" Effective Alternative Approach to Treating Acne "

Home | Acne Page | Psychology | Western Treatments | Chinese Herbal | Acne Images | EMail | Link Exchange | Guestbook

An Alternative Approach to Treating Acne

Why Turn to Alternative Approach?

If the targeted, efficient conventional Western treatment approach had worked, you would not be reading this and I would not be suggesting an alternative approach here. Despite the progress made in modern medicine, there are still substantial deficiencies in the treatment of various diseases, such as cancer, AIDS, arthritis, heart failure, diabetes, and others. Acne, a non-life threatening skin disorder, is among this group. In the face of the impotence of conventional antibiotics and their adherent risk of substantial side effects, additional assistance is needed to combat this nuisance called acne.

As I mentioned in the homepage, I've had acne for over 15 years. I was treated by dozens of dermatologists in different countries. Besides conventional Western therapy, I've also tried traditional Chinese medicine. No one medical system alone had been able to relieve my stubborn acne condition. It was in 1995 in Beijing where I met a Chinese physician who employed a unique program that combined Western and Chinese medicines that finally did the trick. With this program, the Beijing physician has successfully treated thousands of acne patients in China.

This elaborate program, which lasts for 60 days, consists of six parts: vein injection of antibiotics and vitamins, oral intake of Chinese herbal medicine, Western antibiotics and vitamins, application of topical cleanser, plus adherence to a strict dietary program. Admittedly, it's difficult to follow the program unless you have the time and if you live in Beijing, not to mention that it's quite costly.

In fact, I didn't finish the whole program myself. In the summer of 1995, I went to the physician's clinic and was put under the program for two weeks. That was all the time I had and then I had to leave Beijing. Before I left, I asked the old physician for the rest of the medications that were to be taken orally. As I was already very impressed with that two week's result, I proposed to the physician to let others know of his treatment program on the internet. As the story went, he declined.

As part of his treatment program, vein injection helps speed up the therapeutic process. In the longer run, taking the medicines orally serves basically the same purpose. After following the program for one month, with the latter two weeks taking only oral medications, my decades-old acne problem was pretty much under control. Before, my face was constantly covered with about 100 or so blackheads, whiteheads and a few inflammatory lesions. After one month, most of the ugly pimples were gone. Two months into the program, I had gotten back my clear, normal face.

By then, I had used up my medications. I was told by the Beijing physician not to stop the medications all at once. The body needed time to adjust. Since taking a balanced dose of vitamins wouldn't hurt, I switched to taking a daily dose of multi-vitamins and minerals.

As to the antibiotics, I stopped taking them completely. Instead, I switched to drinking various kinds of ready-made herbal teas that were easily available in Hong Kong. The herbal teas I picked to drink all had the effects of dispersing the accumulation of heat and of shedding toxins from the body. They acted as the natural antibiotics but were free of the side effects of chemical antibiotics.

After I had experimented with various kinds of herbal substitutes, I eventually decided on tuckahoe jelly. This is a health food good not only for inhibiting the recurrence of acne outbreaks, it also has other renowned benefits such as moisturizing and revitalizing skin, even killing cancer cells. Recently, I have simplified the Beijing program to an easy-to-follow formula which includes tuckahoe jelly, honeysuckle tea, multi-vitamins, and a topical cleanser. For people with more serious acne condition, antibiotics and a dietary program are added.

What details below is firstly the elaborate Beijing program, followed by my simplified yet effective formula. I will attempt to analyze why these two programs work after laying out the details.

The Beijing Program

The Beijing physician's elaborate treatment program consists of six parts: Chinese herbal medicine, Western medications including vein injections and oral medications, vitamins, topical treatment, and a dietary program. The program is to last for 60 days.

a.   Chinese herbal medicine.
25 grams of peony tree bark (mu dan pi*),
25 grams of Chinese Wolfberry root bark (di gu pi),
50 grams of honeysuckle flower (jin yin hua),
20 grams of forsythia (lian qiao),
25 grams of dandelion (pu gong ying),
15 grams of amur cork tree bark (huang bai),
25 grams of summer cypress (di fu zi),
20 grams of white bark (bai xian pi),
25 grams of portule herb (ma chi xian),
15 grams of pine pollen (song hua fen),
25 grams of figwort root (xuan sen),
40 grams of Job's tears seed (yi yi ren).
* The bracketed words are Chinese transliterations of the herbs. It is for the convenience of those who would like to get the formula from the herbal stores in Chinatowns close to you.

