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Expert Advice-Treatment of Dermatosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM):

Dermatosis and Traditional Chinese Medicine

As the bodyís largest organ, skin is vulnerable to many diseases. Almost everyone experiences some sort of skin disease in their life. Every year, twenty-five percent of Americans seek help from physicians or dermatologists due to skin problems. Conventional dermatology has made a significant contribution over the years to the health of our skin, but for those skin disorders which are not responsive to conventional medicine, and for those patients who prefer more natural methods of treatment, the ancient tradition of Chinese medicine provides a safe and effective alternative.

Skin problems arise from a number of causes, the most common of which are infections, overexposure to sunlight, parasites, toxic substances, hormonal imbalance, cell dysfunction, and stress. It is standard procedure in traditional Chinese medicine to assess the patientís symptoms and then to classify the disease as a particular "pattern," based on whether it is of internal or external origin, shows signs of heat or cold, is an excess or deficiency condition, etc. In Chinese medicine, external pathological factors such as Wind, Dampness, Dryness, or Heat can invade the body and cause skin disorders. Internal imbalances are differentiated into patterns such as Blood Stasis, Disharmony of Liver and Kidney, or Blood Deficiency, and are often reflected on the skin. When skin problems are generated by internal imbalance, the underlying problem must be addressed, in order to clear up the surface manifestation.

Chinese Herbal Medicine
Chinese herbal medicine has built up a sophisticated system for treating skin disorders, using both external and internal administration. There are hundreds of herbal formulas available for skin conditions such as herpes, eczema, and psoriasis. In this article, I introduce one of the most popular herbal formulas, Three Yellow Cleanser (San Huang Xi Ji), which is commonly used for a variety of skin disorders. This time-tested formula has been in use for a thousand years. If you were to open a Traditional Chinese Medicine dermatology textbook, you would find this herbal formula recommended for over 60% of skin diseases. Generally speaking, Chinese cleansing herbs are considered bitter herbs with a "cold property," as are all four of the cleansing herbs in this formula. The medicinal functions of three of these four herbs were recorded in the earliest classic of Chinese herbal medicine, Divine Husbandmanís Classic of the Materia Medica, written during the Warring Kingdoms period (475BC-206BC). Because "yellow" ("huang" in Chinese) is in three of these four herb names, (dai huang, huang qin, huang bai), the formula is called "Three Yellow Cleanser." The ancient protocol for this formula is "clearing Heat (Qing Re), stopping itching (Zhi Yang) and arresting secretion (Shou Se)."

Three Yellow Cleanser Formula (San Huang Xi Ji)

Rhubarb (Dai Huang)
Sophora (Ku Shen)
Phellodendron (Huang Bai)
Skullcap (Huang Qin)

Extensive modern pharmacological research has been done on the herbs in this formula in regard to their effectiveness as antibacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal agents. The antibiotic effect of skullcap (huang qin) has been confirmed to be effective against many pathogenic bacteria including Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, Corynebacterium diphtheriae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Neisseria meningitidis. Clinical research indicates that phellodendra (huang bai) is very effective in treating eczema around the ears; and local external application of rhubarb (dai huang) is effective in the treatment of stomatitis, oral ulcers, and folliculitis, especially those caused by Staphylococcus aureus. Decoctions of sophora (ku shen) have an in vitro inhibitory effect against common dermatomycoses (fungal infections).

Anecdotes about the successful use of these herbs are recorded in the classical medical texts of China, and successful clinical trials of the herbs are recorded in modern medical journals.

Skin Disorders Treated with "Three Yellow Cleanser"
The following skin disorders can be treated by the Three Yellow Cleanser formula. The name in parenthesis is the traditional Chinese medicine name of the disease.

Eczema (Shi Chuang) is a common hypersensitive and inflammatory dermatosis. People of all ages may suffer from eczema. It may occur all over the body or only on certain areas of the body.

Herpes Simplex (Pao Zhen) is an acute herpetic dermatosis caused by the simplex herpetic virus, characterized by dermatomucosae joining one another, and local and clustered vesicles. Areas such as lips, nostrils, cheeks and external genitalia are often attacked. Common symptoms are itching, burning, erythema, reddish vesicles, scabs, suppuration and pain.

Herpes Zoster (Chan Yao Huo Dan) is an acute viral infection characterized by clusters of vesicles, and pain along the nerves. It often appears around the ribs in the shape of a belt. It most commonly manifests in the spring and fall.

