Cupping

How to Treat Hives With Acupuncture and TCM

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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

hive urticaria rash
The burning itchy rash caused by hives can move around the body.

Skin rash with itchy welts or red bumps that seem to appear suddenly, then move to another part of the body, or go away? Hives, also known as urticaria, are caused by a type of allergic reaction that creates a temporary rash or swelling of the skin. TCM and acupuncture have been used for centuries to help relieve hives caused by allergies.

Hives are fairly common, occurring in about 20% of people of all ages. An acute, or short-lived, case of hives may occur because of being exposed to some unusual, new chemical or natural irritant in a person’s environment, maybe in some product, or some pollen or bug. These usually go away quickly, and it may be fairly obvious what it was that caused the outbreak of hives. However, sometimes people develop chronic idiopathic urticaria (CIU), in which a person may break out in hives often on an ongoing basis and have no idea why it keeps happening.

Allergies can manifest in many ways: sometimes causing sneezing, watery eyes, or skin problems. Hives are another way that an allergic reaction can show up. Hives, or urticaria, are distinguishable from other types of skin rash, like eczema or shingles rash, because, unlike other rashes, they do not form fluid-filled bumps or cause dryness, scaliness, or cracking of the skin. Rather, hives are raised welts on the skin that appear red, but then turn white when you press on them; this is known as “blanching.” Hives can look like small, narrow lines, or big, patchy blotches.

Urticaria is related to, and sometimes confused with, angioedema, which is a similar condition, in which deep layers of skin become swollen, often around the eyes and mouth, also due to irritation by some allergen. Angioderma can coexist with hives, and can be more dangerous than hives, if it causes tissues in the throat or tongue to become so swollen that the airway is blocked.

Hives often clear up on their own within a few days or weeks without any treatment. However, some people develop chronic hives, in which the hives rash keeps recurring for weeks or months, or longer. Chronic hives can be a uniquely painful and frustrating condition; never knowing when you might break out into a burning, itchy rash. Hives worse at night or hives worse after sleeping are common experiences for people who suffer from chronic urticaria. Breaking out in hives can make a person feel panic, making it very difficult to get on with daily tasks. Acupuncture treatment can help alleviate the burning and itching of acute hives or chronic hives, and help relieve the allergies, stress, and other underlying conditions that bring them on.

Top 10 Hives Causes or Triggers

allergy pet dander hives
Pet dander can trigger hives.

In general, what causes hives most of the time is an allergic reaction to some external stimulus. Touching something, eating something, or inhaling something that you are allergic to can cause urticaria to break out on the skin, sometimes briefly, sometimes moving around from one area or the skin to another, or seeming to spread over the skin. Things that can cause hives include:

  1. Foods, especially those that are well-known allergens like nuts, shellfish, dairy, and eggs, but also fruits, especially citrus fruits
  2. Contact with certain plants
  3. Pollen in the environment
  4. Medications, including antibiotics, OTC pain relievers
  5. Latex
  6. Pet dander
  7. External stimuli from the climate – sun exposure, heat, cold
  8. Bacterial infections in the body, like strep throat or a UTI
  9. Viral infections in the body, like colds, hepatitis or mononucleosis (viral hives)
  10. Blood transfusions

Insect bites or itchy rashes that cause you to scratch at your skin can also cause hives to appear in other areas. Simple pressure on the skin, from sitting or leaning on a patch of skin for a long time, can cause hives. Some people break out in hives when they are under a lot of pressure or emotional stress, even if they are not aware of having allergies or other underlying causes for hives. Sometimes this is called a “stress rash.”

Treatment for Hives

Hives are most commonly treated with antihistamines, which can help relieve itching. Many people experience some type of side effect from taking antihistamines, including: headache, drowsiness, fatigue, and hay fever type symptoms. Some people do get relief from a temporary hives rash after taking Benadryl or something similar. But for others, it may not help, and then doctors often prescribe a corticosteroid as an anti-inflammatory. If steroid treatment for hives does not help, immunosuppressants may be recommended. Depending on the root cause of the hives, these types of pharmacological solutions may or may not work to relieve hives. Acupuncture and TCM treatment focuses on solving the deeper problems that cause hives, without any negative side effects.

How Can Acupuncture Help Hives?

hot bath hives
Hot baths and showers can damage your skin’s protective layers and trigger hives.

