Acne, the bane of adolescents everywhere, is a common skin condition characterized by the appearance of pimples. The pimples usually occur when hair follicles just beneath the skin’s surface clog up with sebum. Although people of all ages can experience acne, it appears most often in adolescents. Traditional Chinese medicine, built upon thousands of years of trial and error, offers several remedies that may ease the severity of acne attacks and even prevent recurrences.
Based on traditional Chinese medical belief, acne occurs when the body is experiencing internal heat or damp toxin, according to acupuncturist Lihua Wang, author of “Chinese Home Remedies.” She emphasizes the importance that diet can play in both preventing and treating acne. Avoid foods that are spicy, greasy, fatty or fried, suggests Wang. To counter internal heat in the body, eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, such as celery, cucumber, daikon (Oriental radish), lotus, bitter and winter melon, mushrooms, pears, tofu, tomatoes and watermelon.
Food allergies can also play a role in acne, Wang says. Foods that sometimes cause allergic reactions include bananas, eggs, milk, mango and pineapple. If you suspect you might be allergic to one of these or other foods, check with your doctor or an allergist to see if the allergy can be specifically diagnosed.
Widely used as a treatment modality in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture works on the theory that human energy, or chi, travels along invisible pathways in the body. Medical problems can arise if the steady flow of chi is impeded or interrupted. In acupuncture, tiny sterile needles are inserted at specific pressure points to restore normal energy flow. Herbert P. Goodheart, author of “Acne for Dummies,” reports that some practitioners have reported success in treating acne with acupuncture that targets the ear and acupuncture that is augmented by mild electrical stimulus.
In a December 2004 “Dermatology Times” article reviewing alternative therapies for treating acne, Donald Baker, M.D., reports success in treating some forms of acne with acupuncture. Baker, clinical assistant professor and director of integrative dermatology at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, found that papular and the more severe fine pustular acne responded more rapidly to acupuncture therapy than the milder comedonal acne. The therapy is time-consuming and relatively expensive, however, says Baker, adding that most adolescents prefer a quick fix.
Thomas Richard Joiner, author of “Chinese Herbal Medicine Made Easy,” says many acne patients have found relief in a couple of Chinese herbal formulas that have been patented and are available in health food stores. The first, cai feng zhen zhu an chuang wan, helps to flush toxins from the blood, eases itching and eliminates rashes, hives and pus-filled bumps. It is widely marketed under the name Margarite Acne Pills. The second, known in Chinese as chuan shan jia qu shi qing du wan and marketed as Armadillo Counter Poison Pill, is a potent anti-inflammatory, according to Joiner. It also relieves the itching that sometimes accompanies acne and is effective against carbuncles, dermatitis and hives as well.