Acupuncture has been practiced in China and other Asian countries for thousands of years. Scientists are studying the efficacy of acupuncture for a wide range of conditions. What about conditions like acne? Are there any studies that prove the effectiveness of acupuncture for acne? How does it work? Are there any negative side effects? Let’s find out the answers to these questions with Delphine Baumer, Registered Acupuncturist in BC.
What are the causes of acne in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
TCM recognizes that whatever is happening on our skin is an expression of what is happening inside our bodies. Typically, acne is a result of what we call “toxic damp heat”.
These are three separate pathogens that when mixed together tend to boil up and make a hot sticky mess. Overindulgence in greasy foods like chips or other fried foods, too much processed sugar, not enough food, or too much dairy are some of the main culprits.
Throw some stress into the mixture and some hormonal imbalances and we tend to grow the unwanted skin problems.
How does acupuncture work to treat acne?
Acupuncture treatments are designed to help your body strengthen, regain balance, and get rid of pathogens. When your body builds up substance it has more strength to process and eliminate toxins in your body which are causing the acne.
As you become more healthy from the inside, your skin becomes healthier, smoother, more radiant. Beauty truly is way more than skin deep.
How do you decide which acupuncture points to insert the needles?
After consulting with my patient to see what their medical history and TCM diagnosis is I can decide what the TCM treatment strategy is. From this point, I can design a specific treatment plan and I insert the needles into specific points that are designed to help their particular body heal and regain balance.
Acupuncture is designed to treat the individuals’s imbalance, deficiency, or excess. It is a whole body treatment that takes the whole person into account. Usually, there are other accompanying symptoms that need to be addressed. Such as sleep, digestion, and stress issues.
The great thing about Acupuncture is that we are addressing health in a holistic nature where there are improvements in one’s overall health. Everything is connected.
From our emotions to our sleep patterns, pains in our body… its all a combined picture of our health and should be considered in its entirety.
I heard that one of the techniques used in acupuncture for acne is called “surrounding the dragon”. Can you explain to us what it is?
To understand this technique imagine that your “gigantic pimple” is the dragon… that shouldn’t be hard to do…
The acupuncture needles would be inserted in a fashion of surrounding that dragon. The treatment is done to help your body focus on this area that needs healing. With each needle, “Qi” (in simple terms = energy), and blood is drawn to that area so that the healing may be improved.
The blood draws in macrophages whose specific jobs are to carry away debris to be carried away and processed and eliminated as waste. If you’ve ever had a dragon, you know how important that is.
The extra Qi may be needed to help express the dragon. We all hope that the dragon will just lie away and fizzle but it is actually very important that they do come out and express.
The dragon is formed because it is surrounding a toxin, dirt or grease build up that your body doesn’t want… in this sense think of it as a volcano that needs to erupt in order for the land to live in peace….
However, don’t try to pop it! Your fingernails have dirt and germs in them which you can lodge into your skin, making matters worse. So don’t pop! Let time, or your Acupuncturist help you with the very nastiest of dragons 🙂
How many acupuncture sessions does it usually take before you see any noticeable improvement?
This is such a difficult question for any health practitioner. There is no absolute answer. We are all individuals with individual reactions to different scenarios.
In my experience, there is a noticeable improvement after as few as 8 treatments. It is very common for someone to feel elated after the first treatment.
However, in order to achieve long lasting results I find that it is important to stick to a treatment schedule which is designed to each unique case.
A typical treatment plan in my clinic is to do two to three treatments per week in the first two weeks, depending on the severity of the case, then as we gain momentum on the healing, the treatments can be reduced to once per week for about four weeks, then every two weeks, and eventually to once per season.
The treatment can be compared to going to the dentist. I call the seasonal treatments the “tune up” session.
Does everyone seem to respond well to acupuncture for acne?
I’d say about 9 out of 10… or 19 out of 20. Of course it is always important to mesh well with your practitioner, so do a little research and look for someone who makes you feel pleasant inside when you read about them.
Are there any negative side effects?
The great thing about acupuncture is that it is non-pharmaceutical therefore it poses no threat in drug interaction or drug side-effects. Rarely, there may be a small bruise left at the site of insertion.
If the patient is very run down to begin with they will probably need a nap after the session. Acupuncture is known for inducing a very relaxed and lovely sensation so be sure to leave your schedule open after your first treatment because you probably will want to, and should rest after treatment.
Are there any studies which prove the effectiveness of acupuncture as treatment for breakouts?
Yes. Many… here are just a few links…
- Acupuncture for Acne, Psoriasis, Allergies by Karen on April 20, 2006
- China study link: Treatment of 56 cases of women with post-adolescent acne by auricular point sticking method
- Acupuncture and Acne Vulgaris and Scars by V.K.Agarwal1, S.Agarwal2, New Delhi, India
Can acupuncture also treat acne scars?
To a certain extent. But it is important not to expect miracles. If the scars are small or there is a discolouring, especially redness involved then some improvements can be made.
I would recommend laser therapy for larger scars with the compliment of acupuncture for addressing the internal imbalances that led to, and arised from the scars.
Is there any other treatment for acne in Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Absolutely. Acupuncture is only one modality of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Herbal teas and rinses are a huge part of the TCM health package. Qi Gong is also an important aspect of TCM living that everyone can do on their own without spending any extra money.
There are many important lifestyle actions that we can do on our own to improve health. Your Acupuncturist should help guide you in some of these daily choices to improve your health.
For example, healing via the diet, “TCM Food Cure” is a highly beneficial and indispensable part of the treatment program I use with my patients.
If you are seeking Acupuncture for Acne be sure to ask you Acupuncturist about TCM Food Cures. We’ve all heard that diet plays a significant role in our skin care… its true.
TCM has a unique way of understanding individuals and determining which types of foods are best for which types of individuals. There is no absolute food or medicine that is right for everyone. This fact is what led me to TCM, to appreciate each of us as individuals with individual needs.
So love yourself as an individual and realize that what works for you might not be the same thing as what works for your best friend. I have to take this moment to emphasize how important food is. It is imperative on so many levels that we enjoy our food. We must think of it as nourishment and fuel. Food to live.
Would you have any advice to give to people who suffer from acne?
I love to share what I’ve learned. I always fear coming across as “you should do this” … having said that… here it comes! …
Diet is a crucial part of our existence. If you’ve tried everything you can but can’t seem to overcome the situation look for a practitioner who you resonate with and who you enjoy seeing. With improved happiness in life healing is more probable.
Our relationships have so much to do with our overall health. Be sure to surround yourself by people who make you feel positive about life and have the strength not to let other people’s toxicity control you. Take everything you have in yourself to love the person within.
There are so many forces in our world that push and pull us in different directions to encourage that we need things, status or looks, whatever it may be. However, Gandhi said it best “Be the change you wish to see in the world” … love happens from within … and it spreads like a ripple so powerful and ever magnetic …