As we have seen, conventional western medicine mostly looks at hives in terms of allergies. But in order to resolve the hives, we have to look more closely at why a person has those allergies. Why are some people affected so strongly by certain foods or certain environmental conditions while other people are not affected at all? We have to consider a person’s constitutional health.

As we have discussed in other articles, in TCM the concept of Wei Qi refers to the body’s protective defenses, the action of which stems mainly from the lungs and the skin. Many types of illness are considered to be related to a weakness or breakdown in the Wei Qi that allows external pathogenic factors to enter the body and take hold. Wind is one such external pathogenic factor. Heat and cold are others. Viral and bacterial infections also find their way into the body when the Wei Qi energy is weakened.

6 Pathogenic Factors According to TCM:

  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Summer Heat
  4. Dampness
  5. Dryness
  6. Fire

Hives come mostly from wind and heat. In TCM, urticaria is known as Feng Zhen Kuai, or “wind rash patch.” Wind describes the nature of urticaria rash in the sense that the hives welts come and go, as if blown about. 

When people get hives, it is usually because of one of a few common factors.

  1. Yin deficiency/Dryness – If the body is too dry, when any allergens get in, there is not enough moisture in the body to wash them out of the system; this causes the breakout.
  2. Fire/Heat – If there is too much heat, fire, and inflammation in the body, when there is exposure to allergens, the body can’t take any more and will break out.
  3. Liver stagnation with Heat – When a person is under stress for a long time, it can exacerbate stagnation of Qi in the liver system, which over time causes heat to build up, then the body cannot process little irritations. The liver and kidneys have to do all the work to filter toxins out of the body, but when those organs are overstressed, the body will try to get rid of excess heat through the skin.

Usually, if a person is having chronic hives, it has a lot to do with their food and their habits around their exposure to the elements. For example, in the winter time, in order to be harmonious with the season, the body is meant to experience cold. But many people keep the heater on and keep their environment very warm all the time. This leads to dry air and can cause even people without any allergies to feel itchy. People also tend to take long, hot showers, which can destroy some of the skin’s natural protective layers and cause it to be raw and easily irritated. 

In western thought, when a person has a reaction such as hives to certain foods (spicy foods, alcohol), it is thought of as an allergic reaction, but in Chinese medicine we see this as being the body’s reaction to too much heat. If a person already has a fiery constitution, or liver stagnation, and then there are external hot conditions, and hot foods coming in all at once, the internal heat can explode out, creating the burning rash on the skin.

Cupping can be very helpful for treating hives; it exfoliates the skin and helps to draw toxins out. This will help to cool down the hives outbreak. Then we go further with acupuncture and herbs to strengthen the lungs, the liver, and the Wei Qi.

A systematic review of clinical trials studying the use of TCM methods and acupuncture to treat hives, both as an alternative and an adjunct to medication treatment, concluded that acupuncture is a safe and effective way to reduce symptoms of hives or chronic urticaria. Chinese herbs are also well-known for helping to relieve hives.

Top 5 Tips for Hives Relief

wind hives
Wind, whether cold or hot and dry, can cause hives.

How to get rid of hives for good will mean paying attention to what triggers the rash for each individual. To avoid this kind of allergic reaction hives, protect your Wei Qi with healthy habits. Prioritize rest and good nutrition to build up your immunity and protect your lungs and skin.

  1. Avoid a cold wind blowing on you, whether outside, or from a fan or air conditioner. Dress appropriately; always bring an extra layer so you don’t catch a chill or have a bright sun shining on your skin for a long time when you didn’t expect it.
  2. Avoid very hot showers, baths, saunas, etc. 
  3. Engage in regular exercise to help boost your blood circulation; walking is always ideal. This will help to reduce stress, as will a meditation practice.
  4. Get plenty of rest. Good quality sleep is essential to help build up the Wei Qi.
  5. Avoid foods that are either too hot (spicy or fried, red meats) or too cold (raw foods). No alcohol or coffee. These triggering foods and beverages can really make the hives worse. Drink more water to eliminate the dryness in the body.

If a patient is having trouble figuring out what it is that is causing his or her hives breakouts, a TCM provider may be able to find the underlying reason behind the rash.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hives

People of all ages can receive acupuncture treatment for hives and allergies. The doctors at Art of Wellness have been helping people get relief from allergies and itchy skin conditions for over three decades. We can provide help for children with hives with herbs and acupuncture. If you or someone you love is suffering from hives, please consider giving TCM and herbs a try.

