‘The Shen of the complexion consists in glitter and body. Glitter means that the complexion appears clear and bright from the outside; body means that it is moist and with lustre in the inside.’ -Shi Pa Nan in Origin of Medicine (1861)
Spring is here so it’s time to start brightening up your skin and feel rejuvenated. I love how the light is changing now, with the brighter mornings and evenings. Have you noticed this time of year how your skin changes too? Even when it’s freezing cold or extremely warm, I’m sure you’d agree, it’s always nice to have a moist, glowing complexion.
A surprising amount of patients present with all sorts of skin complaints. This is a subject I find very interesting because often how you nourish your body on the inside shows up on the outside too. A traditional acupuncturist is trained to use subtle diagnostic techniques that have been developed and refined for centuries. Part of the diagnosis is to observe a patient’s face, as believe it or not, a healthy mind and spirit show most of all in the skin. There’s often a definable quality of glow to the skin when a patient is in a reasonably good state of health .
Many factors such as poor sleep, stress, a bad diet, hormonal imbalances or undesirable environmental conditions, to name but a few, can lead to skin problems. Much advice is also focused on what your put on your skin. This is why I wanted to share some basic factors that may benefit your complexion by focusing on what you put into your body.
I know from my own experience, and working with patients, that the ‘one size fits all’ approach is impossible because we are all unique. But there are certainly simple things you can do to encourage a healthy, natural glow.
I’ve deliberately not mentioned the importance of using good-quality natural oils because this is a complex area and, unfortunately, it is beyond the scope of this blog post to tackle. However, most of the time I am very much in favour of suggesting specific oils to suit a patient’s individual constitution.
I hope you find my tips inspiring and that you can tweak parts to suit your own requirements.
HAPPY SPRING SKIN CLEANING!
*Please discuss with your doctor or traditional acupuncturist if you have a serious skin or medical condition before trying any of my advice. As with all articles on emmasammels.com, this is no substitution for individual medical intervention. If you are interested in finding out more information please visit my bookings page.
For spring it’s a good idea to brighten up your complexion by adding plenty of dark green leafy seasonal vegetables to your diet. I absolutely love watercress soup this time of year because it’s so quick and easy to make, and is packed full of skin-boosting vitamins. Most of the time we tend to associate soup as a winter or autumnal food, but for a cold spring day, it’s ideal for warming you up. Good quality watercress leaves and stems are also really flavourful this time of year.
In traditional Chinese medicine, watercress is renowned for its skin nourishing properties, especially when there are signs of Blood deficiency. To keep it simple, our complexion is commonly related to the Blood. If a patient has a healthy glowing complexion with Shen this often indicates a healthy state of the Blood. Conversely, if a patient’s complexion is lacking in Shen and looks dull, somewhat dry and without lustre, this often indicates Blood deficiency . It’s very common to see these signs on the skin when a woman is menstruating or when a patient is suffering from shock, anxiety or eating a poor diet along with other factors.
In the clinic, I treat lots of patients who are ‘running on empty’ from not eating properly or overdoing it. Most of the time I recommend making a delicious Blood-nourishing soup, such as watercress or anything seasonal that’s dark, green and leafy to put some nourishment back into the body.
I came across a recipe for James Martin’s watercress soup many years ago and it has been a favourite of mine ever since. I’ve played around with it, and this is now my version. I hope you find the recipe tasty and that it brings a lovely glow to your cheeks!
2 tbsp of organic extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots bulbs (golden gourmet)
1 cup of organic peas
2 packets of organic watercress (John Hurd’s)
Organic, gluten-free chicken stock or homemade stock (1.5-2 pints)
Himalayan salt (to taste)
Palm full of flat-leaved parsley
1.Start by heating the extra virgin olive oil in a saucepan and cook the shallots with some Himalayan salt slowly for 10 minutes so they turn translucent.
2. Add the peas, and fry for 3 minutes until softened.
3. Add the 1.5 litres of chicken stock and the 2 bags of watercress. Then bring the mixture to the boil until the watercress has wilted (avoid overcooking as it will turn a dull green colour).
