Since the Chinese emphasis the functional relationships rather than the physical anatomy of the vital organs, the means by which they influence each other is of prime importance. That the circulatory, lymphatic, and nervous systems carry blood, fluids, and messages through the body is agreed upon by both Chinese and Western medicine. However, the Chinese distinguish an additional connecting system called jing luo or meridians. Of all the connectors in the body, the Chinese view the meridians as the most important because they circulate and transmit the body’s most vital sub- stance — qi, the essential energy of life.
There has been much speculation in Western medical circles regarding the mechanics of the meridian complex. The most common Western view is that meridians are actually fibers of the autonomous nervous system, and that qiis actually the electrical phenomenon aroused by the stimulation of the nervous system. The Chinese deny this, pointing out that qi also travels where there are no nerve fibers and that meridians, like qi itself, only manifest themselves functionally, not physically. Meridians can also be felt when vital points along them are stimulated with acupuncture. In this presentation we take the Chinese view.
There are a total of fifty-nine meridians in the body, of which twelve —the “main” meridians —dominate the others. Each of the main meridians represents a biological energy system centered around one of the twelve vital organs, including the triple-warmer and pericardium. Qi flows from one meridian to another in a certain order until the entire network is covered, delivering vital energy to every part of the body. Adepts of Taoist breathing techniques are able to sense and direct the flow of qialong the meridian complex.
Coupled yin-yang organs are directly connected by the main meridians which meet in the fingers, toes, and head. In addition, there are eight “extra”, twelve “muscle” and fifteen “connecting” meridians. All are branches of the twelve main meridians and serve to distribute qi to those areas not covered by them. The entire complex forms a fine, intricate grid. Stimulating one of the main meridians with acupuncture or herbs has a specific effect on the connected organ as well as a general effect on the entire system. As can be seen from the below figure, there are countless combinations of connections by which organs and the energy systems they represent can influence one another. The task of the clinical physician is to determine the most likely and most frequent patterns of interplay among the vital energies which emanate from the organs.
How Chinese Herbal Medicine Works
Chinese herbal medicine imparts its healing benefits to the body as much through the meridian complex as through the bloodstream. When an herbal prescription is ingested, its vital essence is extracted by the stomach and distributed to the blood by the spleen. After mixing with air- qi in the lungs to form usable human-qi, the herbal essence travels to the organ for which it has a natural affinity and for which it has therefore been prescribed. There it has a direct biochemical effect on the organ, in turn affecting the quality and quantity of vital energy flowing along the organ’s meridian. Through the meridian complex, the energy emanating from the treated organ influences other organs and parts of the body. An herbal liver tonic, for example, will improve the biochemical functions of a weak or diseased liver, tone up its damaged tissues and fortify the blood which the liver nourishes. By correcting the liver’s dysfunction, the herbal tonic also corrects the imbalance of energies in the liver and tonifies liver-qi. Tonified liver-qi benefits the gall bladder through the yin-yang connection, stimulates the heart through the mother-son relationship of Wood to Fire, improves vision, muscle tone and other Wood attributes, and promotes general vitality through the minor meridian connections.
Important as the direct, immediate biochemical effects of herbal drugs are, the indirect, long-term benefits which they impart to the organ-based energy system are even more significant for health and longevity. While Western medical science acknowledges the biochemical therapeutic effects of some of the crude, knarled, ungainly items of the Chinese pharmacopoeia, it still has trouble dealing with such concepts as qi, pure vital essence, meridians, cosmic forces and other factors which cannot be physically dissected and measured.
Main Vital Connections
One of the most important connections is between the heartand kidneys. They influence each other through the victor-vanquished relationship of Water to Fire. It is common knowledge in Western medical pathology that heart failure is generally accompanied by renal complications, and that kidney problems usually induce heart palpitations and other Fire symptoms. If, for example, the kidneys are empty of yin-energy, they become weak and thus Water loses its subjugation control over Fire. Heart-fire flares up, inducing symptoms of restlessness, insomnia, talkativeness, and excess laughter. In this case, the kidneys should be tonified to strengthen their yin-energy, which in turn will quell the fire in the heart and restore the proper Fire-Water equilibrium.
The liver and heart interact through the mother-son relationship of Wood to Fire. The heart controls circulation of blood while the liver regulates its quality and quantity through metabolism. If the heart-qi is weak, the heart cannot provide sufficient circulatory power to handle the enriched blood sent up by the liver, and liver function is thus impaired. In the more colorful Chinese terminology, the Fire of the heart is insufficient to burn the Wood provided by the liver; thus, Wood piles up unburned and liver-qi accumulates in excess. Dizziness, spasms, pains in the joints, and anger are common symptoms of such liver-qi excess. The Wood-Fire equilibrium may be restored by notifying the heart.
The interplay of energies between two organs can also occur through a third intermediary organ. The lungs and liver, for example, interact through the victory-vanquished relationship of Metal to Wood. Normally, Metal subjugates Wood, and thereby the lungs keep the liver in check. If lung-qi becomes deficient, Metal loses control over Wood, and the liver becomes inflamed with excess qi. Excess liver-qi (Wood) feeds the Fire of the heart through the mother-son relationship of Wood to Fire. When heart-qi (Fire) is in excess, it damages the lungs (Metal) through the victory-vanquished relationship of Fire to Metal. Thus, the lung (Metal), which normally subjugate the liver (Wood), can also be subjugated and damaged by the liver through the intermediary of the heart (Fire). This case should be treated by tonifying the lungs to control the liver, sedating the liver to cool down the heart, sedating the heart to take the heat off the lungs, or some combination of these.
According to the Chinese, “everything under heaven” is animated and influenced by the same universal cosmic forces. The human body is viewed as a living microcosm of the divine pattern. Just as too much water in the atmosphere causes rain, too much water in the body causes sweating and urination. Too much heat parches and cracks the earth, just as too much heat in the body parches the throat and cracks the lips. Health and vitality depend upon the harmonious balance among these forces, and all disease begins with or causes some sort of energy imbalance. Lasting, effective cures can only be achieved by sedating excess, tonifying deficiency, cooling excess heat, warming excess cold, and otherwise redressing energy imbalance to restore the original condition of our primordial energies. This is the meaning of bu yuan qi.
The functioning relationships among the vital organs are key factors in the Chinese approach to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Their predictable interactions, based on yin-yang and the Five Elements, permit the experienced Chinese doctor to diagnose the causes of disease and weakness, and to effect cures by evaluating the patterned connections and prescribing herbal medicines.
The Chinese refer to the vital organs as the wu zang and liu fu (the five “solid” and six “hollow” organs). With the exception of son jiao —the “three-points” or “triple-warmer” — the organs correspond to those of Western anatomy. The triple-warmer, one of the six hollow organs, consists of the openings to the stomach, small intestine, and bladder. As such, it is not, strictly speaking, an independent organ in the Western sense, but rather an energy system which deals with the passing of food and fluid. Later, a sixth solid organ was added to correspond to the triple-warmer and balance the system. This is the pericardium, the sack which surrounds the heart. Because the triple-warmer and the pericardium are not vital organs in the traditional Western sense, and since they are used primarily in acupuncturerather than herbal therapy, we will limit our discussion to the familiar ten: heart, lungs, liver, kidney, spleen (the five “solid” or yin organs); small intestine, large intestine, gall-bladder, bladder, stomach (the five “hollow” or yang organs).
Five Elements and Organs
These ten organs are divided into five coupled pairs. Each pair consists of a solid yinorgan and a corresponding hollow yang organ, and each pair is dominated by one of the Five Elements. All other parts of the body reflect the condition and activities of the vital organs. According to the Five Elements, each of the five coupled pairs is identified with other parts of the body and with other basic natural factors which reflect or influence their activities. These factors are outlined in the chart opposite. Note that a fifth season, “mid summer” is included to correspond to the element Earth and its attendant phenomena. The Chinese love balance and are suspicious of anything that is lop-sided.
While there may be some doubt as to the accuracy of a few of the factors in this chart, there is no doubt that most of them are correct and represent real relationships in nature. This chart is used successfully by Chinese doctors in both diagnosis and treatment.
Take, for example, the liver, which belongs to the element Wood. Western medicine agrees that persons suffering from liver ailments often have symptoms of foggy vision with black spots, muscular spasms, and blemished nails. On the Chinese chart sight, muscles, and nails all belong to Wood and reflect liver functions. The emotions associated with Wood are anger and depression. Persons with volatile, overactive livers are prone to violent fits of anger followed by bouts of depression and they often shout (Wood sound) at others.
The factors associated with each of the Five Elements invariably reflect the activity of the related organs and, in turn, can be used to influence them. A child who suffers from
chronic fear (Water emotion) tends to wet his bed (urine belongs to Water), and therefore he probably has weak kidneys (Water organ). Trying to cure his fear and his bed wetting with comforting words, stern warnings, or other psychological means, will prove frustrating, perhaps even futile, for both parent and child —if indeed the problem lies in weak kidneys. Tonifying the kidneys with herbs, or herbs and acupuncture, should quickly eliminate the symptoms of fear and incontinence. Chinese medicine is still well ahead of Western medicine in tracing and treating the physical causes of mental disturbances.
