TCM 101: Natural Remedies for Acne Skin

Natural remedies for acne with Chinese herbsPhoto from Ping Ming Health

If you are seeking natural remedies for acne, you might want to look at the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which advocates the unity of external environment, body and mind, and which believes in our body’s amazing self-healing capability.  Influenced by Taoism, TCM not only provides natural remedies for acne, but also suggests the art of living a balanced and harmonious life. So, sit back, relax, enjoy the introductory guide I have prepared for you, and learn how TCM can open the door to restore your radiant skin and lead you to a balanced and healthier lifestyle!

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?


The over-2,000-year-old Traditional Chinese Medicine is deeply rooted in Taoism, an ancient tradition of philosophy and religious belief that promotes achieving harmony or unity with nature. Because of this belief, TCM sees that, externally, humans as microcosms within the surrounding universe are interconnected with nature and subject to its forces. Internally, human body is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but are all interdependent.

Natural remedies for acne - yin yang

Photo by Travis Simon

Seven Basic Philosophies

The book that has captured the basic philosophies in Traditional Chinese Medicine is called Huang Di Nei Jing, or Inner Canon of the Yellow Emperor, an ancient Chinese medical text that has been served as the go-to source for Chinese medicine practice over two thousand years. Below are seven key elements that will give you a taste of what Chinese natural remedies are like.  After going through the list, you will discover TCM is not a science, but a philosophy based on thousands of years of study and discoveries ; – )

Natural remedies for acne with Huang Di Nei Jing

1. It offers a holistic approach to health and wellness by teaching us to connect external environments, body and mind. 

Influenced by Taoism, TCM believes in the importance of working in the framework of nature, both from a macro level such as cosmic movements and seasonal changes and from a micro level such as changes in temperatures, daylight and humidity. Then it comes to nourishing the body and spirit, both of which should go hand in hand. As the body carries the mind, TCM suggests maintaining physical fitness first establishes a solid foundation for mental health.

Because of this, a TCM practitioner normally considers a full spectrum of the patient’s life, environmentally, physically and mentally, before giving a recommendation.

Natural remedies for acne - holistic

A picture I drew for you to illustrate how I see the integration ; )

2. It advocates system thinking: there is no isolation in the body; instead, TCM views different parts as a section of the system.

TCM sees human body’s organs, tissues and other body parts as a highly interconnected system. In other words, it believes that there is no one organ, tissue or other body part ever working in isolation. The health condition of one part will influence the functionality of the entire system in one way or another. Take an example cited in MingsClinic, a TCM-focused clinic run by Ming Li, who has been practicing acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for 16 years. Some of her patients, who initially came for treatment in pain with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, not only got rid of pain after treatments but felt more energetic in the end.

3. It promotes balance, or, Yin and Yang.

Yin and Yang, the two opposing yet complimentary forces, are what shapes the world and life. TCM views that keeping a balance in the body is the foundation of health and wellness. No one is better than the other. And it is the imbalance of the both that causes human body pains and illnesses. Hence, the goal of TCM is to restore balance among external environments, the body and the mind.

4. It considers Qi and Meridians as what keep us alive and energetic.

According to National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Qi is a vital energy and life force that circulates in the body throughout a system of pathways called meridians. Maintaining the balance and harmony in the circulation of Qi is crucial for optimal health.

5. It diagnoses both symptoms and root causes.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, “no symptom really makes sense except in the context of the whole”, according to Jill Blakeaway, licensed acupuncturist, board certified herbalist, and former professor of traditional Asian medicine. While Western medicine tends to focus on what appears on the surface, a TCM diagnosis will go deeper into the root causes.

6. It is best used for chronic and long-term disease and illnesses.

TCM is most effective for chronic and long-term disorders related to imbalance such as allergies, infertility and chronic fatigue.

7. It contains eight principles and five elements.

TCM uses eight principles to analyze and categorize symptoms: Yin/Yang (which is the primary category), cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency. Beside, five elements are also used to explain the body works, including fire, earth, metal, water and wood. Each one of them corresponds to particular organs and tissues in the body.


Among all treatments, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are most commonly used in TCM practice. Other treatments also include: diet therapy, mind-body therapy, Tui Na (i.e. Chinese massage), moxibustion (the use of heat from burning the herb moxa on or near the skin at an acupuncture point, in order to stimulate the flow of Qi and restore health) and cupping.

Natural remedies for acne with acupuncture

Photo from Vital Warrior

TCM’s Take on Skin Health

TCM treatments, especially acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, for skin disorders have been in use since 1100 to 211 B.C. in China. According to Chinese medicine, the skin is a reflection of the whole inner system within the body. “Heat” and “dampness” are the two driving causes of skin problems. “Heat” refers to distress the body which can be caused by overwork, emotional stress such as anger, or hormonal imbalance, while “dampness” can be the result of the insufficient flushing of waste and toxins in the body and a humid environment.

As mentioned above, maintaining a good balance is the foundation of health. Healthy and radiant skin, according to TCM, is closely tied to the balance of Yin and Yang, and the circulation of Qi and blood. Blakeaway explains, Yin ensures hydrated and well-nourished skin and hair, bright shiny eyes and strong nails; Yang promotes healthy skin complexion and hair growth; Qi and blood circulation can also promise a healthy complexion and nourish skin tissues.

TCM and Western Medicine

It would be a hasty conclusion to say which one is better. In fact, they both have their own advantages and contribution to human being’s health and well-being and can actually become allies. As discussed in the “basic philosophies” section, TCM works best for chronic and long-term disorders. Besides, its results can be more long-lasting, as therapeutic intervention with Chinese herbs is designed to encourage the body to heal itself instead of relying on conventional medicines, which benefits the body in the long term. On the other hand, Western medicine is most effective in dealing with acute and emergency situations with laboratory aids, as it is diagnostically precise. Because both approaches can work well together, many people are actually interested in getting the best out of both practices.

These days, more and more scientific research is looking into combining Chinese and Western medicine as a new approach to handle diseases. For example, in a press release by Cardiff University on September 27, 2013, they announced that combining Chinese and Western medicine reveal new hope for cancer treatments.

Future Development

Among many Traditional Chinese medicine treatments, acupuncture is widely-received because related scientific studies have shown the effectiveness of this practice. As an example, many studies show acupuncture as an effective treatment for pain and headaches.

Despite the popularity of acupuncture, many other TCM treatments are still facing skepticism in the West because the lack of scientific research to support other treatments. However, there are more and more efforts to support the continual research and studies of TCM. About six months ago, CNN covered that Chi-Med and Nestle have been working together for a decade on testing 1,300 Chinese herbs for global use. The popularity of TCM is likely to go international, as CNN mentions, “it (the collaboration)’s an ambitious effort and one that looks close to paying off”, when Chi-Med had already started the final step in clinical testing trials before approval for sale of a botanical drug based on Chinese Traditional Medicine.

Wow, congrats. You’ve made it thus far! I truly hope you enjoy the big picture of TCM I have drawn for you. As a big fan of seeking natural remedies for acne, I am excited to embark on the journey of studying my own culture in more depth, and sharing all of my discoveries with you. Alright, now, get some rest for your eyes. And I will see you in the next post ; – )


YouBeautyMingsClinicNational Center of Complementary and Alternative MedicinePacific CollegeGreen Drinks ChinaCardiff University Press ReleaseThomson ReutersCNNBBC Religions

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