An Introduction to Acupuncture Facial Rejuvenation
Acupuncture treatment for Facial Rejuvenation can be traced back as far as 2,000 years ago, when it was documented in the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic. It stated in this bible of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that there are 12 major channels and 365 luo channels. All the qi and blood from these channels converge at the neck and then continue up to the head and face. Here they penetrate the orifices. For example, the essence and yang qi from these channels penetrates the eyes, enabling them to see, while alternative qi penetrates the ears, enabling them to hear.
Acupuncture treatment for the face and body is based on the theory of the channel system. The entire internal organ system is interconnected with the superficial body system, forming a type of network that runs our bodies. Needling a certain channel system can activate the energy flow in that channel system and thus promote blood flow in the entire system of the body.
According to TCM theory, as previously stated, the entire channel organ systems converge in the face, the most yang place in the body. Proper functioning of the body channel system directly affects facial beauty and the aging process. When the internal system is vibrant with abundant qi and blood, the essence becomes sufficient to be distributed anywhere in the body. This belief is the core supporting acupuncture facial rejuvenation. People may not be convinced that the fountain of youth is from the inside out, but imagine if the internal system is aged. A face-lift can make the face look ten years younger, yet without a healthy glow it cannot be considered young and beautiful. It will lack the vitality that can only be obtained from inside out.
Acupuncture facial rejuvenation that is based on the channel system specifically performs the following functions:
- Promotes free flow of qi and blood and opens the channel system: A good acupuncture technique can efficiently regulate and promote the movement of qi (zang qi), and blood throughout the channels.
- Regulates yin and yang: This concept is very important for facial rejuvenation. Facial beauty and rejuvenation depends on a balanced internal body condition. Only in a yin and yang balanced state can the spirit be nourished, allowing for excess nourishment to rise to the head area and nourish the face. If the yin and yang state of the overall body is imbalanced, there is no harmony with which to work, leaving the face vulnerable to a host of conditions.
- Regulates excess and deficiency: Another function of acupuncture is to regulate excess and deficiency. This is of paramount importance when it comes to facial rejuvenation. When the internal system is at disease, the whole body will show a biased condition to this fact, and it will reflect poorly in the face. For example, if the spleen is deficient with damp accumulation, the face will prove to be puffy with the appearance of eye bags.
When the yang is exuberant, especially in younger people, acne conditions will be prevalent. With correct acupuncture treatment, these unbalanced conditions can be adjusted depending on the type of needle techniques used and point prescriptions chosen.
TCM Facial Rejuvenation Theory
The Zang Fu Theory
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) addresses the same organs as Western medicine, yet organizes them in a different fashion. In doing so, TCM describes their functions with greater complexity and finer detail. For example, although Western science believes the function of the kidneys is to collect and discharge urine, TCM further imbues them with the power of storing essence, thereby housing the ability to govern reproduction. Rather than highly individualized parts of the body, TCM thinks of organs as integrated systems that disperse the qi (energy) they generate via channel flow. In this fashion, seemingly distant organs, such as the liver, can have an important impact on facial beauty.
The Chinese recognize five of the organs, namely the heart, liver, kidneys, spleen and lungs, as being broadly related because of the type of functions they carry out. They are called the Zang or yin organs, and are considered yin in nature because they retain essence. The remaining organs, the stomach, large intestine, gallbladder, urinary bladder, small intestine, and the San Jiao (or “triple burner”), are called the Fu or yang organs. They do not retain essence, but rather process it. They are related to digestion and perform the function of excreting bodily toxins. The seventh organ, the pericardium, is also thought of as a yang organ. The Zang and Fu organs combine to form the twelve main channels, or meridians, that are based on the organs.
During anti-wrinkle therapy, special focus should be placed on the five Zang organs. Each of the five is paired with a Fu organ in function, creating a yin/yang balance of paramount importance.
For our purpose, we will be addressing the organ systems in a very specific manner. The following review will aid you in understanding how TCM views the functions of the five Zang organs within the scope of facial rejuvenation.
