Treating Skin Disorders with Chinese Medicine

 Treating Skin Disorders with Chinese Medicine

In this article, we will address some of the more common skin disorders and explain how Chinese Traditional Medicine theory looks at these disorders. We will also go over treatment goals and some lifestyle tips and herbal medicine formulas that can help treat these issues. 

Acne Vulgaris

An inflammatory condition of the sebaceous glands characterized by comedones (small cysts) which often become inflamed and form papules, pustules, nodules and cysts, usually on the face, chest and back. The sebaceous glands appear to be unduly sensitive to normal levels of androgens. Normal skin bacteria colonize the ducts, obstructing the flow of sebum and leading to inflammatory consequences. 

TREATMENT GOALS:

-Reduce the toxin load on the skin by assisting tissue cleansing and enhancing elimination

-Provide topical relief and treat the causes with astringent, anti-inflammatory, tissue healing, antibacterial and scar-reducing herbs (calendula: astringent and anti-inflammatory for bacterial and fungal, gotu kola prevents scarring)

-Enhance immune function systemically to assist the body to fight potential infections

CHINESE ETIOLOGY:

Lung heat: Caused by invasion of external wind which causes pre-existing heat in the Lung channel to accumulate in the skin and tissues, thus giving rise to lesions. Lesions are whiteheads and blackheads that are raised and slightly itchy sometimes. The forehead and around the nose are most commonly affected. Accompanied symptoms: dryness of nose and mouth, dry stools and red tongue with thin white or yellow coat. 

Stomach heat: This is typically caused by a high-fat diet or overeating of fried and/or spicy foods, which leads to accumulation of heat in the Spleen/Stomach. As the condition becomes protracted, the heat rises and lodges in the skin and tissues, thus producing lesions. Raised whiteheads and blackheads. Mouth, chest and upper back are commonly affected. Face is prone to oiliness. Accompanied symptoms: tendency to eat large amounts of food, halitosis, dry mouth and tongue, desire for cold beverages, dry stools, red tongue and sticky coating.  

Blood heat: This type of acne often has emotional disturbance as its source. The resulting qi stagnation, if unresolved, accumulates and transforms into heat and enters the blood level, and then lodges in the skin and tissues, thus causing lesions. Raised lesions near the nose, mouth and between eyebrows. Capillaries of the face are often dilated so that exposure to heat or emotional stimulation brings on facial flush. Premenstrual women experience an increase in skin lesions. Accompanied symptoms: dry stools, yellow urine, tongue with a red tip and thin coating. 

Heat toxin: This is the result of the combination of Lung and/or Stomach heat with external toxin to form heat toxin which rises upward and lodges in the skin and interstices, thus producing the lesions. Lesions are primarily pustules on a red base. May be painful and be inflamed. The upper back and chest are commonly involved. Residual scarring often occurs after healing. Accompanied symptoms: dry stools or constipation, scanty yellow urine, red tongue with yellow dry coating. 

Damp toxin with blood stasis: Acne of this type arises when pre-existing dampness and accumulates in the skin and tissues followed by attack of external toxin, which then congeals with dampness to form damp toxin. Blockage of the channels and collaterals ensues, giving rise to disharmony between the qi and blood, and thus the lesions. Deep, painful inflamed nodules and pus-filled cysts on a red base. The face, chest and back are involved and the affected skin in oily. Residual scarring is pitted. Accompanied symptoms: headache, sensation of heat throughout the body, a purple tongue with a yellow and white coating. 

DIET & LIFESTYLE:

Avoid comedogenic cosmetics (especially those with oils) https://www.holistichealthherbalist.com/complete-list-of-comedogenic-oils/, frequently wash face with soap and water, avoid eating spicy and greasy foods, avoid alcohol, smoking and toxin exposure. 

Eczema (Contact Dermatitis & Atopic Dermatitis)

Eczema is a pruritic inflammatory skin reaction which occurs as a reaction to an endogenous or exogenous agent. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory skin disorder that is linked to atopy (genetic predisposition to form excessive IgE antibodies to antigens). The terms eczema and dermatitis are now used synonymously. 

Skin changes progress from acute to subacute to chronic. 

Acute: Intense itching, red papules and vesicles on a red base, or oozing erosions. 

Subacute: Red, damaged/rubbed away/chafed skin, scaling papules or plaques. Scaling can acquire a silvery sheen. 

Chronic: Thickening of the skin and leathery patches, peeling, chafing and color changes are frequently present. 