The possibilities for using these patterned relationships are endless. For example, a person who suffers from chronic depression (Wood emotion) can often be cured simply by treating his liver, for depression is a clear manifestation of liver dysfunction. A person with a very red complexion (Fire color) who laughs a lot (Fire sound) probably has an over-fired heart (Fire organ). In such a case, the heart should be sedated with appropriate herbs. However, another way to treat this case is to use the victor-vanquished relationship of Water to Fire by tonifying the kidneys (Water organ). Since Water vanquishes Fire, the heart will be sedated by the tonified kidneys. Because there are so many related factors and possibilities, Chinese doctors must have a detailed account of each patient’s dietary, physical, and emotional habits. Only broad clinical experience, combined with a thorough grasp of the principles involved, enables the physician to weigh the many relevant factors for accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The yin organs, which “store but do not transmit” are considered more vital than the Yang organs, “which transform but do not retain.” Coupled organs are connected to one another by meridians, or energy channels, along which their vital energies flow. The meridians of coupled organs meet in the fingers, toes, and head. The yin-yang coupling of organs is not arbitrary. It is based on their actual functional relationships, as established by observation over many centuries.
Before going on to discuss how the connections among the organs are used in Chinese medical diagnosis and treatment, a brief description of the organs themselves is in order. Following the Chinese mode, the five yin organs (which house the five at- tributes of spirit, human-soul, animal-soul, mind, and will-power) are described according to their vital functions, while their five yang counterparts are given secondary importance:
Called the “Chief of the Vital Organs”, the heart regulates the other organs by controlling circulation of blood. It houses the spirit and thus governs one’s moods and clarity of thought. It is closely connected to liver functions by the generative mother-son relationship of Wood to Fire. Heart activity is reflected on the color of the face and tongue: a dark, reddish color indicates excess heart-energy while a pale, grey color reflects deficient heart-energy. The heart is coupled with the small intestine, which separates the pure from the impure products of digestion, controls the ratio of liquid to solid wastes, and absorbs nutrients from digested food and drink.
The liver stores blood and regulates the amount to be circulated by the heart. When man moves, the blood travels to several meridians; when man is still, the blood returns to the liver. During sleep, blood is enriched with energy in the liver and distributed to the rest of the body during activity. The liver houses the human soul, which is said to enter the foetus at the moment of birth. The popular Chinese term of endearment xin gan (literally “heart- liver”), which means “dear” or “sweet- heart,” is derived from the fact that these two organs house the most precious of human attributes: spirit and human soul. The liver is the center of metabolism, life’s most vital function, and therefore its condition is perhaps most responsible for our overall sense of physical and mental well-being. While liver dysfunction causes symptoms of anger and depression, a healthy liver is also particularly sensitive to psychosomatic injury caused by prolonged emotional fits of anger or depression. Liver condition is reflected in the eyes, muscles, finger- and toe-nails. It is coupled with the gall-bladder, whose functions are closely related to, and often inseparable from, those of the liver. The gall-bladder is called the “true and upright official who excels in making decisions.” Planning and deciding are said to be governed by combined liver and gall-bladder activity.
The spleen controls the “moving and transforming” of pure vital essence extracted by the stomach from food and drink. It is responsible for distributing nutrients and qi to the rest of the body. Spleen dysfunction is indicated by weakness or emaciation of the skin, flesh, and limbs. The spleen houses the mind. It is coupled with the stomach, which is described as “the sea of water and nourishment and the controller of rotting and ripening of liquid and solid food.” If the spleen fails to move and transform, the stomach will back up and fail to digest properly. If the stomach fails to rot and ripen food and water, the spleen cannot move and transform nutrition and qi. The harmonious functioning of these two organs is vital for proper digestion and distribution of nutrition. Western medical science does not assign the spleen any digestive functions and recognizes no functional connection to the stomach. It has been suggested therefore that the digestive functions assigned to the spleen in the Chinese system may in fact include those of the pancreas, which is located nearby and secretes such vital digestive juices as trypsin, maltase, lapase, and others.
The lungs control vital energy, qi, in both senses of the word, namely energy and breath. The lungs govern breathing, and when breath is insufficient, so is energy. The lungs extract qi from the air and transfer it to the blood through the alveoli. “Man’s breathing combines the pure vital essence of Heaven (air) and Earth (food and water) in order to form the true human-qi of the body.” The lungs house the animal-soul, which is said to enter the embryo at the moment of conception. The condition of the lungs is closely associated with that of the skin, a fact well known to Western medicine. In many animals, skin performs important respiratory functions. Lung dysfunctions usually manifest themselves as skin problems. The lungs are coupled with the large intestine, which “controls the transmitting and drainage of the dregs.” Pneumonia and influenza are generally accompanied by constipation, while the latter ailment usually causes distension of the chest.
The kidneys control water, receive the vital essence of the wu zang and liu fu —vital organs —and store it. The kidneys store both life- essence and semen-essence. Excess liquid sent by the small intestine is converted by the kidneys to urine and passed on to its coupled organ, the bladder, for storage and expulsion. Growth and development of bones and marrow are connected to the kidneys. Since the brain is the “meeting point for all marrow,” the kidneys influence brain function. They house the attribute of will- power. When kidney-qi is deficient, the symptoms are amnesia, insomnia, mental confusion, and a constant ringing inside the ears. Kidneys control the loins, lumbar region, and sacral areas of the body, and their dysfunction often causes lower back pains and the inability to straighten up. The kidneys are closely related to the adrenal cortex which produces the cortisone hormones as well as sex hormones like androgen, estrogen, and progesterone. Therefore, the kidneys and surrounding glands control all sexual functions. A recent study in America has revealed that frequent sexual intercourse helps relieve the pain of rheumatism in elderly people by stimulating production of cortisone through sexual excitation of the adrenal cortex. The therapeutic applications of sexual intercourse have long been known in China. The kidneys and bladder function closely together in moving, converting, storing, and expelling excess fluids from the system.
The above is a simplified account of the vital organs according to traditional Chinese medical theory. A full accounting would require a book in itself but it can be seen from this brief sketch that the Chinese lay emphasis on the functions of the vital organs, and the functional relationships among them. Western medicine, in contrast, stresses the location, structure, and physical description of the organs. What concerns the Chinese physician is the elaborate interplay of basic forces which ultimately regulate all bodily functions, not microscopic anatomy, biochemical formulas, or isolated phenomena. While Western medical science has managed to analyse and isolate every single functional structure in the body, right down to individual cells, nuclei, and beyond, it has less ideas of what makes the whole system tick and function harmoniously. Chinese medicine has dwelled on such questions as what is the nature of the vital energy at the root of all life? how does it work? what factors influence it? what forms does it take? Both physical and mental symptoms of health and disease are viewed as concrete manifestations of potent natural forces and vital energies at work inside the body. In treating disease, the Chinese believe they must exert a balancing on these forces and energies, rather than simply eliminate the symptoms of the disease.
Unfortunately, Western science does not readily accept as real things that cannot be directly detected and measured with the senses, or with equipment to aid them. Chinese doctors are quick to point out, however, that even the senses are mere physical entities controlled by the same unseen vital energy as the rest of the body. At best, the sense can be used to detect physical manifestations of cosmic forces and vital energy. The nature of the forces themselves has to be intuited and inferred from the evidence. The main concern of Chinese medicine during its long history has been to establish the patterns by which these forces and energies interact. To develop natural herbal techniques favorably influencing their relative balance in the body has been part of that concern.
The lust medicines used by the Arabs are different from those used by the Greeks and Romans.The Arabs gave much importance to food in this regard.There are many works about them in the Arab literature.What are these dishes and medications now used in Arabs? Let’s look at these:
Recommendations of Nafzawi
According to Nafzawi, who wrote about this in the Arabs, the main reasons of sexual insufficiency are:
Sleeping too much,
long travel and
Food with acidic food also reduces sexual intercourse. Drinking too much sometimes makes sexual intercourse sometimes impossible. Long-lasting fasts calm the sexual desires. Furthermore, Nafzawi says that in many cases, sexual insufficiency is because men do not like women. This woman is a certain woman. If a man changes the woman he does not like, he also goes through sexual insufficiency. The reason for this disability is spiritual.Such men see their penis extinguished during full sexual intercourse. According to the Arab writer, such sexual inadequacy, as seen in shy people, can also be seen in people who are respectful towards women.Sometimes this inability to see an unpleasant scene or feeling a bad smell. And the idea of jealousy may be sexual inability to the man: The woman is no longer a virgin, and she can also engage with other men.
Nafzawi, after explaining all of these things, it counts lust-enhancing nutrients, medications and externally applied. Nafzawi says in his book: «If you want to have a strong relationship, take the fruit of the gum tree and mix it with honey and oil.You’re so strong in the morning when you’ve had this on an empty stomach.Not only are you strong, you also have plenty of sperm.» Besides, if the penis is rubbed with the coyote table, the strength and potency of the lust and stamina organs increases.
In another recipe of Nafzawi: Mixed pyrethrum with ginger. After this mixture is mixed with the leylose ointment, the sexual desire increases with the rubbing of the abdomen and groin. This leylose ointment is made of oil and lilac leaves. Leaves are used as constipation and force transmitter.
