated fats, and animal products can also be involved.
Chinese medicine makes reference to a number of practices including acupuncture, prescription of Chinese herbal formulas, and nutritional recommendations (food cures). It especially emphasizes changing lifestyle habits. Its theoretical basis has been developed in China over thousands of years!
The goal of Chinese Medicine is to restore balance to the body and treat the root cause of an illness. This approach gives Chinese Medicine a special and unique advantage as it does not just merely provide symptomatic relief.
Chinese Medicine views acne as an external manifestation resulting from an internal imbalance. Excess heat and toxin are the primary components which produce this acne causing imbalance. The general approach chosen for therapy is to reduce internal heat by cooling the blood, decreasing toxin, and removing stasis. The medicinals are also meant to alleviate sluggish substances (we call it dampness in Chinese Medicine) and improve intestinal function where toxins can accumulate. The underlying factor causing the acne such as stress, hormonal imbalance, or the menstrual cycle, will also be treated accordingly so that the acne doesn’t come back in the future.
Chinese herbal formulas are customized according to the Chinese Medicine diagnosis made. Combinations and dosages of herbs are chosen and adjusted to work specifically for the individual. When administered correctly by a qualified TCM Doctor, Chinese herbs have been proven safe & effective without adverse reactions. In addition, quality control and safety research are implemented. Chinese herbs are provided in different forms—raw form (which is boiled to make a liquid), tablets, capsules, powders, and tinctures. In my clinical practice, I most often prescribe concentrated powders that are simply to be mixed into hot water and made into an instant tea. So easy…and so effective!
I often see acne patients under much stress or struggling with anxiety and depression. They may also have irregularities in their menstrual cycle or digestive disturbances. These problems are treated so wonderfully and powerfully with Acupuncture. It calms the nervous system and shifts the body from the sympathetic state to a parasympathetic state which does wonders for the health of your adrenal glands. It also regulates hormones and balances the health of the digestive system. There is a strong correlation between stress, hormones, digestion and Acne.
I include dietary & supplement recommendations in treatment regimens. Here are some examples I start with:
Some foods that can help alleviate acne: squash, cucumbers, celery, carrots, carrot tops, lettuce, potato, cabbage, beet tops, alfalfa sprouts, mung beans, dandelions, pears, cherries, papaya, persimmons, raspberries, and watermelon. Drinking plenty of water helps too.
Some foods to avoid or limit: spicy and oily foods, coffee, alcohol, sugar, chocolate, ice cream, soft drinks, dairy foods, red meat, shellfish, bamboo shoots and white mushrooms.