Use an earthenware pot when preparing for the herbal tea. Cover the herbs slightly above with water and bring it to a boil before turning it down to low heat. Continue heating it for 20 more minutes. Strain the herbs and drink the tea.

This quantity is for a one-day usage, taken once a day. The medication is to continue for 60 days.

b.   Vein injection medication.
Vitamin C 2500 mg, Vitamin B6 100 mg, Dexasone 2 mg,
Cephradine 2000 mg, 5% Glucose 250 ml.
For people with average acne condition, take the vein injection 15 days in a row. Stop it for 10 days, and then resume it 5 times more but take it once every other day. Total: 20 injections in 35 days.

For people with more severe acne condition, take the vein injections 30 days in a row. Stop it for 10 days, and then resume it 10 times more but take it once every other day. Total: 40 injections in 60 days.

c.   Western oral medications.
Vitamin C 100 mg tablet, 2 tablets each time, taken twice a day;
Vitamin B6 10 mg tablet, 2 tablets each time, taken twice a day;
Vitamin E 50 mg tablet, 2 tablets each time, taken twice a day;
Metronidazole 200 mg tablet, 1 tablet each time, taken twice a day;
Prednisone 5 mg tablet, 2 tablets each time, taken once in the morning.
This oral medication is to continue for 60 days.

d.   Topical medications.
Sulfur liquid (5% sulfur), clean face with it twice a day;
Cream (8% sulfur + 2% resorcinol), put it on before sleep.
e.    Dietary program.

During treatment, avoid eating oily food, spicy food, seafood, poultry or beef. After the acne is cleared, one should still watch out for oily and spicy food. Eat vegetables, fruit, and drink lots of water. Pork is fine.

Analysis of the Beijing Formula:

The use of cortisone-like hormones and antibiotics in oral and injection forms are ways of speeding up the initial stage of the healing process. The dosages are unusually large. While the average daily dosage for individual herbs is about 10 to 15 grams, the herbs used in the Beijing formula are mostly 25 grams and above. The daily dosage for the herbal tea is 310 grams in total--three times the dosage for a normally large prescription. You need a huge pot just to put the herbs in. This program employs heavy dosage of many strong medicines for a quick, shocking effect. If your body can take it, your acne will be shocked out.

Prednisone and Dexamethasone are hormones used primarily to provide relief for inflamed areas of the body. They lessen swelling, redness, itching, and allergic reactions. They are often used as part of the treatment for a number of different diseases, such as severe allergies or skin problems, asthma, or arthritis.

Metronidazole and Cephradine are antibiotics used in the treatment of infections caused by bacteria. The medicines work by killing off bacteria or preventing their growth.

Certain vitamins and minerals supplements can improve skin health; just be careful not to overdo the recommended daily dosage, as some can be toxic in high doses.

Vitamin C reinforces collagen and helps balance skin pigment by inhibiting melanin production. It also works to reduce redness and inflammation. Vitamin B-complex helps breakdown excess hormones. Beta-carotene and vitamin E are a safe, effective way to get and metabolize the vitamin A that reduces oil production. Zinc helps strengthen the immune system and heal acne scars, while chromium picolinate may help make better use of the body's essential fatty acids. Selenium helps control inflammation.

My Formula

My formula is a revised version of the Beijing formula that produces a similarly effective and probably safer way of controlling acne condition. For universal application, I've taken out the vein injection medication as it is not feasible for most people. I've added the topical application of herbal cold pads. For skin ailments, topical application is as important, if not more so, as intake of medicine. It serves to control acne from the outside as well as from the inside. I've also lowered the dosage to a safer level.