Again in Nafzawi’s book, fresh peas are mixed with onions and if ginger is sown and eaten with cinnamon, it is written that it increases the strength and might of excitement and sexual intercourse.
Sexual insufficiency in men due to mental premature ejaculation or febrile diseases can be treated. For treatment, they should eat cake and cookies in their ingredients (honey, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, coconut or bird tongue). Cinnamon pepper and other spice dishes can also be easily treated with plenty of food is also Nafzawi says.
Nafzawi divides sexual inadequacy into three groups:
People who refrain from sex for a long time (he likens it to broken needle)
Weak and loose bodies.
Inadequacies from premature ejaculation.
For that, he recommends;
Clove coconut, cinnamon, Adam’s pepper, Indian thistle Laurel tree seed and sunflower flower are taken and all of them are mixed together and crushed in mortar. This mixture is mixed with pigeon or chicken meat, water and drunk in the morning and evening.You should drink water before or after drinking it. The best procedure is to take this mixture with honey.
If sexual inability is caused by body weakness, the following mixture should be used.
Stinging nettle seeds, euphorbia, ginger and cinnamon are mixed with honey.This mixture is eaten when hungry. Since this mixture fights weakness, sexual inability also disappears.
Nafzawi, in chapter 18 of his book, wrote some prescriptions to enlarge male penis. One of these prescriptions is that ginger is mixed with honey, and with this male penis is thoroughly scrubbed. The penis is then washed and dried.
Finally, the 21st and final chapter of the book deals with the question of how to increase the number and severity of sexual intercourse? It answers the question.Every man reads them and gives him great benefits. Now let’s explain these foods in order:
Whoever eats egg yolks every day, that person becomes very energetic and sensual in sexual relations. Furthermore, the egg yolk is mixed with onion for three days, and it is written in the book of Nafzawi, which increases the lust.
The asparagus is first boiled and then fried in oil and placed on the egg yolk. this recipe is mixed with the spice every day to be eaten as the desire for sexual intercourse increased sexual intercourse also becomes very strong.
Here is another meal that raises lust: Onion is peeled, put in a pot. Spice is placed on it.It is mixed, mixed with egg yolk and cooked in oil. If this meal will be eaten for a few days in a row, the value of lust increase is invaluable.
Camel milk is also mixed with honey, if eaten for days, increases sexual appetite. For those who eat their eggs for several days and eat them with cinnamon and pepper, sexual appetite increases day and night.
According to Nafzawi, the strongest lust meal is: A few eggs will be cooked in fresh butter. This scrambled egg will be mixed with honey and eaten with a piece of bread.
Crush the onion. Mix the resulting water with two-fold honey.Heat this mixture on the stove until the water disappears.Only the honey part remains, so take this from the stove. Leave this part to cool and then save for use.When this mixture is needed, it is mixed with water.This mixture is drunk on the way to bed. Drink only a small amount. This mixture would be effective for about 3-4 hours.
As for soap and cosmetics; beautiful and perfect woman, according to the Arabs, smells good. A woman should always wear odor on various parts of her body. Especially good odors should be applied on the mouth, nose, underarms and chest.
Recommendations of Omar Halebi
Omar Halebi, on the other hand, gave great importance to sanitary measures in the treatment of non-organic sexual insufficiency. For example: To put cold compresses on the penis before sexual intercourse, to make warm showers in the morning and evening, especially half an hour before the contact is very important.
Omar Halebi also gives the following recipe:
15 grams of saffron leaf,
20 grams anise,
25 orange blossoms,
50 dry dates,
4 egg yolks are taken, and
500 grams of fresh water is boiled for half an hour.
This mixture which is boiled in the closed area is lowered from the fire and mixed thoroughly.50 grams of honey and (the blood of two pigeons) are then added. After stirring for 24 hours, the mixture is stirred again several times.Finally filtered. After this medication, two coffee spoons are drunk and continued for a week.
Moroccans eat honey, hazelnuts, peanuts, almonds, butter, sesame, poppies, and finally acorns to increase lust.
The Arabs used henna to increase lust. Henna is good for sexual inadequacies. He put a henna on his fingers and toes and over his head and scrubbed them. The famous Arabic writer Halebi says about Henna: In my own experience, I say. For psychological sexual deficiencies, you will see that you will regain your previous power if you scrub your head and finger tips with henna for fifteen days, both in the morning and in the evening.
One Final Word from Avicenna
Famous physician Avicenna says: Those who are weak in sexual intercourse should drink honey and eat twenty almond and one hundred pine nuts before going to bed. This regimen should be continued for three days.Again according to Avicenna, if the onion seeds are sieved and mixed and eaten with honey, sexual power increases. Only this mixture should be eaten long before sexual contact.
Someday, waking up to find a pimple on your face won’t merit more than a momentary shrug. You’ll just take a pill or rub in a dab of cream, and—poof—the pimple will be gone. Unfortunately, that day hasn’t arrived yet. The treatments available today will usually
make pimples go away, but it will probably take days—even weeks or more, contrary to what television commercials suggest.
If you’re like most teenagers, before you decide to seek professional help from your family doctor or a dermatologist, you’ll probably want to try one of the over-the-counter medications you’ve heard about. You won’t have any trouble finding one at your drugstore or supermarket—at least three hundred acne remedies are on the market! Americans currently spend more than $175 million each year on over-the-counter acne remedies.
To most people, fighting acne means grabbing the tube of medication you keep in the medicine cabinet whenever one of those ugly pimples pops up. You rub it in desperately, hoping the pimple will vanish. More than likely, you will be very disappointed.
If your acne is only a mild case, you might shrug and try to live with your pimples, figuring there’s nothing you can really do, anyway. But you’d be wrong there, too. The acne remedies you can buy over the counter can be effective for most people, if they are used correctly.
Doctors say the reason many people find acne medications ineffective is that they don’t use them properly. Acne medications should not be rubbed only on the pimples, but on the entire area where acne occurs. For every pimple you can see, others are just starting and are not yet visible. (Remember, pimples can take weeks to develop.) Some doctors think that if you stick to a daily cleaning routine, followed by the application of one of the acne medications, not only will it clear up your skin, it will actually minimize future breakouts! Now that’s a good reason to begin a plan of attack on acne as soon as possible.
Cleaning is the Way to Start
Cleaning your skin properly before you apply an acne medication can help it to work more effectively. Thorough cleaning with soap and water helps remove excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells. Many medicated soaps contain sulfur, salicylic acid, or benzoyl peroxide, ingredients that kill bacteria and soften and peel dead skin. Should you use one of them? Some doctors suggest that although these products can be helpful for many people, soaps do not usually stay on the skin long enough for the ”medication” in them to sink into the pores. If you are using an acne medication such as benzoyl peroxide, the extra medication in the soap may be unnecessary.
Abrasive cleansers contain gritty particles that work to gently irritate the skin. They rough away dead skin cells by scratching away some of the outer layers. They can be quite helpful for people with stubborn acne problems. Often they may help get rid of pimples faster. Some people, though, find that abrasive cleansers, pads, and brushes irritate the skin too much. Sometimes the irritation can rupture follicles, causing inflammation and even making the acne worse.
Another useful cleaning product is a facial mask. It is applied in the form of a cream or lotion, which is left on for fifteen minutes or more while the face is soaked with moist cloths or steamed to open the pores. The facial mask can help to clean away dead skin cells deeper than normal cleaning. However, if you use one of these facial masks, you should remember it will make your skin more sensitive to acne medications, because the medication will penetrate deeper—there isn’t as much “shield” to protect the body. Some cleansing masks combine acne medication with a facial mask.
Some doctors suggest to their patients that a mild, fragrance-free soap is really all they need when washing is combined with using an acne medication. Choosing the right cleaning product is something you will have to decide, in light of your own personal preferences as well as the sensitivity of your skin.
How often should you wash your face? Too much washing can actually be bad. Dermatologists generally suggest that twice a day in the winter and three times a day in summer is sufficient. You should use warm water—never hot, which causes the blood vessels in the skin to expand and can add to inflammation. After you gently lather in the soap with your fingertips, you should rinse it off completely. Some doctors suggest rinsing with warm water ten times or more to make sure all soap residue is gone. Then pat dry with an absorbent towel, and your face (or other affected area) is ready for the acne medication.
DECISIONS, DECISIONS . . .
Going to the store to buy an acne remedy can be a little overwhelming. There are so many different products of so many different types! You can choose from countless numbers of medicated soaps, astringents (which are usually alcohol- based for cleaning off excess oil and dirt), abrasive cleansers and abrasive pads and brushes (which work to scrub off the outer layers of your skin very much like the scouring pads you use on pots and pans), acne creams and lotions, and acne cover-up products. How are you supposed to know what you really need?
You can ask other people what worked or didn’t work for them. Unfortunately, what works for some people doesn’t always work for others. And if someone else didn’t use the product properly, his or her opinion may not be valid. The best thing to do is to understand how these different types of products work and what the differences are, take into account your own personal factors—such as how sensitive your skin is—and choose a course of action. Try it out and see how it works. If it works, stick with it. If it doesn’t, try something else.
As you now know, acne is caused by sebum and dead cells clumping together and sticking to the follicle walls as well as by the irritating effects of an overpopulation of bacteria. Acne medications try to counteract the acne process by combating one or both of these factors.
