How Ge Gen and Sheng Ma Can Help with Acne
Chinese medicine links acne to excessive heat in the body, which may originate in the exterior (the skin) or in deeper parts of the body. In both cases, a combination of Chinese herbs Ge Gen and Sheng Ma are frequently used to help with acne.
As one of the world’s most common skin conditions, acne affects up to 90 percent of adolescents and is common well into middle age. A lot of research has been dedicated to understanding acne and how to treat it, but for most patients, finding an effective treatment option means months of trial and error.
Many of these patients turn to effective alternatives like Chinese medicinal herbs to improve their results.
Acne Causes and Complications: A Western Medical Perspective
Western medicine has proposed several theories as to what causes acne, including:
- Excess sebum production – Sebum is a fat-based oil substance produced by sebaceous glands located in the skin. These glands are heavily concentrated on the face, back and shoulders, and ensure the skin remains moist. However, excessive sebum production can clog pores and lead to acne.
- Bacteria – Certain types of bacteria are also linked to acne, as they may intrude into pores and also clog them up. Propionibacterium acnes is the bacteria most closely linked to the condition.
- Inflammation – Higher levels of inflammatory compounds in the blood are linked to acne. Inflammatory acne typically presents with papules, pustules, nodules or cysts – the swollen blemishes and whiteheads that most people think of when they think of acne.
- Hormone imbalances – Hormone imbalances, particularly androgen imbalances, can also cause acne to emerge or worsen. This is more common in women, who may notice their acne worsens and fades with their menstrual cycle. Birth control is a common treatment option for these women.
- Dietary factors – It isn’t clear how diet affects acne, and previous theories (eating greasy foods or chocolate, for example) have since been debunked. However, researchers believe that carbohydrate-rich foods may worsen the condition.
- Stress – Stress doesn’t cause acne, but it can worsen it by affecting a person’s hormone levels.
Researchers are still studying the root causes behind acne, as there is still much to learn. However, for the majority of patients there are likely several factors at work. This is one of the reasons why acne is considered an individualized disorder, as there isn’t a single explanation for every case.
Complications of acne include hyperpigmentation and scarring. Hyperpigmentation appears as dark spots on the skin and is typically the result of injury or inflammation – such as the inflammation resulting from acne. It can take months for hyperpigmentation to clear up on its own.
Scarring (which occurs in about 20 percent of people with acne) lasts even longer. Acne scars are classified as atrophic (depression), hypertrophic (raised) or keloid scars. In each case, scarring may fade somewhat over several months, but most scarring is permanent to an extent.
Western Medicine Treatments for Acne
Western treatments for acne may consist of behavioral changes, topical medications, or oral medications. Some examples of behavioral changes include:
- Avoid picking at acne
- Avoid applying irritants to the skin, like sunscreen
- Choose a gentle cleanser when cleaning the skin
- Wash the skin after strenuous activity or heavy sweating
Common topical medications for acne include:
- Salicylic and azelaic acid
Common oral medications for acne include:
- Hormone treatments (anti-androgens and birth control)
- Antibiotics, like tetracycline
There isn’t a single optimal treatment for every patient. It may take several tries and a combination of therapies to achieve results. The condition’s severity will also dictate treatment – for example, severe cases of acne typically require a round of antibiotics before other therapies can be used.
The Link Between Acne and Heat in Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine has a different perspective on acne. In Chinese medicine, there is a strong link between skin disorders and heat. When a practitioner examines a patient for the first time, one of their goals is to determine whether their patient has a hot or cold disposition. In other words, are they predisposed to feeling hot or cold? Practitioners strive for a balance in their patients, as excess (or insufficient) heat can cause health problems, and acne is one example.
In most acne cases, heat is a factor at some level. The question is – what level?
The Four Levels: Chinese Medicine’s Approach to Classifying Disease
In Chinese medicine, disorders may be classified using the concept of the Four Levels. They include the Wei, Qi, Ying and Xue levels. You can think of each as a different layer that may be affected by pathogens or disease – including heat. Depending on which level is affected by disease, the patient’s symptom profile will be different.
In some cases, heat in the Ying and Xue levels may cause acne, but our practice finds that it’s more common for patients to have excess heat in the Wei level. If this is the case, the objective is to clear heat from the Wei level and restore balance.
Treating Acne with Ge Gen and Sheng Ma
Chinese medicine uses a combination of therapies to render results. For acne, specifically, herbal formulations are a frontline option – and the best formulations are those that release heat from the body.
Ge Gen and Sheng Ma is a proven herbal combination for acne, and this formulation has been used by practitioners for more than 1,000 years. It’s effective in an array of medical conditions, as Ge Gen and Sheng Ma work together to release heat that’s “trapped” in the body.
Ge Gen is a cool herb that targets heat trapped in the muscles. In addition to clearing heat, Ge Gen is also used in patients with flu-like or viral illness symptoms – conditions that often present simultaneously with heat in the muscle layer.
Sheng Ma also releases excessive heat, but it targets the superficial (or exterior) layers of the body, which is the skin.
Together, these herbs can fight pathogens and redirect heat that may be affecting the skin. This can relieve acne and other conditions that affect the body’s exterior.
In fact, Ge Gen and Sheng Ma were used for centuries to treat measles, though practitioners have since turned to other more effective methods. However, Ge Gen and Sheng Ma are still relied on to restore balance in the body’s superficial layers, helping with acne.
Chinese Medicine Can Provide Individualized Acne Treatment
Acne can be caused by a variety of factors, each unique to the patient. As such, most patients need a unique blend of treatments to address their acne.
A combination of western and Chinese therapies can provide optimal results for many, so it’s recommended that patients work with a practitioner who is also board certified in western medicine. These physicians can provide the most effective therapies from both a western and Chinese medicine perspective, including herbal therapies like Ge Gen and Sheng Ma.