In Chinese Medicine the Dermatology Speciality has traditionally included not only skin conditions but also sores, gouts, many cancers and sexually transmitted diseases and sexual dysfunctions. Skin conditions can certainly be helped with acupuncture, dermatology  tends to be more an herbal thing.

In Chinese Medicine, the categories of the diseases may follow in different places than Western textbooks. Modern textbooks obviously  tend to follow more the western categories while older books follow categories that seem more generalized. Or at least it appears that way to me.

The other thing to remember is that as in all Chinese medicine treatment follows the underlying patterns or heat and cold, damp and dryness. This means that two cases of eczema and psoriasis which both look and feel inflamed and itch will be treated more the same than two cases of psoriasis in which one is pale and the other is red and inflamed.

HERBAL-MASK-NEGsmallIn 2002, I spent a month in the Dermatology Department at the Beijing First TCM Hospital . Then a few years later in 2004,  I was there another 2 weeks. Since then I have been learning and perfecting herbs for dermatology. For the most part in Beijing I saw few of the more serious, esoteric or complicated cases but concentrated on the more common skin problems such as those listed below:.

Psoriasis – 白疕 báibǐ & Eczema –  湿瘡 shī chuāng

RIngworm – tinea – 癣 xuǎn

Acne – 粉刺 fěncì

Rosacea – 酒渣鼻 jiǔzhābí





Treating Diabetes

countryside waterbucket China Eisenstark
China countryside 1995
  • Chinese Medicine can help treat symptoms of type 2 diabetes with acupuncture and herbal formulas. Acupuncture treatments can improve circulatory problems and slow down the process of inflammation, pain, and swelling associated with diabetes and neuropathy.


  • I’ve found that acupuncture is very effective in reversing neuropathy commonly found in long-term diabetics. Once a person has started a series of treatments with acupuncture and herbs patients we hope to see that fluctuations in the blood sugar levels tend to stabilize.
  • Herbs are a vital part of treating diabetes in Chinese medicine. It is important to say that there is no single “diabetes herb” or one “diabetes pill”. One should really consult with an experienced herbalist to get the best group of herbs for you. What is good for your friend or relative might not be best for you.  and a quote from it: It is evident that many TCM/TIM herbs possess anti-DM activities by interacting with various proven drug targets where Western drugs interact. Because of their empirically known oral efficacy and safety profiles, nutritional supplement status, multiple components for multiple drug targets, low cost, and easy access, TCM/TIM herbs such as ginseng, mulberry, and Radix coptidis are excellent candidates for long-term use for the prevention and treatment of T2DM. During the development stage, product standardization, quality control and assurance, placebo-controlled and randomized clinical trials are essential components that need to be perfected in order to translate their potential into a reality that millions of people could benefit upon.

Chronic Hepatitis

Hepatitis C

bambooburningmanFor over 15 years I have been treating people with Chronic Hepatitis C (HCV). Fortunately, there is now a real cure (we all hope) that seems to work (if very expensive). Many patients came to me with this problem and then ended up being treated for all the other complaints they had.

Below is somewhat of a historical document from over 10 years ago-

You, one of your friends or family may have gotten a diagnosis of Hepatitis (B or C). This may or may not have been a surprise but now you have some challenges and decisions ahead of you.Treating Chronic Hepatitis with Chinese Medicine has 3 objectives:

Treat symptoms such as itching, stomach upset etc…

Prevent long-term damage to the liver

If possible, try to kill the virus

Traditional Chinese Medicine has been considering the effects of liver damage for many years. In the 1980s China developed its own hepatitis B epidemic. The doctors there have for the last 20 years been refining Chinese herbal medicine to lessen the damage of both hepatitis B and C. They have found that Chinese herb formulas can help to protect the liver against long-term damage of the hepatitis virus. Chinese formulas can be modified to work with patients with or without interferon.

With C, the patient may have been infected for decades before having complaints that may be brought to the Chinese medical practitioner.

 At this time I can not guarantee that I can reverse a person’s HCV status, that is to kill the virus. I am confident in the other aspects of the herbal treatment.
The strength of the Chinese Medicine is that we can often find a treatable diagnosis in symptoms that Western medicine may disregard. It is also a challenge for the patient who must have faith in a treatment (usually with herbs) that may take months or years that may or may not affect the Western tests.

With Chinese Medicine, it is fairly easy to determine the diagnosis if not the treatment for the beginning and ending stages of hepatitis. That is to say: in the stages where there are multiple complaints: in the beginning, jaundice and flu like symptoms and in the end stages (if and when it comes to that) where in B and C there is significant liver damage causing cirrhosis, skin affectations and bleeding disorders. It is the middle chronic stage that is a challeng and that was the focus of my study in China.

In the Spring of 2002, I traveled to the Beijing City Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine where I studied with some of the doctors on the cutting edge of TCM treatment.