TREATMENT GOALS:

-Enhance immune function systemically and topically to assist the body to correct inappropriate T-helper-cell activity and to fight potential skin infections

-Assist tissue cleansing, correct metabolic dysfunction and enhance elimination

-Improve the disordered gastric function that may occur in some eczema patients

-Provide topical relief with astringent, anti-inflammatory, tissue healing, and immune modulating herbs

CONTACT DERMATITIS:

Acute or chronic inflammation caused by substances in direct contact with the skin. May be attributable to a direct toxic effect of the substance, or to an allergic response. Acute symptoms can develop within seconds or minutes after contact and include reddening, blistering and oozing. Severe cases may present with swelling of the face and eyes. Skin changes in chronic cases range from mild itching, dryness, cracking, blistering, and erosion, to ulceration. Common offending agents: metallic jewelry, cosmetics, plants or animals. 

CHINESE ETIOLOGY: Low constitutional resistance in the condition underlying contact dermatitis. Upon contact, toxins that the individual doesn’t have resistance towards enters the skin. Toxin stagnates the qi and blood and gives rise to heat and dampness which accumulates in the skin and produces lesions. 

LIFESTYLE & DIET: Avoid offending agents. If you cannot completely avoid these agents, use protection (gloves, protective clothing, headgear). Hand washing, face washing and showering to prevent skin eruptions, if exposed. Avoid spicy and greasy foods. No alcohol or caffeine. Avoid meats that are warming to hot in nature such as lamb, chicken, duck and shrimp. 

ATOPIC DERMATITIS: 

Chronic, superficial inflammation of the skin that is characterized by itching. Skin sites most commonly affected: insides of the elbow and backs of the knees. Personal or family history of allergies is common. Usually begins in infancy and recurs at intervals into adulthood. 

In infants, lesions characteristically appear at first on the cheeks and scalp, eventually involving the entire face and surfaces of knees and elbows. In severe cases, the entire body may be involved. 

The lesions are red and through scratching begin to weep and become crusted. As the condition progresses there is dryness of the skin, thickening of the skin with a leathery quality due to rubbing. Secondary bacterial and viral infections are common. 

CHINESE ETIOLOGY:

Fetal Heat: Clear Heart heat and guide out the heat (heat is manifested in dark urine), protect the yin and stop itching. 

Damp-heat: Due to malfunction of the Spleen/Stomach. Clear heat, dispel dampness and stop itching.

Blood dryness: Enrich the yin and eliminate dampness. 

Treat twice a week for one month then reduce frequency to once a week as needed. Use internal/external herbs in conjunction with acupuncture. 

LIFESTYLE & DIET: Avoid psychological and environmental stressors, as well as physical irritants. Keep fingernails short to avoid secondary infections. Don’t wear wool or other itchy/aggravating clothing. Avoid changes in humidity. Avoid individuals with infectious skin diseases. Avoid spicy and greasy foods. No alcohol or caffeine. Avoid meats that are warming to hot in nature such as lamb, chicken, duck and shrimp. 

Herpes Infections

Infection with human herpes virus 1 and human herpes virus 2 (herpes simplex viruses) causes non-genital infection (ex. Oral and facial-cold sores) and genital herpes infection. Herpes virus 3 (varicella-zoster virus) causes chickenpox and shingles. Post-herpetic neuralgia may occur following shingles infection. Post-herpetic neuralgia affects nerve fibers and skin, causing burning pain that lasts long after the rash and blisters of shingles disappear.

TREATMENT GOALS:

-Reduce the viral infection by the use of antiviral and immune enhancing herbs (St. John’s Wort is antiviral and Echinacea is immune boosting)

-Support the nervous system and relieve post-herpetic neuralgia

-Provide topical relief and healing of skin lesions

-Provide support for debilitated patients to prevent re-infection

-Strengthen immune system

CHINESE ETIOLOGY FOR HERPES SIMPLEX: 

Wind-heat toxin attacking Lung & Stomach channels: The herpes lesions appear on the upper part of the body are generally due to wind-heat toxin attacking and leading to a fuming upwards in the Lung and Stomach channels. Lesions appear at the corners of the mouth, around the lips, on the upper lip below the nostrils, or on the cheeks. 

Damp-heat lodged in the lower burner: Lesions on the lower part of the body are often caused by damp toxin lodged in the Liver and Gallbladder channels. Lesions usually affect the genitalia. 

Accumulated heat with Spleen/Stomach: Recurrent herpes come from dysfunction of the Spleen and Stomach channels transporting and transforming mechanisms, causing heat to come upwards or heat injuring the fluids and giving rise to deficiency heat blazing outward into the skin and tissue causing herpes lesions. Lesions are usually found on the face, especially the cheeks, and are recurrent. 

