It seems that the older I get, the more concerned I become with skin; not only my own skin, but that of my patients as well. The longer I practice acupuncture, the more apparent it becomes to me that your skin gives off all kinds of clues to the underlying state of your health.
In Chinese medicine, the health and functioning of your skin is governed by your lung organ system. While this seems unlikely at first, your lungs are considered the guardian of your exterior because with every breath, the outside world comes into contact with the inside of your body. Your lung system is in charge of things like how well your pores open and close, the hair on your body, and the health and appearance of your skin. In addition, your immune system comes under the heading of your lungs, because the Chinese consider immunity similar to a protective bubble guarding the exterior of your body.
Not long ago, Brad came to me for acupuncture because he was experiencing some mild seasonal depression. He was fine during the warm months of the year, but struggling during our long and cold Minnesota winter. When Brad spoke, his voice was weak and almost breathless. I also noticed that Brad’s skin was extremely dry and flaky; more so than just run of the mill dry winter skin. Not only did I treat Brad for depression, but his weak voice and dry skin were telling me I also needed to address his lungs. With each treatment, I also added some points to address the weakness of Brad’s lung organ system.
The condition of your skin can offer up all kinds of information about your health. Some examples include:
- Extremely dry and flaky skin is a sign that either Yin or Blood is depleted. Both Yin and Blood are considered nourishing and moistening substances in your body. If your skin looks like a desert, despite gallons of moisturizer, a Yin or Blood deficiency is the likely culprit.
- If you have a number of bruises on your body, but don’t remember how you got them, you’re considered an easy bruiser. This may mean that the holding function of your Qi ( or energy) is weak. One of the jobs of Qi in your body is to hold things in place, and a common sign that things aren’t being contained is frequent and easy bruising.
- Spontaneous sweating is a polite way of saying you sweat a lot, even when you’re not feeling hot or exerting yourself. Generally, sweating like this is a sign that your lung Qi is weak—too weak to operate the opening and closing of your pores efficiently.
- Varicose veins, whether the large, ropey ones or the small spider veins are a sign of blood stagnation. Varicose veins, blood clots, and bruises are all signs of blood not moving as smoothly as it should. While a bruise is considered blood stagnation, the cause of easy bruising is a depletion of Qi.
- Rashes tend to be associated with something the Chinese call wind—they’re on the surface, tend to move around some, and can be itchy. Rashes that are really red are associated with heat. Rashes that are light in color are considered cold. Rashes that are moist and oozy have some dampness to them. Sadly, you can have a combination of these, such as a very red and itchy rash with lots of blisters, which is considered wind, heat, and damp. Bummer!
- Skin conditions that are very red in nature, such as rosacea or acne with very red outbreaks are also considered hot conditions.
The point of this post is simply this: if your skin is not behaving it’s because something’s up. Your body is giving you an outward sign that something is going on at a deeper level. Pay attention. In most cases Chinese medicine in the form of acupuncture, an herbal formula (either oral or topical), and some dietary help may be all you need to put things right.