Acupuncture and Migraines


Acupuncture: Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines from all accounts can be a real, real drag. Devastating for those in the middle of one. Acupuncture does pretty well with them. Not everyone with severe headaches technically has a migraine but we treat them pretty much the same in Chinese Medicine. Often (but not always) we can cut down the number of headaches within half a dozen sessions. Continued treatments may virtually eliminate them. If you still don’t get relief then we can re-assess your situation and talk about taking herbs or I can refer you to another modality.


A nice little article about one women’s history with migraines.


noodle guy comp
My friend, the noodle maker (by hand!) in Beijing, 2002.

Gastro-intestinal issues play a “central” role in Chinese Medicine. That’s a pun, actually, as the stomach and spleen are considered the center of body processes and which all revolves. That’s why if a patient comes in for stomach problems I would ask them about their moods and if they come in for anxiety I would ask them about their stomach. We know that much of the endorphins that makes us feel good come from the stomach and helps explain why we feel so awful when our stomachs are off.

We, in Chinese Medicine, do pretty well with stomach disorders (gastrointestinal ) using both acupuncture and herbs.


I find great satisfaction in treating patients with IBS and other issues of the stomach and digestive tract. Chinese Medicine seems particularily suited to treat these disorders where no other therapies seemed to have helped the patient. 


Chinese Medicine Promising for Irritable Bowel Syndrome [CFS & FM News]
CHICAGO–Chinese medicine may be effective for relieving irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), although support for probiotics is lacking, according to researchers from Northwestern University Medical School. The researchers published a research review in the Feb. 10 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine (163, 3:265-74, 2003) (
According to the researchers, IBS is a common disorder that brings with it a significant burden of illness, poor quality of life, high rate of absenteeism and high health care utilization. Because management options are difficult and many times ineffective, researchers noted many physicians and patients lean toward alternative therapies to alleviate symptoms such as flatulence, abdominal pain and irregular bowel habits.
Of these therapies, the researchers cited “guarded optimism” for traditional Chinese medicine, as well as psychological therapies although they noted further trials are needed to definitively prov the benefits of either regimen. The researchers also stated oral cromolyn sodium may be useful for treating chronic unexplained diarrhea, and appears as effective as and safer than elimination diets, which are commonly used to treat symptoms of IBS, although there is no evidence of food intolerance in IBS.
In reviewing the literature on probiotic use in IBS, the researcher stated a lack of supporting evidence for a benefit of this treatment which is believed to improve the levels of beneficial bacteria in th gut.
Contrarily, investigators from United Kingdom reviewed IBS research and noted there are some studies showing improvement in IBS symptoms with probiotic administration (Br J Nutr, 88 Suppl 1:S67-S72, 2002) The researchers also noted IBS patients tend to have low numbers of the beneficial bacteria classes Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria. And, a team from the University of California, Los Angeles, found the probiotic Lactobacillus plantarum to be superior to placebo for improving IBS symptoms such as pain, bowel habit regularity and flatulence (Curr Treat Options Gastroenterol, 5, 4:267-78, 2002). Similar to the team from Chicago, the Los Angeles researchers also cited Chinese medicine as being effective for improving bowel symptoms and quality of life in IBS patients

From Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine:
The stomach governs the reception and decomposition of water and grain.
The stomach receives and grinds to create the initial digestion of food and drink. Although the decomposition of food and drink into chyme is primarily associated with stomach qi, both reception and digestion are also closely related with the spleen. Because essence, qi, blood and fluids are produced from food and drink, the stomach is called “the sea of water and grain”.

The stomach qi governs free flow and descent.
The stomach and spleen are both located in the middle jiao and are the hub of the ascent and descent of qi movement (qì jī, 气机). The descent of stomach qi and the ascent of spleen qi depend on each other. Stomach qi failure to descend not only affects the descending of qi of the six fu-organs, but also that of the whole body.
After food is received by the stomach it is “ground up”, digested, and then transmitted to the small intestine. It is important that this process has “free flow” and that food is not retained for too long a time. “Descent” refers to free and downward movement of the stomach qi associated with the process of digestion from the beginning of the process through to the elimination and excretion of the waste products.

The stomach is a “yang-earth” organ that is said to dislike dryness and prefer moisture. Diseases easily consume fluids in the stomach, and the stomach requires sufficient fluids to receive and process foods and drinks. Reception and decomposition in the stomach relies both on stomach qi and the moistening fluids present in the stomach. For stomach qi to descend normally, stomach fluids must be available in sufficient amounts.
The severity of a disease and its prognosis can be determined according to the strength of the stomach qi. The patient may be strong or weak, but if the stomach qi is good, the condition of the illness is relatively mild and the prognosis is good. When there is a severe lack of stomach qi, the prognosis is poor as the condition may be chronic or even fatal. Therefore, when talking with a patient with a chronic disease, questions regarding diet, taste, appetite and elimination are all very important.

