When dermatological problems develop, they do so due to imbalances within the body brought about by poor diet/lifestyle, stress, and exposure to environmental toxins. As the largest organ of the body, the skin serves as an important barrier between our external and internal environments.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the skin is the first line of defense of the body protecting the organs, blood, muscles, bones, and sinews from external pathogenic elements (which can be emotional and/or physical). In TCM, the Wei Qi or Defensive Qi is located just above the topmost layer of the dermis, where it serves as a sort of coat of armor against undesirable infiltrators. The changes in the skin of the patient (appearance carbuncles/swelling, texture, color, etc.) can provide a TCM practitioner a wealth of information about the patient’s condition.
The color of the face color suggests the presence of Shen (consciousness/spirit), Blood, and Qi. A lusterless complexion tells the practitioner that the Shen (consciousness/spirit), Blood, and Qi are in disharmony and need to be nourished with herbal remedies and diet. A glossy face is a sign that Shen, Blood, and Qi are strong; for instance, the duller the complexion, the more long-term the imbalance.
Physiology of the Skin in TCM and the Relevance of the Lung System
From the viewpoint of TCM, the Lung system controls the diffusion of Wei Qi/Defensive Qi to nourish and warm the various layers of the skin, and to control the closing and opening of pores. Normally, during exercise or in warmer weather, the pores open to allow toxins and heat to escape; the pores usually close when exposed to pathogens or cold weather. Defensive Qi may not function properly when there is a weakness in the Lung system, causing pores to remain open, permitting pathogenic factors to invade the body resulting in conditions, such as the common cold and hives (urticaria). Defensive Qi is kept strong by healthy eating, fresh air, and exercise. Issues can also arise with the dispersion of body fluids (synovial, tears, saliva, sweat, etc.), known as the Jin Ye (aka “moist-liquid”). To allow the fluids to nourish the underlying layers of the skin, these fluids need to flow properly (via healthy Qi). A deficiency of fluids/Jin Ye, can result in various conditions since the body needs to maintain a certain level of internal moisture to properly function. As a result of this lack of fluid, some of the imbalances that might arise include: dry Stomach (nausea/vomiting), swelling or reduced mobility of the joints, dry skin/eyes, and edema.
A reputable practitioner of TCM will utilize a Western diagnosis or condition simply as a reference tool. The important thing always is a precise TCM diagnosis based on differentiation of patterns of symptoms and signs. In TCM, a similar pattern can manifest as various Western conditions; also, a single Western condition may have several (up to six or eight) differentiated patterns of diagnosis in TCM. A tailor-made plan of treatment (diet, herbs, and acupuncture in Vancouver) may be needed to obtain the best results.
To help keep the Lung system strong, eat foods associated with the element of Metal. They include: garlic/onion family, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens, parsnip, kohlrabi, rutabaga/turnip, taro, horseradish, romaine lettuce, and radish.
Spices/Herbs: mint family (basil, spearmint, peppermint, etc.) fennel, dill, cumin, clove, cardamom, coriander, caraway, black peppercorn, coriander, chive, caraway, anise, dandelion, cinnamon, ginger, rosemary, basil, garlic, and cilantro.