Benzoyl Peroxide: The Over-the-Counter Champ
Many of the acne products of the past contained drugssuch as alcohol, resorcinol, salicylic acid, and sulfur as their main ingredients. These drugs were not very effective, and they tended to irritate sensitive skin. Then in the mid-1970’s, a drug that had been discovered in the 1920’s was tested on acne patients. The results were so dramatic that now the drug—benzoyl peroxide—is the most widely used over-the-counter acne medication and the one most often recommended by dermatologists.
Benzoyl peroxide works in two ways to fight acne. It kills bacteria, and it causes a mild drying and peeling of the skin.
A ”peroxide” is a chemical that contains extra oxygen—more than the usual amount. Peroxides tend to be rather reactive compounds, giving up their extra oxygen at the slightest provocation. When you apply a benzoyl peroxide product to your skin, it seeps down into the follicle. It encounters a variety of natural body chemicals on the way, and chemical reactions occur, releasing oxygen. But the bacteria that produce the oily substance that irritates the skin prefer to live in anaerobic conditions where there is little or no oxygen. The oxygen released from the benzoyl peroxide kills many of the bacteria.
As benzoyl peroxide soaks into the skin and seeps into the follicles, it also produces another important effect. It loosens the dead skin cells that have clumped to the follicle walls, allowing them to be washed away in the flow of sebum. Of course, you can’t see that happening, but your skin will look drier and will gently peel for at least the first month. The technical name for something that causes the skin to peel is an exfoliant. Why would you want your skin to peel? Actually, it isn’t the peeling effect you can see that is helping to clear up your acne but rather the peeling that is happening on a microscopic scale, down inside the follicles.
Not everyone can use benzoyl peroxide. Some find it too irritating, especially those with very fair complexions. Others develop an allergy to benzoyl peroxide and begin to have reactions after using it successfully for a while. Black people and Asians should be especially careful because the peeling effects sometimes cause unwanted dark spots in people whose skin can produce large amounts of melanin. Many acne sufferers must resort to a product that may be less effective—one that contains sulfur or salicylic acid, for example.
Benzoyl peroxide medications come in various forms: lotions, creams, and gels. Gels seem to be most effective, but they are usually available only by prescription. Benzoyl peroxide products also come in different strengths—5-percent and 10-percent solutions. The more sensitive your skin, the lower the percentage you should use. You should always work up slowly to determine how much you should use and how often you need to apply it.
You may find benzoyl peroxide irritating at first, but in time your body may be able to get used to it. One doctor’s suggestion, and perhaps the safest approach, is to start out using the medication once a day, before you go to sleep each night. Rub it gently over the whole area where acne pimples occur, not just on the pimples themselves. Wash the medication off after fifteen minutes the first night. Then, over a week, gradually increase the time you leave it on each night. By the end of the week you should be able to leave the medication on for the entire night. Then, in the morning, it should be washed off.Eventually you might want to work up to twice-a-day applications.
When using benzoyl peroxide, you should experience some amount of dryness and peeling. But if nothing happens, you may need to use a stronger solution or apply it more often or for longer periods of time. If too much dryness and peeling occur, decrease the strength or number of applications.
What to Consider?
Remember when using acne medications not to get them in or around your eyes or lips, or in your nose or mouth. Some people find medications are particularly irritating to the neck, so apply them there with caution if you have acne in that area.
There are some important things to remember when using benzoyl peroxide. Like hydrogen peroxide, it can bleach hair and clothes. So be sure not to get any on your good clothing. Many people find it’s best to wear a white T-shirt to bed, particularly if you are putting the medication on your neck or back. Also be careful when you are in the sun. The sun itself causes a mild peeling, and if sunlight is combined with the medication, peeling can occur at a much higher rate. The results can be quite uncomfortable!
Remember, too, that for the first month almost everyone experiences some amount of mild ”hotness” in the area being treated. However, if the medication causes severe burning feelings and your skin becomes red and inflamed, you should stop using benzoyl per oxide immediately. About one in twenty people are allergic to this drug.
Benzoyl peroxide is sensitive to heat, which causes the drug to lose its strength as some of the reactive peroxide breaks down. Therefore, you should keep it in the refrigerator.
After your skin gets used to benzoyl peroxide, you might want to work up to a higher strength—to 10 percent, for example—or apply it more often. However, be sure to work up slowly to any new strength.
After one to three months of using benzoyl peroxide in a regular daily treatment, most people find their acne greatly improved, and many find that new breakouts occur much less often. For best results you should try not to miss a day in treatment. You don’t want to give the acne process any chance to begin forming new block-ups in the follicles.
Even after the acne seems to be gone, you can’t just relax and forget about it. Experts suggest you continue using the acne medication at a lower ” maintenance” level. There are no cures for acne. Your pimples may be gone for the moment, but you still have all your follicles, and your body is still producing oil. In time, your population of C. acnes will start multiplying all over again. So if you stop applying the acne medications, acne will more than likely flare up again. Until your body conditions change, you have the best chance of staying acne-free if you stick to a regular program of cleaning and medication.
To Pick or Not To Pick?
Picking at pimples and popping “zits” is a sensitive issue. Almost everyone is guilty of popping a pimple at one time or another. Some kinds of lesions may actually heal faster when they are drained. Blackheads, for example, which are open to the surface, can be carefully drained. Soaking your skin with a wet washcloth first can help to soften the material in the pores and make them easier to drain. The trick is never to squeeze too hard and to stop if the pore does not empty easily. You have to be very careful not to force any material down into the skin. This could cause the follicle to rupture, producing inflammation. Drugstores sell comedo extractors designed for “popping” these pimples. However, many dermatologists suggest that their patients should leave all lesions alone. Picking and scratching and pop ping can lead to inflammation and infection, which could cause scars where ordinary pimples would have healed without a trace. If pimples really bother you, you should let a dermatologist drain the lesions. He or she will know the safest way to minimize problems.
Some people really cannot help themselves when it comes to picking at their pimples. It becomes an obsession. Acne excoria occurs in those individuals who actually dig out every tiny bump that flares up under the skin. This causes scabs and inflammation, which prompt more picking. The result, unfortunately, is often permanent scarring.
Having acne breakouts when you’re under a lot of pressure or stress is rather common. Emotions and stress can have a great effect on the condition of your body. Anger causes blood to rush to the head and the heart to beat faster. Panic can cause dizziness, nausea, chest pains, and heart palpitations. Stress can lead to rapid heartbeat, anxiety attacks, and loss of appetite. It can even contribute to heart disease and cancer. Stress and other emotions can also affect your skin.
Stress stimulates the adrenal glands. These glands produce the hormone cortisone, which stimulates the sebaceous gland to produce more oil—and that, of course, helps set the stage for acne problems. Stress also lowers the body’s resistance to bacteria and viruses, by causing the disease-fighting cells of the immune system to work less efficiently. These lowered immune defenses leave you easy prey to colds and other illnesses and can also contribute to acne breakouts by letting the acne bacteria multiply unhindered.
People who are worried or under pressure often absentmindedly pick at their pimples. But this can be harmful, increasing the likelihood of infection and in the long run making the acne longer lasting, more severe, and more likely to result in scarring. Realizing that you pick at your pimples and forcing yourself to stop can be very helpful in clearing up acne.
Stress can never be completely avoided, but controlling the amount of stress in your life can affect your whole body’s health, including that of the skin. You can do many things to reduce stress. Regular exercise helps to release tensions instead of letting them build up inside. It’s important to get enough sleep and be well rested. When your body is tired, your resistance is greatly lowered. Proper vitamin intake from a balanced diet (or vitamin supplements) is also important for maintaining the body’s resistance. Some research has shown that proper levels of vitamins A,B,C, and E and the minerals zinc and selenium can help keep the body’s defenses strong.
Countless psychological factors contribute to stress—and can contribute to acne. When you set impossible goals for yourself, you may be causing yourself unnecessary stress. Bottling up things that bother you can also cause stress to build up. It’s almost always better to talk things out than to keep them inside.
Now you know some of the causes of acne. You should have a better idea of things to avoid in order to minimize acne problems. But more than likely, even if you avoid all the possible acnegenic factors, still you’ll have some acne. If your acne is severe, you should not delay, but see a doctor as soon as possible. The earlier you start treating severe acne, the less likely you are to have complications—such as scars.
If you’re like most people, though, you’ll probably want to try to tackle your acne problem on your own. But when you go to the drugstore, you will find a confusing assortment of acne remedies. They all claim to be good for acne. How do you decide which is best for you? You’ve already learned what acne is and how pimples start and progress. Now you need to understand how acne medications work.
Most of the people who get acne are teenagers. But infants can get acne, too. Even unborn babies in the womb can get acne. (This is called perinatal acne.) People can get acne for the first time at age twenty, thirty,forty, fifty, even older. Why?
As we’ve already mentioned, no one yet knows for sure exactly why acne starts. But for as long as acne has been around, people have been speculating on what causes acne or makes it worse. Things that cause acne are said to be acnegenic, or comedogenic (producing comedones). Some of the speculations sound logical enough but actually have turned out to be wrong.
