So, my boyfriend’s a bit of a book nerd (I mean that in the most loving way possible).
He’s decided he’s going to try his hand at selling used books online. Apparently you can scour garage sales, estate sales, and books sales alike to find great books at very cheap prices, and then sell them on Amazon for profit.
Don’t ask me how this is going to go – for one, we’re at a major disadvantage because we are relegated up here to using Amazon.ca (the Canadian version) and Canada Post, who’s shipping times and rates are apparently quite steep compared to American Post (and to my great annoyance, Americans can sell books to Canadians, but we can’t sell them to Americans… )
Either way, he’s excited about giving it a try, so we went garage saling this Saturday and one of our first finds happened to be a book that is right up my alley (I kind of want to leave it on my own bookshelf and not let him sell it!). It’s called “Secrets to Self-Healing” by Dr. Maoshing Ni – a doctor of Traditonal Chinese Medicine. We bought it for $2 and it is averaging about $15 on Amazon.ca.
As it turned out, there just happened to be a whole section entirely dedicated to acne! And it had lots of useful information you might be interested in, so I thought I’d share with you what it said.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
First a little note about Traditional Chinese Medicine: it’s not like western medicine. It’s 5000 years old and is based on healing holistically through modalities such as herbal therapies, acupuncture, diet, and exercise. It fits a lot better than western medicine with my view on how we should be treating our diseases, but it still contains a lot of foreign concepts, so you need to be open minded with it. Some of the underlying theories concepts include (from NCCAM):
- Yin and Yang, which is the concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life.
- A vital energy or life force called qi (“chi”) circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi.
- Eight principles to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions: cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (the chief principles). Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses the theory of five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—to explain how the body works; these elements correspond to particular organs and tissues in the body.
Secrets of Healing Acne with Chinese Medicine
All of this content is from “Secrets of Self Healing” by Dr. Maoshing Ni:
“Commonly called pimples or zits and universally disdained by teenagers and adults alike, acne occurs when skin follicles get blocked by the oil or sebum that normally drains to the surface of the skin. Sebum secretions increase with hormonal changes, especially around puberty, pregnancy, and menopause, and when sebum is blocked it allows bacteria and yeast to grow, causing the skin to become inflamed and eventually resulting in acne.
The severity of the infection defines the characteristics of the acne. Whiteheads are secretions trapped beneath the skin; blackheads are the sebum breaking through the skin, coloured black as a result of the body’s natural pigment deposits; and cystic acne is characterized by severe pus-filled infections under the skin. which can be painful. Medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and adrenal or pituitary gland tumours also can cause acne. In severe cases, acne can lead to permanent scars.
I recall a teenage girl who had such severe acne on her back and face that she refused to go to the beach or to swim. She had used antibiotics and all kinds of topical cleansers and creams, as well as the drug Accutane, without success. Her acne hurt her self-image and brought on emotional problems. I treated her with diet and nutrition, topical and internet herbal therapy, and acupuncture. Her condition cleared up substantially after six months of treatment. I saw her mother recently, and she happy reported that her daughter is back to her outgoing self and has quite a social life now. To her credit, she stuck to the diet I recommended.
In Chinese medicine, the skin is controlled by the lungs; acne is commonly a sign of pathogenic heat in the lungs and intestines. So the Chinese approach to treating acne is to cool the heat, cleanse the lungs, detoxify the intestines, and externally heal the condition. Work with your dermatologist to find natural and effective treatments for your condition.
Here are my favourite home remedies:
- Eat plenty of squash, cucumbers, watermelon, winter melon, celery, carrots, cabbage, beet tops, dandelions, aloe vera, mulberry leaf, carrot tops, lettuce, potatoes, cherries, papaya, pears, persimmons, raspberries, buckwheat, alfalfa sprouts, millet, brown rice, mung beans, lentils, and split peas.
- Avoid excess sugar, dairy products, chocolate, caffeine, carbonated beverages, nuts, seeds, shellfish, and fatty, fried, and processed foods
- To make a salve, chop 1 cucumber and blend with 2 tablespoons aloe gel. Apply externally, 3 to 5 times a day. Leave it on for 20 minutes, then wash it off. This is one of my favourite self healing tips for quickly cooling the heat of inflammation.
