Treating Skin Conditions with Chinese Medicine

By Davina Mercuri

We all have skin, and it does more than just cover our bodies. It maintains a homeostatic balance of moisture, protection, good and bad bacteria. If there is a disharmony affecting the health of the skin there may be dryness, itching, weeping, pustules, excess oil, etc. Often in Western dermatology problems are treated with topical creams or strong medications that do not treat the root cause. The relief maybe instant and strong, but sometimes these strong medicines are too strong to be able to be sustained over a long period of time.


Chinese medicine dermatology differs from conventional medicine and its treatment on many levels. We see the health of the skin as a reflection of the internal health of the body. Hence in a consultation we will not only look and observe the skin, but we will also ask many questions in regards to your health and functioning of the body. We will also check the tongue and take the pulse to aid our diagnosis. With all this information we gain a complete and thorough understanding of the mechanisms causing the disease, as understood by Chinese medicine. From this we can then choose herbs specifically for each individual and their condition.

Treatment Options

Herbal medicine and acupuncture can both be viable options for treatment depending on the condition. [See our page of research on Chinese Medicine for skin conditions]
However while acupuncture can be effective usually Chinese herbal medicine alone or a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine provides the best results. Herbal medicine can come in various forms. Raw herbal decoctions, made by boiling raw herbs into a tea, are by far the most efficacious form. A decoction may not be very palatable, but most people find the results are worth the few moments of bad taste. If decoctions are not an option, we also have a range of powders, pills, tinctures, herbal creams and washes which can be combined with decoctions or used as standalone treatments. 
Finally, diet and lifestyle are an important discussion to have with your dermatology practitioner, as this can greatly assist in managing symptoms, flare ups and the skin condition in the long term.

Length of Treatment

The length of treatment for skin diseases depends on the condition, how severe it is and how long it has been a problem. Generally changes should be seen within 5 – 7 weeks but treatment may take as long as 3 to 6 months, even up to a year. Chinese medicine is not a quick fix, because the aim is not only to treat the disease but to also restore the ability for the body to maintain healthy skin functioning and thus preclude the need for medical (both herbal and western) intervention.


Chinese dermatology developed by working with people directly, not by microscopic experimentation in labs. It is a dynamic medicine that has evolved over centuries by carefully observing patterns of illnesses and using natural sources of medicine to restore health. The correct use and choice of herbs can help with many various persistent skin diseases. The advantage of Chinese medicine is the subtle use of herbs to achieve results with minimal side effects.

“Healing is not a science, rather it is the intimate art of wooing nature”

W.H. Auden