One of the earliest beliefs about acne was that it was caused by dirt—the result of not keeping the skin properly cleaned. Many people still believe this, but it isn’t so. It is important to clean the skin regularly,because dirt and excess oil on the skin may contribute to blocking pores and slowing down the flow of sebum out to the surface. But dirt does not cause skin cells to clump together and cling to the follicle walls. That happens deep inside the follicle, where cleaning can’t reach.
Another long held belief about acne was that it was somehow related to sex. “Don’t worry,” people would tell a teenaged boy or girl worrying about pimples. “When you get married, your skin will clear up.” The idea that sexual activity could help cure acne also made a good line for someone trying to persuade a reluctant date to “fool around.” Paradoxically, acne has also been associated with having too much sex. That idea got started because people noticed that acne usually occurs during adolescence—the time when a person is becoming sexually mature. (The ancient Greeks were the first to link acne and adolescence, about twenty-five hundred years ago.) Some medical authorities suggested that masturbation was an important cause of acne—a notion that was especially popular during the repressive Victorian era. Such misconceptions about acne and sex persisted until the 1940’s, when scientific studies established that sexual activity and acne are not related.
Do Foods Cause Acne?
Perhaps the most popular idea links acne breakouts to diet. Doctors used to tell their patients to avoid certain foods thought to cause acne. However, over the years so many different foods have been called acnegenic that a person who avoided them all would have practically nothing left to eat. The most notorious acnegenic foods were thought to be chocolate, colas, and greasy foods such as French fries and potato chips. Today most doctors do not feel that diet plays a very important role in acne breakouts. They point to studies of patients who ate large quantities of chocolates or peanuts and did not break out afterwards as proof that diet does not affect acne.
The topic of diet and acne, however, is still under debate. Some doctors claim that the effect of foods should not be ruled out just because a breakout does not occur immediately after eating a possible acnegenic food. Pimples can take weeks or even months to develop. How, then, can we be sure something eaten now will not cause a breakout of pimples several days or weeks from now?
Many doctors who do feel diet has a role in the development of acne have noticed some of their patients had definite breakouts after eating chocolate, sugar, or greasy foods. Others answer that only sensitive people break out after eating these foods. They point to studies such as one that found one out of four people are sensitive to chocolate and may have an acne-like reaction to it. These doctors claim that the reaction is not really acne at all, but rather an allergic reaction that is mistaken for the common acne vulgaris.
Foods that contain iodides have also been linked with acne. Many shellfish are high in iodides. So are pretzels and potato chips, which contain iodized salt. Gluten bread has also been blamed. Excess amounts of iodides probably contribute to the acne process by making the response of the white blood cells to inflammation less effective. But not all doctors agree that iodides are major contributors to acne. Some claim that the levels required to cause breakouts are very high, and normal eating habits would not pose a problem.
Many doctors avoid the debate about acne and food and simply advise their patients to stay away from any foods that seem to cause a problem. If a breakout occurs, they suggest, stay away from the food for a while. Then, after the flare-up goes away, try it again. If the problem recurs, this is a food you should avoid. This is a highly individual matter, to be determined by each person by trial and error.
Hormones and Puberty
The question of hormones is even more complex. There is no doubt that the hormones secreted by an adolescent’s body play a role in acne.
The fact that acne usually occurs at puberty, when sex hormones are released into the bloodstream in large quantities, suggests a definite connection between acne and increased levels of androgen’s, the normal male sex hormones. Eunuchs—men whose testes have been removed or destroyed—do not produce testosterone. Although some androgen’s are produced by the adrenal glands, their overall levels are low, like those of a child before puberty. It’s no coincidence that eunuchs don’t get acne.
Flare-ups of acne in adolescent girls and women are also linked with sex steroid hormones. Typically, pimples peak during menstrual periods, and that is when a woman’s progesterone levels are highest. (Progesterone is chemically very similar to the main androgen, testosterone.)
However, as some research has revealed, higher androgen levels in the blood do not necessarily mean more oil will be produced in the skin. Actually, people with oily skin and a tendency to develop acne usually have normal levels of androgen’s in their bodies. And though the testosterone level remains high in an adult man, most boys do eventually outgrow acne after puberty has ended. So the level of the sex hormones is not the only important factor. What counts is how sensitive the sebaceous glands are to the androgen’s that are present.
Some people’s sebaceous glands are more sensitive than others’. Even in a person’s own body, sebaceous glands differ in their androgen sensitivity. For example, most people’s skin is oilier in the center of the face than anywhere else. The areas on the forehead, nose, cheeks around the nose, and the chin are usually oilier even in people with normal skin and no acne problems. This is because the sebaceous glands in this area are larger and
more sensitive than those in other places. Doctors call this sensitivity end-organ sensitivity. Heredity plays an important role in determining each person’s end-organ sensitivity.
Who Gets Acne?
Increased oil production is obviously related to acne breakouts. But why does acne start? Heredity probably plays an important role in who gets acne and how severe the case will be. However, unlike other conditions that are very rare, acne is so common—nearly everyone gets it—that it is hard to determine how much of a role heredity plays. Some people whose parents had severe cases of acne develop severe cases of their own. Others don’t.
Geography and culture are also uncertain factors. Before white people brought modern ways to Alaska, conditions such as heart disease and acne were very rare among the Eskimos. Now there are many more cases. Did diet play the major role? Was it the change in lifestyle? Research has not yet brought a definite answer.
What Actually Causes Acne?
One current theory about acne has to do with the bacteria that live on the skin and in the follicles, particularly C. acnes. Research has shown that the fatty acids produced by these bacteria sometimes act to speed up the turnover rate of skin cells in the epidermis. New cells are produced in the basal layer at a faster rate. They displace the older cells, pushing them outward and causing more dead outer epidermal cells to be formed. This is a defense mechanism, producing a thicker layer of dead cells as a shield to protect the body. Some scientists feel this might be part of a chain reaction contributing to the start of acne: An increase in the oil production in the skin feeds the C. acnes bacteria present there and creates a population explosion of these microbes. The multiplying bacteria produce more fatty acids, which irritate the skin and prompt it to produce more dead cells. This combination of extra cells and extra oil could set the stage for acne.
Another idea about acne is that the pore openings in an adolescent’s skin are not big enough to handle the increased amount of oil. The pores are still immature and cannot accommodate the growth spurts that the body experiences at this time. This immature pore size makes it more difficult for the sebum to flow. Things get backed up inside, as the body produces more and more oil, and more dead cells are sloughed off inside the follicle. Eventually the pores grow bigger, and the sebum can flow more freely—but this often takes years.
But what about adults who get acne? How does this fit in with the “too-small-pore-size” theory? Dermatologists find that 60 percent of their patients with acne are adult women. In fact, some doctors suggest that between 30 and 50 percent of all adult women have acne flare-ups at one time or another. Many dermatologists believe that the biggest cause of acne in adult women is the cosmetics they use. Makeup foundations and moisturizers are often oily or greasy and can clog the pore openings, causing acne cosmetica. Pores clogged
with oily makeup are similar to the immature pore openings m adolescents. In both cases the flow of sebum is restricted, which can contribute to a backup inside the follicle. Cosmetics manufacturers dispute this theory, contending that most cosmetic products sold to the public are nonacnegenic. Recently dermatologists and cosmetic-industry researchers have been reviewing the results of testing m a cooperative attempt to resolve the question.
Probably both mechanisms—a bacterial population explosion fueled by increased oil production and a clogging of follicles whose pores are too small to permit a free flow of sebum—contribute to the acne process. Perhaps other factors will be discovered. When scientists find out for sure exactly why acne happens, a “cure” for acne will be only one step away. For now. though. dealing with acne means learning about as many things that can cause acne (or acne-like conditions) as possible. If you know what may trigger your acne breakouts, you may be able to minimize acne problems.
Sun, Head, and Humidity
Many people find their acne gets better in the summer, while some find it gets worse. For the people whose problems improve, the answer seems to be the greater exposure to sunlight, whose ultraviolet rays can kill bacteria. Sunlight also promotes increased scaling, as the skin thickens protectively and the dead outer layers flake off more rapidly. This scaling can help unblock clogged pores. So doctors used to advise moderate sunbathing or treatments With UV lamps to help clear up acne.
But recently, medical specialists have become more aware of the negative effects of sun exposure. Ultraviolet light is powerful. If it is strong enough to kill bacteria, you might wonder what it can do to your skin. For one thing, it can produce chemical changes in the skin protein collagen. The long chemical chains of this protein get linked together rigidly, instead of providing an elastic framework. Gradually the skin becomes wrinkled, tough, and leathery—old looking. Even worse, the UV rays can strike deep into the skin cells, producing changes in the chemicals that guide and control their activities. Such a changed skin cell may suddenly run wild, multiplying uncontrollably and producing a cancerous growth. A suntan is the body’s defense against UV rays: The dark pigment melanin soaks up the radiation harmlessly and shields the more delicate structures in the cells. A sunburn means that you were exposed to more sun than you were equipped to handle; dermatologists now believe that most skin cancers can be traced back to a sunburn some time in the past.
