Choosing the appropriate approach to acne formulations involves a process that will be articulated below. We’ll be looking at the relevance of the symptoms of acne relative the diagnostic measures of looking, listening, tongue, pulse, and muscle testing.
Asking and Looking: The Symptomatic Picture
There is no single cause of acne. The acne afflicting women who are over 25 is often hormonal in nature. Even so, not all women over 25 who have acne have the same type of condition. By looking and listening, the objective is to develop a picture of the underlying factors causing acne, as they will determine which herbal candidates are most appropriate for resolving the condition at its root. The amount of gloss, white heads, and redness are important in terms of looking. Asking about sleep patterns, emotions, and digestive function points to imbalances in organ systems that could be contributing to the formation of acne.
Tongue: Fluid Metabolism and Intestinal Integrity
On the tongue, we’re looking for wet/dryness, nature of coat thickness and color, tongue body flabbiness/stiffness and color. These factors tell us about metabolic factors as well as imbalances in intestinal flora. This information provides further clues regarding the direction that the herbal formulation should take in terms of regulating water metabolism, nourishing and cooling, attacking, or treating the blood through the liver.
Pulse: The Revealer
The pulse provides confirmation of signs on the tongue. In the case where medications are being taken, the pulse will reveal the underlying state of the body’s condition better than the tongue. With the pulse we’re looking at the fullness, depth at which it is detected, the rate, and regularity. Ultimately, these variables will help determine how aggressive our approach to acne can be. A weak and thready pulse, commonly seen, will not tolerate an overly aggressive approach.
In acne the customary natural approach is geared toward attacking pathogens (cooties) often at the expense of an already deficient body. This is the case with many Chinese medicine practitioners and naturopaths, with differences only in particular herbs. Women over 25 who are still experiencing acne invariably have deficiencies that must be addressed alongside fighting the symptomatic expression of acne itself. The pulse tells us just how deficient. Naturopaths tend to deficiencies with vitamin isolates, whereas Chinese medicine uses whole herbs.
My approach is focused on finding deficiencies, so that the body can ultimately withstand an attack from aggressive herbs and be strong enough to maintain proper bacterial balance on the skin and in the gut long term. This is a preference that errs on the conservative side, since most approaches tend toward the opposite extreme and have already been implemented by the patient themselves or other practitioners.
Muscle-testing: Confirmation of Findings
Information thus gathered, we will begin by testing stock herbal formulations. From the selection will be preferred formulations, classic formulations, and a few completely counter-intuitive choices. Preferred formulations are those that I like, whereas classic formulations are those that are best known for the given condition. From this process, we will be able to determine whether the principle approach should be boosting, attacking, or some combination of the two.
After a round of testing, we may receive just the response we’re looking for, then again we may not. In either case, we can accept the findings and use the selection as an initial ping to the system. In unexpected results, we will reconsider the findings or ask additional questions of the patient based upon the actions of the formula or particular herbs to which the patient responded strongest.
The body’s processes are not linear. Factors that we might consider entirely unrelated may in fact be the lynchpin toward resolving a number of imbalances, of which acne may be most obvious but possibly not most key. This is what is the distinction between a root or branch treatment. Root treatments may not be concerned at all with symptoms as such, because the underlying problem is deeper and more important, and in addressing the root acne can resolve on its own or with just a few herbs geared toward the symptomatic expression.
If the results of muscle-testing provide vague results with stock formulas, then the process is repeated using individual raw herbs. Generally, results with raw herbs are better for skin conditions, even though they require more work on part of the patient in terms of cooking and what is often considered a challenging taste.
We’ve just gone over the process for choosing an herbal formulation for treating acne. Even though our focus has been on women over the age of 25, this process applies to the Chinese medicine approach for all internal and dermatological conditions. In the case of women over 25 who have acne, a degree of deficiency is present. This awareness informs each aspect of diagnosis: looking, asking, tongue, and pulse. Each stage of diagnosis tells us of how aggressive our approach can be, as well as what the underlying factors that lie at the root of the condition are. Such an approach aims at preventing recurrence of acne once its resolved.