One of the first questions a new patient will ask is “How long will herbal medicine take to heal my Acne?”
This is a very hard question to answer with absolutes because it really depends on you. Here are the main factors that will come into play to answer this question for you.
What’s Contributing To Your Acne?
Chinese medicine practitioners look at skin conditions differently than allopathic physicians. While we might agree on the name of the diagnosis, Chinese medicine practitioners base their treatments on the contributing sources of your acne.
For example, when acne appears primarily on the upper body with sleeves of redness, we attribute the source to something different than when we see a lot of brown/yellow oozing. This is considered an even different source when there are purple, hard lesions or very difficult/stubborn persistent lesions.
In Chinese medicine, these different source subtypes are called patterns and each pattern requires a different set of herbs. There are many different patterns of acne, most people fall somewhere between a few patterns. Therefore, the more contributing factors, the more complicated your unique pattern becomes which then typically dictates how long it’ll take to resolve your acne.
How Has Your Acne Affected You Internally?
The Chinese see skin as a mirror of what is going on (or not going on!) inside your body. This does not mean your organs are broken and not performing, but rather that there are obstacles that don’t allow the smooth and orderly flow of circulation, hydration, nutrition, etc. This is one of the reasons why an herbalist may ask many questions about your sleep, digestion, thirst, bowel movements, emotions or stress levels. The answer to these questions typically helps to better gauge how your whole system is operating. A safe rule of thumb is: the more systems affected, the longer it may take to heal.
Can Your Body Handle Herbal Ingredients?
Some patients cannot handle the common herbs that are typically used to address a particular pattern. This can occur when one’s overall constitution is fragile, or one’s overall sensitivities have increased as the skin condition has deteriorated. Also, some patients are just outright allergic to some ingredients.
During the initial intake, we identify all possible allergens. But even after eliminating those ingredients, there can be a bit of trial and error to see what ingredients (and doses of that ingredient) your body can handle. The good news is that herbal medicine offers many herb choices for any specific condition, so substitutes can be made in internal formulas. Also, we have the flexibility to adjust the amount of every ingredient in your formula to match your individual needs.
In Chinese medicine, we often treat both externally with an herbal topical and internally with a herbal liquid formula. This 1-2 punch usually speeds up the healing process. However, topical formulas are premade with set ingredients. So, if a patient has an issue with an ingredient in a topical, we may not have options for topical treatment. This can make the healing process take longer depending upon the situation.
Consistency of Herbal Medicine
Some patients don’t bring their herbal formulas with them when they travel or skip doses when they get the flu. Some patients just forget to take doses. Understandably, life happens. However, it goes without saying that healing just can’t progress as well without consistent treatment.
How complex your condition is, how your body responds to the herbs and how consistent you are in taking the herbs will all factor into how long it takes your acne and body to heal. But the good news is, if you’re diligently taking the right formula, you should see changes all along the way. It’s these milestones that keep patients motivated to continue with treatment.
Amethyst treats people from all over via video conferencing. To learn more about herbal medicine and dermatology, and what a first consultation is like, watch this video.
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About the Author
Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, DACM, Cert. TCM Dermatology is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats acne patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, is the Chair of the American Society of Acupuncturists Board of Directors, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Support Group sponsored by The National Eczema Association.