Taking cue from the success of the Beijing physician, I do believe a more comprehensive treatment program is in order for the stubborn and serious cases of acne. Our Complete Program emphasizes the unique therapeutic effectiveness of combining Chinese herbs and Western antibiotic. In dealing with the kind of acne conditions that are grave and unyielding, they serve to complement each other. In addition, I've incorporated a few other basic principles into the Program to ensure great results.

The program consists of the following parts:

a  Acne Formula Soup and Acne Formula Cold Pads
b  Metronidazole
c  Vitamins & Minerals
d  Topical Application of Tea Tree Oil
e  Cleansing
f  Dietary Therapy
g  Sleep and Relaxation
h  Exercise

a. Acne Formula Soup and Acne Formula Cold Pads

Ingredients and composition of the Acne Formula:

Wild tuckahoe 12%
Forsythia Fruit 7%
Honeysuckle Flower 7%
Mutan Bark 6%
Dandelion 7%
Trichosanthes Root 7%
Sargassum 7%
Fritillary Bulb 4%
Red Sage Root 10%
Chinese Angelica Root 4%
Hawthorn Fruit 7%
Tangerine Peel 4%
Peach Kernel 4%
Job's Tears Seed 14%

Functions of the Acne Formula:

The Acne Formula is designed to address all known causes and symptoms of acne. They include:

  • clear excess heat
  • expel excess dampness
  • anti-inflammatory and reduce swelling
  • promote skin cell metabolism
  • inhibit excess androgens and sebum
  • detoxify toxins in blood
  • strengthen the digestive system
  • improve blood and qi circulation
  • relieve stress
  • promote bowel movements
  • dissolve accumulated phlegm and lumps
  • regulate menstruation

    The Acne Formula Soup treats acne at its roots from the inside out, clearing excess heat and detoxifying toxins in the blood, strengthening the digestive system and improving blood and qi circulation, regulating hormones and relaxing the nervous system.

    The Acne Formula Cold Pads, on the other hand, help reduce swelling and clear out the breakouts from the outside in.

    Steps to Prepare the Acne Formula Soup:

    1 Place 20 grams of the Acne Formula herbal powder into a cloth bag and knot the bag tightly;
    2 Put the bag of herbal powder in a lidded earthenware pot;
    3 Add two bowls of cold water to the pot;
    4 Stir the bag a bit until the solution becomes brownish; this is to allow the herbal powder to seep through the bag into the water;
    5 Bring the solution to a boil, then reduce it to low heat for another 20 minutes. Thereafter, remove the pot from the heat. If the color of the soup is not dark brown, stir the bag some more so that more herbal powder can seep into the soup. You can do so just before turning off the heat.
    6 Pour the soup out and drink it while it's warm.
    7 You can drink the soup once or twice a day. If you have time to cook the soup twice a day, use a fresh bag in the morning and repeat the process with the cooked bag in the evening. There are more than enough herbs in a 20-gram bag for two preparations. Drinking the soup twice a day will help maintain an even level of herbal ingredients in your system. It's more effective for the treatment.
    8 Repeat the process each day for 60 days.

    Steps to Prepare the Acne Formula Cold Pads:

    1 After you have turned off the heat and have poured out the soup in the preparation of the Acne Formula Soup, add two more bowls of water into the pot when the bag is still in the pot;
    2 Again, stir the cooked bag to allow more herbal powder to seep through into the water;
    3 Boil the solution for another 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the solution to cool down;
    4 Cut several pieces of cotton pads and soak them one by one into the cool herbal solution. Then, place the herb-soaked cotton pads on a plate. Cover the plate up and put it in the refrigerator. One hour later, the cold pads are ready for application.
    5 Apply the herb-soaked cold pads on your face, neck and other areas where you have acne while you are lying down. Remember to cover your whole face except the nostrils with the pads. Leave the pads there for 20 minutes. Afterwards, you can apply fresh cold pads on affected areas for another 20 minutes if you like, or if your condition is more serious. If you have acne on the back, have someone apply the cold pads there for you. The cold pad application is soothing and is very helpful in controlling your acne. It lets the herbs to work directly on your skin where it matters.
    6 Do this once or twice a day for 60 days.

