Hormonal Acne Natural Treatment with Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture
In a certain sense most acne is hormonal, as it is often associated with increased levels of the hormone testosterone, in both men and women. Testosterone is made in the adrenals and the ovaries, as well as the testes. And it is the adrenal glands that are involved in the fight or flight stress response. That is why we often see the appearance of acne during periods of high stress.
There are other factors besides testosterone and inadequate stress management skills. A Diet rich in sugar, processed foods and unhealthy fats and low in dark green cruciferous vegetables can be an aggravating factor.
But in menstruating females, when you see dramatic flare-ups in acne the week or so before the period, which is improved after bleeding, you know there is a hormonal imbalance, typically in the relationship between progesterone and estrogen.
Chinese Medicine: The Location and Time of Your Acne Tells a Story
Acne Along the Chong Channel: Menstrual Hormonal
In Chinese medicine we look at the location of the acne in women to determine if it is associated with hormonal fluctuations. When the acne is predominant along the path of the Chong channel, which is related to both the stomach and menstrual/reproductive function, around the mouth from the cheeks to the chin, it is typically hormonally related.
When we see this pattern of acne, and when we see acne anywhere on the face or back that is dramatically worse pre-menstrually, or occurs only pre-menstrually, then this points us towards a particular pattern of acupuncture treatment to regulate the hormones, and herbal therapy that restores balance to the hormones, as well as clears damp-heat from the skin.
Acupuncture Treatment to Regulate the Hormones
Acupuncture treatment to regulate the hormones, whether in treating acne or PMS or to promote fertility, is typically done twice a month, or weekly. At a minimum, one wants to receive acupuncture before and/or during times of hormonal fluctuation, in essence, pre-ovulatory and pre-mentsturally, around days 10 and 21 of the cycle, counting day 1 as the first day of bleeding.
Chinese Herbal Therapy to Regulate Hormones
Chinese Herbal Therapy to regulate hormones is varied, depending on the exact nature of an individual woman’s menstrual cycle–the duration and degree of bleeding, whether there is pain or clots, where the pain is located, e.g. the abdomen vs. the low back or legs, associated symptoms like headache, and then the gamut of symptoms possible during the premenstrual phase of the cycle, from irritability and heightened emotional states to swollen tender breasts, bloating, water weight gain and food cravings. There are about 10 different prescriptions that I can use; typically I use formula A before the bleed from day 14 to 28, and formula B either with the bleed or immediately after it, until day 14, more or less depending on the individual.
Acne Along the Gall Bladder Channel: Stress Hormonal
On the other hand, when you see acne along the side of the face, in front of the ears up to the temples, this is a completely different pattern, requiring a different treatment, “clearing damp-heat from the gall bladder channel”. This pattern is more typically the result of stress hormones than progesterone/estrogen imbalance, especially if it is unchanged through the cycle. In this case I often use an herbal prescription called Long Dan Xie Gan Tang/Gentiana Decotion to Drain the Gall Bladder
In my 20 years of practice I have found that when you tailor the natural treatment of acne with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, has been very successful by tailoring the treatment according to the location of the acne and the temporal pattern of the skin disruption.
Cold Beverage Consumption and Acne
I have also found that in all cases it is very important to correct errors in the diet, such as the consumption of ice cold beverages that lead to damp hot stagnation in the stomach, (the stomach’s normal function is interfered with by cold things, and it overheats in response to compensate, or just fails to work properly at all, causing damp accumulation–to know if this is a factor look at your tongue and see if there is a thick greasy coat, especially a dark one, or if it is swollen with tooth marks on the edges.)
In Ayurveda this stasis in the stomach is called Ama/Digestive Toxin, and is seen as a very important root of disease. Over time it spreads through the channels to the tissues associated with your particular dosha typology, depending on the degree of dosha elevation.
In Chinese Medicine when there is damp heat or food stagnation in the stomach, this heat can rise along the stomach channel into the face and be a significant factor in acne. I have had one case cured completely simply by eliminating big gulps, McDonald’s, and a brief course of acupuncture for stress management and the Chinese Herbal formula Bao He Wan to eliminate food stagnation.
So each pattern will require different acupuncture point locations, and in the case of pre-menstrual acne, you must treat twice a month, just before ovulation and a week to 10 days before menstruation. If there are cramps and other problems with the bleeding we may do acupuncture treatment or cupping during the bleeding itself.
Ayurvedic Herbal Medicine for Cystic Acne: Ayush Brand Neem Plus
Herbal prescriptions are tailored in the same way as I mentioned above. But for severe cases of cystic acne on the face and or back, unrelated to the cycle, and/or in men, I always use Ayush Brand Neem Plus, a product that contains Neem extract (not the whole leaf, but the leaf that has been cooked with triphala, the tradtional pharmacological methodology that reduces toxicity, maximizes absorption, and makes it safe for long term use. Safe in the sense that unless you process Neem with Trifala it will aggravate Vata and Kapha due to its very strong cold energy.
In some cases of hormonal acne I also supplement with Neem, especially I I am not getting the result I want by balancing the hormones alone. Neem does not balance hormones, what it does is clear heat and reduce Pitta. Most acne is associated with elevated Pitta first and Kapha second. Pitta acne has more red inflammation, and Kapha type more pus. But the Pitta acne can be the result of Vatta elevation, too, “the winds of Vatta fanning the fire of Pitta.”
Clear the Bowels with Ayush Brand Trifal
If the bowels are not moving, you must address that always, which I typically do with improvements in the diet such as increasing the use of spices, cooked vegetables, healthy fats, and reducing cold food, and with the Ayush Brand Triphala product called Trifal. Good Triphals should taste quite astringent, with subtle notes of bitter, sour, spicy, and sweet. When my patient takes the Ayush brand Trifal (and believe me, I get nothing from them to say this) I know they are getting a quality Trifal, so I prefer they use this brand than experiment with others. I have not had as good results with Banyan Botanicals, for example.
If there is Liver/Gall Bladder toxicity, I like to address this with Chinese Herb prescriptions, such as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. I only use Blue Poppy brand herbs in this case, because they are tested for heavy metal and pesticide residue and I can see those reports. Sometimes I use Ayush brand Livit-2, which is a classic Ayurvedic Liver detoxifier.
For young women under 36 with menstrual irregularity and acne I often use Young Fem, by Ayush, and may combine that with Neem or a Chinese herb formula, depending on the pattern.
The beauty and brilliance of Asian medicine, practiced in the classical way, is that we never treat a disease, we always treat a person. And each individual person has their own unique pattern that is manifesting at this point in time.
The disease is the unhealthy plant growing in the soil. The soil is the person.
To cure the disease in a plant, the first thing you do is improvethe soil. Then you cut off the diseased branches and spray what medicines you will. But the foundation of a garden is the soil. My model for the practice of medicine is what I have learned working in the garden of plants and applying it to the garden of human beings.
copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. San Diego, CA June 2012,All Rights Reserved, Use With Permission
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diegohttp://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com