Skin Conditions

In hospitals in China, doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treat even the most difficult skin conditions every day. In the West, many patients are now beginning to seek out Chinese medicine for skin conditions particularly because they have not had satisfying results from other treatments. Throughout history, Chinese medicine has emphasized the individuality of the condition, stressing that it is the root of the problem that must be addressed in order to resolve it. This method of treatment proves to be more satisfactory and have longer lasting results than treating only the manifestation of the problem.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are particularly effective at treating some of the most common skin conditions in the West: acne, eczema and psoriasis. Hundreds of case studies over thousands of years have documented its effectiveness at resolving chronic and unremitting skin problems such as these. In particular, Chinese herbal medicine serves as a safe and valuable tool for combating these and other skin conditions on a daily basis, from the inside-out. Acupuncture can also be used to reduce the appearance of scars, whether from these conditions or from surgery, injury or other trauma. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can also be used to treat acute problems, such as hives, dermatitis and even infectious skin conditions.

Whether your skin condition is mild or severe, recent or long-standing, Chinese medicine can play a significant role in the complete resolution of the problem.


If you struggle with acne, you know what a difficult problem it is to treat and to live with. In stubborn cases, conventional treatments can require multiple courses of drugs that are toxic to the system over time and various skin care agents may be helpful only to a point. If you are someone for whom these treatments have had minimal success, then you are a good candidate for acupuncture and Chinese medicine.


Acne is a disorder of the sebaceous glands of hair follicles. Many factors are responsible for the development of acne including hormones, blockage of the pores, sebum secretion and bacterial infection. According to Chinese medicine, the development of acne can be compounded by genetics, digestive or gastrointestinal function, emotions, skin care products and the environment. Therefore, when problems manifest on the skin, it is a signal that a deeper imbalance is going on somewhere in the body. On your first visit, your acupuncturist will ask you detailed questions about your health in order to determine where this deeper problem is occurring. Information about your health—including areas like your digestion, energy levels, stress, menstrual cycle if you are a woman and even your sleep—give your acupuncturist the information she/he needs to diagnose what may be causing your acne. This diagnosis determines the root of the problem and goes beyond just looking at the manifestation. Acupuncture treatments are then directed at adjusting this underlying imbalance. Once this internal problem is resolved, your skin problem will be eliminated.


With a condition like acne, a series of initial acupuncture treatments are necessary to address the problem. During this period, you will receive Chinese herbal formulas, prescribed specifically for your constitution, which you take daily to combat the problem internally. Chinese herbs are the most effective and important component to the treatment of acne. Your acupuncturist may also give you recommendations on supplements or skin care that will speed the healing process, as well as advise you on necessary dietary changes. Once your acupuncturist has a good idea of your particular pattern of acne and its cycles, you can transition into monthly or seasonal treatments while continuing on your herbal formula. The duration of treatment will depend on the severity of your acne, how long you’ve had it and your willingness to take herbs and adjust your diet as needed. After your first visit, your acupuncturist will be able to give you a specific treatment plan based on all of the above factors.


Psoriasis can be an uncomfortable and unbearable disease physically and emotionally because of its unpleasant blemishes. It is characterized by bright or dark red lesions with a shiny, waxy or scaled coating. It occurs in many different areas of the body, most commonly the flexor surfaces of the arms and legs and on the scalp. The condition varies in severity and can cause changes in the finger and toe nails and in severe, chronic cases can develop into an arthritic condition. Because of its complications and chronic nature, complementary therapies such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be helpful. 


According to Chinese medicine, there are several key ways that psoriasis develops. Research on psoriasis has shown it may be caused by hereditary, immunologic, metabolic or endocrine factors. When you visit your acupuncturist, she/he will ask you several questions about your health history that will help determine how your psoriasis developed and what treatment strategy will be most helpful in resolving it. On your first visit, your acupuncturist will consider the following factors:

    * Any childhood illnesses or infections

    * Recent toxic exposures

    * Dietary irregularities and gastrointestinal function

    * Unresolved emotions, stress or trauma

    * Moisture quality and health of your skin overall

These subjects, many seemingly unrelated to psoriasis, actually have an important role in diagnosing and treating your condition. In Chinese medicine, when the skin is unhealthy, it is a reflection of a deeper, long standing problem lodged somewhere else in the body. By bringing the cause of the condition to light, the problem can be healed and the psoriasis can be resolved.