The state of the stomach and spleen is easily seen on the tongue. A dry or “peeled” coating at the very middle of the tongue indicates stomach yin deficiency. In a serious disease, the appearance of a moist coating on a tongue that had been previously dry is a sign of recovery.

Psychology and Chinese Medicine

HERBAL MASK luluAcupuncture and the Emotions

Chinese Medicine has long considered the psychology of patients. However, the cause of problems of anxiety and depression (as examples) are not simple “bad thinking” or chemical imbalances but the imbalances of the five elements and the interactions with their related organ systems.

I have had very good success using acupuncture and Chinese herbs for calming my patients and preventing anxiety attacks. It is useful to find the focus of the attack in the body. Many times panic attacks originate in the stomach, people often feel slightly nauseous before an attack starts. For others, there is a generalized anxious feeling that sometimes takes control of the person’s emotional well-being.

Often times stress is felt through an unconsious teeth grinding at night which leads to other symptoms like insomnia, sore neck or shoulders upon waking. or digestive upset. Treating stress at the root involves subtle attitude shifts with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.

When my patients say they are depressed I often see someone who is unhappy. This culture puts an inordinate number of pressures on us that heightens our sadness, anger or disappointment. I look for root causes of “depression,” and attempt change at that level, often successfully.

Nearly all of my most stressed patients fall asleep or “drift away” while on the treatment table.

In Chinese Medicine, the emotions affect the body as well as the body affecting the mind. In questioning, our patients we ask about the state of the emotions no matter what the primary complaint may be.

Depression may come from several factors. In general, the organ systems affected in Chinese Medicine are the Kidney, Liver and Heart. There might be a lack of “Qi” or energy which means that the heart and brain are not being nourished. For example , Chronic Fatigue patients (EBV) are often depressed because of this.

More commonly in the West is the “stagnation” of Stomach/Spleen Qi energy – meaning there is enough energy but it is not circulating throughout the body. Many times this patient is in Chinese Medicine is called “Damp” as evidenced by a thick coat on the tongue or a body that feels overweight.

The Liver energy can have particular influences on the emotions. “Liver Qi Stagnation” makes a normally calm person angry at little things. “Liver Rising” is a constant state of anger(think Road Rage). “Liver overacting on Stomach” happens when emotional upsets brings about nausea or an upset stomach.

If the heart is not nourished there can be depression and insomnia. The heart system is connected with the state of the blood (Xue) and may be seen in women after their period. Overthinking, worry and blood loss itself can lead to a depletion of heart energy. Often this leads to “free-floating” anxiety and the person not feeling grounded.

Finally the lung system is linked with sadness. The first thing one should do when depressed is try to get some oxygen in the lungs through gentle exercise such as walking.

The emotions and Chinese Medicine are quickly being developed into an exciting field in the West where patients often talk about their feelings and internal life. Chinese Medicine balances the energies of the body and when the body is balanced the mind can also relax. This relaxation is inherently calming to the mind/body.

This is from the book I wrote, Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine, for PMPH press. This is written for beginning acupuncture students.

The seven emotions are joy, anger, grief, thinking, sorrow, fear, and fright. The “seven emotional injuries” involve excesses or changes of emotion that cause disease. Historically, emotions have been considered as main factors in the cause of internal damage. They are said to often attack the internal organs directly where existing diseases are exacerbated or caused to deteriorate more rapidly. Chinese writings tend to stress the detrimental effects of excess emotion and over-stimulation of the spirit.

In most cases, emotions are normal reactions to various objects and phenomena outside of the body, and therefore do not cause problems. However, when emotional stimulation is sudden or intense or prolonged, normal physiological or psychological adaptation can be exceeded. At this time, any one of the seven emotions can result in damage to the essence and qi of the organs.

The seven emotions involve complex reactions in the body to the changes of internal and external environments based on the organs’ essence-qi. Therefore, the essence-qi of the organs is also the physiological basis for emotional activity. The five organs store essence, which can transform into qi, and the reactions of qi to environmental factors cause emotional activities. In this way, the essence-qi of the five organs will produce corresponding emotional activities. As is stated in the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, the liver governs anger, the heart governs joy, the spleen governs thinking, the lung governs grief, and the kidney governs fear. Emotions are rooted in the strength of essence-qi of the five organs, as well as the smooth flow of qi and blood. If there is an excess or deficiency of essence-qi, the yin and yang of the five organs, or when the flow of qi and blood is disturbed, abnormalities of the emotions can also result.

The heart and liver play an especially important role in emotional activity. The heart stores the spirit and is the emperor of the five zang and six fu, governing and controlling both physical and the emotional activities. All emotion can be seen as a product of the harmony of essence-qi or the yin and yang of all the organs as dominated by the heart-spirit. Because the heart governs the spirit, any attack by any of the seven emotions will inevitably disturb the heart-spirit. An injury to the heart-spirit may then also affect the other organs and impair the free flow of qi flow, thus giving rise to disease.


Here is a review of a book concerning Chinese Medicine and psychology from The American Psychological Association website.