Hormonal Acne Treatment with Acupuncture, Ayurveda, and Chinese Medicine

In a certain sense most acne is hormonal-- teenaged acne is associated with increased levels of testosterone and progesterone, and even much adult acne is associated with some kind of hormonal fluctuation, in both men and women.

The most common adult hormonal fluctuation associated with acne is the menstrual cycle. But that begs the question of why Sally gets acne with her cycle and Louisia does not. One factor is simple predisposition; some of us have oilier skin and higher testosterone levels, but a big factor, too, is stress and your reaction to it.

Role of Stress

Stress increases nervous system activity and adrenalin, which set in motion cascades of hormonal and neurotransmitter repercussions, not the least of which involve the adrenal glands and ovaries. When the adrenal glands get overstimulated, this in turn sends messages that suppress ovarian function. Progesterone and estrogen levels become unstable.

This is mother nature's way of protecting women. She does not want you getting pregnant during times of great stress. This is a huge issue with fertility, too. Women that allow themselves to become stressed out about getting pregnant, have a much harder time getting pregnant. Not to mention the stress they already have from modern life. This is one reason why acupuncture works so well with fertility and acne; it takes you out of the stress response and into the relaxation response.

What the Face Tells You--The Geographic Distribution of Acne

What is interesting, is that when you see acne that is due to stress alone, with elevated adrenalin, but stable menstrual hormones, it typically presents on the forehead, at the temples, and on the cheeks in front of the ears.

But in young females, when you see dramatic flare-ups in acne the week or so before the period, especially that improves after bleeding, you know there is a relationship to the menstrual hormones, with or without stress as a main factor. In these cases the acne is often alongside the mouth from the cheeks to the chin.

Menstural Hormones vs. Stress Hormones

When we see this pattern of acne, and when we see acne anywhere on the face or back that is dramatically worse premenstrualy, or occurs only premenstrualy, then this points us towards a particular pattern of acupuncture treatment to regulate the Chong and Ren extraordinary channels and herbal therapy that restores balance to the hormones, as well choosing a treatment that clears damp-heat and nourishes the blood in the skin.

On the other hand, when you see acne along the side of the face, in front of the ears up to the temples, especially if it is unchanged through the cycle, it is generally stress induced. %his is a completely different pattern, requiring a different acupuncture and herbal treatment one that clears "damp-heat from the liver and gall bladder channel," using the Dai vessel and points like San Yin Jiao.

Different Pattern, Different Treatment

In my treatment of acne with acupuncture, Ayurveda, and Chinese herbal medicine, I have been very successful tailoring the treatment according to the geographical and temporal patterns of the skin disruption.
I have also found that in all cases it is very important to correct errors in the diet, such as the consumption of ice cold beverages that lead to hot stagnation in the stomach, (the stomach's normal function is interfered with by cold things, and it overheats in response to compensate, or just fails to work properly at all, --to know if this is a factor look at your tongue and see if there is a thick greasy coat, especially a dark one).

So each pattern will require different acupuncture point locations, and in the case of pre-menstrual acne, you must treat twice a month, just before ovulation and a week to 10 days before menstruation. If there are cramps and other problems with the bleeding we may do acupuncture treatment or cupping with the bleeding.

Herbal Therapies

Herbal prescriptions are tailored in the same way. For severe cases of cystic acne on the face and or back, unrelated to the cycle, and/or in men, I always use Neem Plus, a product that contains Neem extract (not the whole leaf, but the leaf that has been cook with triphala, the tradtional and correct way, to reduce toxicity and maximize absorption and make it safe for long term use, otherwise Neem will aggravate Vata and Kapha due to its very strong cold energy).

If the bowels are not moving, you must address that, which I typically do with diet and Triphala. Good Triphala should taste bitter, astringent, salty, spicy, sour and sweet all at once. But more astringent than anything else.

If there is Liver/Gall Bladder toxicity, I like to address this with Chinese Herb prescriptions, such as Long Dan Xie Gan Tang. I only use Blue Poppy brand herbs in this case, because they are tested for heavy metal and pesticide residue and I can see those reports.

For young women with menstrual irregularity and acne I often use Young Fem, by Ayush, and may combine that with Neem or a Chinese herb formula, depending on the pattern.

The beauty and brilliance of Asian medicine, practiced in the classical way, is that we never treat a disease, we always treat a person.
And each individual person has their own unique pattern that is manifesting at this point in time.
The disease is the unhealthy plant growing in the soil. The soil is the person.
To cure the disease in a plant, the first thing you do is check the soil. Then you cut off the diseased branches and spray what medicines you will. But the foundation of a garden is the soil. And my idea of being a physician is that I am a gardener and my patients are the garden.

copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. San Diego, CA All Rights Reserved, Use With Permission Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego http://www.bodymindwellnesscenter.com


shu said…
This is one of the most helpful posts I have come across about the holistic treatment of acne, definitey keen to learn more! I want to share my story.