    Side effects

    Some people, particularly those that have latent coldness in the body who are easily pale and sweat at night, may encounter minor problems such as dizziness, nausea, diarrhea, or skin rash. If you have these reactions, stop the use of Acne Formula. Pregnant women should also avoid consuming it.

    Caution on Drinking the Acne Formula Soup

    It is recommended that the Acne Formula Soup not be taken during pregnancy and when the mother is breast-feeding.

    Chinese herbal medicine is well known for its lack of side effects. Now that I've studied the discipline more in depth, I realize that this is a misconception of the general public. A more accurate interpretation would be: properly chosen and prepared, toxic and serious side effects of individual herbs can be reduced to a minimal level in herbal formulas.

    Caution on Applying the Acne Formula Cold Pads

    There shouldn't be any problem for most people in applying the Acne Formula Cold Pads. However, if your skin is allergic to the herbs and red spots do appear, stop using the pads. The skin is very sensitive, and may be allergic to a number of things we don't know. The herbs we use are 100% natural and of the highest quality. They will not harm your skin. But if you are allergic to it or if you don't feel comfortable with it, don't use it.

    b. Metronidazole

    Metronidazole 200 mg tablet, 1 tablet each time, taken twice a day (the recommended dosage limit is 1,200 mg per day.)

    Take Metronidazole for 60 days.

    When comparing my formula here with that of the Beijing physician, you'll see that I've left off using corticosteroids. I'm not feeling comfortable with the side-effects that this kind of drugs carry, particularly when one stops the drugs suddenly. In order to test first-hand what side effects may develop if stopping dexamethasone suddenly, I took 1 mg dexamethasone tablet once a day for 30 days in the summer of 2000. After 30 days, I stopped taking it altogether. A few days later, my chest suddenly had a serious outbreak of acne. Luckily, my face was not affected. I have not had as serious an outbreak for several years, and during this period I have not done or eaten anything special. I suspect the outbreak was the result of stopping dexamethasone suddenly. You may like to know what happened to my outbreaks. Well, by taking Acne Formula everyday during the period, no new mass outbreak occurred. The old breakouts gradually faded away. Still, I don't think one should take the risk unnecessarily. I do not include dexamethasone or other cortisone-like drugs in my Complete Program here.

    Metronidazole is an antibiotic used in the treatment of infections caused by bacteria. The drug works by killing off bacteria or preventing their growth. It is often used on patients who find tetracycline ineffective, and it has been found to be effective for various kinds of acne condition. To clear up your infection completely, continue taking this medicine for the full course of treatment even if you feel better in a few days.

    Side effects

    Metronidazole has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals on long term therapy. There have been no cases in humans. Otherwise, the side effects of metronidazole are relatively minor. Some may experience nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, and occasional diarrhea, headache, insomnia, difficulty urinating, etc. But once stopped taking the drug, these side effects will soon go away.


    Metronidazole is excreted in breast milk. Women during pregnancy or breast feeding should avoid taking the drug. Also, one should refrain from drinking alcohol when taking metronidazole and for at least 3 days after the last dose. This medicine may cause a harmless darkening of the urine.

    The use of antibiotics is to speed up the initial stage of the healing process. It gives you back your confidence and provides a better internal environment to let the Acne Formula work by restoring your bodily maladjustments. For sufferers whose conditions are serious and stubborn, I'd recommend that you start the curative process with both the Acne Formula and the Western drug suggested above.

    c. Vitamins and Minerals

    Certain vitamin and mineral supplements can improve skin health; just be careful not to overdo the recommended daily dosage, as some can be toxic in high doses.

    As part of the Complete Program during the course of treatment, I think we should always consider these supplements. Just by themselves alone, though, I have found them to be ineffective. After my acne had receded by following the Beijing physician's program, I thought my cleared face could continue to be so by just taking multi-vitamin supplements. A couple of months down the road, a series of acne came back, to my horror. So, at least for my kind of stubborn condition, just vitamins and minerals alone wouldn't work.

