Alternative Medicine for Acne: Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine

If you are seeking an effective alternative medicine for acne, Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture work very well. 

What Causes Acne?

Several coincident factors promote the formation of the "zits."

An increased production of testosterone stimulates an increase in the production of keratin, the protein predominant in skin.  Excess keratin production can result in blocked pores.  

Modern high fat high cholesterol diets significantly increase testosterone levels to excessive levels, making this condition worse.

Affected skin has elevated levels of the 5-alpha-reductase enzyme that converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).  Excess DHT appears in the skin of people with this problem.

The plugged pores and high hormone levels favor the growth of the bacterium Propionibacterium acnes,  the infective agent involved in this disorder. The immune reaction to this infection leads to the production of pus, resulting in whitehead lesions.

Acupuncture and Acne

Research from the Beijing Daxing Hospital demonstrated that consistent, frequent acupuncture performs better than standard medical care for acne.  Acne patients aged 15 to 32 years received 40 total acupuncture treatments  (30-minutes each treatment, one treatment every other day) or standard medical (antibiotic) treatment.  Among those who received acupuncture, 94% had either full recovery, significant improvement, or slight improvement.  Among those given conventional treatment, only 83% had either full recovery, significant improvement, or slight improvement.   This study indicates that frequent, consistent acupuncture can treat acne more effectively than conventional medicine without the side-effects associated with long-term antibiotic treatment. 

Diet and Acne

Some researchers have called this disorder “skin diabetes” because the skin cells exhibit glucose intolerance.

A diet high in fat, particularly saturated fat or dairy products increases insulin-resistance, which in turn raises levels of IGF-1, which causes hyperproliferation of keratin.  

Excess animal protein intake also raises IGF-1 levels.  Among animal products, milk products are the strongest acne promoters, due to their naturally high hormone, fat, and protein contents.

Nutrients required for skin health include vitamin A (from carotenes), vitamin E , pyridoxine (B-6), pantothenic acid (B-5), selenium, and zinc.  Plant based diets provide all of these nutrients without the toxic fats and proteins found in animal products.

Herbal Medicine for Acne

Herbal medicine provides another alternative medicine for acne.  According to Chinese medicine, acne indicates some combination of heat, phlegm-dampness, and blood stagnation in the lung and stomach channels.

The heat is indicated by the red, inflamed nature of the lesions.  Very red lesions indicate heat toxins.

Dampness manifests as the pus in the lesions.

Blood stagnation may occur, resulting in a purplish tinge to the lesions.

I usually design a custom herbal formula for each patient, tailored to clear the heat and toxins, and invigorate the blood.

I commonly use herbs like raw rehmannia root, salvia root, honeysuckle flower, forsythia fruit, and others appropriate for the individual diagnosis.

These photos show an example of the improvement obtained over a four month period in my practice with one patient for whom I created a custom herbal formula to treat her chronic case which always worsened before her menses.  The before and after photos show that alternative medicine for acne can provide significant improvements in skin health.

Premenstrual Acne Before Herbal Treatment

Premenstrual skin after 4 months of herbal treatment.  The patient considered this a successful course of acne treatment.

Return from Acne Treatment to Conditions A-Z

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