Ever bask in the clarity and beauty of freshwater river or a clear lake, or shudder at the smell and sight of a stagnant pond? Our complexion and skin, like water, mirror our general internal health. When there are dermatological problems arising, they arise due to imbalances inside the body caused by exposure to a poor lifestyle/diet, stress, and environmental toxins. The largest organ of the body is the skin. It functions as a very important barrier between the external and internal environments.
According to traditional Chinese medicine or TCM, our skin is the first line of defense of our body protecting the organs, blood, muscles, bones, and sinews from external pathogenic factors (that can either be emotional and/or physical). The Wei Qi or Defensive Qi sits atop the most external layer of the dermis, serving as some sort of coat of armor against undesirable infiltrators. For a practitioner of TCM, the changes in the skin (presence of carbuncles/swelling, texture, color, etc.), when closely observed, can provide us with a wealth of medical information.
The color of a person’s face color will indicate the presence of Shen (consciousness/spirit), Blood, and Chi. A lusterless complexion tells the TCM practitioner that these vital elements are in disharmony and need to be nourished through herbal formulations and diet. A lustrous face means that the person’s Shen, Blood, and Chi are strong. For instance, the duller the complexion, the more chronic is the imbalance.
The Importance of the Lung System and the Physiology of the Skin in TCM
Based on the principles of TCM, the Lung system governs the diffusion of Wei/Defensive Qi to nourish and warm the various layers of the skin, and to control the closing and opening of pores. The pores ideally open during exercise or in warmer weather to eliminate toxins and heat from the body; when they’re exposed to pathogens or cold weather, the pores tend to close. Defensive Qi will not properly function and pores may remain open when there is a weakness in the Lung system. This gives the pathogenic elements permission to infiltrate the inside of the body leading to various conditions, such as the common cold even hives or urticaria. Eating healthy, breathing in fresh air, and exercise keep the Wei Qi strong. There can also be an issue in regard to the distribution of body fluids (synovial, tears, saliva, sweat, etc.), known as the “moist-liquid or Jin Ye. To give the fluids the opportunity to nourish the skin and its underlying layers, these fluids need to flow properly (though healthy Chi). As the body needs to retain a certain level of internal moisture to properly function, a deficiency in fluids/Jin Ye, can lead to various conditions. Some of the problems that may appear as a result of this fluid inadequacy can include: nausea/vomiting (dry Abdomen), swelling, reduced joint mobility, dry skin and eyes, and edema.
A reputable practitioner of TCM will use a Western diagnosis or condition simply as a tool of reference. The important thing is to always come up with a precise TCM diagnosis based on pattern differentiation of symptoms and signs. In TCM, the same pattern can appear as a wide variety of Western conditions; also, a single Western condition can have several (up to 6 or 8) diagnostic patterns of differentiation. For best results, a treatment that is customized (diet, herbs, and acupuncture in Overland Park) is required.
Spices/Herbs: cilantro, chive, parsley, garlic, rosemary, basil, cinnamon, ginger, anise, dandelion, caraway, black peppercorn, cardamom, coriander, cumin, clove, fennel, dill, mint family (basil, spearmint, peppermint, etc.)
Foods from the Metal element group to help maintain the strength of the Lung system: radish, garlic/onion family, horseradish, romaine lettuce, rutabaga/turnip, taro, parsnip, kohlrabi, cabbage, cauliflower, mustard greens.