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Dry Itchy Skin, Eczema: Tips and a Chinese Medicine Perspective

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Four plus years of managing the personal care department at a large health food store, I learned a lot about caring for skin naturally.  It also exposed me to a lot of people with skin care woes.  The most common being eczema and itchy painful dry cracked skin.
My recommendations are based on trial and error over those years.
  1. no soap – use a body wash or ph-balanced (or ph-acidic if you can find one) skin cleanser
  2. Use chemical free body hair and scalp products
  3. Neem Oil – use products containing this ingredient especially for eczema or itchy scalp (I have to warn you that neem oil smells like a mixture of garlic and peanut butter, but I’ve had many great reviews)
  4. Unrefined Coconut Oil – applied regularly helps the body repair it’s acid mantle
  5. Use fragrance and chemical free laundry detergent, replace fabric softeners with wool balls or use a natural laundry detergent which doesn’t require fabric softener; wash bed sheets in hot water
  6. Remove common allergens from the diet – often skin issues can be linked to common allergens such as gluten,dairy, soy, and corn.  Even sugar,  coffee, or alcohol can often aggravate skin conditions.  Try an elimination diet to see what you are sensitive to.
  7. Don’t forget to drink water!
  8. Eat more blood nourishing foods – beef, beets, cherries, dates, black-strap molasses, black sesame seeds, concord grapes, bone marrow broth, mulberries, Eggs, Chicken, Liver/pate, Sea vegetables, Seeds and nuts, Pumpkin, Sweet potato, Leafy greens, kidney or black Beans (combined with a grain), do an internet search for tcm blood nourishing foods
  9. If you try all of this and nothing seems to work, there is likely a deeper imbalance and guess who can help?  Your Acupuncturist of course!

Your acupuncturist will use your specific signs and symptoms to come to a diagnosis that fits your unique pattern.  Letting them know what helped and what didn’t is extremely helpful diagnostic information along with your pulse and tongue.

It may not seem like it now, but spring is right around the corner.  Call your Acupuncturist to get your skin right in time for summer!

Keeping warm in Frigid Weather: Common Spices in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine

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In honor of Chicago’s negative 20 degree Fahrenheit temperatures today, I’d like to share with you my favorite category of Chinese herbal medicine, Herbs that Warm the Interior.  They are my favorite because I’ve always loved food and cooking and almost all of the herbs in this category are common spices!

Black Pepper, aged dried ginger, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, and szechuan pepper are all TCM warm interior herbs!  Examples of some herbs that are not Chinese herbs that would also belong in this category are cayenne pepper and oregano oil.

Remember that life and health is all about balance.   If you are very dry (dry skin, hair, eyes, mouth), you may simply need more fluids to circulate and warm the body.  This is why we diagnose each person individually and also why we use herbal formulas.  We rarely use one herb alone.

So how do you warm up without ending up too hot & dry?  Mix your warm interior herbs with yin-fluid foods or include fresh fruits and veggies!

How to Consume Warm Interior Herbs

The most perfect examples comes from Aruveda – Traditional East Indian medicine.

Chai Tea which is traditionally made with milk and contains herbal spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, etc.  Non-dairy “milks” such as almond, oat, cashew, and coconut can be used as well.

Also in Indian cooking, hot and spicy foods are traditionally served with yogurt which being naturally sweet & sour flavor makes it extremely yin and fluid nourishing.  Try adding the above spices to your yogurt.

Try making a tea with a few shakes of cinnamon or ginger then adding cream or adding cinnamon to your cocoa.

Caution, warm interior herbs can be very hot!  Do not use directly without diluting especially the oil form and avoid contact with eyes.

Only cold sometimes or certain areas?

If you have difficulty taking spicy herbs, it could be due to damage or blockages in your system.  If you’re warm but have cold fingers and toes; cold hands and feet; cold feet only; or cold low back and knees only, these are also imbalances that Chinese Medicine can help relieve.

