We are slowly approaching season winter which corresponds to a different element meaning that our Lung/Large Intestine topics will change soon. Yet we cannot move on to another element before we cover something essential that belongs to element Metal together with season fall – the skin.
The state of the skin points to the internal physiological (as well as psychological) state of a person. Regardless how much you apply skin lotions and go to external skin therapies if the underlying internal condition is not addressed your skin problems will remain latent and sooner or later manifest again.
In Chinese medicine the skin is governed by the Lung. The Lung, together with the Spleen and the Kidney, is in charge of the body's water metabolism. The Lung receives refined fluids from the Spleen (in traditional Chinese medicine the Spleen is referred to as the collective work of some organs and systems participating in the digestion rather than the anatomical organ spleen) and distributes them to the body’s skin and mucus membranes. If the Lung fails to perform this duty thoroughly the skin will manifest as dry, rough or dull. On the other hand people with healthy Lungs have shiny radiant skin. Thus one step closer to a better looking skin is to nourish the Lung.
Foods that nourish the Lung are basically all foods with white color. In the cases of dry and rough skin moistening foods can be added such as pears, bananas, soy milk, tofu, tempeh, and flax seeds. Chinese believe that if one is healthy one’s face should have the color of a peach therefore recommend to eat peaches for a healthy skin and face color. A wonderful herb to nourish and moisten dryness in the Lung manifesting in dry, rough skin is Yao Shu Kui – Marshmallow root. Gan Cao – Licorice root - is a gentle sweet herb that tonifies the Spleen and moistens the Lung. The two roots can be combined in a healthy afternoon herbal tea that can be taken together with the above listed fruits.
The condition of the skin is also determined by the condition of the blood. If one has dry skin for example it is very possible to be blood deficient. To confirm that you are blood deficient you need to look for paleness – pale face, pale lips, pale nails. Even if you your face, lips and nails are not pale, but your tongue is – you are blood deficient.
To nourish your blood and your dry skin you need blood producing foods such as animal liver or hearts, and small amounts of red meat. Eating animal organs may be repulsive to a lot of people but the truth is that this is the most nutritious part of the animal and the most alkaline type of meat (the organs store minerals, which being alkaline make the meat more alkaline as well). Animal organs is not only strong tonifying food and a natural multivitamin but also the least acidic type of meat. Here we will share a very simple recipe how to prepare delicious chicken livers. Maybe you could give it a try!
Simply put the chicken livers on a hot skillet and add some butter. Stir-fry for 3 to 5 minutes. Don’t over-fry as this will make the livers dry and unpleasant to chew. The livers should be soft and moist and when you eat them they should feel as if you are eating liver pate. When done you can add some fresh chopped garlic and lemon juice. The lemon works great to enhance the taste but also provides Vitamin C which is needed for the absorption of iron.
For vegetarians and vegans fruits, herbs and veggies that nourish blood are nettles, spinach, broccoli and dark grapes. Nettle tea and dark grapes (the darker the better) are a great afternoon snack for dry skin due to blood deficiency.
A big skin problem for a lot of people is eczema. Traditional Chinese medicine views the root cause of eczema in three of the “six evils” – heat, dampness, and wind. A heat-type eczema will manifest with heat signs such as redness, swelling and maybe burning sensation. A damp-type eczema will manifest in damp type of skin symptoms such as puffy skin, and vesicles oozing fluid. Wind-type eczema will manifest in symptoms that have the same quality of the wind – sudden onset, moving from one place to another, itching.
To clear heat and benefit heat-type eczema cooling foods should be selected. Apples, persimmon, pears, peaches, strawberries are some fruits with cooling nature. Seaweeds, cucumbers, and all green-leafy vegetables are great cooling veggies. Mint is an herb with cold nature that also vents rashes. Mint also clears wind and is beneficial for wind-type eczema.
Damp-type eczema will benefit from drying, diuretic foods such as rye, amaranth, corn, adzuki beans, white pepper and chamomile.
If you have damp-heat combination skin symptoms you can combine the above foods that clear heat and clear damp in one healing diet, and put the two recommended herbs – mint and chamomile – together in your afternoon pot of tea.
To get a detailed diagnosis for the internal cause of the state of your skin and get great Chinese herbal formulas for it find a TCM practitioner in your area.