Skin Concerns & Chinese Medicine

by Peter Delaney, Senior Practitioner.

Our skin is the first thing that people see when they look at us and so from a vanity perspective skin is very important. However, the skin has a lot more going for it and it needs lots of care and attention.

Our skin is one of our most vulnerable organs which is under attack constantly, whether it’s the environment we live in or the things we rub on ourselves such as sunscreen and makeup.

It is the largest organ in the body and it has a lot to do with detoxification of waste – something many may have forgotten.

Chinese medicine views the skin as an extension of the Lung meridian. Often, if the lungs are medicated for asthma the person can develop eczema and equally, if the skin is treated with steroids the person may develop asthma.

Often the site of skin problems can indicate the underlining imbalances in the body. Acne on the forehead may come from a stomach dysfunction or eczema on the forearms can be related to an imbalance in the intestine particularly the colon. The lung and colon are paired organs in Chinese medicine and so it’s no surprise that if the bowels are suffering so will the skin!


The Chinese look at the body in a unique way, looking for imbalances in the way the energy of the body circulates or doesn’t circulate.  They talk about Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood and their balance in the body. A diagnosis is made using these four basic principles then a treatment is designed to regulate the imbalances that are present. Acupuncture regulates the Qi circulating in the body as well as the blood. Chinese herbs are also used in the same way and the combination of both has a very powerful effect of harmonizing the body.

Foods, stress, chemicals and environmental factors such as the climate can all affect our skin and make it worse or help it depending on what type of skin complaint we are experiencing. The list below gives some idea of what I mean.

Heat: characterized by appearance of redness, burning or heat sensation, and symptom worsens with alcohol, anger/stress, hot/spicy food, and hot weather.

Wind: characterized by quick onset, and movement of symptoms to different areas of the body, itchiness, and aversion to wind.

Damp: characterized by oozing or weeping conditions, feeling of body heaviness. Dampness can also be an internally generated factor worsened by eating rich, oily or dairy foods.

Dry: characterized by scaly itchy skin which is worse in dry, winter or autumn weather.

Cold: characterized by open sores, purplish color, wet discharge and slow healing, and usually a chronic condition.

The five elements Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood are a useful tool for helping us understand our body and environment. They are also a great way to make our food choices. The colours associated with the five elements are Fire (red), Earth (yellow), Metal (White), Water (blue) and Wood (green). Eating food in each of the colour groups gives a huge range of nutrients which are helpful in all skin conditions and all health problems in general, so “eat a rainbow”.

Fire Earth Metal Water Wood
Red Yellow White Blue/Purple Green
Apples Banana Banana Blackberries Avocado
Cherries Apricots Pears Blueberries Apples
Cranberries Mango White Peaches Cabbage Grapes
Raspberries Melon Cauliflower Currants Honeydew Melon
Watermelon Peaches Garlic Eggplant Kiwi Fruit
Strawberries Pineapple Ginger Grapes Broccoli
Pomegranate Squash Mushrooms Plums Brussels Sprouts
Peppers Corn Onions Purple Potatoes Peas
Tomatoes Carrots Parsnip Figs Celery
Radish Sweet Potatoes Coconut Beetroot Spinach
Rhubarb Pears Turnips Raisins Zucchini

“Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

World Health Organization, 1948