Doctors today warn against overdoing sunbathing as an acne remedy, and they frown on UV lamps. You should always use a sunscreen when out in the sun, one that blocks out the UV rays effectively. But beware of oily ones that can aggravate acne problems by blocking pores. Alcohol-based sunscreens are better for your skin than oily, greasy ones, since alcohol helps to clean off excess oil and dirt.
The summer sun may be beneficial to the skin, but coupled with humidity, summer heat can cause acne to get worse. Skin cells swell in hot, humid weather, and this can block the follicles, preventing sebum from flowing properly and causing acne breakouts.
In some severe cases, tropical acne can develop. Large nodules and cysts form on the shoulders and back where the skin is rubbed by clothing. This sometimes happens to soldiers, for example, who are stationed in hot, tropical climates and have to do a lot of physical labor. Some research has suggested that a yeast called Pityrosporum ovale may be involved in tropical acne cases.
In hot, humid weather, it might be advisable to use an astringent (a lotion that dries and tightens the skin) a few times a day to remove excess oil. One good thing about astringents is that they come in medicated pads that you can take along anywhere. They can be stashed in a gym bag, purse, or knapsack for use at times when soap-and-water washing isn’t possible.
Pressure and Other Aggravators
During the summer, remember to reduce friction against the skin, which can also cause acne. Sitting in a vinyl seat in a car, at home, or at work can cause sweat to accumulate. The same is true of exercising in tight fitting, nonabsorbent clothes. Moreover, friction produced by rubbing against the chair or by rough clothes rubbing against the body can damage follicles swollen and blocked by humidity. Headbands, backpack straps, and football helmet straps all can cause flare-ups when they touch and rub on the skin, even in cold climates.
Some doctors believe that pressure on the skin alone can cause problems. If you lean your chin on your hand while studying, for example, you may have an acne breakout on your chin. Apparently pressure locks moisture into the skin, causing the surface layer around the pores to swell. This makes the pore openings smaller, so the oil cannot escape properly. Acne that is caused by rubbing, friction, or pressure on the skin is acne mechanics. Placing a towel on the chair, wearing loose, absorbent clothes, using talcum powder, and keeping as little pressure on the skin as possible are good ways to minimize problems.
Acne can be aggravated by anything that prevents sebum from flowing freely through the follicle and out onto the surface of the skin. Some people find that if they wear their hair in bangs, they break out on the forehead. People with long hair sometimes get acne on the neck and upper back. This is caused by the oils from the hair, which may help to clog the pore openings, and possibly by friction of the hair rubbing on the skin.
Over-cleaning your face can also worsen acne pimples and result in what doctors call acne detergicans. Some people scrub very hard and use abrasive cleansers to try to scrub acne away. Sometimes this over-cleaning can irritate plugged-up follicles, causing them to rupture and become inflamed. Instead of washing away the acne, it only makes the area more raw and worse than before.
Acne can also be caused by a person’s work environment. Occupational acne is what sometimes happens when the skin is exposed to a lot of oil or grease on the job. Some people who work in fast-food restaurants, for example, can develop severe cases oi acne if they are constantly exposed to splattering oil and grease in a kitchen. Machinists and mechanics, too, may develop acne on their arms from constant exposure to oil and grease.
Sometimes medications the doctor prescribes for an illness can cause acne pimples as a side effect. Acne medicamentosa is the name for this type of breakout. Steroids and drugs used to control epileptic seizures can sometimes cause acne. So can oral contraceptives. Lithium, phenobarbital, and Dilantin can cause breakouts. Some cough and cold medicines or multivitamins that contain bromides and iodides are sometimes culprits. Danazol, a synthetic androgen used to treat endometriosis, and INH, an anti-TB drug, have sometimes caused eruptions. Excessive amounts of vitamin B12 can also cause breakouts.
Usually breakouts caused by medications will look different from ordinary acne problems. Steroid eruptions, for example, most often occur as a number of small, shallow pustules. If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing breakouts, don’t stop taking it on your own. Discuss it with your doctor. He or she will examine the pimples, and if the medication seems to be causing you to break out, perhaps another drug will be substituted for it.
Some people notice that the area around the mouth is particularly prone to acne. The culprit may be tooth paste. Some people react to the fluoride in the tooth paste by breaking out in acne pimples. If you think this might be your problem, try a non-fluoridated toothpaste for a while to see if the skin in the area clears up. Soaps used to wash the skin may also contribute to acne if they contain oily cleansing cream or fragrance. (Some people are sensitive to perfumes.)
Sometimes breakouts can occur when something is missing from your diet. Some people break out when their bodies do not have enough vitamin C, for example.
Men with curly hair may develop a particular kind of acne problem. Their facial hairs are curly, too, and the tips may turn back into the pores and become ingrown, causing acne-like pimples. This condition is called pseudofolliculitis barbae. It is often worsened by shaving.
Some people are affected by foods and drinks that cause the blood vessels to expand. These are called vasodilators. Spicy foods and hot drinks such as coffee and tea, as well as alcoholic drinks, are all vasodilators, which cause the face to be flushed. People with an acne-like condition called acne rosacea are particularly sensitive to vasodilators. The capillaries beneath the skin become enlarged and sometimes are damaged, causing the nose and surrounding area to be puffy and red. Pimples break out on and around the nose, as well as on the cheeks and forehead, and the area around the pimples is red and inflamed. Acne rosacea usually occurs in people over thirty, particularly in women, although men who have the condition often have more severe cases. W. C. Fields was one famous acne rosacea sufferer. Sometimes this condition is called * ‘whiskey nose,” but this is an unfair description; although alcohol can worsen the problem, acne rosacea also occurs in people who have never had a drink in their lives. Severe cases of acne rosacea require treatment with prescription drugs: antibiotics or the recently approved metronidazole, which comes in a water-based gel form that is colorless and odorless and can be used under makeup.
Herbal teas have been used for many centuries as part of various herbal cleansing programs because of their medicinal properties. They can support the cleansing process, and some teas may help strengthen specific organs or alleviate various conditions. Herbal teas often contain high levels of antioxidants, which can be beneficial to the immune system.
When purchasing teas, choose only the highest quality organic leaves, otherwise you’ll be introducing chemicals into your body.
List of Some Detox Friendly Herbal Teas
Alfalfa: High in vitamins and minerals, alfalfa enhances immune function. It alkalizes, detoxifies, and purifies the bloodstream and liver, and helps fight infection.
Burdock root: One of the most popular internal cleansing herbs, burdock clears the bloodstream of toxins, stimulates the liver, regulates blood sugar, and helps eliminate uric acid from the body. It is rich in vitamins and antioxidants and is an excellent immune booster.
Cat’s claw: This herb stimulates the immune system, promotes healing of wounds, and reduces inflammation and arthritis. Also helpful in treating candida, chronic fatigue, digestive troubles, bowel disorders, and viral infections.
Cayenne: The fiery red pepper known as cayenne aids digestion, improves circulation, and is very helpful for the heart, lungs, kidneys, and stomach.
Chamomile: Often used to treat digestive disorders and heartburn, chamomile is also used to alleviate stress, sleep disorders, headaches, and menstrual cramps.
Dandelion: A gentle diuretic, dandelion is also an expectorant, blood purifier, and liver cleanser. Rich in vitamins and minerals, dandelion helps with anemia, kidney function, hypoglycemia, and liver, gall bladder, and stomach problems. Dandelion leaves mixed with milk thistle make the ultimate liver detoxifier and protector.
Echinacea: Often used for fighting infections, colds, flu, sore throat, inflammation, and congestion, echinacea stimulates the white blood cells and helps speed recovery.
Fennel: Rich in phytoestrogens, fennel is commonly used for colic, indigestion, gas, asthma, congestion in the lungs, water retention, and problems in the bowels, liver, kidneys, and spleen. It is also used as an appetite suppressant and to promote milk flow in mothers.
Ginger: This spice has been traditionally used to treat indigestion, gas, stomach cramps, nausea, motion sickness, inflammation, circulation, colds, flu, and coughs.
Globe artichoke: A natural remedy for indigestion, liver, and gall bladder issues, it has also been used in traditional treatments for high cholesterol and kidney disease.
Hawthorn berry: This red berry protects against cardiovascular disease and circulatory disorders. It helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High in antioxidants, it is helpful in treating anemia.
Juniper berry: A mild diuretic, juniper berries support urinary tract health. They also aid digestion, help reduce inflammation, indigestion, and kidney and bladder issues.
Licorice root: Used to alleviate gas, heartburn, indigestion, ulcers and colic, licorice has anti-inflammatory properties and helps improve circulation. It has also been used to clear the bronchial tubes, throat, and lungs.
Milk thistle: One of the most effective herbs for relieving liver disorders, milk thistle is very high in antioxidants. It protects the liver and prevents free-radical damage. It is the ultimate liver detoxifier and protector, especially when mixed with dandelion.
Mullein: Recommended for clearing congestion, sore throats, coughs, colds, bronchitis, asthma and ear aches, mullein also acts as a laxative and sleep aid.
Nettle: This prickly herb acts as a diuretic and supports the kidneys and urinary system. It is good for clearing phlegm in the lungs and bronchial tubes. Nettle is nutritious and has been used traditionally to treat anemia.
Oregano, wild: The fragrant oil of this herb boosts the immune system and fights free radicals and infection. Oregano oil has antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic, and antioxidant abilities.
