"Heart v2.0" by Thanakrit Gu, used with permission under CC BY-ND 2.0. Source.

How The Complexion Is Related To The Heart In Chinese Medicine

“The heart has its own language.

The heart knows a hundred thousand ways to speak.”

– Rumi

Your face can say a thousand words, without even opening your mouth.  As a Chinese Medicine practitioner, not only am I listening to what you want to address during a session, but I am also observing the bigger picture.  This can include various elements, some of which are:  the tongue, pulses, voice, and complexion.  “What on Earth could she possibly find out about me by checking out my complexion?”  Actually, a lot!  Our bodies speak to tell our story when we do not have the words (or courage) to voice it.

When we get an acne outbreak, is it simply hormonal, due to bad diet, stress, or a host of other reasons?  Perhaps.  In Chinese Medicine, however, it could also be due to a pathologic imbalance in the organs or body systems.  Acne vulgaris is Fen Ci (“White Horns”) in Chinese Medicine, and can often be a sign of stagnation in a certain organ, or that the body is trying to detoxify.  Sometimes, imbalances with the Lung, Stomach, Blood, Damp, or Heat can be the root cause.  We human beings are complex creatures, which means there could be more than one root cause!  But, generally, the complexion is a reflection of the Heart.

The Heart, in Chinese Medicine, rules the mind, spirit and circulation, and is affected by heat, joy, anxiety and bitterness.  Our spirit (Shen) resides in our Hearts, so when our spirit is joyful or sorrowful, it can show up in our complexion (such as changes in facial color, sebaceous over-activity like acne, skin tone, etc.)

Even where the face shows skin inflammation/irritation gives Chinese Medicine practitioners information on what organs are involved!  Did you ever have your skin be completely clear, yet you have unexplained redness on the tip of your nose?  It may be an indication to be kind to your Spleen, eat more cooked foods, and more consistently (yes, you may need to ditch the raw juicing for a time!)

In Chinese Medicine, the complexion is considered healthy when it has moisture and sheen, and it is clear.  As we live life, life circumstances, as well as our body’s need to detoxify after lifestyle changes, can lead to periodic organ imbalances, and thus, complexion imbalances.

I have been fortunate enough to receive compliments on my complexion.  It does have its moments when it’s detoxifying, or when my system is rebalancing, but one thing I do that I believe is directly correlated to my inner glow, is meditation.  Eating well and taking care of your skin are extremely important to keeping your complexion healthy, but nothing achieves the inner glow that radiates from within, and out of your pores, like meditation!

That said, I’ve compiled a list of 10 suggestions to cultivate a healthy complexion.  Some of them are related to Chinese Medicine, some of them are just tried and true methods from my personal arsenal:

  1. Drink lots of water!  Water helps flush the system of impurities in the body.
  2. Meditate.  Meditation helps flush your spirit of the lower vibrations, raises them, and keeps your Qi clear and flowing.  And did I mention yet it gives you an inner glow?  5 minutes a day with an empty mind is all it takes to get you started!
  3. For the ladies:  always take your makeup off before going to sleep, no matter how tired you are after a night of partying.  Even after my punk and hardcore shows back in the day, no matter what time I got home, I always removed my makeup and moisturized my face before hitting the hay.  Oftentimes, I did a full body shower.  Because, sleeping with pores clogged with debris is not helpful, or kind, to anyone’s skin!  And when you take a shower, it cleanses the natural oils from your hair, which can often be a clogger culprit.
  4. Have a simple skin care regimen, don’t overdo it!  Some people simply wash their face with water in the morning, possibly followed by toner, but always followed by moisturizer that suits your skin’s pH balance.  I enjoy using Thayer’s Rose Petal Witch Hazel with Aloe as a toner after washing my face, because roses correspond to the Heart chakra and with love.  And whose face couldn’t use some tonifying love morning and night?  If you like, you can spray rosewater on your face, to get that similar effect when you want to practice some self-love!
  5. Eat nourishing and detoxifying foods that are skin-loving.  Some complexion-healthy foods include:

    Squash, Cucumbers, Watermelon, Winter, Melon, Carrots, Cabbage, Beet Tops, Dandelions, Lettuce, Potatoes, Sprouts, Brown Rice, Celery, Aloe Vera, Cherries, Mulberry Leaf, Pear, Persimmons, Raspberries, and Papaya.  This list is not an exhaustive one by any means!

  6. Try removing dairy and spicy foods from your diet.  Dairy is damp-producing in Chinese Medicine, and sometimes acne is the result of damp accumulation.  Eliminate dairy and spicy foods for a few weeks, and see if it improves your condition.
  7. Don’t pick at your zits, and try proactive steps.  I know it’s very tempting, but picking at your face only serves to aggravate your skin. Instead, try some alternatives to proactively addressing them.  For some, it’s medication.  For those who prefer the natural route, there are a few options.  One of them is taking half a lemon and rubbing it over your face, even with the little juicy bits, leave on for 20 minutes, then rinse (it may sting a bit, but that’s because the citric acid is attacking the bacteria of the acne!)  Do this morning and night.  There are also Chinese herbal formulas, topical and internal, that can help address acne.  But this must be done with a practitioner’s guidance, since some herbal formulas may not be suited for your individual constitution.
  8. Exercise frequently.  This helps your body detoxify through your pores.  Don’t think your pores help you detoxify?  I’ve treated patients who come in after having drunk alcohol the night before (and are no longer intoxicated.)  After a treatment, when the body has begun the detoxification and rebalancing process, it not unusual to smell alcohol in the room upon removing the needles!
  9. Get some sleep.  When we don’t get enough sleep, our Spirit Heart is doing her best to keep us going.  We may survive on that temporarily, but don’t be surprised if your Heart gives you the message through a few breakouts that your body is due for the slumber to allow your body to regenerate and rejuvenate!
  10. De-stress.  Stress is often a big cause of acne.  So, release that pressure valve in your brain by doing a healthy, proactive activity that helps you relax.  Sometimes, just setting the intention that you are going to relax for the rest of the evening is enough to let the body start releasing its tension.  Of course, you can go further by eating well, drinking water, exercising, and receiving Acupuncture and/or Reiki treatments!


Want to give your Heart a lift?  Laughter and joy is the best heart medicine around!

How do you take care of your complexion?
What is your Heart telling you?

Listening to your unsaid words,







Copyright © 2013 by Alcantara Acupuncture & Healing Arts. All rights reserved. You may quote, copy, translate and link to this article, in its entirety, on free, non-donation based websites only, as long as you include the author name and a working link back to this website. All other uses are strictly prohibited.

All information on this website is my own opinion, and not to be taken as medical advice. Reliance on any information provided on this website is solely at your own risk. Please refer to your medical practitioner before making any medical decisions.

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