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Natural Adult Cystic Acne Treatment Toronto

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Chinese medicine for chronic adult acne with Cases

Acne is usually considered a hormonal related condition. Some young women who use hormonal medication do see the improvement of their skin. For those who do not respond well to the pills or are not willing to use drugs to treat their acne and hormonal imbalance, Chinese medicine is an ideal natural solution. I detailed about my approach to treat adult acne with Chinese medicine in the post “Chinese medicine for adult acne”. This post I will mainly discuss how Chinese medicine differentiates different types of acne with personalized treatment and real cases.

Three types of acnes in Chinese medicine

From my clinical experience and my understanding of Chinese medicine principles, there are three main types of adult acne: Fire, Phlegm and Blood. Each type has their distinctive characteristics, The avatars of each pattern look like as follows:

1. Fire
Body type:slim to medium body build, acne is red and dry, skin usually dry as well, body tends to be hot but hand and feet can be cold, tends to have stomach issues such as acid reflux, IBS and loose stools, for females, the menstrual cycle tends to be short (less than 28 days), menstrual cramps can be medium to severe.

2. Phlegm
Body type: medium to round body build, skin tends to be oily, easily get bloated, many of them have nausea, dizziness or motion sickness problems. acne tends to have puss(white head) and deep roots. Tends to have sleep problems, bowel movement can go either directions but more often loose sticky stool than hard constipation.

3. Blood
Body type: can be any body type, acne usually is red, can be hard and takes long time to heal. For females, often have menstrual cramps with blood clots, some have headaches as well. Many have chronic constipation,

Real clinical cases of treating adult acne with Chinese medicine

However in reality, patients often present mixed patterns, I rarely see patients that only have one pattern. With mixed pattern cases, it is important to differentiate how much the individual patterns contribute to the acne so the treatment can reflect the nature of the condition and produce better results. Here are three cases I have treated that represent each type of acne. The main form of treatment is Kampo, a type of Chinese herbal medicine school that I practice in my clinic.

Case #1: Blood Type Acne

Patient name: Cathy, Age: 32, body type: slim
First visit: June 2017,

History: 10+years of chronic acne. She has been trying literally everything on the market of natural alternative solutions. Acne are mainly on cheeks, shoulder, upper chest. Red, dry and takes a very long time to heal.
Noticeable signs and symptoms from assessment.
Her period is regular, painful, and always short with very little bleeding.

From Kampo perspective, the nature of the acne (red and dry), and short, painful period indicate there are heat/inflammation and blockage in the blood, as well as the deficiency of the blood volume, which may related to imbalanced hormone level,

First I made two weeks of an herbal formula. I told her, if my hypothesis was right, she should see the improvement within 2 weeks, however, it would take much more time to increase the volume of the menstrual blood, because that is a deeper layer problem than the superficial symptoms such as acne.
On her next visit, Cathy said her period was heavier than usual and the acne was improved 40-50%. which made her pretty happy considering the long history of battling her acne. The improvement indicated the treatment was in the right direction.

Kampo Medicine believes Blood Stagnation is a common pathological factor that underlies many inflammatory and immune diseases. It is often dismissed or ignored by western medicine.

Dynamic And Refinable Process
Sep, 2017. Cathy came back from her vacation. I did another thorough assessment. Her mood was much better, her sleep was good, bowel movement and urination were normal. Her baseline health is good. Last period lasted two days with light, dark red blood. there were some cramps prior to bleeding. The remaining stubborn acne was hard and purple red in color. Her tongue is a little purplish. I also did abdominal palpation. There was tenderness in the lower abdomen when I applied pressure.

All of the signs and symptoms were pointing to a problem: blood stagnation. In western language, the blood coagulation level was higher than normal. So the focus of treatment shifted accordingly by adding a formula specifically to remove the blood stagnation. A couple of single herbs were also added in to soften the hardness of the acne.

After this visit, Cathy came to refill the herbs every 2-3 weeks. I kept monitoring her conditions. Everything went well so I didn’t change the formulas. The last visit of 2017, just before Christmas, I adjusted the blood unit in the formulas to a lesser degree because some of the blood herbs can have some adverse effect on the digestive system over time.

Jan 28. 2018 After 7 months of treatment. The acne that bothered Cathy for over a decade is almost clear completely. Cathy couldn’t be happier about the result. According to the principle of Chinese Medicine, as the primary complaints are eliminated, the treatment should switch the focus to maintenance of the baseline health to consolidate the result. In Cathy’s case, some of the blood herbs were replaced by the herbs that support the endocrine system.

A nice off-label use of Chinese medicine.

During the period of treatment 2017-2018, Cathy didn’t catch any cold or flu. She works with kids everyday, She used to get sick multiple times a year from the “germ bombs” in her working enviroment. This may be just a coincidence, but I saw this happens quite often in my practice, so I think this “off-label effect”: better immune function, may reveal something profound.

Case #2: Phlegm Type Acne

First visit: May, 2021

Patient name: Maria, 39. Maria has the acne problems for decades. She has tried many kinds of skin products but can not improve her skin so she has to keep using them. I was treating her 10 years old son for his breathing problem that was previously treated as asthma by his doctor but it didn’t help. After she saw her son’s condition improved, she asked me if I can treat her acne.

Assessment: body type is between medium to round. Skin is slightly dark, has anxiety, bloating, loose stool 2-3 times a day, she doesn’t sleep well. Acne has white head, and gets worse before the period. Her period is regular with no complaints.

Based on the assessment, I created a formula to address the phlegm patterns with some herbs for upper body inflammation. After the first batch, she reported the acne has markedly improved, sleep and bloating also get better. She continued with two more batches and stopped the treatment. I have not seen her since.

Case #3: Fire Type Acne

First visit: May, 2021
Patient name: Chris, 27yrs old male。

Assessment: body is long and slim, muscles are tight and ticklish, skin is dry. Loose stool, allergic to pollen. He often has canker sore in the mouth(sign of stomach inflammation).
Red dry acne on face and back.
This is a typical fire type acne, The formula that I use for him is mainly composed of herbs that clear fire/inflammation, with some herb to regulate his nervous system and digestion to tackle the inflammation from different angle. He only took two batches and saw good improvement.

Summary: Chinese medicine approach to skin issues.

The quality of skin reflects the health within. Having clear, radiant skin is a job from the inside! I work with my patients using Chinese medicine to help their skin looks better as well as improve the internal health.
In all three cases, none of the herbal treatments are directly targeting hormones. Instead, they are addressing the underlying problems such as digestion, blood health, inflammation etc. as well as regulating the body’s stress response through Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis(HPA) therefore balancing the hormone system.
Western medicine treatment uses hormones and steroids in the form of pill, injection, patch or IUD, to directly manipulate the hormone level in the body. Chinese medicine uses a holistic approach to address the regulatory factors that underlies the hormone balance, through herbal medicine or acupuncture. This approach is not only applied to my treatment for acne, it is the overarching principle to treat all skin related issues such as eczema, rosacea, hives and more.
About the author: Dalu Wang is a licensed Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist based in Canada. He provides in-person and virtual treatment at Kampo Health Clinic in Yorkville, Toronto. If you have any concerns about your skin and overall health, feel free to contact Dalu. He will answer your question and look into your particular situations to see if Chinese medicine can help you.

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