Acupuncture and Chinese herbs work together to help eliminate psoriasis. Healing of the disease takes place in stages. A series of initial visits help determine the cause of the problem and the treatment plan that will best eliminate it. In general, this initial process takes about 1 month. In that time you will receive weekly acupuncture treatments and a Chinese herbal formula as well as any suggestions for supplements and skin care that may help speed the process. Dietary changes are also a key component to resolving psoriasis and your acupuncturist will guide you toward a diet that will help your progress. Depending on your response to treatment in this first month, you can begin to taper off treatment if desired, while continuing with your herbal formula on a daily basis. This can serve as a general guideline for treatment but of course, the severity of the problem and compliance with herbs and dietary changes determine the necessary length of treatment. There is never a “quick fix” with psoriasis, but this treatment strategy does provide hope for a full recovery.

An elimination diet may cut to the root of the problem, since there appears to be anecdotal evidence that diet and nutrition are causal factors for psoriasis flare-ups.


Chronic skin conditions are often treated by Chinese medicine with great success. Eczema, which here can be combined with the treatment of dermatitis, is one of those conditions that respond very well to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Conventional treatments for eczema consist of topical creams containing cortisone or other steroids which can help lesions to disappear, but may not prevent them from recurring. If you are someone who suffers from chronic or recurring eczema, you can use Chinese medicine to effectively treat and eliminate the problem.


Eczema is a complex condition that can have many different manifestations. According to Chinese medicine, eczema is a delayed allergic reaction that arises from compounding internal and external factors. This means that the disease can be caused or affected by the state of your general health as well as environmental factors. Some people may also have an inherited susceptibility to it. In Chinese medicine, there are 3 specific categories by which eczema is classified:

    * External factors. These factors create an individual sensitivity to the external environment. This includes issues like hay fever or seasonal allergies, catching of frequent colds, asthma or toxic chemical exposure. This kind of sensitivity leads to acute flare-ups of eczema, usually seasonal, or a worsening of the condition when the weather makes certain changes.

    * Internal factors. These factors are a result of an internal imbalance in the body that is causing the skin to react. This can include a weakness in any of the organ systems, chronic illness of another kind that preceded the eczema, or a hereditary deficiency. This issue is usually chronic and unremitting.

    * Dietary irregularities. Chronic intake of spicy, greasy or sugary foods and alcohol over time will deplete the body. This issue actually creates a climate in the body for itchy, red or weepy sores as the body becomes unable to process and eliminate toxic buildup from undigested material. Chinese medicine takes into consideration these three factors, which often times can be compounded together in severe cases, and addresses them simultaneously. Using acupuncture and Chinese herbs, treatments help by:

    * Strengthening the immune system, thereby decreasing your sensitivity to external or environmental hazards.

    * Balancing the internal organ systems and treating the internal imbalance that is contributing to or causing eczema.

    * Releasing toxins from the skin, thereby eliminating the itchy, red or weepy sores.


Unlike western medicine, Chinese medicine in the treatment of skin conditions is not a quick fix. This is because it takes longer to balance the body from the inside out, rather than just eliminate the problem topically or temporarily. However, the treatment of our whole body, rather than just the skin, is the key to eliminating eczema and not just covering it up. This process, depending on how long you’ve suffered from eczema, can take up to several months. According to Chinese medicine, when a chronic condition has settled in the skin, it is an indication that the person’s general health has been compromised for quite a long time. In general, you may begin to see changes in your skin soon after treatment begins. However, after 1 to 2 months of acupuncture treatment, coupled with Chinese herbs taken daily, you will begin to see more significant changes. At this point, acupuncture becomes less important than herbal medicine and you may decide to continue with a daily Chinese herbal formula with monthly or bi-monthly acupuncture treatments. How long you will take herbs depends on the severity of your condition. The benefit of this treatment strategy is that, when treated with Chinese medicine, you are less likely to have a recurrence of eczema again in your life.


As mentioned above, diet plays a tremendous role in eczema. Your acupuncturist will give you detailed dietary guidelines to help you eliminate the foods that may be perpetuating the problem. Likewise, advice on vitamins and supplements can be an added tool to resolving eczema quickly. Your acupuncturist can also advise you on topical treatments and healthy skin care products that can help soothe and heal the skin.