Introduction 

Acne is a common skin condition with inflamed spots as main symptom. The spots type can be mild and small with a blackhead or whitehead, or more severe and deeper as inflamed papules, nodules and cyst which are frequently painful and filled with pus.

Acne affects most likely the young people. Acne spots are usually developed on the face but sometime they also happen on the back and chest. The severely inflamed acne spots may be long-lasting and lead to scarring.

Acne is caused by blocking the hair follicles due to excessive secretion of the sebaceous glands. Sometime, the plugged hair follicles are infected by bacteria (mainly Propionibacterium acnes) causing inflamed papules, pustules, nodules or cysts. It is known that development of acne is closely related to changes of hormone levels. In women, acne is more likely to develop or become severe around the period time, or in pregnancy or with polycystic ovary syndrome. It is also common that young men are more likely to have acne because the increased levels of testosterone cause excessive secretion of the sebaceous glands leading to blockage in the hair follicles.

Conventional medicine treatments of acne include topical treatment with antibiotics and medicine cleaning or unblocking the skin pores; and internal medications of antibiotics, hormone regulators and Vitamin A derivatives. These medicines also have varied side effects.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) sees human body as a whole and treats diseases with holistic consideration of the whole body conditions. It believes the development of acne is mainly caused by accumulation of heat and dampness in the body.  TCM practitioners use various herbs or acupuncture to treat acnes following a holistic differentiation of the whole body conditions.

Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of acne (Cao et al 2013). There is also clear evidence showing that Chinese herbal medicines are widely used and more effective in the treatment of acne (Yang 2001). The commonly used herbs for treatment of acne include Huangqin, Zhizi, Huangbai, Huanglian, Yinhua, zihuadiding, yejuhua, Lianqiao, baizhi,  Zhimu, Shengdihuang, Gancao,  baihuasheshecao, Pibaye, Sangbaipi, yinchen, yiyiren.

Patients need to take a consultation with a qualified TCM practitioner. Following a careful syndrome differentiation by taking the acne types and all accompanied symptoms into a holistic consideration, the TCM practitioner will be able to prescribe a herbal formula or an acupuncture treatment plan specially tailored to the patients’ need.

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References:

NHS Choice. Acne http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Acne/Pages/Introduction.aspx

Cao HJ, Yang GY, Wang YY, Liu JP. (2013) Acupoint Stimulation for Acne: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Med Acupunct.  25(3):173-194.

Yang JF (2001) Syndrome differentiation and typing of traditional Chinese medicine and the clinical efficacy in 148 cases of acne vulgaris. Hunan Yi Ke Da Xue Xue Bao  26(3):219-20.