    Vitamin C reinforces collagen and helps balance skin pigment by inhibiting melanin production. It also works to reduce redness and inflammation. Vitamin B-complex helps breakdown excess hormones. Beta-carotene and vitamin E are a safe, effective way to get and metabolize the vitamin A that reduces oil production. Zinc helps strengthen the immune system and heal acne scars, while chromium picolinate may help make better use of the body's essential fatty acids. Selenium helps control inflammation.

    d. Topical Application of Tea Tree Oil

    Tea Tree Oil is the only topical supplement I am using now together with the Acne Formula Cold Pads. I have found it very helpful in subduing breakouts. It is not strong enough to take care of all of your acne problems, but it's a very good supplement.

    A complex composite essential oil derived from the Australian native Melaleuca alternifolia, or tea tree, it is grown in the forests of north-eastern New South Wales. It's an effective antiseptic agent and kills bacteria such as P. acnes. A manufacturer's literature says tea tree oil actually dissolves the lumps of dead skin cells which make pus and allows the blood stream to clean them away and that's how it clears up infections including pimples.

    e. Cleansing

    One of the most important things you can do to maintain a clear complexion is to wash your face. Gently cleanse your face twice a day to remove excess oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. Be careful not to over-wash as that may cause dryness.

    When I started my treatment program, I obediently used sulfur (3%) soap to wash my face twice a day. Nowadays, I just use regular soap.

    f. Dietary Therapy

    Doctors trained in Western discipline have found no direct influence of food to the cause of acne. This is in sharp contrast to the views of traditional Chinese physicians. Chinese medical theory proposes that food cholesterol is considered one of the main causes of imbalance in our body. If one is already not well, improper diet could aggravate one's condition. During the course of treatment, Chinese physicians generally recommend strict dietary program.

    My experience is that diet does play a vital role on our acne condition. In the course of experimenting with the right combination of herbal ingredients for the Acne Formula, I used myself as the guinea pig. Often, I intentionally took certain foods that are known to cause acne eruptions just so I could test the effectiveness of the herbs on my condition. I, therefore, can say based on first-hand knowledge that spicy food and beef definitely have an effect on my acne. To others, seafood, chocolate and chicken could be the culprit.

    I strongly recommend anyone during the course of treatment to avoid eating greasy and spicy food, beef and seafood. To help your condition, you actually have a lot of selections.

    Beta carotene and vitamin A foods are especially helpful to people with conditions of an inflammatory nature. Vegetables such winter squash, spinach, mung bean, etc., will either help nourish the blood or purify the blood-toxins which are known to cause skin eruptions. Soybean and wolfberry fruit have estrogen-like effects that can help balance excess androgens. We already know that too much androgens is the underlying cause for acne breakouts.

    If you like meat, eat pork. Otherwise, stick to vegetables and fruits, and drink lots of water.

    g. Sleep and Relaxation

    Not having enough of sleep can add stress to the body. Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you don't get the necessary amount of rest, dark circles may appear under the eyes, fine lines will increase and, worst of all, acne will breakout.

    Stress and deprivation of sleep can cause hormonal imbalance, which in turn put pressure on the sebaceous glands, producing excess sebum.

    With the Chinese theory, stress could cause blockage in the passage of blood and qi, which is where we get our energy. Blockage of our energy passage could cause any number of problems, such as the accumulation of dampness, fat, cholesterol, excess heat, toxins, blood stasis, lumps, etc. These pathogenic phenomena are all related to the cause of acne.

    In my case, I have found that a good night's sleep after a bowl of Acne Formula the night before would always have a subduing effect on the developing bumps. Usually, the potent acne will fade away with this simple method.

    h. Exercise

    Exercise is also a form of relaxation. This does not necessary mean a full, strenuous workout every day. Taking a walk or stretching will increase the circulation in your body to help you relax, reduce stress and feel more energized.

    Benefits to the skin through regular exercise are due to an increase in blood flow achieved by a higher heart rate and oxygen level in the bloodstream. The blood flow will increase with even a modest amount of activity, such as a short bike ride, walking up the stairs or jogging around your block.

    What If You Can't Locate the Herbs?

    Since I put up this site in the latter part of 1999, I've received hundreds of e-mail from fellow acne-sufferers around the world. Of all the communications, about a quarter would be asking if I could locate the herbs for them. I've complied for a couple of dozens of requests coming from small communities in far away places. For people who live in metropolitans, I generally referred them to natural food stores or herbal stores in Chinatowns.

