Acne: Natural Treatments
By Dr. Mao Shing 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 the 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, colored 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 tumors 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 internal herbal therapy, and acupuncture. Her condition cleared up substantially after six months of treatment. I saw her mother recently, and she happily 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.
HERBAL SOLUTIONS FOR 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 askdrmao.com.
- A traditional Chinese herbal remedy consisting of siler, rhubarb, peony, angelica, astragalus, 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.
HOME REMEDIES FOR ACNE
Here are my favorite acne home remedies.
- 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 favorite 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, then wash 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 wash 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 practitioners’ 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.
DAILY VITAMIN SUPPLEMENTS FOR ACNE
- Taking up to 30 milligrams of zinc a day can help 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 alleviate PMS mood swings. You may take up to 100 milligrams daily, all month long, to combat PMS-related acne.
DIET FOR ACNE
- 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.
QI GONG FOR ACNE
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 to 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 the liver and down the liver meridian on the inside of your right leg and out of the big toe.
The tree is a receptacle of liver energy and is capable of regenerating itself, similar to the way it can absorb toxic carbon dioxide and produce oxygen.
SELF-ACUPRESSURE FOR ACNE
- 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 right index finger and thumb, pinch the web between the two toes. Hold for 3 to 5 minutes, then repeat on the left foot.
ACNE: ADVICE ON WHAT TO AVOID
- Avoid Medications such as birth control pills, steroids, and psychotropic drugs, which can trigger acne or make it worse.
- Avoid Stress, the use of chemical cosmetic, skin, and hair care products.
- Extra weight, since being overweight can also make acne worse.
- Avoid 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.
©2015 Dr. Mao Shing Ni
Read Secrets of Self-Healing: Harness Nature's Power to Heal Common Ailments ... By Maoshing Ni