I’ve been on a whole food healthy diet for years, it stemmed from my desire to cure acne. That led me to eating in a very paleo-style, low-carb diet, which did brilliantly at reducing even elimininating my acne. But of course, it's never suited as a long-term solution, as it keeps the toxins locked into my body, and I did start to realise realise the slightest amt of carb will cause an increasingly serious reaction acne-wise.

Now, I'm returning to my roots and just eat a more balanced diet, the way I grew up eating i.e. white rice! (I’m asian) based diet, with a small amount of protein and I'm definitely not afraid of sat fat, but I do not use that to sub calories from carbs like I used to.

This decision coincides with my switch to natural skincare. I used to be using differin and antibiotics on my skin, but now only use raw honey and tea tree oil as a face wash, green tea/rice water as toner, and jojoba oil as moisturiser, no sunscreen or anything like that.

As a result, I’m breaking out, especially around the forehead. I’m trying to give myself and my skin time to adjust to the changes but I’m getting very worried since it’s been 6 months now and is getting worse.

Is the persistent acne a sign that I’m doing somethign wrong, or (I'm hoping) it is a detox period for me to get rid of all the toxins I've accumulated? I recently have started waking up at 2am, and heard this is a sign that the liver is overworked according to tcm.

But grah, I don’t know. I know this is definitely a digestion issue because I don’t have the best bowel movements, but this was so whether or not I was eating low or high carb, but just in different ways. Or it may very possibly be a stress issue because I’m stressing out over it, as you can tell!

In line with that, I've been trying to reduce stress in my life. I was also heavily obsessed with high intensity workouts every day, but I hated to admit I was addicted to overexcising, until about a week ago, and have now (painfully) switched to calming exercises like yoga and tai chi. I hope this final change is the one that will finally set me on the right path towards health and healing.

I would appreciate any advice at all that you can give me! I stay in the uk, I wish I lived in san diego ): what you're doing on your blog is a beautiful thing, I've learnt so much already, and hope to keep doing so!
eyton shalom said…
hi shu. acne is often related to damp heat congestion, the starting point is to find the diet and herbal meds so you have daily well formed bowel movement.

if its constipation, i like to start with a magnesium citrate supplement before bed, and i often use triphala, from ayurveda.

there are lots of good chinese medicine herbalists in the UK, so i think it would be great if you could find one who could work directly with you.

if you were overexercising, you are probably a strong hot type.

i can also do an online consultation if you like, if you want to do that just send me an email thru the website.

shu said…
thanks so much for your reply!

is damp heat congestion related to liver qi stagnation? im no expert, but Im having a guess that my waking up at 2am, and the act that my acne appears only on my forehead is a sign of that ):

I will try to look out for chinese physicians here, but it's hard to know if they are good, and it's esp brilliant that you combine your practice with ayurveda!

how would an online consultation work? What are your charges like?

eyton shalom said…
hi shu,

damp heat can be related to Liver Depression or Qi Stagnation, it can be from weakness of the Spleen or San Jiao tranformative ability, it can be a result of diet, too.

In a consultation on line, i would email you a health questionaire, have you email me a foto of your tongue and of the acne lesions, as well as an idea of a week's typical diet, and the questionaire, which i will then study, and then i would give you dietary recommendations as also a recommendation for an herbal formula you can buy online or have me ship to you.

This whole process takes me about 90 minutes and the fee is $US 125.00

We can also address things from an Ayurvedic standpoint...in which case you download the form on the site, send it to me in an email attach pdf, and we can discuss your dosha and recommedations.

I know some people have cheap phone services, so we can also talk on the phone. I am not set up for skype yet, but will be.
Shu Han said…
I've found a practitioner here and am working with her for now, but will definitely keep your services in mind if it doesn't work out. meanwhile, i'm subscribed to your blog, and reading your entries, thanks for all your work!
eyton shalom said…
very welcome Shu,
i also have a FB page,

Ayurveda, Natural Living, and Acupuncture San Diego, which sometimes has additional posts and things, fyi.

and my new website, same domain, is on Word Press, so all the blog entries on blogger are on there , and will be categories. not finished with the posts but the site is on line.

Shane said…
Thank you for your blog, now I my confusion about acupuncture treatment has been over.
Amoxil said…
Your treatment sounds magical. I have acne. I am under treatment. Let me see, If I don't get cure I will contact you for sure. Thanks
Ann said…
What is your email address?
eyton shalom said…
hi ann,

its eytonATbodymindwellnesscenterDOTcom
Allan said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.