Dark Skinaccording to TCM

Symptom family: Skin Pigmentation & Discoloration Issues

Did you mean? Dark Face

What is Dark Skin?

Dark skin refers to an increase in the pigmentation of the skin, a condition medically known as hyperpigmentation. This can result from various factors, including sun exposure, genetic predispositions, hormonal changes, or certain medical conditions. Hyperpigmentation manifests as patches of skin that are darker than the surrounding areas, making it a common cosmetic concern for many. Understanding the underlying cause of dark skin is crucial for effective treatment and management, as it can range from benign conditions like freckles to more persistent forms of discoloration.

How does TCM view Dark Skin?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a "pattern" represents a complex snapshot of disharmony within the body's energetic system, pinpointing the precise nature of an ailment's root cause. Understanding the specific pattern underlying dark skin is crucial because it enables TCM practitioners to tailor treatments that target the internal imbalances—whether Qi stagnation, Blood stasis, or Dampness accumulation—responsible for the symptom. This pattern-focused approach underscores TCM's holistic strategy, aiming not just at symptom relief but at restoring the body's natural equilibrium for lasting health.

Root Causes of Dark Skin in TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the appearance of dark skin is often linked to the presence of Phlegm within the body's channels, joints, and muscles. This condition suggests an accumulation of Phlegm, a pathological substance, which can impede the smooth flow of Qi and Blood. Such blockages not only disrupt the body's vital energies but can also lead to visible manifestations, including darkened areas of the skin.

By identifying Phlegm as the underlying pattern, TCM practitioners can focus on treatments that aim to dissolve Phlegm, ensure the unobstructed movement of Qi and Blood, and thereby address both the symptom and its root cause.

Explore below more details about what might cause Dark skin according to TCM.

  • By Syndrome
  • Phlegm
Detailed description of the cause


In TCM "Phlegm" as a pattern of disharmony is a complex concept that extends beyond the physical manifestation of mucus. It represents a pathological factor that can disrupt the flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, leading to various health issues. Phlegm in TCM is seen as a sticky, turbid substance arising from the body's inability to metabolize fluids properly, often due to a dysfunction of the spleen. It's not only associated with respiratory problems like cough and congestion but also with systemic issues. Symptoms can include a feeling of heaviness, mental cloudiness, dizziness, and in some cases, the formation of lumps or masses. Phlegm can even be "invisible," contributing to emotional disturbances like depression or stress. ... see more

Phlegm Patterns That Can Lead to Dark Skin

Pattern Name Relevant Symptoms Relevant Formulas
Phlegm in the Channels joints and muscles Dark skin, Skin numbness, Skeletal deformities, Joint stiffness, Arthralgia, Muscle pain Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang

TCM Herbal Formulas for Dark Skin

To combat the effects of Phlegm in the channels, joints, and muscles that contribute to dark skin, TCM turns to specific herbs and formulas renowned for their efficacy in invigorating Blood and eliminating Phlegm. Among these, Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang, featuring Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) as a key component, stands out for its ability to break up Blood stasis and clear Phlegm obstructions.

This formula exemplifies the TCM principle of targeting internal imbalances to restore external appearance, offering a pathway to rejuvenate the skin by fostering the body’s internal harmony and ensuring the free flow of its vital energies.

See more details below about Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula used to address dark skin.

  • By Cause
  • By Formula Type
  • Phlegm
  • Formulas that regulate blood

TCM Herbs for Dark Skin

Explore below some TCM herbs used to address dark skin, organized by herb category.

  • By Herb Category
  • Herbs that invigorate the blood

"Herbs that invigorate the Blood" recommended for dark skin

Herb Formulas they belong to (if applicable)
Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang
Safflowers (Hong Hua) Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang
Szechuan Lovage Roots (Chuan Xiong) Shen Tong Zhu Yu Tang