As the long days of Spring and Summer are coming to an end it is time to think about how we can prepare our skin for the cold seasons of Fall and Winter ahead. First and foremost, beautiful skin comes from the inside out. What may work in the summer time may not be beneficial to the skin in the Winter.
Traditional Chinese Medicine uses the same natural remedies and techniques that have worked for thousands of years. In fact dermatology is an actual specialty of TCM practitioners. Rather than simply applying a treatment to the skin, the TCM approach is to address the internal problem, allowing the skin on the outside to then heal itself.
TCM sees the body as a whole system of interrelated parts. In TCM all disorders, including dry or winter skin, which on the surface may seem to be caused by external forces - actually have their root causes in internal imbalances between Qi, blood flow, yin, yang, and blockages of energy pathways within the body.
Beauty and health are synonymous in the TCM system. To treat dry skin the TCM Practitioner would seek to strengthen one's immune system and to decrease the body's sensitivity to the cold and other negative environmental energies like dryness. It is also important to balance the internal organ systems using herbal medicines and acupuncture to restore internal imbalances and remove blockages of Qi that are contributing to or causing the dry or itchy skin.
Now is the time to change the way you eat and care for your body. What worked for you in the days of spring and summer will be quite different for the Fall and Winter time. Fall and winter are notorious for drying us out, requiring us to use products and consume food that create moisture and energy.
Dry winter air removes the moisture from your skin. So does the long hot baths and showers we take during that time to warm us up." Put those together and it seems like everyone is walking along with dry itchy skin.
It is important to hydrate skin from the inside out. Watch out for any caffeinated beverages and other forms of caffeine. In Chinese dietary therapy it will actually drain the energy of the kidney and deplete the yin of the body making you actually drier.
Make sure you are drinking at least 64 oz of water a day. I recommend teas, broths and warm water to balance the coldness of the season. When you are finished with your bath or shower use a good lotion or oil from the bottom of this article to lock in moisture into the skin.
In Chinese dietary therapy, health stems from balancing one's internal environment with the external environment. With diet, it becomes important to eat appropriately for the time of year and seasonally. Select foods associated with the time of year they are harvested, as well as eating warming foods in the fall and winter. Winter is a very yin time of year and the body needs to adjust. Soups, stews, root vegetables, baked apples and pears and cooked foods are what the body needs to maintain moisture and boost the digestive energy and kidney energy in the body. If possible, depending on your diet, try and incorporate marrow into your soups and stews by adding organic free range bones into the broth. Marrow is the root of blood and yin in Chinese Medicine and keeps the body healthy and strong during the winter season.
Winter is a time when the body consolidates its energy and regenerates itself so ensure getting enough sleep. In fact, the longer nighttime hours are nature's way of turning our bodies inward to regenerate and rejuvenate for the spring months to come. Try and get an extra hour of sleep each night and get to bed no later than 11pm when the body's natural regenerative properties are at their highest. By harnessing the transformative and consolidating energy of fall and winter, you can emerge more beautiful and radiant for spring and summer to come.
Organic Food may have higher nutritional value and life force. Conversely, junk food and processed foods are void of nutritional value and have potential cause for inflammation.
These are foods we can load up on in wintertime:
- Green leafy veggie that engender yin energy like kale, spinach, collards and chard
- Foods that contain anti oxidants and anti inflammatory agents like quercetin likebroccoli, cranberries s and apples.
- Fish ( salmon and mercury free tuna)which is high in Omega 3 fatty acids. This reduces inflammation and moistures skin from the inside out.
- Probiotics keep digestive energy balanced and actually help boost the immune system.
- Antioxidant foods which help skin recover from oxidative stress: Red and black currents, raspberries, blueberries, pomegranates, sesame seeds and goji berries. Grapes contain resveratrol a super anti oxidant. These foods are also blood tonics in Chinese medicine which help boost the health of the skin.
- Goji berries or Wolfberry is an herb that has long been used in Chinese medicine for treatment of dry skin. To TCM practitioners, Goji berries nourish and restore the liver, kidneys and blood. Goji berries contains powerful anti-oxidants including vitamin C, linoleic acid, thiamine, beta-carotene, and riboflavin.
- Spinach and Kale are anti oxidant that contain Lutein.
