‘Wind-Heat’ in Skin Disorders

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shutterstock_10192111In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a skin rash that is red and itchy is a manifestation of what is known as ‘wind-heat.’ The wind aspect is the itching part, and the redness and inflammation shows the heat aspect. Wind also manifests if the rash moves from place to place, or if it disappears, only to reappear later, since wind in the natural environment has a tendency to be constantly on the move. Wind-heat can also often be accompanied by dampness, which appears as weeping skin rashes or a raised rash (swelling).

A person can be prone to getting a wind-heat skin rash for many reasons. One reason is too much exposure to wind and heat in the environment, such as overheating of the home in the winter, or windy and hot weather in the summer. Wind-heat skin rashes can also have internal causes, such as a person’s diet, or their inherited constitution. In most cases, it is a combination of several factors.

The importance of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be overstated when it comes to having healthy skin. Drinking plenty of pure water is also important for skin health. Since the skin is the outermost aspect of the person, it can reflect problems that are occurring deep within the body. Many foods can create heat within the body – foods such as spicy food, alcohol, too much sugar, coffee, tropical fruits, and seafood. Emotions can also create heat. Have you ever seen someone with a ‘hot’ temper? Their face is usually red, and they may also have high blood pressure. There is too much heat in their system. In such cases, it is very important to decrease the heat. One way this can be accomplished is to decrease stress.

We all have a certain degree of stress in our lives, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Exercise can be a great way to decrease stress. There are many forms of exercise, so it is best to find what feels best to you, and stay with it. Some people may prefer more active forms of exercise, such as running or sports. Others may prefer exercise that is more calm in nature, such as yoga or tai chi. Either way, the act of exercising can be a sort of safety valve to release stress and tension, and therefore release any accumulated heat within the body that can contribute to a skin condition.

Another great way to relieve stress is by practicing deep, calm breathing. You can do this at any time during the day, and many times each day if you wish (although probably not a good idea to do it while you are driving!). Just sit back and close your eyes for a few moments, and focus on your breath. Many thoughts will come and go, but the key is to notice when your mind wanders and bring your mind back to the breath. Really notice what the breath feels like. Where do you feel it the most? In your nose, your throat, chest, belly? Can you feel it all the way from your head down to your toes? Just the simple act of focusing on the breath can have a tremendous calming effect. Your mind will inevitably wander, sometimes a hundred times in one sitting, and that is OK. Just be gentle with yourself.

Although diet and stress reduction can help tremendously to alleviate a skin rash, we often need outside help. Chinese herbal medicine can be a very powerful ally in relieving an irritating rash. Please see www.merryclinic.com for more information about Dr. Li’s herbal remedies for wind-heat skin rashes, such as eczema and dermatitis.

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Teresa is a California licensed acupuncturist in San Francisco, CA

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