4. Meanwhile, add the flat-leaved parsley and, using a stick blender, start blending the soup, adding the remaining 0.5 litres of chicken stock and a knob of butter.
5. Blend the soup until smooth. Lastly, season with salt and pepper.
Useful tip– Ladle the soup into a large bowl and garnish with some flat-leaved parsley. Serve with a warm crusty roll and some delicious organic butter. As with most soups, it tastes better the next day and freezes well for emergency situations.
If you have a soft spot for unadulterated products then maybe royal jelly is appropriate for you? Its direct connection with mother nature is anything but difficult to love.
A research study has shown that royal jelly may help to support your natural skin health because the honey-bee product contains proteins, carbohydrates, fats, free amino acids and minerals. One amino acid is thought to have the capacity to stimulate collagen production . Interestingly, in Chinese medicine, royal jelly is considered an effective Blood tonic, meaning it can have a knock-on effect on your complexion due to its moistening properties.
Extraordinary lengths are taken by the bees and beekeepers to make any bee-related products and so if you are going to use royal jelly please be respectful.
*There are certain instances where taking royal jelly is not advisable. If you have any bee allergies or other allergies, please discuss this topic with your doctor or traditional acupuncturist before using any bee-related products (visit my bookings page for more info).
3.Green pear smoothie
The fashion for smoothies keeps growing but in Chinese medicine, they’re not necessarily suitable for everyone. You might be surprised to hear that many patients’ digestive functions don’t respond well to a deluge of raw fruit or vegetables in their smoothies, or as part of a regular diet, because it can create a Qi deficiency. So they’re normally best consumed once your digestive system is strong enough to withstand them.
The ancient Chinese believed that the seasons, and the foods that we eat, can have a profound effect on human health and so, therefore, we should try to live in harmony with them. In fact, if you want to look after your digestion, a key point is to use seasonal fruit and avoid adding raw vegetables to your smoothies. For example, use a pear or an apple during the spring, and in the summer stick to the wonderful rainbow of berried fruits.
I have been making this green smoothie recipe for a while and just adore it. Many patients used to wince trying the spirulina powder but now they find the taste quite flavoursome. It takes only a few minutes to make and is packed full of the superfoods spirulina, chlorella and wheatgrass powder, which are alkalising and energising for your body .
The nutritional benefits of spirulina have been linked to all sorts of health benefits in Chinese medicine, from moistening the complexion when it’s dull or dry to increasing your energy levels. I also think it’s a good idea for women to have spirulina before, during or after the menstrual cycle and throughout the menopause because it can enrich the Blood at a time when the body is physiologically in need of extra nutrient support.
I’m a firm believer in the adage ‘less is more’ so I normally advise patients drink the smoothie no more than three times a week. It’s also inadvisable to consume it as a meal replacement.
I hope my smoothie becomes a firm favourite of yours and that you enjoy its delicious flavour!
1 tablespoon of Naturya blends organic greens
1 ripe conference pear or 1 organic apple
½ teaspoon ndalorganic vanilla powder or 1 teaspoon organic vanilla bean paste
1 long glass of organic rice milk or goats’ milk
Blend all the ingredients until milky and pour into a long, elegant glass.
Useful tip– I like to use either goats’ or organic rice milk because in Chinese medicine they are less Mucous forming. Also, normal milk may not suit your constitution, as it can create lots of Phlegm, so you might want to try the quantity of half goats’ and rice milk. Another tip- if your pear is extra ripe it seems to concentrate the sweetness so you may not need to add the vanilla powder.
*Please discuss with your doctor if you are taking any blood-thinning medication or prescribed medicine before using the Naturya organic greens blends.
What’s so special about white tea? Research has shown that one benefit is its ability to produce antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity in skin connective tissue. Another advantage is that it contains an effective herbal extract for preventing or reducing oxidative stress .
White tea is often sourced from China, originating from immature tea leaves, that are picked shortly before the buds have fully opened. Its name is taken from the silver fuzz covering the buds that turn white when the tea is dried. Immediately after harvesting, the leaves are steamed and dried to preserve the high antioxidant content . The end result is a wonderful tea with a delicate flavour.