- Yellow and orange root vegetables like carrots sweet potatoes pumpkins and squash are great sources of beta carotene. These build blood and tonify the energy of the digestive system. Keep the "rainbow diet "in mind. All these fruits and veggies are well documented for their high anti oxidant value. High amount of phytochemicals from the families of carotenoids(beta carotene and lycopene), polyphenols, querceetin and catechins, as well as resveratrol and and anthocyanidins. All of these have documented healing properties and are key in anti aging, regenerative, and protective skin care.
- Supplements such as borage, resveratrol, biotin, fish oil multi vitamins, and alpha lipoic acid. If you see a practictioner of TCM, they can prescribe you an appropriate herbal formula to help you transition through the fall and winter months.
Rest and rejuvenation. It is hard to get out in the cold, it is fine to exercise at home. Find a good yoga, qi gong, tai chi or meditation CD to practice at home to revitalize and rejuvenate the body. Don't forget to practice good sleep hygiene and get more sleep during the winter months.
Reduce the intake of alcohol and caffeine not to drain jing or essence of the kidneys which is TCM anti aging concept. Stay hydrated to support the kidney system, the system of wintertime.
Moxa. Or moxibustion is a form of heat therapy used in Chinese Medicine for over thousands of years. Moxa is the herb artemesia vulgaris which dreid and rolled into sticks that resemble a cigar. Moxa is used for the strengthing of blood, chi and digestion. Moxa is lit and used to heat points all along the body. This is a great treatment that can be done under the care of a good TCM practitioner.
Some products that I like for skin are:
Kiss My Face Honey and Calendula Body Lotion and Soap
These products helped me survive dry skin when I lived in Arizona.Calendula has been widely studied for its healing and anti oxidant properties. It has demonstrated healing properties dermatitis, and radiation burns as well. It is so safe that it can be even used on babies. (Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 2008)
Argan Oil Products
Kae is from Europe and they are double organic certified. They have products for every type of skin and the oils can also be used on hair as well. Argan oil has been studied on skin in the winter time that regulated sebum production.(Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, 2007)
Leonor Greyl Regenerescence Oil
This special treatment oil is used on scalps for dandruff, dry scalp and hair. I often use this oil as well topically on skin for excema, psoriasis and even dermatitis. It contains mimosa tenuflora, borage oil, rose of chili in it. Mimosa tenuflora has been studied for its healing properties for venous ulcers on skin, its anti microbial properties and its ability to increase fibroblastic activity in the dermis. (Journal of Ethnobotnpharmacology, 2009)
Sea Buckthorn Oil
There are very well documented studies on the benefit of both oral or topic use of this oil that has been used for centuries in Europe and Asia. Sea buckthorn oil is an excellent agent for the process of cellular rejuvenation. It has been studied and demonstrated its effects from protecting skin against radiation and aid in diabetic would healing and atopic dermatitis (Journal of Nutrition Biochemistry, 2000). Sea Buckthorn can be taken both orally and topically. A product called Charmi Vi was released March 2010. There is a clinical trial that has been taken place in Italy for the past 2 years on anti aging for both topical and oral consumption of Sea buckthorn (Adriana Bonfigli Ph.D Reasearch Director). Weleda has a good range of sea buckthorn products.
Find a practitioner near you to help you take care of your skin!
Elizabeth H. Trattner, A.P., D.O.M. is a Florida and National Board Certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Acupuncture and holds a certificate from the Annemarie Colbin Natural Gourmet Cookery School in New York City. Elizabeth specializes in women’s health, weight management, allergies, autoimmune diseases and environmental illnesses. For the past fifteen years she has been advancing the concepts of Integrative Medicine, combining her expertise in acupuncture and oriental medicine with nutritional counseling and women’s health. By drawing on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 17 years of training under Andrew Weil, MD and other natural modalities, she helps patients improve and take control of their health and optimal weight. In the spring of 2008, she was invited to attend and participate in a prestigious medical rotation at the University of Arizona’s Center of Integrative Medicine founded by Dr. Weil. She is the only acupuncture physician in the country with this designation. Elizabeth is a contributing author for several publications and websites on Alternative Medicine including: Cosmetic Dermatology: Principles and Practice by Dr. Leslie Baumann; Ask Dr. Weil at www.drweil.com; and CSSAssociation.org.