Acupuncture for Acne

acupuncture
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While acupuncture is most commonly used in the treatment of health problems such as back pain, arthritis, and headache, some research shows that this needle-based alternative therapy may also help fight acne. Unlike most conventional treatments, acupuncture is thought to get rid of acne by addressing the condition's underlying causes.

Why Is Acupuncture Sometimes Used For Acne?

Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture involves inserting needles into the skin in order to stimulate specific points on the body.

These points are commonly referred to as "acupoints."

According to the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, all of your organs mutually support each other in achieving health. Because each organ is said to influence specific aspects of health, certain physical or environmental factors affecting those organs are thought to contribute to health issues throughout your body.

In traditional Chinese medicine, acne is said to result from heat and/or dampness affecting the lungs, stomach, and/or spleen. Imbalances in the lungs, for example, are thought to interfere with the opening and closing of your pores (a factor that may play a role in the development of acne).

Since each organ system is said to connect to a channel (or "meridian") that runs throughout your body, practitioners suggest that using acupuncture to stimulate specified points along meridian lines can help increase the flow of vital energy (or "chi"), restore balance to the corresponding organ system, and promote healing from the health problem at hand.

Although scientific support for the use of acupuncture in treatment of acne is fairly limited, a number of studies have shown that acupuncture may help reduce inflammation. Because acne is closely associated with chronic inflammation, it's possible that acupuncture's potentially acne-fighting benefits may be related to the therapy's anti-inflammatory effects.

The Science Behind Acne and Acupuncture

For a report published in the journal Medical Acupuncture in 2013, researchers analyzed 43 previously published clinical trials (with a total of 3,453 patients) testing the use of a variety of acupoint stimulation techniques (including acupuncture along with therapies like moxibustion and cupping) in the treatment of acne. Results revealed that patients treated with a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine experienced significant improvements in acne. Cupping also appeared to be beneficial as an acne treatment.

Although these findings suggest that acupuncture and related therapies show promise in the treatment of acne, it's important to note that the reviewed studies were deemed to be "generally poor" in terms of their design. 

The available clinical trials on acupuncture and acne include a small study published in Acupuncture in Medicine in 2010. For the study, 36 people with acne received 12 acupuncture sessions over the course of six weeks.

While half the participants underwent generalized acupuncture, the other half received acupuncture targeting their ah shi points (i.e., points associated with pain or tenderness).

At the study's end, members of both groups showed a significant reduction in their number of acne lesions. What's more, both groups also experienced a significant improvement in acne symptoms and in quality of life.

Caveats

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when provided by a qualified practitioner. When improperly administered, it can cause infections, injury to the central nervous system, and various other adverse effects.

Alternatives to Acupuncture for Acne 

Many other types of alternative medicine may help get your acne under control. For example, some studies indicate that taking herbs like dong quai, vitex, and guggul may provide acne relief.

Essential oils such as tea tree oil may also be helpful in the treatment of acne. You can learn more about using tea tree oil for acne here.

Since stress is considered a common trigger for acne, easing everyday stress with mind-body techniques like meditation and yoga may help manage acne as well.

Beyond Acne: More Skin Benefits of Acupuncture

In addition to potentially clearing up acne, acupuncture shows promise in the treatment of skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis.

Sources

Cao HJ, Yang GY, Wang YY, Liu JP. "Acupoint Stimulation for Acne: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials." Med Acupunct. 2013 Jun;25(3):173-194.

Lihong S. "He-Ne laser auricular irradiation plus body acupuncture for treatment of acne vulgaris in 36 cases." J Tradit Chin Med. 2006 Sep;26(3):193-4.

Son BK, Yun Y, Choi IH. "Efficacy of ah shi point acupuncture on acne vulgaris." Acupunct Med. 2010 Sep;28(3):126-9.

Xu J, Lin R, Wang J, Wu Y, Wang Y, Zhang Y, Xi C, Wu Q. "Effect of acupuncture anesthesia on acne vulgaris of pricking-bloodletting cupping: a single-blind randomized clinical trail." J Tradit Chin Med. 2013 Dec;33(6):752-6.

Zijlstra FJ, van den Berg-de Lange I, Huygen FJ, Klein J. "Anti-inflammatory actions of acupuncture." Mediators Inflamm. 2003 Apr;12(2):59-69.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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