According to TCM theory, the heart not only rules the blood and blood vessels, but the spirit as well. Thus, the Chinese call the heart “the king of emotions.” Anxiety, stress, anger, and frustration all contribute to the formation and maintenance of wrinkles. To target wrinkles as a major concern, one must target the control of emotions. Therefore, many of the anti-wrinkle treatment protocols will serve to calm the heart.
The Fu organ that is paired with the heart is the small intestine. This organ functions to transform pure food into nutrients and impure food into waste. Thus the heart is indirectly involved in digestion.
Facial Implications: The implication for the face follows that weakened heart function can lead to facial swelling and puffiness. Further impairment of the yin/ying function of the heart and small intestine can lead to heart blood deficiency and the formation of wrinkles. On the other hand, if the heart then is disturbed, sleep will be affected, and restless sleep will cause dark eye circles and puffiness of the eyes.
The lung system controls respiration, a qi function. Thus it can be said, according to the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, “the life energy of the heavens connects to the lungs.” By combining the air breathed in with food essence and spreading it to the body as a whole (chest qi), the lung system is able to rule the qi of the entire body. The skin and face come under dominance of lung qi. To insure the proper functioning of the lungs, many of the herbal formulas and other protocols will necessarily be directed to the lung system.
The organ paired with the lung is the large intestine. Its function is to discharge bodily waste.
Facial Implications: Functional impairment in the lung will lead to undernourishment of the skin. This in turn will lead to dryness, wrinkles, and a withered-looking complexion.
The liver system is the key to the anti-wrinkle efforts. It is a blood container and flow regulator. The liver plays a major role in the qi flow of all the other organ systems as well, and as such, the liver is closely linked to all the body’s organ systems. A disruption in liver function will therefore disrupt qi and blood flow everywhere, including the face.
The liver’s Fu partner is the gallbladder. The gallbladder function relates to the mental state of an individual. When this function is in a state of disharmony, decision-making abilities may be seriously affected.
Facial Implications: The stagnation of liver qi often leads to wrinkles, dark spots, and a dusty complexion.
The spleen is also strongly related to facial beauty. The digestive system pertains to the spleen and stomach and is considered the “postnatal sea of energy.” The spleen dominates the function of converting food into qi and blood, making its transformation functions of vital importance for facial beauty and total body health. The face ultimately depends on and responds to what is digested and absorbed in addition to the type and amount of foods ingested.
The paired organ of the spleen is the stomach, an organ that receives and decomposes food.
Facial Implications: When spleen qi is deficient, the skin will be undernourished, resulting in a loss of skin tone, sagging, and looseness. If the spleen’s ability to control the transportation of fluids is diminished, the face will tend to look puffy, with the possible appearance of eye bags. Pooling of these unclean fluids may also lead to brownish dark spots on the face.
The kidney system regulates the fluid balance in the body in many ways. The most familiar being is role in extracting excess fluids from the body. It works with its paired Fu organ, the urinary bladder, to discharge the fluid. TCM also sees the kidneys as the storage center for essence, thereby giving it further involvement with growth and reproduction.
Facial Implications: Deficient kidney yin puts one at a risk for developing dark eye circles and age spots. When kidney yang is low, puffiness around the eyes can occurs. When kidney essence is insufficient, aging is accelerated, affecting skin tautness, which in turn causes wrinkle formation as well as thinning of the hair.
Categories of Risk and Benefits
TCM recognizes a large and variable number of factors can affect the body’s functioning, leading to wrinkle formation and other facial beauty problems. One category of these risk factors is environmental conditions called the “six evils.” It includes conditions such as wind, cold, summer heat, dampness, dryness, and fire.
The potential damage to facial skin from these conditions is easy to see. It is interesting that TCM sees these same conditions as being both external and internal factors. For example, when heat is viewed as an internal pathogen, the body is seen as having signs and symptoms associated with the characteristics of heat: swelling, redness, and dryness are related to lack of fluids being burnt off. Chinese herbal therapy and other alternative treatments can deal with such problems.
Another category of health risks is the Seven Emotions. These include anger, joy, worry, pensiveness, sadness, fear, and shock. Again, TCM treatments help control facial beauty problems stemming from emotions by treating imbalances in the organ systems that control them.
Dr. Olivia Wan-Mei Woo