Acne (Fen Ci) Teenagers, with their rapid growth and hormonal changes, are frequently plagued by acne. Twenty percent of all skin disorders are acne, which is the leading complaint of patients seeking treatment for skin diseases.

Insect Dermatitis (Chong Yao Pi Yan) is an inflammatory skin disease caused by insect bites or stings which irritate the skin. Bites from mosquitoes, ants, ticks, mites, centipedes, and fleas might precipitate this problem.

Contact Dermatitis (Jie Zhu Xing Pi Yan) is an inflammatory response of the skin or mucous membrane due to contact with irritating materials. Three Yellow Cleanser works well for cases which exhibit rashes and papular eruption.

Drug Rash (Yao Wu Xing Pi Yan) is an inflammatory reaction of the skin to oral, injected, or externally-applied chemicals or drugs. The shape of the skin rash is varied. There are many types of drug rash such as urticaria type, scarlet type, etc.

Erythema Multiforme (Duo Xing Xing Hong Ban) is a type of acute inflammatory skin disease characterized by redness, papular eruption, or vesicles. It occurs most often in the winter and spring. Itching and burning are common symptoms.

Pityriasis Rosea (Feng Re Chuang) is an acute skin disease characterized by macular eruption and desquamation (peeling skin). It attacks the torso and extremities of the body. It occurs most often in the spring and fall.

Pruritus Cutis (Feng Sao Yang) This is an itching skin disease without skin lesions. It is a common disease of adults and the elderly. Scratch marks, bloody scabs, abnormal pigmentation and lichenoid changes may appear due to scratching the itching areas.

Psoriasis (Niu Pi Xuan) Eight million Americans are affected by psoriasis, which results from the over-production of skin cells and is characterized by thickening and scaling of the skin.

Erysipelas (Dan Du) Is an acute infection of the skin characterized by sudden onset of local bright red coloration and swelling. It spreads rapidly.

I have found that Three Yellow Cleanser works wonderfully for the above skin disorders when used externally. When internal and external herbal therapy are combined with acupuncture, and based on traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis, there can be significant improvement in symptoms, or even complete relief.

How To Use "Three Yellow Cleanser"
Powder: Grind the herbs into powder or buy powders from a Chinese herbal pharmacy. Use 10 to 15 grams of each herb. Mix the powder with 100 ml of distilled water and 1 ml of medicinal phenol. Mix them evenly. Use cotton swabs to dip in the mixture and apply it to the skin. Repeat application four to five times a day until healed.

Decoction: In a glass or enamel pan, combine the herbs with 1 - 2 cups of water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium flame and simmer for twenty minutes. Strain the liquid out and save it. When the liquid has cooled, use cotton swabs to dip in the liquid and apply to skin. You may spread a bit of pure petroleum jelly over the affected area to protect it between applications of the cleansing formula. Use the decoction four to five times a day until the skin is healed.

Because these herbs can cause a very strong local reaction, I strongly recommend that you consult a practitioner who is thoroughly trained in Chinese herbal medicine before you decide to treat your skin problems with traditional Chinese medicine.

Acupuncture/Acupressure for the Skin
Some commonly used acupuncture points for skin disorders are listed in the box. You can do self-acupressure on these points to prevent skin diseases and maintain your health. These points have the functions of stopping itching, relieving pain, calming the spirit, eliminating inflammation, regulating blood vessel dilation and constriction, and treating endocrine disorders.

Commonly Used Acupuncture/Acupressure Points for Dermatosis:

Arm Points:
LI-11 (Qu Chi)
LI-4 (He Gu)
LU-7 (Lie Que)

Leg Points
SP-9 (Yin Ling Quan)
SP-6 (San Yin Jiao)
SP-10 (Xue Hai)

Torso Points:

BL-13 (Fei Shu)
BL-15 (Xin Shu)
BL-17 (Ge Shu)
BL-20 (Pi Shu)

Dietary Considerations
For a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner, the consultation or treatment is only half done if he or she doesnít ask about the clientís diet and make dietary recommendations. Although it is best to tailor diets on an individual basis, there are some general guidelines to go by. On the whole, people with skin disorders should avoid alcohol, fish, shrimp, and crab. Leafy green vegetables and fruits are strongly recommended.