Beautiful Healthy Skin Through Chinese Medicine

By Bill Reddy, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

It's a common misconception that acupuncture is only used to treat pain conditions. Ancient Chinese tomes contain references to the treatment of dermatological conditions such as scabies and psoriasis as early as the 14'th century BC. Modern clinical experience has shown that skin conditions that respond poorly or not at all to today's "conventional" treatments can be treated by traditional Chinese medicine with significant results. Common skin conditions that acupuncture and herbal medicine treats are as follows:

  • Eczema*
  • Herpes Zoster*
  • Scabies
  • Corns
  • Urticaria
  • Neurodermatitis
  • Psoriasis
  • Lupus Erythematosus
  • Acne*

The World Health Organization deems some of these (*) being effectively treated with acupuncture. The statement containing these conditions was published over 10 years ago, and would now include many more based on the number of double-blind, placebo controlled studies that have been performed since then.

I actually look forward to someone walking into my clinic with a severe case of hives or psoriasis because the results are so dramatic. Several years ago an African-American woman in her mid-30's came to see me for a problem with hives all over her body off and on for the past 20 years. It was evident that the Benadryl and Claritin she was taking in increasingly larger doses were not improving her condition. She was a software engineer and couldn't afford to be sleepy (or itchy for that matter) on the job. It drove her crazy. In the morning during her shower, just the action of washing herself was enough to provoke red, raised, itching patches on her skin that would slowly creep from her chest up to her neck, over her shoulder and down her back…The clothes touching her skin triggered reactions. Nothing she tried had worked, and she was at wits end doing her best not to scratch and just make it worse. She was hopeful, but understandably skeptical about acupuncture treatments. It was my opinion that within 4 weeks, she'd no longer need antihistamines. True to my word, she stopped taking medication by the 4th week of treatment, although she was still experiencing flare-ups; just none of which were extreme enough to have her resort to her pills. By the 8th week she was symptom free in between treatments, and was complete with her therapy by the 6 month mark. I called her a year later to check on her condition and found the hives had not returned. The major difference between the action of acupuncture and her western medication is that the Benadryl and Claritin works on chemical pathways to block her histamine reaction (thus the term "anti" histamine). The problem is that when a person stops taking the medication, the symptoms return. What acupuncture does is teach the patient's body to suppress their own histamine reaction, and over time, results in complete resolution of the skin issue. In a recently published article in the journal of Acupuncture Medicine (2002) entitled "Neurogenic Pruritus: An Unrecognized Problem? A Retrospective Case Series of Treatment by Acupuncture," a British researcher treated 16 patients suffering from chronic itching which resulted in "Total resolution of symptoms as judged by a visual analog scale occurring in 75% of the patients." In contrast, a recent article in the Journal of Cutaneous Medical Surgery (2003) entitled "Antihistamines in the Treatment of Atopic Dermatitis" evaluated studies from 1966 to 2002 and stated in the "results" section that "Historically, antihistamines have been used in the treatment of atopic dermatitis. However, this review shows that the evidence for its use is inconclusive." If you suffer from skin problems that are not responding to conventional treatment, consider acupuncture and Chinese medicine as an alternative. You won't be disappointed.

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