If you’re like me and dislike strong builders’ tea then white tea might be up your street. I find it’s light, refreshing flavour makes a wonderful delicate cuppa!
Here’s how to make a cup:
1.Always use fresh water in the kettle.
2.Boil the water to 80 degrees C (you can get variable temperature kettles that are good for green, white and herbal teas).
2.Put 2 teaspoons of the white tea buds into a teapot of boiling water.
3.Steep the tea anywhere from 5-10 minutes (the exact amount of time will depend on your personal preference). The smaller buds generally infuse quicker than the larger ones.
4.You may wish to taste the tea at the 5-minute mark.
5.When brewed white tea can range in colour from pale yellow to a light orange shade.
Useful tip– For general convenience, I also like to use organic white tea in teabag form. To add an extra twist, I pour in some unhomogenised organic milk with a quarter of a teaspoon of raw organic honey, which may sound sacrilegious but its delicate, caramel flavour tastes rather good.
5. Traditional acupuncture
I truly believe that traditional acupuncture can make a difference to your skin, especially if you make other lifestyle changes too. I’m also of the opinion that it is far better to treat someone as a whole person rather than just addressing symptoms that are likely to come back again if you’ve not tackled the root cause of a complaint.
Let me give you an example of a patient I treated with a skin problem.
Case study: skin
I was asked for help by a lady in her mid-50s who was experiencing anxiety, palpitations, insomnia and a red, angry rash covering both of her shins. She also had a very dull, pale complexion.
We discovered that her anxiety was connected to work, where she was having difficulties. She also had a poor diet, eating very few fresh seasonal vegetables or fruit, and often skipped breakfast. To add to the poor lifestyle habits, she also drank two glasses of wine a night.
So, we took baby steps, and after several acupuncture treatments, her anxiety started to disappear. Some basic changes were also made to her diet by introducing breakfast and eating more seasonal fruit and vegetables. Another habit we changed was to gradually reduce her alcohol intake.
My acupuncture treatments primarily focused on treating her as a whole person and, secondarily, her other symptoms that were not isolated. When one system or organ is struggling, it is likely other organs or systems are struggling too. My training taught me that symptoms are nearly always regarded as the branch of the root cause of a complaint  (Although there are some exceptions to this rule that are way too complex for the breadth of this blog).
And slowly but surely the lady began to feel like her old self again. The nasty rash on both shins completely disappeared and she rekindled her natural glow.
I hope this short case study has given you some food for thought in terms of how traditional acupuncture can help to enhance your overall health and wellbeing, but also improve your skin from the inside-out. If you are looking to try some treatment please make sure you work with a qualified practitioner who is a registered member of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) to guide you safely.
Thank you for taking the time to read my 5 Easy Ways To Spring Clean Your Skin.
Please leave your thoughts and share with others.
What would you add to the list?
What do you use to nourish your skin from the inside-out?
I’d love to hear from you. Until next time stay healthy and well.
With business good wishes,
Obstetrics and gynaecology in Chinese medicine
Maciocia, G. (2011). Obstetrics and gynaecology in Chinese medicine. 1st ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, p.78.
3.PARK, H. M., HWANG, E., LEE, K. G., HAN, S., CHO, Y. AND KIM, S. Y. (2011)
Royal Jelly Protects Against Ultraviolet B–Induced Photoaging in Human Skin Fibroblasts via Enhancing Collagen Production
Journal of Medicinal Food, [online] 14(9), pp.899-906. Available at: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jmf.2010.1363.
Healing with whole foods
Pitchford, P. (2009). Healing with whole foods. 1st ed. Berkeley, Calif: North Atlantic Books, p.128.
5.THRING, T. S., HILI, P. AND NAUGHTON, D. P. (2011)
Antioxidant and potential anti-inflammatory activity of extracts and formulations of white tea, rose, and witch hazel on primary human dermal fibroblast cells
Journal of Inflammation, [online] 8(1), p.27. Available at: https://journal-inflammation.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1476-9255-8-27.
Health Benefits of White Tea. [online] Available at: http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/blog/2014/07/23/health-benefits-white-tea
Acupuncture in dermatology: an historical perspective. International Journal of Dermatology, 48(6), pp.648-652.