About Lynn

lynn jaffeeLynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of the book, Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health, a clear and concise explanation of Chinese medicine for the lay person. She is co-author of the book, The BodyWise Woman, a personal health manual for physically active women and girls. Read more about Lynn...

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Help for Dark Under Eye Circles

Not long ago I saw one of the Twilight movies with my kid, and since then, I’ve been thinking about dark under eye circles.  You don’t have to be a vampire to have those dark blotchy patches under your eyes; lots of people have them and most would like to get rid of them.

There are lots of theories as to why you get those dark circles; and some are obvious.  I can always tell when a patient is not getting enough sleep by the shadows under their eyes.  Also, for some people, dark eye circles run in their family, and for others, they appear with aging.

Chinese medicine weighs in on the dark circle issue, in a couple of ways.  An acupuncturist might first think of the Chinese Kidney when treating someone with shadows under their eyes.  And they might just be right—the color associated with the Kidney is black, so those black smudges may be directing your practitioner to take a look at the health of your Kidney system.

Your Chinese kidney is the home to your body’s Yin, Yang, and Essence.  This means that the health of your body’s internal warming pilot light (Yang), nourishing coolant (Yin), or genetics and overall health (Essence) needs a little help.  Your Kidney is the organ system that takes a hit if you’re working too hard, partying a little too hearty, or not getting enough sleep.  If your Kidney is under the weather, it could show up as dark circles under your eyes.

Another cause of dark circles in Chinese medicine is a stagnation of blood.  Like a bruise or a varicose vein, blood stagnation simply means that the blood in a particular area is not moving smoothly and is pooling or backing up.  The thin skin under your eyes is fairly transparent, so when the blood stagnates around your eyes, it’s more easily seen.

If you suffer from allergies, you may also be plagued by under eye circles.  From a purely Western point of view, nasal congestion can dilate (widen) the blood vessels that drain from your eyes to your nose, causing the appearance of dark purple circles.

Is there anything you can do about those smudges under your eyes?  In some cases there is, depending on the cause.  Your first line of defense should be to get some help from your local acupuncturist.  Depending on what’s needed, he or she can help you build up your Kidney system, move blood stagnation, resolve your allergies, or resolve your insomnia.  Some practitioners are even able to perform cosmetic acupuncture.  Beyond Chinese medicine, some other steps to try include:

  • Put some green tea bags on the area.  Brew the tea, put the tea bags in the refrigerator, and when they’re cold, put them under your eyes for ten or fifteen minutes.  The cold and the caffeine help to shrink the vessels under your eyes, and the tannins in the tea reduce the fluid build up and discoloration.
  • Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.  A lack of sleep is the quickest way to get dark circles, or if you already have them, to make them worse.
  • While you’re sleeping, elevate your head a couple of inches, so the blood in your face doesn’t pool under your eyes.
  • According to fellow acupuncturist and author Aimee Raupp, you can mix up a tablespoon of turmeric powder with a tablespoon of honey.  Turmeric is a great herb to get your blood circulating, and it will stimulate the area under your eyes.  Try this mixture first on a patch of skin on your neck or scalp to make sure you’re not allergic to the turmeric.  If you have no reaction, then apply this mixture to the area under your eyes and leave it on for about ten minutes.

If you’re prone to dark circles, it doesn’t mean you have to walk around looking like the Cullen family from Twilight.  Get plenty of sleep and get some help for those smudges under your eyes.

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