 

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

 

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How to Treat Aging Skin With Cosmetic Acupuncture

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By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

cosmetic acupuncture
Cosmetic acupuncture is natural and holistic.

Looking for a treatment that can help smooth fine wrinkles, boost collagen and firm skin? Maybe you’ve heard about cosmetic acupuncture, also known as facial rejuvenation, or an acupuncture face lift, and you’re wondering if it really works. TCM and acupuncture offer a natural, health-centered skin care alternative to surgery and other  procedures for people of all ages who want to look younger and more well-rested.

We all want to look in the mirror and see ourselves looking our best. Cosmetic procedures like plastic surgery and minimally-invasive aesthetic treatments have increased by well over 200% in the past twenty years. People of all genders and ages are showing more interest than ever in anti-aging treatments that can tighten, tone, and brighten the skin, banish puffiness and dark circles under the eyes, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. While advances are continually being made in the field of aesthetic medicine, and the stigma surrounding such treatments has been largely reduced, some of these procedures can be harsh and invasive. Many people may prefer to seek a natural alternative.

The TCM approach to skin care is holistic and health-oriented, focusing on creating healthy, lively skin from the inside out. Finding the root internal causes of dull, sagging skin, lack of muscle tone, dryness and other skin problems, and treating them with targeted acupuncture points, herbs used both topically and internally, and the right nutrition program, can all lead to a more youthful and invigorated appearance. The results, of course, will not change your face so dramatically that you look like a different person. It is important that any time you consider an aesthetic procedure, you manage and maintain realistic expectations. But cosmetic acupuncture treatment can help you to feel better about yourself, inside and out.

What Is an Acupuncture Face Lift?

Cosmetic acupuncture, while seeking to improve the overall appearance of the face and neck, is really based in optimizing the patient’s health throughout the body. Acupuncture needling works on several levels. Usually, we explain how stimulating points with acupuncture affects Qi (life force energy) as it flows through the meridian pathways of the body, producing changes in the function of the organ systems. But it also works on the skin-deep level, creating micro-trauma to the skin and underlying tissues that triggers repair and rebuilding. If you have had acupuncture before, you might have felt your acupuncturist gently turn the needles after inserting them. Research has shown how this age-old technique actually does produce a direct effect on collagen fibers. This is partly why acupuncture treatment helps you heal from musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain conditions. It also helps your skin heal and regenerate.

Acupuncture is also proven to aid in the release of endorphins, which help you feel happier and more relaxed. We all know that a positive outlook can do wonders for your looks. Acupuncture treatment not only gives you the appearance of being well-rested; it actually helps you sleep better and relieves stress that can cause frowning and worry lines.

Your practitioner will choose specific acupoints to target your individual needs, addressing other skin concerns in addition to the signs of aging, including acne and rosacea.

Often, people notice a difference in their appearance right away, as even one treatment can help the skin take on a new glow, and most people emerge from their acupuncture session feeling that they have had a good rest. Generally, we recommend that, in order to see noticeable results, you start with 1-2 treatments per week for at least a few weeks, then continue with a monthly treatment to maintain the results.

A scientific study used topographic imaging to measure the contours of patient’s faces as they underwent a course of five cosmetic acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded, based on the images and patients’ self-assessments, that facial cosmetic acupuncture produced significant improvement in skin elasticity

A systematic review of TCM cosmetic acupuncture study data showed that patients reported positive results, including: fewer wrinkles and better skin condition, with improved moisture content.

Cosmetic Acupuncture Vs. Botox

botox treatment
Acupuncture is a natural alternative to Botox injections.

In recent years, Botox injections have become an extremely popular and acceptable way to combat the primary “problem” of aging skin: wrinkles. Facial skin is creased every time we move the facial muscles to express ourselves. Over time, as skin loses its elasticity, these creases become deeper and more defined. Botox (short for botulinum toxin) is a paralytic agent, which means it temporarily “freezes” or paralyses the muscles that lie under the skin of the face, so that they will not move when a person frowns or smiles. This helps prevent the formation of deeper lines between the eyebrows, for example, or along the nasal-labial folds on either side of the mouth. 