CHINESE ETIOLOGY FOR HERPES ZOSTER:

Blazing fire in the Liver channel: Often caused by emotional disturbance such that the Liver qi becomes constrained. Longstanding constrain leads to fire in the channel blazing outward into the skin causing herpes lesions. These lesions are red with taut vesicle walls that are bright red and have a burning sensation. The pain resembles pin-pricks. 

Damp-heat in the Spleen channel: Stems from Spleen deficiency leading to the accumulation of dampness. Unresolved dampness transforms into heat. Herpes lesions are damp-heat in nature. Herpes vesicles are large and filled with yellowish white serous fluid. The vesicle walls are thin and easily broken, after which there may be pus formation. In serious cases, necrosis will occur followed by formation of black scabs. 

Stagnation of qi and blood: This pattern presents when a patient has qi and blood stagnation when experiencing the initial attack so that the toxin is still present in the stagnant tissue and skin. This continues to cause pain. This pattern responds to post-herpetic pain and often affects the elderly. The lesions are semi-erupted papules, pain is sharp and like pin-pricks, or a soreness that is exacerbated by movement in the affected area. 

CUPPING: Cups can be used for early outbreaks. Acupuncture can be used at any point of outbreak. 

 

Herbal Remedies at Lakewood Community Acupuncture for Skin Disorders (Internal)

Cataplex F

INDICATIONS: Tissue calcium starvation, calcium assimilation problems, hypothyroid, herpes simplex, ridged nails, poor hair quality, dry skin, muscle cramps, “Charley Horse,” hypervitaminosis D, sunburn, sun poisoning, sun sensitivity, heat prostration, prostate problems. SYNERGISTS: Calcium Lactate Thytrophin PMG. A great source of essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are used to transport calcium from blood to tissues. It contains linolenic, linoleic and arachidonic acids. Cataplex F Tablets is a source of iodine for thyroid support. The essential fatty acids help to protect against sun burns by distributing calcium to the skin. If you are sufficient in Calcium and EFA it prevents your body from getting sunburned and nourishes your skin. 

Copticlear

Huang Lian Su Pian *Contraindicated during pregnancy* Supports a healthy digestive system Western Symptomatology: Intestinal infection; Amebic dysentery with frequent bloody or watery stools; Abdominal pain; Infections, Boils, Insect bites; Poison oak/ivy, Stomach ulcers, Mouth sores; Gum infections; Skin and ear infections, Fevers with irritability; Nosebleeds. Actions: Drains Fire and Toxin, resolves fever, kills parasites. 

Dermatrol (Clear)

Supports clear complexion. In TCM, it clears heat, detoxifies the skin and drains damp-heat.

Dermatrol (Damp)

Dries dampness and promotes healthy skin tissues. In TCM, it clears damp-heat, detoxifies and soothes the skin. 

Dermatrol (Dry)

Moistens dryness and supports healthy skin. In TCM, it clears heat, dispels wind and nourishes yin.

Dermatrol (PS)

Maintains healthy skin by incorporating special herbs to support and revitalize skin health and integrity. In TCM, it clears heat and eliminates toxins, and nourishes blood. 

Derma Wind Release

Traditional Chinese Herbal Formula, Xiao Feng San. Weepy, itchy, red skin lesions over a large part of the body; Eczema; Psoriasis; Chronic urticaria; Scabies; Diaper rash; Prickly heat; Contact dermatitis; Purpura; Tinea infection; All skin diseases that become aggravated with hot weather. Actions: Disperses Wind, eliminates Dampness, clears Heat, and cools the Blood.

Dermatrophin PMG

INDICATIONS: Anti-scarring, helpful with skin cancer, dry, cracked skin, burns and general skin disorders. (Epithelial)

Kudzu Releasing

Traditional Chinese Herbal Formula, Ge Gen Tang. Symptoms: Chills and fever without sweating, stiff neck and upper back, runny nose, nasal blockage, sneezing, itchy eyes, allergies, diarrhea, skin rash, urticaria, shingles. Actions: Releases the exterior and muscle layers, generates fluids, promotes sweating.

 Quell Fire

Traditional Chinese Herbal formula, Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. Symptomatology: Any redness or red eruption or purulent discharge. Herpes zoster, eczema, urticaria. Acute and chronic urinary infections, vaginitis, genital eczema. Pelvic inflammatory disease, leukorrhea with colored discharge, breast abscesses, dysfunctional uterine bleeding. Actions: Quells Liver Fire, Drains Damp Heat in the Liver, Gall Bladder, and Triple Burner meridians. 

