Treating Teenage Acne with Chinese Herbs

Jill Blakeway, M.S. L. Ac.
teenagerWe treat a lot of teenagers at the YinOva Center and it makes me so happy that they feel comfortable coming in to see us and are able to use Chinese medicine as a way of taking care of themselves. As a mother I know, first hand, that teenage girls can be sensitive and vulnerable and that their busy schedules and complex social lives can weigh heavily upon their shoulders, making them feel depleted and imbalanced.  Our YinOva teenagers seek our help for a wide range of problems from anxiety to eating disorders and sports injuries to acne.

I remember only too well how self-conscious I was as a teenager and so it’s easy to understand why acne causes such misery. Fortunately help is at hand and we get very good results treating acne with Chinese herbs and acupuncture.

In Chinese medicine acne and other inflammatory skin conditions are seen as being caused by a combination of too much heat and dampness. People are said to need heat or yang for movement and to make transformations in the body but too much heat can lead to a variety of problems including acne.

So how do people get too hot? The cause can be internal or external.

An internal cause can be emotional pressure leading to constraint which in turn can lead to heat (a teenager anxietybit like a pressure cooker that gets tighter and tighter until steam comes out of the top). Teenagers are particularly prone to bottling up their emotions and becoming tight and stressed. Another internal cause can be an excess of some hormones which can be yang and therefore lead to expressions of heat.

Another cause, unique to Chinese medicine, is a diagnosis of blood deficiency. This correlates to suboptimal nutrition in conventional medicine.  Many of the teenagers we see are not eating enough or are eating the wrong foods making them blood deficient. In Chinese medicine the blood is said to transport normal body waste and if it is deficient and thus not able to it’s job, swellings can appear on the skin.

External causes of heat include irritating chemicals on the skin, eating overstimulating foods and too much physical exertion.

So how do people get too damp? Again the cause can be internal or external. burger Everybody needs moisture or yin in order to function. Dampness in Chinese medicine is a condition where the body does not metabolize fluids well leading to excessive fluids in the body’s tissues. Microorganisms such as bacteria thrive in these damp conditions leading to pustules and cystic acne.

An internal cause would be a weak digestive system that is stressed by irregular eating habits and an external cause of damp may be fatty or greasy foods. herbs

At the YinOva Center we help our patients with acne by using acupuncture to clear inflammation and using Chinese herbs to treat the dampness and heat. Job’s Tears Seeds (Yi Yi Ren), Poria Mushroom (Fu Ling) and Phellodendrin Bark (Huang Bai) clear dampness and Tree Peony Root Bark (Mu Dan Pi), Red Peony Root (Chi Shao), Goldenthread Root (Huang Lian) clear heat. Some of these herbs such as Phellodendrin Bark and Goldenthread root are also known for their anti-bacterial properties. Our acupuncturists combine these herbs with a formula to treat each patient’s specific underlying condition in order to treat their skin. Results usually take 3 – 6 weeks and are quicker if the patient also makes dietary adjustments.
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