- Apply 2 tablespoons plain organic yogurt to the affected area, 3 to 5 times a day. Leave it on for 20 minutes and then wash it off.
- Make a tea with dandelion, carrot, and beet tops: Boil 1 bunch each of fresh dandelion greens, carrot tops, and beet tops in 4 cups of water for 20 minutes. Strain, and drink the liquid. Drink 3 cups a day.
- Drink 12 ounces lukewarm water mixed with 1 tablespoon honey every morning on an empty stomach to lubricate the intestines. If you don’t move your bowels regularly, toxins end up either in the liver or the skin.
- Boil 1/3 cup fresh or frozen raspberries in 2 cups water until reduced to 1/2 cup. Strain the juice and discard the raspberries. Keep the concentrate in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Use a cotton ball to soak up the juice and was the affected area with this solution twice a day.
- For oozing, infected acne conditions, make a mask by mixing 1/2 cup pearl barley powder (found in Asian markets, online or Eastern medicine practitioner’s offices) with just enough aloe vera gel or egg whites to make a paste. Cover the area with the paste, leave it on overnight, and wash it off when you wake up. Do this once a day for a week.
- Taking up to 30 miligrams of zinc a day can help to relieve the symptoms of acne
- Vitamin A can help to reduce sebum production. Dosages should not be more than 5,000 IU a day to avoid potential side effects, the usual daily dose is 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams.
- Vitamin B6 can be used to treat acne that worsens before a woman’s period or at midcycle and it also helps to alleviate PMS mood swings. You may take up to 100 milligrams daily, all month long, to combat PMS-related acne.
- Herbs can be found in health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medicine practitioners. Herbs should be used according to individual needs; consult with a licensed practitioner for a customized formulation. To learn more about the herbs listed here, go to www.askdrmao.com.
- A traditional Chinese herbal remedy consisting of siler, rhubarb, peony, angelica, astralagus, and other herbs is used in China to relieve acne. The formula can be obtained online, in Chinese herbal stores, and acupuncturists’ offices, under the name Fang Feng Tong Sheng San.
- You may benefit from a one-week cleansing diet based on our Tao of Wellness Cleansing and Detoxification Program, which includes fresh vegetable juices and broths, herbal therapy, body brushing, Tui Na lymphatic massage, acupuncture, cupping (which uses suction cups to stimulate circulation), far-infrared sauna, and mind-body exercises. Many acupuncturists offer a similar treatment. Log on to taoofwellness.com for more information.
- Tea tree oil applied to acne lesions can be used to help eliminate bacteria and reduce inflammation. Tea tree oil contains a compound called terpinen-4-ol, which is responsible for its antimicrobial activity. A 5 percent tea tree oil solution can be made by mixing 1 part tea tree oil to 19 parts water and using it as a skin cleanser. Oregano oil, which is antimicrobial, can also be used in this manner.
Cardiovascular exercise, like brisk walking, biking, or running, can help increase circulation and boost skin immunity. Perspiration can help unblock pores and follicles, so sebum can be discharged. Make sure to wash right after exercising to keep the skin clean.
Doing exercises that affect the body’s energy channels can help to drain excess heat from the skin. I’ve taught the following Liver Cleansing Qi Gong sequence to my patients with acne problems, with good results.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a tree. On an inhale, raise your right leg, then exhale and place your right foot on the ground in front of you between your body and the tree.
Inhale, and raise both arms out from the sides until they come together over your head. Exhale, and lower your hands in front of your face. Visualize green light running down your face as your hands move down your chest.
Inhale, and move your hands to the right rib cage over your liver. Exhale, and move your arms down the right side of your abdomen and right leg, as if pushing down and out with your hands. Visualize the green light moving the toxins out of your liver and down the liver meridian on the inside of your right leg and out of the big toe.
The tree is the receptacle of liver energy and is capable of regenerating itself, similar to the way it can absorb toxic carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
I made a little video to demonstrate my interpretation of this exercise (and also the acupressure points described below):
- Place your left hand on your chest and locate the acupoint Winding Gulch (LI-11), at the end of the skin crease in the right elbow. Apply moderate pressure with your left thumb. Hold for 1 minute. Repeat on the left elbow. Alternate sides for a total of 10 minutes each day. This is traditionally used to clear heat and toxins from the body.