Parsley leaf: Its high vitamin C content makes parsley an excellent immune builder; it also improves kidney activity and helps eliminate waste from the blood. Parsley has been used to relieve gas, indigestion, bladder issues, and fluid retention.
Peppermint: Used to soothe indigestion, nausea, headaches, and poor appetite, peppermint leaves also help relieve cold or flu symptoms.
Red clover: An excellent blood purifier, red clover is also an expectorant and immune builder, and often used in treating arthritis, infections, skin diseases, toxicity, and inflammation of the urinary tract.
Rose hips: An excellent source of rutin and vitamins C, E, and A, rose hip tea helps treat and prevent bladder infections.
Taheebo: With anti-fungal and antibacterial properties, taheebo (also known as pau d’arco) is often used to treat candida, intestinal problems, skin issues, herpes, and viral and fungal infections. It is an excellent tea for the immune system.
Thyme, wild: Often used as a culinary herb, wild thyme is also a natural antiseptic for sore throats and coughs.
Turmeric: Useful in the treatment of arthritis, turmeric also protects the liver, helps circulation, and fights free radicals.
Valerian: Well-known for its sedative qualities, valerian is very helpful in promoting calmness and sleep without adverse side effects.
Vervain: Effective in treating migraines and headaches, vervain also acts as a mild sedative and helps cleanse the liver and gall bladder.
Yarrow: A remedy for indigestion, gas, heartburn, and stomach cramps, yarrow is also helpful for urinary infections, and gall bladder and liver conditions.
Yellow dock: Very high in iron, yellow dock acts as a blood purifier and cleanser and is an excellent remedy for treating anemia. Also supports liver and colon function.
While we try to rely on fresh food sources to meet our daily nutritional requirements, it is often challenging to do so due to poor absorption as well as soil depletion. It has been found that using chemical fertilizers over many years can greatly reduce the nutrient level of most soils and crops. Studies show that many fruits and vegetables have lower levels of nutrients than they did fifty years ago.
Vitamins Minerals and Essential Fatty Acids
Vitamin B12: Crucial for the proper functioning of the brain, the entire nervous system, and the formation of our blood, vitamin B, plays an important part in the metabolism of every cell in our body. In the past, some non-animal items such as spirulina, chlorella, tempeh, miso, and even soil were considered as possible sources of B, but these have proven to be unreliable.
Calcium: Vital for the formation of strong bones and teeth, calcium is also essential for maintenance of a regular heartbeat and muscular growth. Rich plant food sources include dark leafy greens (broccoli, bok choy, kale, collards, turnip greens, dandelion), tahini, legumes, sesame seeds, almonds, figs, seaweeds, and unrefined molasses. Since the consumption of animal protein may increase calcium requirements, a person following a vegan diet may have much lower needs.
Vitamin D: Traditionally, people have looked to fish oil for vitamin D, which is needed to maintain proper calcium levels, both in the bones and in the bloodstream. However, the best source is sunshine. Ultraviolet rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Sun exposure of just fifteen to twenty minutes daily (early morning or late afternoon) will help provide the body with adequate stores of vitamin D. For individuals with limited sun exposure, it is important to take a good supplement.
Iodine: Needed only in trace amounts, iodine helps metabolize excess fat and is important for physical and mental health. It is vital for good thyroid function, which in turn is essential for good health. The best vegetarian sources are dulse, nori, arame, vegetables grown near the ocean, and many vitamin and mineral supplements.
Iron: A trace element needed for the formation of blood, iron is vital for the health of cells and for the transport of oxygen to all parts of the body. The richest plant sources are sea vegetables, leafy greens, beets, cherries, lentils, legumes, dried fruits, nuts (almonds, brazil nuts, cashews), seeds (pumpkin, sunflower, sesame), whole grains, and blackstrap molasses. (Adding fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C to your meals enhances iron absorption. Dairy products, on the other hand, can inhibit absorption of iron.)
Essential fatty acids: Necessary for every living cell in the body, essential fatty acids help rebuild cells. Some excellent vegetarian sources are algaes, hemp seeds and oil, flax seeds and oil, primrose and borage oils, chia seeds, and most raw nuts and seeds.
Zinc: An essential mineral required for prostate gland function, growth of reproductive organs, and protein synthesis, zinc promotes a healthy immune system and healing of wounds. Found in kelp, nuts, seeds (especially pumpkin seeds), lentils, mushrooms, and brewer’s yeast.
Whole Food Supplements
To ensure nutritional support, complement your diet with a high quality, whole food supplement. Whole food supplements can vary in quality. The following are whole, minimally processed, and of excellent quality.
Chlorella: A single-celled freshwater grown algae, chlorella is a complete protein (approximately 58 percent), containing vitamins B, C, and E, beta-carotene, trace minerals, calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and omega-3 fatty acids. It is nature’s richest source of chlorophyll and commonly recommended to aid the body in the elimination of heavy metals such as mercury, cadmium, and lead. (Broken cell-wall chlorella is nearly twice as digestible as other chlorella.) Chlorella is also excellent for regulating blood sugar.
E3Live: Minimally processed, aphanizomenon flos-aquae (AFA)—blue-green algae—this product contains high-quality amino acids, live enzymes, chlorophyll, minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. ELive is very easily assimilated by the body. It is an excellent food to help heal and nourish your body.
Maca: Rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and iron, maca increases energy and supports the immune system. It is also a hormone-balancing adaptogen that helps regulate hormones in both men and women, reduces stress, and enhances the libido.
Full spectrum plant-based enzymes: The most popular enzymes found in natural food supplements, plant-based enzymes are useful in supporting optimal digestion. They are an essential supplement when consuming heavier foods (both cooked and raw).
Probiotics: A good bacteria naturally found in the body, probiotics help support a healthy digestive system. They can be found in Rejuvelac, live sauerkraut, and other fermented foods that contain active cultures. (Look for dairy-free probiotics.)
Spirulina: A tiny aquatic plant with a remarkable concentration of nutrients including protein (65 percent), beta carotene, B-complex vitamins, vitamin E, essential trace minerals, and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), spirulina is also a major source of iron and calcium.
Vitamineral™ Green: This product includes a full spectrum of naturally occurring, absorbable, and nontoxic vitamins, minerals (including calcium), and trace minerals. It contains no synthetic or isolated nutrients.
Schinoussa Sea Vegetables™: A raw superfood made with spirulina, chlorella, blue-green algae (ELive), irish moss, and dulse. This blend is clinically tested and proven to reduce free radicals within weeks if taken regularly.
Whole Foods to Include in the Diet
Bee pollen: A complete food said to contain approximately 185 nutrients, including twenty-two amino acids, plus vitamins, minerals, and enzymes, it is useful for treating fatigue, hay fever, sinusitis, environmental allergies, prostate enlargement, chronic infection, and nutritional deficiencies. (People who are allergic to bees should never take bee pollen.)
Chia seeds: The richest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids, they are also an excellent source of protein, minerals, fiber, vitamin B, and antioxidants. Eat one to two tablespoons of soaked chia seeds daily.
Flax seeds: High in lignans and omega-3s, flax seeds also provide excellent nutrition in the form of protein, lecithin, minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Flax is an important food to eat daily (soak and blend). One heaping tablespoon contains two grams of alpha-linolenic acid.
Garlic: Long known for its many health benefits and medicinal properties, garlic is an antiviral, antifungal, antibacterial agent and is known to expel intestinal parasites from the body. Garlic improves circulation and lowers blood pressure and cholesterol.
Hemp seeds: As a complete protein, hemp seeds are an excellent source of amino acids and have a well-balanced ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 essential fatty acids. Hemp seeds are excellent in salads and smoothies and can be made into a delicious hemp milk.
Wheatgrass juice: High in minerals, amino acids, enzymes, and vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, and K, wheatgrass juice is very helpful in strengthening the immune system. It is also a powerful blood cleanser and can help remove toxins from the blood stream.
Dulse, wakame, hijiki, and other sea vegetables: Dulse is a whole food that is high in trace elements, minerals, and iodine. It is excellent for removing toxins from the body. Be sure to soak for one minute and drain before eating. (Store in the refrigerator after soaking.) Highly alkaline sea vegetables are packed with B vitamins, minerals, iodine, and selenium to support the health and proper function of the thyroid and adrenal glands. Rich in alginates, sea vegetables are useful in removing toxins from the body. They also contain cancer-fighting lignans.
Pimples usually seem to pop up overnight. This may sometimes be the case, but more often the pimple that you notice has taken weeks, even months to develop before you ever see it. Once it does appear, it might disappear in a day or two, or it could linger on for another few weeks or even months.
There are many different kinds of acne pimples, or lesions, as doctors call them. They can take the form of tiny skin-colored bumps, little white bumps, small red bumps, bigger red bumps, bumps with a black substance in them, pus-filled bumps, or even giant, painful ones. All of these are acne lesions, and all of them start out the same way: from a follicle that becomes blocked.
