Ancient Chinese Secrets For Health and BeautyJenny (Jian ping) Shi, M.Sc., C.M.A.A.C. May 1, 2009
We live in an image-conscious society, bombarded with advertising for all manner of “beauty” solutions — from liposuction and quick-fix diets, to surgery and Botox injections. A youthful look and a shapely figure have become a lifelong goal for many of us. As a result, more of us are turning to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help retain the glow of youth. Cosmetic acupuncture is becoming increasingly popular in our quest to combat the sags, bags and wrinkles of age.
Acupuncture provides a safe, natural and effective alternative method to achieve cosmetic results. After a series of treatments, patients can begin to look younger and feel better. Patients don’t have to worry about harmful toxins injected into their body — or the risks of surgery. They sleep deeper and digest better. They feel calmer and more energetic. Most importantly, overall health is improved.
TCM and cosmetic acupuncture have a history that goes back thousands of years. Ancient Chinese warlords expected their wives and concubines to have good “chi,” perfect bodies and unblemished skin. So over the centuries, Chinese physicians developed new “beauty” procedures. By the 16th Century, the Western world learned of these methods and these discoveries soon became the rage among European elite. This accumulation of time-tested knowledge forms the basis of what is now practised in many parts of the world, including North America.
The Traditional Chinese Medicine approach is a holistic one. Treatment is tailored to each individual patient and can include massage, nutrition, meditation, acupuncture, herbs and exercise. The TCM cosmetic approach works on the cause of the problem. Sklilfully applied, the therapy can achieve long-lasting, sometimes permanent results. Good TCM practitioners believe in education: We teach patients how to improve their lifestyle and look after themselves.
COSMETIC ACUPUNCTURE TREATMENT
Let’s be honest. For some of us, the idea of needles in the body is unnerving. Yet in many cases, the acupuncture process is painless. Patients sometimes feel a tiny sensation as the hair-thin needle penetrates the outer layer of the skin. After that, there is little physical sensation. Once concern has been overcome, the treatment can be both pleasant and relaxing.
Only tiny, disposable, hair-thin needles are used in face-lift acupuncture. Some needles may be placed at strategic meridian energy-points in the body. The number of needles depends on the patient’s overall physical condition and the size of the area being treated.
Facial acupuncture concentrates on the head and the face. Acupuncture improves blood circulation throughout the whole body. When circulation is stimulated, waste is expelled from the system. Excess weight may also be eliminated overall (as the TCM approach deals with the body as a whole), resulting in the skin being nourished and the face “lifted.” Acupuncture may also greatly increase facial collagen production. With increased collagen, wrinkles are reduced and may eventually disappear. Dull, lifeless skin becomes more elasticized and radiant.
Although one session can make an immediate difference, up to 10 sessions (over a five or six week period) are needed to achieve a longer-lasting effect. Supported by overall good health, the results of face-lift acupuncture can be more durable than Botox treatments — often lasting three to five years or more depending on the condition of the patient and how well they take care of themselves.
Theoretically, there should not be any side effects from acupuncture. Every patient is unique. However, in rare cases when the capillaries (the small veins) are brittle, minor bruising may occur, which is only temporary. This will heal naturally and can easily be disguised with make-up.
BENEATH THE SKIN
A qualified TCM practitioner doesn’t simply treat the skin, but improves the outer appearance by identifying and treating the deeper problems in the body. For example, a pale facial skin colour may be caused by anemia. Yellowing of the eyes indicates liver problems. Blue lips might signify problems with the heart. Brittle fingernails could be a sign of iron deficiency or malnutrition. Dark skin under the eyes may mean sleep problems or toxins in the kidney and/or the liver.
THE POWER OF HERBS
Herbs play an important role in maintaining beautiful skin and provide potent protection from the harmful factors that cause skin damage. Today, excessive exposure to UV rays is a particularly damaging cause of wrinkles. According to traditional Chinese beliefs, the skin is the first barrier of protection for the body’s internal organs. At the same time the health of the inner organs is reflected on the skin.
The outer layer of human skin (the epidermis) is composed of cells called keratinocytes. These develop at the basal layer and push older cells outward in a self-renewing process. It is imperative that the immune system functions normally in order to produce beautiful skin through this natural process.
