Most Westerners feel like strangers to the healing apothecary herbs of China, yet some of these herbs such as honeysuckle, mint, gardenia, hawthorn, dandelion and quince grow in our own gardens. Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system, which has diagnosed, treated and prevented illness for over twenty three centuries. Chinese Medicine uses plants, minerals, and sometimes animal products prepared in specific ways and combinations of them to form therapeutic prescriptions. The strategy of Chinese Medicine is to restore harmony (balance), and the goal of treatment is to balance Yin and Yang, that represent the opposite forces or attributes such as wet and dry, cold and heat, inner and outer, body and mind. This harmony is achieved by the regulation of Qi (vital energy) and of moisture and blood in the organ networks.
Chinese Medicine perceives that acne and rosacea may be caused by three groups of factors:
Lung Heat - the "heat" already residing in the lung that subsequently 'fire' toxin on the face.
Yang Ming - this includes accumulation of heat in the stomach and large intestine, or the excess of rich and fatty food leading subsequently to 'fire' toxin on the skin.
Ren and Chong Channels not regulated - this occurs in post-adolescent female acne. Typically it involves a mixture of predisposition and emotional factors, as well as coming off the contraceptive pill after being on it for a few years.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses many herbs to heal the diseases. Each herb is classified in terms of its nature, taste and the particular organ it enters. For example, gardenia, skullcap and dandelion are categorized as "cold" herbs and for this reason they are used to treat hot disorders such as infections and inflammatory illnesses. On the other hand, cinnamon and dried ginger are both "hot" herbs and are used to treat cold conditions, such as "cold" arthritis (stiff joints that are cold to touch and relieved by warmth) and "cold" stomach pain (stabbing stomach pain relieved by warm drinks and aggravated by cold foods such as ice-cream).
Traditionally in Asia external washes, lotions, and creams are used alongside the internal prescriptions. The famous properties of pearl powder are well known and included in creams to clear the skin of blemishes and keep it young and healthy. Many of the herbs that are used internally as medicines can also be applied topically. These external lotions also clear heat, damp and fire toxin away from the skin, while healing and soothing the acne sores.
Dry skin in Chinese Traditional Medicine is due to Blood and "Yin" Deficiency (lack of body fluids and blood nourishing the skin), and the herbs that nourish blood and Yin are used to strengthen and moisten the skin. These herbs also cleanse the blood and improve its quality therefore improving a quality of the skin. Many of these "blood nourishing" herbs are used in creams as well as taken internally such as Chinese Angelica, Wolfberry fruit, Fleece flower root and Chinese foxglove root.
Some foods are moisturizing for the skin such and therefore recommended as a part of well balance and skin improving diet. Between them avocado oil, wheat germ and almond oil, apple juice, peach juice, oatmeal and brewer's yeast are well known and accepted "skin enhancers".
Rosacea in Traditional Chinese Medicine is classified as excess heat accumulated in either the lung or stomach/spleen channels. As a consequence the pathogenic heat builds up and leads to stagnation of blood and heat. The lung and stomach channels distribute the excess heat on to the face giving the characteristic pattern of flushing over the cheeks and the bridge of the nose. Any external environmental cold or heat will further compound the problem.
If skin disease presents with a symmetrical distribution then the inner body environment is out of balance and pushing the internal pathogenic factors to the surface. If a skin disease is asymmetrical for example most fungal infections, then herbs are not needed to balance the inner environment in order to clear the skin disease and often only require local application.