How Pimples Start
When shed epidermal cells start clumping together, along with the oily secretions and bacteria feeding on them, they begin to stick to the follicle wall. As more cells pile up, the wall grows thicker and it becomes more difficult for sebum to flow to the surface through the narrowed channel. The tube-shaped follicle starts to bulge a little as more and more shed cells stick to the growing mass inside it, and the opening to the surface becomes increasingly blocked. At this point, the problem is still a small one; you would need a microscope to see the plugged-up follicle.
Doctors call any stopped-up follicle a comedo (plural comedones), and a tiny microscopic one is called a microcomedo. All acne pimples start out as microcomedones. Unfortunately, they don’t stay invisible. Eventually, thousands of dead epidermal cells build up in the follicle, and the plug makes the opening to the surface even smaller as it grows. The plug is not solid; it is more like a sponge. The skin cells in it are loosely clumped together, allowing oxygen and some amount of fluids to go in and out.
Meanwhile, the follicle starts to really bulge like a tiny balloon under the skin, because the sebaceous gland keeps producing sebum. Some of the sebum gets out to the surface, but most of it is trapped inside. Now the comedo is big enough to see if you look at yourself in the mirror.
When pimples are first visible, they appear as tiny white or flesh-colored bumps under the skin. They may be hard to see, but- if you stretch or pull your skin they become more evident. Because they are almost completely plugged, these acne lesions are called closed comedones. They are also known as whiteheads. Dermatologists sometimes call them “time bombs ” because they may not seem like much—they are only about 2 millimeters across, roughly the size of a pinhead—but they can develop into very serious kinds of pimples.
It is important to remember that the opening of the pore at the surface of the skin is not where the block occurs. It is down inside the follicle, so simple washing cannot clean the plug away. Often skin will grow over the pore, preventing almost all sebum from escaping and making the pore opening almost impossible to see.
Oil and dead cells continue to build up, and eventually one of two things will happen. Either the sebum will eventually force its way out to the surface of the skin, or it will put so much pressure on the follicle walls that they burst like a balloon that has too much air in it. If the pore eventually does open, it produces what is known as a blackhead or, in dermatological terms, an open comedo. People call it a blackhead because there is a gooey dark material inside.
The biggest misconception about blackheads is that the dark stuff is dirt and it is caused by not keeping the skin properly cleaned. The dark color is actually produced by a chemical reaction oi the sebum and dead cells with the oxygen of the air. The skin’s own melanin also makes a substantial contribution to the blackhead’s dark color. In fact, since melanin is produced only by the epidermal cells in the upper part of the follicle and not by those lining its lower part, the material in the open comedo is dark near the skin surface and lighter below. The color of blackheads also varies from one person to another, depending on the amount of melanin in the skin. Dark-skinned people tend to have very dark blackheads, while albinos have white ones. Since the matter in the comedo isn’t dirt, more frequent washing will not get rid of it. Neither will squeezing: Although some of the material near the surface will be forced out the narrowing of the follicle down below still remains, and the blackhead will eventually re-form.
From Bad to Worse
Annoying as blackheads may be, the alternative can be worse. The second outcome of a closed comedo—an exploded follicle wall—is a much more serious situation. For the first time, the acne process enters the body. (Remember, the follicle wall is really an extension of the outer layer of the epidermis, so in a way open comedones and even closed ones do not occur “inside” the body.) When the follicle wall is damaged, the dead cells and sebum flood into the dermis, along with some of the bacteria that were living in the follicle. This is when inflammation starts, and with it come redness and swelling.
Now the body’s defenses spring into action. When tissues are damaged, they send out chemical distress signals. A substance called histamine makes the microscopic capillaries dilate (widen), bringing more blood into the area. One side effect of this is that the capillary walls become leaky, and fluid from the blood oozes out into the surrounding tissues, producing swelling and inflammation. The chemical distress signals sent out by damaged tissues also summon white blood cells, which act as combination soldiers and garbage collectors. They are the body’s main line of defense against things that do not belong in it. Some of the white blood cells slip through tiny gaps in the capillary walls and move into the damaged tissues, prowling along the fluid-filled spaces between cells.
Soon the inflamed pimple is the scene of a fierce battle. White cells, looking like constantly changing blobs, creep through the tissues, homing in on bacteria, dead skin cells, or bits of sebum. The white blood cells flow over their prey, literally eating them. (The technical name of these germ-fighting white cells is phagocytes,which means “eating cells.”) The battle rages on as the white blood cells tirelessly gobble down bacteria and bits of dead matter. Some of these blood-cell soldiers are overcome in the fight, “slain” by doses of poison produced by the bacteria they have consumed. These dead blood cells, along with dead bacteria, sebum, and bits of skin-cell debris, accumulate in the form of the whitish matter called pus.
In the first stages of the battle, the increased flow of blood to the region of the damaged follicle makes the swollen area look red. Soon it becomes noticeable at the surface of the skin, in the form of a small red bump called a papule.
If there was only a small break in the follicle wall, the white blood cells will quickly win the fight and remove all the intruders within just a few days. The papulewill disappear, and the follicle wall will be patched up with scar tissues. Sometimes the papules become hardened and remain for weeks before their contents are finally absorbed.
Often the damage is more extensive and cannot be contained right away. As the fight continues, a sac of pus forms, filled with oil and bacteria and white blood cells. At the surface, it looks like a yellowish or whitish cap on top of the red bump. It has now become a pustule.
The skin over the pustule is thin, and eventually it may open, so that the pus drains out; or the white blood cells patrolling the tissues may clean up all the pus and carry it away, digesting it as they continue their patrols through the body. Papules and pustules are what we normally think of as ”pimples.”
When foreign material gets into the dermis and causes inflammation, some of the connective tissue is damaged. If all goes well, new tissue will form to replace the damaged tissue, and the skin will be as good as new. However, sometimes the repair is not complete, and a hole will be left in the dermis. Epidermis grows to cover the hole, and a depressed scar is formed.
Scarring is all the more probable when the break in the follicle wall is a large one. Then a lot of sebum, dead cells, and bacteria flood into the dermis, creating a large red bump, called a nodule. This is actually a larger form of the papule, and it feels firm. You may be tempted to squeeze it, hoping that the “bad stuff” will pop out and the pimple will heal. Instead, squeezing probably will just make the scarring worse.
The body’s defenses work hard to get rid of the irritating material of the nodule. After a painful flare-up that may last for up to a week or so, the nodule may gradually subside into a papule, which in turn may take some weeks to disappear. If the accumulation of bacteria and cell matter is very large, the contents of the nodule may become enclosed inside a makeshift wall below the skin surface. Now the lesion has become a cyst, which may grow to as much as an inch in diameter. Pus builds up inside the cyst, making it feel somewhat soft. It may be red and throbbing, an “angry-looking” boil. A cyst will heal faster if it is opened, so that the contents can drain; but this is definitely not a do-it-yourself project. Opening a cyst is actually surgery, and it should be done by a doctor or other medical professional with special precautions to stop the bleeding, prevent further infection, and minimize scarring.
When the acne process progresses to cysts, the inflammation is usually very serious. The sebaceous gland in these large lesions is destroyed, and oil will never be produced in that spot again. Cysts can be painful, and scarring often occurs, so you should see a dermatologist if your acne is this serious.
Many people never get papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts because their follicle walls are strong and the pore is always forced open, creating a blackhead, before the wall can give way. Other people almost never get blackheads but have a lot of inflamed lesions. This is because their follicle walls are not as strong. Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to strengthen your follicle walls. You can’t build them up with special exercises or salves or vitamins. Their strength is just something you’re born with. The same goes for scarring. Some people’s skin heals better than others’. Chance is also a big factor in scarring. If the follicle wall breaks close to the surface and if the break is small, there usually won’t be any scarring. But if it is a large break, deep in the dermis, chances are that scarring will occur.
Good digestion is vital to good health. It isn’t so much what we eat that is crucial to our health, but what we digest and assimilate. If your food doesn’t break down, it will putrefy, and your body will absorb its own waste before it can be eliminated. Indigestion is an underlying cause of many health problems and can be avoided by not overloading the body with too many foods. Consuming too many incompatible foods can create symptoms such as lack of energy, bloating, flatulence, burping, body odor, candida, fatigue, acidity, or lower-back ache.
Food combining is based on the theory that different types of food require different lengths of time, different enzymes, and different pH balances for proper digestion. It is believed that the body is not designed to digest more than one concentrated food in the stomach at the same time. (Any food other than a fruit or vegetable is considered concentrated.)
The simpler the meal, the better you feel!
Good food combining places less of a burden on your digestive system, which means that ultimately, you’ll have a higher energy level. You’ll also have better absorption and less bloating and gas. Allow time between meals for your system to assimilate and rest. When eating a raw diet, one can be less stringent with food combining principles. For example, leafy greens can be combined with small amounts of fruit, especially when blended. Test the guidelines out and learn for yourself.
Simple Principles for Food Combining
Drink liquids alone or before meals; wait at least 15 minutes before eating.
Do not mix protein and carbohydrates at the same meal.
Eat one type of protein per meal.
Do not mix fats and proteins at the same meal. (Foods such as nuts are over 50 percent fat and require hours for digestion.)
Eat fruit alone on an empty stomach (either thirty minutes before a meal or two-and-a-half hours after) or blended with leafy greens. Fruit digestion is extremely quick but will be slowed down if eaten with other foods, causing fermentation.