Oily skin according to Chinese Medicine

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Oily skin can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like oily skin here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here oily skin is often associated with fatigue, nausea and sticky taste in the mouth in the pattern “Damp-Phlegm”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause oily skin.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of oily skin we’ve identified three herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat oily skin.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause oily skin

In Chinese Medicine oily skin is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes (Ban Xia) is the king ingredient for Er Chen Tang, a formula used for Damp-Phlegm

Damp-Phlegm

Pulse type(s): Slippery (Hua)

In addition to oily skin, other symptoms associated with Damp-Phlegm include fatigue, nausea and sticky taste in the mouth.

Damp-Phlegm is often treated with Er Chen Tang, a herbal formula made of 5 herbs (including Crow-Dipper Rhizomes - Ban Xia - as a key herb). Er Chen Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that dry dampness and transform phlegm", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm".

Read more about Damp-Phlegm here

The Spleen is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Spleen in Chinese Medicine

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Slippery (Hua)

In addition to oily skin, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat invading the Spleen include poor appetite, feeling of heaviness and burning sensation in the anus.

Damp-Heat invading the Spleen is often treated with Lian Po Yin, a herbal formula made of 7 herbs (including Goldthread Rhizomes - Huang Lian - as a key herb). Lian Po Yin belongs to the category of "formulas that clear heat and expel dampness", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Clears Heat".

Read more about Damp-Heat invading the Spleen here

Three herbal formulas that might help with oily skin

Er Chen Tang

Source date: 1148 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Key actions: Dries Damp and dispels Phlegm. Regulates Qi and harmonizes the Middle Burner (Stomach and Spleen).

Why might Er Chen Tang help with oily skin?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm' of which oily skin is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Phlegm include fatigue, nausea and sticky taste in the mouth.

Read more about Er Chen Tang here

Lian Po Yin

Source date: 1862 AD

Number of ingredients: 7 herbs

Key actions: Clears Heat. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Why might Lian Po Yin help with oily skin?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat invading the Spleen' of which oily skin is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Heat Invading The Spleen include poor appetite, feeling of heaviness and burning sensation in the anus.

Read more about Lian Po Yin here

Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang

Source date: 1675 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Spleen and Stomach Qi. Removes Dampness. Moves Qi. Alleviates pain.

Why might Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang help with oily skin?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Phlegm' of which oily skin is a symptom.

Other symptoms characteristic of Damp-Phlegm include fatigue, nausea and sticky taste in the mouth.

Read more about Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat oily skin

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with oily skin?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat oily skin as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Why might Crow-Dipper Rhizome (Ban Xia) help with oily skin?

Because Crow-Dipper Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat oily skin as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Crow-Dipper Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Drains Dampness and reduces Phlegm. Reverses the flow of Rebellious Qi. Reduces hardenings and relieves distention.

Read more about Crow-Dipper Rhizomes here

Why might Fresh Ginger (Sheng Jiang) help with oily skin?

Because Fresh Ginger is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat oily skin as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Fresh Ginger is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Warms and circulates Qi in the Middle Burner. Calms a restless fetus and treats morning sickness. Treats seafood poisoning.

Read more about Fresh Ginger here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with oily skin?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat oily skin as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Tangerine Peel (Chen Pi) help with oily skin?

Because Tangerine Peel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat oily skin as a symptom, like Er Chen Tang or Xiang Sha Liu Jun Zi Tang for instance.

Tangerine Peel is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Pungent. It targets the Spleen and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Warms the Spleen and regulates the Middle Burner Qi. Dries Dampness and disperses Phlegm from the Lungs and Middle Burner. Reduces the potential for Stagnation caused by tonifying herbs.

Read more about Tangerine Peel here