How Acupuncture Treats Acne

Weighting chinese herbs1People are often curious how I treat acne. Acupuncture works by correcting the root cause of acne. Most acne is caused by heat, toxicity, dampness, or stagnation in the flow of qi. Each person is unique and not all people develop acne from the same root causes.

Herbal formulas and acupuncture treatments are customized to correct the root imbalance causing your acne. To create the optimal herbal and acupuncture therapy, I will consider your overall health to find the specific imbalance causing the acne. Digestion, menstrual cycle, immunity, and energy levels all play a factor. Most importantly, I will consider the how the acne looks. When looking at the skin, I will consider the location of the acne, the presence of white heads and black heads, inflamed pimples, cysts, and overall look of your skin. These factors are integrated to identify the root cause of your acne and the therapy is tailored to specifically for you.

Customizing your herbal formula

Lung Heat: Acne from lung heat, the formula may include herbs pi pa ye (loquat leaf) and sang bai pi (mulberry root bark) which will clear heat from the lungs. I also like to use niu bang zi (burdock seed) for clearing lung heat as it also has an antibacterial effect on the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes that causes acne.

Stomach Heat: When the heat in the stomach is more pronounced, the formula may include huang lian (copitis) and pu gong ying (dandelion) to clear the heat, toxicity, and dampness from the stomach. These herbs are well known for their anti-inflammatory and antibacterial capabilities. Huang lian has also been shown to reduce the production of sebum that leads to the clogged pores.

Heat toxicity is often a factor because this is a caused by inflammation. Herbs such as jin yin hua (honeysuckle) and ye ju hua (wild chrysanthemum) are great for reducing inflammation and removing heat toxicity.

Qi and Blood Stagnation: For acne that worsens with your periods, herbs to move qi and blood stagnation such as yi mu cao (Chinese motherwort), dang gui (Chinese angelica root) and dan shen (saliva miltiorrhiza) are great for moving blood and balancing hormones.

Personalized acupuncture therapy

Acupuncture therapy incorporates points close to the acne break out as well as along the acupuncture meridians to stimulate the movement of qi, reduce inflammation, balance hormones, and help you relax.

When targeting lung and stomach heat, the acupuncture will often include Lung 5 and Large Intestine 4, as well as Stomach 36 below the knee. Constipation may be a sign of stomach heat and would be address with acupuncture points such as Stomach 25 and Stomach 37.

Moving qi stagnation helps to regulate hormones. Acupuncture points such as Liver 3 on the foot and Spleen 6 above are good for moving qi. Ren 4 and Ren 6 and zi gong xue on the abdomen will help regulate hormones along with spleen 6.

Acupuncture is very helpful at healing both the skin and digestion. I think this is because acupuncture has been shown to stimulate gut motility which helps to balance the gut microbiome.

Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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