Holistic Acupuncture Approach to Skin Problems and Abdominal Pain

Often when patients report some ailment (acid reflux, sinus congestion) to their acupuncture practitioner, they will be informed that their problem may have less to do with their diet and more to do with recent weather/barometric pressure changes. People’s bodies are sensitive instruments that respond to swings in temperature and humidity levels. Big changes in weather somehow block people’s flow of energy around their bodies, which leads to all kinds of health problems.

Human beings are particularly sensitive to changes in seasons. As Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM) explains, cold nights and warm days between winter and spring result in fluctuation barometric pressures. These changes in pressure squeezes the human body in a sense similar to that of the way it squeezes the sugar maple trees, causing the sap to run during those times of the year.

Seasons come with specific rhythms. In Oriental medicine, each season will represent parts of the body, tied to the cycle and corresponding to one of the Five Elements (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water). Spring corresponds to the wood element, which governs the liver. The climate for the spring and wood element is characterised by wind. The earth governs the Spleen. Liver balances and controls the Spleen in normal situations. The blowing of wind in the spring can over-strengthen the liver. Any imbalance of deficiency of the Spleen (earth) could be attacked by the Liver (wood) in the spring season. A TCM pattern for this case is called Disharmony of Liver and Spleen. Symptoms can include stomach pains, acid regurgitation, stomach distention, or diarrhea.

As the body’s largest organ, skin is vulnerable to many diseases. Skin problems arise from a number of causes; the most common of which are infections, overexposure to sunlight, parasites, toxic substances, hormonal imbalance, cell dysfunction, and stress. In addition, because skin is so visible, skin disorders can lead to psychological stress.

Dermatology is a recognized specialty in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Treatments for skin disorders have been described as early as 1100-221 BC in China. The most common skin conditions treated are acne, rosacea, dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, and dry or itchy skin. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a natural solution to improving skin conditions.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the body is a whole system of interconnected parts. Although skin problems manifest externally, their root causes are often complex, and involve internal imbalances between Qi, blood, yin, yang, and different energetic systems of the body. Usually the pathology involves a combination of internal imbalances and external pathological environmental factors. Internal imbalances include: weak immune system, digestive disorders, poor dietary habits, unbalanced lifestyle habits, stress, genetic constitution, and unbalanced emotions. Pathological external environmental factors are often weather related, and invade the body causing symptoms to appear on the skin.

Examples of recognized environmental factors involved in skin conditions are as follows (these aspects of diagnosis are often seen in combination with each other):

-Heat, characterised by appearance of redness, bearing or heat sensation, and symptoms worsens with alcohol consumption, anger/stress, hot/spicy food, and hot weather;
-Wind, characterised by quick onset and movement of symptoms to weeping conditions, feelings of body heaviness. Dampness can also be an internally generated factor worsened by eating rich, oily or dairy foods;
-Dry, characterised by scaly itchy skin which is worse under dry winter or autumn weather;
-Cold, characterised by open sores, purplish color, wet discharge and slow healing, and usually a chronic condition (Silver, 2010).

In Chinese medicine, external pathological factors such as Wind, Dampness, Dryness, or Heat can invade the body and cause skin disorders. Internal imbalances are differentiated into patterns such as: blood stasis, Disharmony of Liver and Kidney, or blood deficiency. These are often reflected on the skin. When Skin problems are generated by internal imbalance, the underlying problem must be addressed, in order to clear up the surface manifestation.

Pain is becoming a way of life. One of the most interesting statistics to come from the Merck (2000) survey is that 7% of American adults suffer from abdominal pain on a daily or near-daily basis, especially during spring season. Patients’ abdominal pain can be caused by many conditions.

In Chinese Medicine, eating or drinking too much disturbs the function of the digestive system, causing such symptoms as abdominal pain and dissension, belching and acid reflux. The herbal formula Preserve Harmony Pill (Bao He Wan) often helps relieve these symptoms. Preserve Harmony Pill is a gentle formula that helps resolve the stagnation caused by overindulgence (Scott, Monda & Heuertz, 2009).

Hawthorne and Fennel (Shan Za Xie Hui Xiang Fang) is a formula that might help abdominal pain due to constipation. If people’s constipation is associated with bloating, weak digestion or obesity, this formula is also recommended. It reduces food accumulation and purges the intestines.

Acupuncture is effective because it affects the nervous system and the immune response. Chinese herbal formulae are particularly important in treating the underlying problems. Both topical an internal herbal treatments may be recommended to pro most a lasting, successful, resolution of many conditions.


Silver, Jessica, Chinese Medicine for Skin Conditions, New York, 2010.

Whitehouse Station, Pain in America, NJ: Merck Corporation, April 2000.

Scott, John, Monda, Lorena & Heuertz, “Clinical Guide to Commonly Used Chinese Herbal Formulas”, Fifth Edition, 2009.