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What causes acne and how can I treat it? A Chinese medicine perspective

Chinese Herbalist

Acne is an external indicator of an internal imbalance that results from what Chinese medicine calls “trapped heat” within the body. The source and appearance of each type of heat varies, with causes including rapid growth during puberty, emotional issues, and nutritional imbalances. Breakouts result from the body’s attempt to expel trapped heat through all available portals, including the skin.

Diet affects the body’s efficiency and how well these heat-removal mechanisms work. Eating processed foods and refined sugar, which generate heat and inflammation during digestion, is like throwing gasoline on fire for acne sufferers. An unprocessed, easily digestible diet low in dairy, wheat, and fried foods will keep the body clean and balanced with efficient heat-removal processes.

Chinese medicine takes the “root and branch” approach to acne treatment, the root being the internal heat source and the branch the external acne symptoms. Herbalists can prescribe custom multiherb formulas that target the source of heat while topical herbal preparations treat external symptoms. Honeysuckle flowers and skullcap are a herbs commonly found in acne formulas, used for their heat-reducing characteristics. The combination of herbs is essential because it allows the user to target certain issues and areas. Lifestyle alterations, including stress-reduction techniques, regular exercise, and the above dietary modifications, can also enhance the healing process.

Sharon Sherman, LOM, Empirical Point, Philadelphia,

Delicious Living, July 2010

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