- Find the acupoint Inner Court (ST-44), in the web between the second and third toes of your right foot. With your index finger and thumb, pinch the web between the two toes. Hold 3 to 5 minutes, then repeat on the left foot.
- Medications such as birth control pills, steroids, and psychotropic drugs, which can trigger acne or make it worse.
- Stress, the use of chemical cosmetic, skin, and hair products. Extra weight, since being overweight can also make acne worse.
- Resting your chin in your hands, picking and touching your face, pressing a cell phone to your face, or nesting your face in your pillow at night. Also avoid biting your nails, which introduces bacteria to the skin around your mouth.
And In Conclusion…
I hope you enjoyed this little excerpt from the book “Secrets to Self Healing“. There isn’t really one way to heal acne holistically, so it’s great to hear different perspectives.
By the way – the book also has tons of other great information and is a sweet book to have on your bookshelf. So I recommend picking it up (lol – if you happen to be Canadian and want to purchase it, don’t forget to buy it from “Oh Wow! Books“, and you’ll be sent my very own personal copy!!)
What do you think of Chinese Medicine and Dr. Mao’s suggestions?
How about coconut shreds. I really like but seed milks would that be an okay replacement!?
hmm.. I’m not really quite sure what you’re referring to??
Cuz on the foods to avoid list it says to avoid nuts and seeds
Well, I think coconut doesn’t really have the same properties as other nuts, so should be fine. And if you are going to follow this advice from Dr. Ni to a T – then seed milks (like almond milk, you mean?) wouldn’t be okay
Hmm the aloe vera and cucumber mask sounds refreshing! Have you tried it yet? And how did you feel after the liver cleanse exercise? .. Lol im still trying to figure out the rt spot to apply pressure on my toe..
Thanks for sharing Tracy:)
Nope I haven’t tried it yet, but it does certainly sound very cooling and soothing!
Wow great post Tracy! Chock a block full of info. Can’t wait to try those acupressure points. Guess my love of peanut butter ain’t doing me no favors then eh. Pity. Kinda suspected!
Ah well… I sneak peanut butter in here and there too hahah
awesome post, thanks!
yay, glad that you posted something on TCM 🙂
a few things that I also use to help ‘cool’ down is green mung beans, red beans, and pearl barley. these can be found at chinese supermarkets — you can make it into a soup (look online for recipe) that really helps.
Nice, thanks for the suggestion! Have you found that following TCM techniques have helped your skin quite a lot, Jeff?
Yep, after that one visit around two months ago I got on herbal medicine for around 3 weeks. I’ve been eating according to TCM guidelines nowadays, which is basically what I ate before + a few new things (like the ones I mentioned above). Right now I just have hyperpigmentation from a few old spots, but for the most part I’m clear.
I’m actually in China right now for vacation to visit my grandparents … I’ve actually been eating a lot more “unhealthy” foods with flour and such, but my skin’s been fine! Either it’s the Vitamin D I’ve started taking, the skin brushing I’ve started (thanks to you), the TCM foods, or the new environment 😀
Oh, and “chrysanthemum tea” is supposed to be good as well.
It tastes AWESOME too 🙂 Very soothing flavor of tea, without caffeine!
Could you write more what you eat?
Thanks for all the awesome info Tracy, another amazing post! 🙂
On a side note .. I need help for food idea in college! I pretty much have breakfast set, but do you have any ideas for lunch and dinner that are easy to make? I’ll probably be eating out as well … hopefully there are good restaurants!
Jeff- I’m in the same boat! It’s so hard to be able to eat well at school, especially with the limited choices in the dining halls
I’m thinking about getting buckwheat noodles and making some easy veggies + meat + noodles. but then I’m also planning to make buckwheat porridge every morning as well with a variety of veggies and fruits.
Tracy, can you help? 😀
Hi Jeff – what about stir fry?? It’s pretty quick, healthy, you can make lots and have leftovers.