SP Cleanse

INDICATIONS: Foundational part of any detoxification or rejuvenation program for patients presenting with multiple systemic complaints, such as obesity, food allergies, fibromyalgia, eczema, chronic fatigue immune dysfunction, and multiple chemical sensitivities. SP Cleanse utilizes the synergistic effect of over 20 different foods and botanicals to support balanced hepatic detoxification ability, and the other organs of detoxification (lymph, skin, kidneys and blood). SP Cleanse is the foundational part of any rejuvenation or detoxification program which would normally be employed with patients presenting with multiple complaints.

Zinc Liver Chelate

INDICATIONS: Healing, prostate, immune system weakness and disorder, optic nerve degeneration, skin (infection, acne), insulin production. Zinc Liver Chelate is a trace mineral product essential in supporting the endocrine function, the immune system, enzyme production, and skin functions. An essential component in making sex hormones. Zinc is an essential part of hundreds of enzymes utilized throughout the body such as the synthesis of DNA, RNA, proteins, insulin and sperm. Zinc enhances wound healing and is also important to the senses of taste and smell. Recent studies indicate it plays a role in supporting the immune system.

 

Herbs at LCA for Skin Disorders (Topicals)

Antifungal Ointment

Called Qing Dai Gao in Chinese, this famous contemporary ointment is first found in Wai Ke Xue (“A Study of External Medicine”) compiled by the Guangzhou College of Chinese Medicine. Functions Clears heat and resolves toxins, disperses inflammation and relieves itching. Ingredients: Pure vegetable oils (Beeswax), Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum), Hua Shi (Talcum), Qing Dai (Pulvis Indigonis Levis), and Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri). Contraindications: Do not apply this or other oil-based ointments to wet, weeping lesions. Formula Rationale Shi Gao (Gypsum Fibrosum) clears heat and drains fire. Hua Shi (Talcum) clears heat and dries dampness when applied externally. Qing Dai (Pulvis Indigonis Levis) clears heat and resolves toxins, and Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri) clears heat, eliminates dampness, and resolves toxins. Apply externally to the affected area. Not for internal consumption.

Black Current Seed Oil

INDICATIONS: Inflammatory states, dry skin and related problems, “hangovers,” immune system support, fat metabolism, PMS and menopause. Black Currant Seed Oil is the organic cold processed concentrate of the black currant seed. It is used because of its unique content of gamma linolenic acid, commonly referred to as GLA. Black Currant Seed Oil assays at two or three times the amount of GLA than Evening Primrose Oil. GLA, an omega 6 fatty acid, is the converted form of linolenic acid that a healthy liver would normally produce. In cases like eczema or severe skin dryness, the body is not converting essential fatty acids into the form that the sebaceous glands under the skin use, which is GLA. GLA is also a prostaglandin precursor promoting the anti-inflammatory prostaglandin. These oils are very nourishing to the skin. 

Burn Ointment

This ointment is for the topical treatment of burns and scalds. Based on a highly efficacious formula designed and researched at the Ping-yi County Chinese Medical Hospital in Henan. It incorporates the ingredients of Chen Shi-gong’s famous Ming dynasty Zi Cao Gao (Lithospermum Ointment) plus several more to make it even more specific and effective for burns and scalds. Functions Clears heat and dries dampness, cools the blood and resolves toxins, quickens the blood and stops pain, transforms stasis and eliminates the putrid, closes sores and engenders flesh. Method of Use Apply to affected area several times per day. Formula Rationale Pu Gong Ying (Herba Taraxaci), Mao Dong Qing (Radix Ilicis Pubescentis), Ku Shen (Radix Sophorae Flavescentis), Jin Yin Hua (Flos Lonicerae), and Zi Cao (Radix Arnebiae/Lithospermi) all clear heat and resolve fire toxins, dry dampness and close sores, disperse swelling and stop pain. Di Yu (Radix Sanguisorbae) and San Qi (Radix Notoginseng) clear heat and cool the blood, transform stasis and stop pain. Bing Pian (Borneolum) resolves toxins and settles pain, clears heat and eliminates turbidity. Xue Jie (Sanguis Draconis), Hong Hua (Flos Carthami), Niu Xi (Radix Achyranthis Bidentatae), and Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis) transform stasis and eliminate the putrid (i.e., the necrotic), close sores and engender (new) flesh. Feng La (Beeswax) resolves toxins, engenders flesh, and stops pain. Zhi Ma You (Sesame oil) cools the blood and resolves fire toxins as well as nourishes and moistens the skin. For external use only. 