While Botox injections are widely considered safe these days, there are risks involved with treatment. Minor short term side effects can include redness, swelling, headaches, or nausea. In some instances, the muscle paralysing action can spread to more necessary parts of the facial musculature, causing speech problems, trouble swallowing, or trouble breathing. It can also cause parts of the face to droop due to muscle weakness. While many people have experienced satisfaction with wrinkle reduction due to Botox treatment, we have probably all noticed cases in which a person ends up looking unnaturally startled, lop-sided, or simply incapable of normal expression.

The effects of Botox are temporary, and in order to maintain the smoother skin, people must return for more injections every few months. Facial acupuncture, too, should be performed regularly to maintain results, but TCM offers a more comprehensive approach to smoothing and preventing wrinkles by boosting collagen production and circulation, improving skin elasticity. Massage techniques such as Gua Sha can firm and tone the facial muscles so that the whole face still moves naturally. Botox injections don’t do anything to improve the health of your skin or light up your eyes from within. Facial rejuvenation with TCM is essentially a risk-free procedure that can provide natural-looking results.

The TCM Approach to Skin Care

acupuncture face lift
TCM facial rejuvenation starts with your practitioner carefully reading your face.

One of the subtler techniques used by TCM practitioners is that of examining a patient’s physiognomy; that is, deducing problems of physical, emotional, and spiritual health by “reading” a person’s face. We can also tell a lot about a person’s internal condition by studying the skin and nails on their hands. This is an art that the acupuncturist can only master with many years of experience.

For example, if there is a tendency to develop dark circles or bags under the eyes and bruise easily, this indicates a stagnation of blood circulation. That deep crease or “frown line” between the eyebrows may indicate a Liver Qi stagnation. The acupuncturist will choose points to stimulate based on each individual’s constitution, working on deeper levels of stagnation in the organ systems, while also targeting specific muscles in the face and neck that need toning.

Naturally, we also use herbs to help nourish the skin. Traditionally, poultices or face masks have been used to directly bring nutrients to the facial skin, while internal herbs taken as teas help to clear heat and dampness from the body. Your TCM provider may also use cupping to draw out toxins and stimulate the lymphatic system; basically, this is like a deep cleaning for your whole body. 

Top 5 Tips for Natural Skin Care 

facial massage
massage helps tone facial muscles

We cannot emphasize enough that glowing skin starts within. You may already have a daily skin care routine that involves cleansers and moisturizers, but for the best results, be sure to focus equally on keeping the whole body hydrated, cool, and free of toxins. No matter what age you are right now, you can start making your skin a priority with these simple practices:

  1. Drink water and green tea – plenty of water keeps the skin cells “plump.” Green tea has been used for centuries to help maintain clear, hydrated skin.
  2. Get plenty of sleep – There is solid reasoning behind the expression “I need my beauty sleep.” Our cells regenerate and repair themselves while we sleep; this is when the collagen production happens, so give your body plenty of time to do its work. 
  3. Eat the right foods – for healthy skin, make sure to take in enough Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil, good quality eggs, and fresh walnuts), and eat more cooling foods. These include: melon, cucumbers, citrus fruits, cabbage, seaweed, and other greens, mung beans, and soy foods like tofu and tempeh.
  4. Reduce stress –  Stress negatively impacts your skin in a number of ways. Stress can contribute to acne, bags under your eyes, rashes, worry and frown lines, and dryness. Make stress reduction a top priority to improve the overall health of your skin.
  5. Sun Protection – Getting a little sun (about 30 minutes of exposure) every day is important for the proper functioning of your immune system, but too much sun can be damaging to the skin. Whenever possible, protect your skin with light garments and a hat; this is preferable to the constant use of cosmetic sunscreens, most of which contain potentially toxic chemicals. When you must expose more skin to the sun’s rays, use a sunscreen with natural ingredients

Cosmetic Acupuncture Near Me

If you’ve been thinking about what sort of medical aesthetic treatments might be right for you, try cosmetic acupuncture for a more youthful look without any side effects or recovery time. There really is no down side to an acupuncture face lift; in fact, your acupuncturist can treat all of your health concerns–back pain, headache, menopause, etc.–,and add the needles for facial rejuvenation all in the same treatment session. Maybe it’s time to give yourself the gift of a little lift with cosmetic acupuncture.

 

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

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