Fortunately, many herbs contain skin-beautifying, disease preventing phytochemicals. For example:
ROSE: is proven to be a nutrient powerhouse for the skin. It is highly concentrated in antioxidants such as ascorbic acids, niacin, flavonoids, and vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, E and K. Any organic rose tea or essential oil will benefit the skin. Rose is able to promote production of collagen, which reduces the occurrence of wrinkles and enhances a youthful glow. Of course, it is better to use rose both internally and externally for cosmetic results.
CACTUS: is a tenacious desert plant and a potent immune function booster without any undesirable side-effects. Cactus juice is rejuvenating, refreshing and delicious. It contains hundreds of essential nutrients. The precious cactus fruit replenishes the skin with nutrients such as thiamine, riboflavin, vitamins A, D and B12 for a smooth supple effect. With seven times more antioxidants than vitamin C, cactus halts signs of aging and increases skin elasticity, radiance and vitality.
DANDELION: is a powerful detoxifying herb. Dandelion is excellent for curing skin problems such as dermatitis, eczema and acne. This herb has a strong alkaline property and helps balance the pH of the body’s vital fluids.
A healthy lifestyle and a well-balanced diet are the traditional secrets of beauty. Food and nutrition remain a primary form of therapy in TCM practice. They are essential ingredients of youth and vitality.
Carrots make your cheeks pink.
Spinach makes your face shine.
Mushrooms make you brainy.
Dandelions make your breath fresh.
– Chinese kindergarten poem
Most Chinese medicine dietary recommendations contain at least 80 per cent plant-based foods. Ideally, these foods are organic and include vegetables, sprouts, cereal grasses, whole-wheat breads and brown rice.
Consume only organic meats to avoid the pesticides, chemicals and synthetic hormones used in mass-production. Some of these additives can be the direct cause of allergies and skin damage.
Sugar and sugar-rich products (ice cream, desserts, soft drinks, etc.) make us look old, fat and tired. They should be eliminated from our diet. Coffee and alcohol are not flattering to our skin either — they are harmful to the liver, digestive system, and heart.
Animal-based foods should not compose more than 20 per cent of total food intake. This is because the most important aspect of dietary planning is alkaline and acid balance (or pH). Animal foods are acid-forming, while fresh vegetables and most fruits are alkalizing in bodily fluids and tissue.
It is now well-known that an acidic internal body environment is responsible for, or contributes to, a number of debilitating conditions including demineralization of bones (osteoporosis), nervous disorders, kidney stones, gout, arthritis and even cancers. In contrast, an alkaline condition of the body creates more energy, a stronger resistance to diseases and a healthier and more glamorous skin.
EXERCISE AND MEDITATION
Chinese exercises such as taiji, qigong (chi-gong) and martial arts have developed over the centuries and are now practised by millions of people throughout the world. Qigong was created by the need for exercise to help treat and prevent disease. This form of exercise may be practised safely by young and old, male and female, weak and strong, all with equal benefit.
Meditation is an inherent part of qigong practice. Deep, calm breathing is relaxing. It clears the mind and fills the lungs with plenty of air so your body and brain receive an adequate supply of oxygen. This action gently massages the internal organs. In China, deep-breathing exercises are also known as internal organ exercises.
Flowing water never stagnates.
Active hinges never rust.’
Sun Ssu-mo, Chinese medicine doctor ~ 700 AC
Regular exercise of the slow, soft, rhythmic variety tones muscles, keeps joints limber and enhances physical appearance. Deep meditation promotes circulation of blood, oxygen and energy throughout the body. It greatly expands the function of the heart and lungs and switches the nervous system to the rejuvenating, immunity-boosting circuit. It also cleanses the blood tissue and stimulates positive biofeedback between the endocrine and nervous systems. Together, soft exercise and deep breathing form the basis of qigong. They are the most important of all healthy living disciplines to promote a higher level of wellness and physical attractiveness.
Chinese medicine does not treat “beauty” superficially. The outward appearance of an individual is seen as an indicator of overall health. To a qualified TCM practitioner beauty is much more than skin deep. Their concern is for the total well-being of every patient. They see the human being as part of a larger nature. Like a tree, if the roots are healthy and well nourished, the leaves will be beautiful.
Jenny Shi received her Doctorate in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture from the renowned Hubei Traditional Chinese Medical College in China. She certified in Pharmacology at the University of Illinois and has extensive teaching and research credits, including projects sponsored by the UN World Health Organization. She has been in practice for more than thirty years and has run her own clinic in Toronto since 1997. For an appointment, please call (416) 707-7552.