Chapped Nipple Ointment

Chapped Nipple Ointment Nipple chapping and cracking are variously called ru tou po sui, nipple cracking, ru tou jun lie, nipple chapping, ru tou feng, nipple wind, and ru xian, suckling lichen. Failure to discharge liver fire and accumulation of damp heat in the yang ming are the causes. It is also believed that the baby’s suckling and the stimulation of their saliva are also factors. Functions Clears heat and cools the blood, moistens dryness and stops pain. Apply several times per day directly to the affected nipple(s). For best results, this treatment should be combined with internally administered Chinese medicinals based on the mother’s personal pattern discrimination. In addition, the baby should be checked for oral thrush and treated if present. Wash the nipples with soap before breast-feeding.

Cut & Sore Ointment

This formula is a modification of Sheng Ji Yu Hong Gao (“Engender Flesh Jade Red Ointment”) found in Shang Ke Zheng Zong (“Assembly of Orthodox Traumatology”). Functions Clears heat and resolves toxins, moves the blood and stops pain, engenders flesh and eliminates necrosis. Contraindications: Do not apply to profusely weeping or suppurating sores. Apply to open cuts or sores one or more times per day. Formula Rationale: Zi Cao (Radix Arnebiae/Lithospermi) and Bai Wei (Radix Cynanchi Atrati) clear heat, cool the blood, and resolve toxins. Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis), Mo Yao (Myrrha), and Xue Jie (Sanguis Draconis) quicken the blood and stop pain. Mo Yao also engenders the flesh. Bing Pian (Borneolum) clears heat and alleviates pain. Both olive and castor oils resolve toxins, engender flesh, and eliminate putridity. For external use only.

Eczema Ointment

Li Wei, Tianjin Municipal Chinese Medicinal Research Academy Affiliated Hospital, “The Treatment of 108 Cases of External Aural Eczema with Self-composed Eczema Ointment.” Clears heat and eliminates dampness, dispels wind and stops itching; for wind damp heat eczema. First wash the affected area with hydrogen peroxide solution and allow to dry. Then apply the ointment once every morning and evening. Formula Rationale: Da Huang (Radix Et Rhizoma Rhei), Huang Bai (Cortex Phellodendri), and Ku Fan (Alum) clear heat and eliminate dampness. Cang Zhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis) and Bai Zhi (Radix Angelicae Dahuricae) dry dampness. She Chuang Zi (Fructus Cnidii) dispels wind and stops itching. Tian Hua Fen (Radix Trichosanthis) clears heat at the same time as it moistens dryness, thus preventing the other ingredients from damaging fluids and being over-drying.

Jade Dew Ointment (For Cold Sores)

For the treatment of herpes simplex in Bing Du Xing Ji Bing De Zhong Yi Zhi Liao (“The Chinese Medical Treatment of Viral Diseases”). Clears heat and cools the blood, disperses swelling and resolves toxins. Apply externally at the first sign of a cold sore eruption before the lesion has ruptured. Formula Rationale: Fu Rong Hua (Flos Hibisci Mutabilis) is acrid and neutral and enters the lung and liver channels. It clears heat and cools the blood, resolves toxins and disperses swelling. It is used externally for the treatment of various kinds of sores and swelling abscesses. Can be specifically indicated for herpes zoster but can treat all patterns of herpes simplex. For external use only.

Yin-care herbal wash

Topical/intravaginal wash for general bacterial, fungal and viral skin complaints, as well as a number of gynecological problems. Uses and Conditions: The medicinal herbs in this formula dry and transform dampness, clear heat and toxin, purge fire, cool blood, disperse wind and stop itching, reduce swelling, detoxify skin lesions, and promote circulation. Use at varying concentrations both topically and intravaginally for dampness, damp-heat, toxic-heat and wind gynecological patterns with or without discharge including leukorrhea, vaginitis, cervicitis, gonorrhea, vulvovaginitis, STIs, as well as general inflammations, infections and itching. Also used for various damp-heat, wind-damp and heat dermatological patterns such as psoriasis, eczema, shingles, rashes, cold sores, fungal foot afflictions, styes and acne. In small concentrations and applied as a compress to facilitate the healing of burns. Caution: Do not drink. Intravaginal application for inflammatory symptoms should begin at the low concentration of 5% and increased to 15-20% with repeated use.