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The Chinse Medicine Approach

By Dr. Hong Chen (over 20 yrs experienced)

Psoriasis is a chronic and fairly common skin disease characterized by thick, silvery white scales surrounded by a red, inflamed border. while it can appear anywhere on the body, psoriasis emerges primarily on elbows, knees, and lower back, although the head can also be affected, as well as the genital-anal areas.

In the West, there is a lack of effective medical treatment for this painful and unsightly skin disease. Fortunately, psoriasis does respond to Chinese medicine.

In terms of Chinese medical theory, psoriasis is not just caused by the skin itself, although it manifests on the skin. Its occurrence and development are intimately connected to the function of the body's organs as well as the toxin levels carried by the blood (known as toxic "heat"). Psoriasis can be caused by internal pathogenics such as heat, dampness, wind or a mixture of them. The kifferentiation of these causes can be distinguished by both observation and assessment of symptoms of the affected area - redness, itching, scaling, etc. The pulse is also affected, while the color, shape and coating of the tongue form part of the assessment.

Based on which specific causes of psoriasis are identified for each individual, different remedies are then employed specifically to clear way heat, or to cool blood, to remove dampness, to expel wind, or to moisten dryness, This tradetional Chenese medicine approach has been tested and improved over thousands of years, and enhanced by today's technology. For normal cases, psoriasis can be treated successfully and rapidly by dosing with several sets of Chinese herbal medicines. However, chronic cases may need a longer course of treatment.


Although psoriasis can have different pathogenic factors, noted above, emotional stress also plays a crucial role in the development of this condition. with Canadian patients, we usually see more wind, heat, dryness, or dampness types of psoriasis because of the body systems' reaction to the external environment. Each person responds differently to these environmental conditions. In the same way, people respond differently to stress caused by lifestyle, working conditions, even family problems. This is why there are so many different pathogenic factors and combinations, hence the need to use different remedies and medicines to treat different types of psoriasis. Space precludes an in-depth look at all of them, but we can  offer some ideas of diagnosis and treatment - i.e. heat type psoriases, which is generally caused by heat of blood (or excess "toxic heat" in blood).

Heat of blood can be caused by factors such as:

Over-heated blood finds release through the skin and accumulate in channels and collateral of skin, so that the affected skin appears erythemic, which means showing an abnormal redness of the skin resulting from congestion of small capillaries. The heat and dryness of wind invade the body, leading to blood dryness so that it is unable to provide nourishment to the skin. This lack of nourishment leads to dry and itching skin, along with white scaly lesions. The tongue becomes extremely red and coated with yellow fur, or has no fur at all.

Treatment for this type of psoriasis involves cleansing blood heat, moistening blood dryness, enhancing spleen function, eliminating emotional stress, and building up the immune system. Some natural Chinese herbs, with specialized combinations, are used internally and externally to provide relief, while other herbs are used to adjust and improve the body's internal functions. The body accepts these herbs in the same way as it does food, and there are no side-effects if prescribed by a knowledgeable practitioner.

As well, traditional Chinses medicine pratitioners will often use acupuncture to clear the energy meridians of congested "Chi", which in turn helps organs to return to normal functioning.


Karen, a nurse suffering from psoriasis on both arms and legs for 20 years: The itching disrupted her sleep, and the lesions on both knees were hard and scaly. She was unable to enjoy swimming, or wear short skirts or T-shirts, due to the severity of her psoriasis. She had been treated with different types of creams and medicines in different hospitols and private clinics, but noted no improvement. Finally, she decided to try Chinese herbs. Following an assessment, I determined that she had extreme blood heat and dryness with wind caused by internal problems; this blood heat sought release through the skin, accumulated there, leading to blood stagnation.

For Karen's psoriasis I employed three types of herbs:

  1. A few herbs to take away blood heat - Bai Hua Cao and Ban Zi Lian, etc.
  2. Some herbs to build circulation - Hong Hua, Dan Sen, etc.- those herbs also enhance the immune system.
  3. Some herbs to moisten skin - Ma Ren, for example.

The Chinese herbs, with cream helped to alleviate he suffering and cured her completely after fifteen treatment sessions. Her skin softened. She continued to take the herbs for another eight weeks for their enhancing effects, then stopped treatment. In the last three years she has not had a recurrence of psoriasis.

Ken works for a Canadian band and had been plagued with psoriasis on his head, body and hands for over fifteen years. The itching disrupted his work and lifestyle, and he felt a lot of stress. Due to the itching he frequently scratched the white scaly lesions on his skin, causing him additional stress. He had received various western medicines (including the commonly prescribed cortisone), but experienced no improvement.

Following my assessment I found his vital Chi (energy) to be insufficient, while his spleen and kidneys were weak. This indicated a mixture of pathogenic heat of wind, dryness of wind and dampness, damaged vital Chi and blood. I concluded that his vital Chi  and immunity needed to be restored. Through the use of the herbs Bai Su, Bu Gu Zi, etc., the function of his spleen and kidneys became stronger. To clean away heat, remove dampness, to expel wind, to moisten dryness and to cool the blood, Ken took Sen Di, Tu Fu Lin, Fan Feng, etc. herbs. He Huan Hua was used to combat stress. Following his first session, he slept well, the itching and scaling lessened, and his stress levels improved, His psoriasis disappeared after twelve weeks of treatment, but I recommend he continue to take another eight weeks of the herbal tea to enhance his well-being. Now, a few years later, his skin is fine.

It is important to know that in Chinese medicine, the knowledge and experience of the practitioner plays a crucial role in summarizing information of the "Zheng" (syndrome) and prescribing the appropriate prescriptions. With psoriasis, the herbs are used to build up and strengthen vital Chi and the immune system to help the body resist psoriasis. It is also important to avoid foods that may create allergies- sea foods, milk, eggs, spicy foods such as chili, alcohol, etc. Of the meats, lamb is considered the "hottest," followed by beef. Fresh fruits and vegetables, which are cold in nature, are therefore good for sufferers of psoriasis.

Note: this article has been published on April 2000, issue of Vitality magazine. For more information please contact Dr. Hong Chen at Chen Acupuncture Herbs shiatsu Centre, 33 Lowbank (Steeles. E/ Bestview(between bayview and Leslie) /Harrington/Lowbank). Tel: 416 221-9074 

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