Acne is a common skin condition affecting a large number of the population, predominantly during their teenage years but in some instances this can extend to adulthood. According to the NHS, around 80% of people aged between 11 and 30 are affected by acne. For around 5% of women and 1% of men, acne continues beyond the age of 25.
The condition is typified by the presence of blackheads, whiteheads, papules (small red bumps), pustules, nodules (hard lumps under the skin) and in really severe cases, cysts. Acne typically develops on the face (most people who suffer from the condition), the back (NHS states more than 50% of acne sufferers), and sometimes the chest (roughly 15% of people with acne according to the NHS). The condition can be painful and often causes self-consciousness or emotional distress for the person inflicted.
In the following interview we talk to Magdalena Lius-Youard, one of our resident practitioners of Chinese Herbal Medicine about how herbs may prove to be an effective form of treatment.
Can Chinese Herbal Medicine be used in the treatment of Acne?
“Acne is a very treatable condition with Chinese Herbal Medicine. There are of course treatment options with conventional medicine too, such as antibiotics, the contraceptive pill or retinoid creams. However, these tend to have many unwanted side effects.”
What typically causes acne?
“Even though acne manifests on the skin, it is usually a problem that comes from within. Common reasons are hormonal imbalances, stress and diet/life style. However, in Chinese Herbal Medicine we would typically talk about excessive or toxic heat in the Lung, Stomach or Heart channel. This heat can then be complicated by damp, phlegm, blood stagnation or wind.”
How would a practitioner of Chinese Herbal Medicine seek to diagnose the root cause and treat it?
“The trained herbalist would seek to differentiate the accurate pattern of disharmony and then prescribe the correct herbal combination. In Traditional Chinese Medicine it is not ‘one treatment for all’. A great emphasis is placed on the individual and targeting his/her own specific disharmony. This helps to ensure that the treatment is as successful as possible.”
What Chinese herbs are typically prescribed when treating acne?
“Commonly prescribed herbs are Huang Qin (Scruttelaria), Huang Bai (Phellodenbrium), Sheng Di (Rhemania root) and Mu Dan Pi (Tree Peony). These herbs clear different types of heat from the body and blood. They would be combined with other herbs to accurately address the individual’s imbalance.”
How can a person source these particular herbs?
“To obtain a herbal prescription that suits your needs, you would need to consult a qualified practitioner. These herbs are powerful and not suitable for self -prescribing.”
What is the average length of an acne treatment programme in Chinese Herbal Medicine?
“A general guide for acne would be three to six months. Diet changes may also be necessary.”
Is there any form of DIY treatment people can do at home?
“Even though acne is usually due to an internal imbalance, topical creams/toners can be really helpful. I often recommend an apple cider vinegar face toner to my patients. To make this, simmer two mugs of water on low heat with a generous sprig of fresh Rosemary (no lid) for about 10 to 15 minutes. You want the liquid to reduce to about half.
“Strain off the Rosemary and allow the fluid to cool. Mix with equal parts of Apple cider vinegar in a glass jar with a lid. Dab on to the affected area morning and evening after washing your face but before applying any lotions.”