    When I realized there was demand for my approach, I've decided to turn it into an informative business that can both help people and give me something to do when I don't teach any more. The result gradually develops into quite an extensive health web site, with hundreds of pages on herbs and foods, and dozens of pages on different kinds of ailments. The Acne Formula Soup and Cold Pads becomes my first product in the health site. I've since enlarged the editorial section, and have added a page from fellow acne-sufferers who wrote me and cared enough to share their experience. To view the new site and look for details of the Acne Formula Soup and Cold Pads, please click here.

    Analysis of Why These Two Programs Work

    I believe the cleverness of the Beijing physician lies in his being able to combine the Western medical approach with that of the Chinese herbs. While no one medical approach alone seems to be able to effectively control certain stubborn kinds of acne, combining Western and Chinese approaches proves to produce the miracle.

    The question may be raised as of why one medical system alone seems ineffective, but two systems together are able to cure acne. I have thought about this question and have come up with the following hypothesis.

    As we know, acne develops when the sebaceous gland gets plugged and the sebum it excretes is trapped and is not able to flow out in its regular pattern around the hair follicle. Two factors help to block off the hair follicle: excessive supply of sebum and the dead skin cells.

    Antibiotics and cortisone-like medicines are effective to kill off bacteria and reduce inflammation after the acne has occurred, but they can't reduce the excess flow of sebum, which is why acne develops in the first place. The medicines that work to suppress sebum excretion, such as Accutane, all have serious side effects. They are not used widely nor should be used for long period of time. This analysis leads us to the conclusion that the commonly used conventional Western medicines are simply not geared to preventing or curing acne at its root.

    Chinese medicine, on the other hand, works to restore the organ functions in the body by bringing the bodily functions into balance. To the Chinese, acne is the result of a weakening digestive system, coupled with a higher diet cholesterol intake. The body under this condition will produce excessive toxic substances that flow into the bloodstream and body fluids, causing an imbalance they called excessive heat. This condition will also cause excessive flow of sebum.

    If Chinese medicine works as it states, whatever causes the excess sebum flow will eventually be restored to its normal, balanced condition. The process will take longer to work, but when this happens, regular daily washing of the face will be good enough to remove the debris caused by the dead skin cells. It seems then that Chinese medicine alone would be able to take care of the two factors that cause acne.

    If so, why couldn't the numerous Chinese physicians whom I've seen cure my acne condition? Well, I think the reason lies in the fact that the physicians I've seen were simply not skilled enough in their trade. Admittedly, Chinese medicine takes longer to get results. But if the formula prescribed were right, one month should be long enough to see at least some improvement of the condition. Compared with its Western counterpart, Chinese herbal medicine is still more of an art than science. It takes some luck to find a good artist. It took me over twenty years to find the right Chinese physician.

    A good Chinese physician will prescribe the right formula to restore the imbalance of the body. The Beijing program with just the Chinese formula alone, though slower, should eventually be able to control acne. The addition of cortisone-like medicines, Western antibiotics and vitamin supplements are used, I believe, to reinforce and speed up the healing process.

    Patients are impatient. A quicker show of improvement will reinforce the patient's confidence to accept and continue with the therapy. As we know, confidence of a patient in his or her doctor is as important in the healing process as the right drug, particularly so for some chronic illnesses like acne.

    Can Western Drugs and Chinese Herbal Medicines be Combined?

    Not only can the two systems of medicine be combined, they can enhance each others' effects. Chinese herbs may make it possible to take a lower dosage of Western medicines, to reduce their side-effects, and obtain a better overall effect. Western drugs may provide emergency relief for serious conditions that will allow long-term application of Chinese herbs the rest of the time.

    When you take the two systems of drug together, it is advised that Western drugs be taken at a different time (e.g. an hour apart) from herbal medicines in order to avoid any chance of interaction within the digestive system.

  • Please also visit my other website at:


    Home | Acne Page | Psychology | Western Treatments | Chinese Herbal | Acne Images | EMail | Link Exchange | Guestbook

    Home | Home | Home | Home | Home