Repairing these imbalances can prevent damage  due to long term inadequate circulation.

Acupuncturists also use a warming technique called moxabustion to treat channels that are too cold.  Your acupuncturist can create a custom plan to keep you warm and balanced all winter!

Fish Oil, Multivitamins, and Chinese Medicine

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Not surprising if you know me, my first blog is not based on Chinese Medicine!  

After people get to know me and find out my experience in the natural health field, they often ask me for product recommendations.  Recently I was asked to recommend Omega 3 and Multivitamin products and I’ve decided to share them here along with my reasons for the recommendation.

Best Omega 3 supplements

What should you notice:  if your body and brain is lacking adequate omega 3 (which is common considering not many foods contain it), an omega 3 that works for you should improve cognition and inflammation.  

  • Best for purity – Nordic Naturals www.nordicnaturals.com
    • My go to recommendation
    • Powerful strong options available for those with high needs
    • Has a very pure prenatal dha
  • Best absorption and flavor – Barleans High Potency Omega 3 Flavored Smoothies www.barleans.com
    • Tastes like a fruit flavored pudding
    • Doesn’t contain sugar (has the sugar alcohol xylitol)
    • Be sure to swish it around the mouth to increase absorption
  • Very powerful – Minami supercritical extract www.minami-nutrition.com
    • Reports of experiencing powerful improvements in cognition

Best Multivitamins

What you should notice:  If a multi is providing you nutrients you were missing prior to taking it, you should notice improvements in energy, sleep, stamina, and/or ability to handle stress.

  • Best high potency for energy – Nature’s Plus Source of Life https://naturesplus.com/sourceoflife/
    • with a good amount of phytoalgae, a little tcm tidbit – this is a good choice for those who tend to feel hot and damp
  • Best to digest or take on an empty stomach – Megafood https://www.megafood.com/
    • very easy to digest, can even be taken on an empty stomach
    • fermentation makes nutrients bioavailable
  • Best for people with sensitivities and those who may not be able to covert B-vitamins into their useable form – Naturelo whole food multi   https://www.naturelo.com/
    • no GMOs, no soy, no gluten, no coloring/flavoring, no preservatives
    • Is vegan

When trying a new supplement, first document how you feel, rate your complaints on a 1-10 scale.  Then take the supplement very consistently according to the label or your healthcare practitioner.  After a month, come back to your list, re-rate your complaints. Where do you see differences? Does anyone else notice differences in you?

All of that being said, if you think or have been told you need a supplement, but nothing seems to make you feel better, Chinese Medicine may have an answer.  Your body’s ability to process, absorb, and utilize food and/or supplements may be compromised.

Since Chinese Medicine works by taking into account your own body’s signs and symptoms and then giving it what it’s asking for, it can allow the body to correct imbalances on it’s own.  If nothing seems to be helping, schedule an appointment to find out how Chinese Medicine can!

Disclaimer:  Non-tcm recommendations are from my extensive history as a nutritional sales consultant and are not considered medical advice.  These are my opinions based on years of trying and recommending supplements and getting feedback from others. Supplements change over the years, always read the label.  Always consult your healthcare provider before beginning a new regimen. I am not being compensated by anyone for these recommendations.

Welcome!

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Hi and Welcome to my blog!

I plan to use this space to share all of the natural health tips and tricks I’ve learned over the years and have used to help family, friends, and just about anyone who would listen!  Remember that I am a licensed acupuncturist, practitioner of east Asian (Traditional Chinese) medicine, and board certified Chinese Herbalist.  Information outside of this scope is strictly information about historical use, or gleaned from books and educational materials.  I will always include my sources as I remember them.

Health and wellness is an individual journey.  Be diligent about your health, seek multiple types of sources and make informed decisions.

Great healthcare practitioners come in many forms and will listen to you and try their best to individualize treatment and advice.  If you are dealing with specific health issues, please be sure to be under the care of a licensed healthcare practitioner.

Peace, Love, and Tao

-Herb & Tao