Skip to content

Henry McGrath Dip.Ac Dip.TCM ND MTh

Bristol based – Worldwide web consultations
Acupuncture – Chinese Herbal Medicine – Naturopathy

Skin Disorders

26th February 2010

In Chinese Medicine, there are many causes of skin complaints. These include:

  • alcohol
  • hot, spicy food
  • over – exercise
  • over – thinking/ worry
  • emotional problems
  • frustration and stress (for example with work or relationships)
  • toxins, causing inflammation

Chinese Medicine has long recognised categories of skin disorder, corresponding to Western terms such as eczema, psoriasis and acne. Chinese Herbs are usually the treatment of choice for skin problems, and there are specific herbs that benefit each kind of category of skin disorder.

Within each category, Chinese Medicine recognises different sub – types. For example, eczema can classified as due to:

  • Damp
  • Dryness
  • Heat

Depending on the classification of the skin disorder, different herbs will be used. For example, if the eczema is caused by “heat”, cooling herbs will be used.

We can perhaps best understand the Chinese term “heat” as “inflammation”. If the skin disease is of the “hot” type the skin will look red, will tend to bleed easily and will usually be very itchy.

The “damp” type of eczema is where there is weepy discharge, or raised papules on the skin surface. This kind of eczema is often associated with digestive problems. If the eczema is “damp”, we will use herbs that are “drying” in nature. This illustrates the importance of correct diagnosis: if the eczema is a “dry” type, and drying herbs are used by mistake, the eczema can actually become worse!

How Chinese Medicine can help skin problems

  • Cold herbs counteract “heat”: in other words, they are natural anti – inflammatories.
  • Acupuncture releases heat, like the valve on a pressure cooker.
  • Acupuncture is very relaxing, and can clear the “heat” that is caused by stress.
  • Many herbs are diuretics, and drain damp from the body.
  • Certain herbs help to breaks down the toxins that can cause skin problems.


Much depends on the age and general vitality of the patient, and whether they follow the lifestyle advice given.

A general rule of thumb is that for every year of the illness, one month of treatment is required. So it is best to come as soon as possible for treatment!