To be honest, I’m awful at coming up with recipes and food ideas on the spot… I tend to make it up as I go, and get totally stuck when I need to write about recipe and food ideas…. I’d love to help more, but I totally brain fart when it comes to this question
Hey, have you heard of milia before? They’re like these teeny white bumps under the eyes (not really even bumps, they are so small) but when you have a lot they are kinda bothersome.. know of anything that will make em go away?
I know what milia are, but I don’t really know a lot about it or if it’s caused by the same type of process as acne or not…
I watched the demonstration of the liver detox and it got me thinking. My grandma has some trouble with her gallbladder. Do you know of anything to help detox that?
Maybe this will help? http://www.qigongrochester.com/articles/Gallbladder_JulyAugust_06.pdf
Hey tracy —
Kind of an off topic question … does your skin tend to break out when exposed to the sun for several hours along with hot temperatures/sweating? It’s really humid and yucky in China, and I went out a few days ago for the entire day, with no sunblock 😛 The next few days I got two small whiteheads that kind of hurt, but went away within two days. Are those normal?
Also, the rest of my face has been pretty much free of any inflamed acne, but there’s still some clogged pores on my cheeks. I’m wondering if you think that I should leave them alone or try a manuka honey cleanse. They’re not really noticeable, but it looks kind of brownish in that area. I haven’t been doing anything with my skin lately except for water.
Hi Jeff – not that I’ve noticed, but everyone’s different – I can see how that might happen.
As for the brownish area… I have noticed, that after doing the caveman for so long without washing, I was getting a strange, light brown patch that would come and go, just on this one part of my chin… I just left it, but then I realized it was actually the top layer of skin that I could take off… so I kind of gently scratched it off and it looked much better.
Then a couple days later, I went in an infrared sauna with my friends, and sweated big time…. I rubbed my arm a bit, and tons of dead skin started balling up…. which lead to a chain reaction of rubbing all the dead skin off my body (there was a lot, probably should have dry brushed before going in there, but it wasn’t planned)…. and then I figured… ah well, I’ll do my face too. And my skin actually looked really good afterward, so I might actually start exfoliating once in a while now… not every day.. but like… once a month or something! hah.. just to prevent those brown patches
Ha, that’s funny. I had that same thing happen after I did the caveman for a month. However, this seems to be different because I’ve been taking showers every few days – I just haven’t been touching the cheek area very much at all (rubbing anything off, basically) so it’s building up dry dirt and such. I’m not exfoliating, basically … hmm.
so you’re just saying exfoliating with your hands ..? or with honey?
Just with my hands… well, that’s what I did, because it was spontaneous in a sauna. Maybe I’ll use honey at home, I don’t know
The Chinese are well known for their belief that having a healthy mind, body and soul are essential for life. They are also known for creating many of the natural health treatments that are available today, treatments that have been around for thousands of years!
Do you know much about cupping to get rid of toxins and cleanse? It is part of Traditional Chinese medicine and I just had it done by my acupuncturist yesterday. I had a very severe reaction compared to other people. I had three spots done and only one spot got really purple and feels like a big bruise. I’m just wondering if you know anything about it that could help me feel more at ease about my reaction and if you knew of anything that could help me heal that one spot. Thanks!
Sorry, I dont really know anything about cupping so I don’t know what to suggest! Did you ask the acupuncturist about it?
Yes I did, she said it was normal. She said some people react more than others and I guess that would be me, but she didn’t suggest anything to help it. I guess I will just let it heal!
Could you write more about your diet (TCM)?
Hi Tracy, thanks a lot for putting up this helpful thread. For the home remedies and herbal therapies, am I supposed to be doing one at a time? For ex: if I’m going to start on applying the salve today, should I also do the yogurt and then the raspberry formula all in one day?
Thanks in advance!
Wonderful post Tracy! Most of my patients suffering from acne is due to their hormonal imbalance. I was interviewed some time back by Delicious Living in which I talked about causes of acne and it’s treatment from Oriental Medicine perspective, I would encourage your readers to read as it may help them a lot. Interview/post link: https://www.philadelphia-acupuncture.com/what-causes-acne-and-how-can-i-treat-it/