Looking “Outside the Box” for Acne Treatment

Dr. Wang was recently featured in the Dermatology Times article “Looking ‘outside box’ for acne treatment“. You may read the article online (as a registered user) by clicking here or download a printable PDF of the article by to download the Dermatology Times Article in PDF.

TCM Therapies

Shaobai Wang, M.D., uses a combination of acupuncture, herbs and diet to treat acne. In traditional chinese medicine (TCM), he says, “We consider that everything is related. The weather, diet, and season and other such factors can have pathological effects on human functioning. For TCM science, everybody is different; every problem is different. … We treat disease according to the method of differentiation.

(Missing Picture)

The above patient is a female, age 25 with acne around mouth area, shown with acupuncture needles in the facial area and lower extremities area.

“Here in the United States they treat according to diagnosis: acne,” he says. “With TCM, acneform lesions may result from one of a variety of imbalances. We observe and analyze the imbalances to get at the cause of the lesions; this is differentiation.”

Dr. Wang is a New York State-licensed acupuncturist who, in July 2004, left his position of 13 years as visiting professor and research scientist in the department of medicine at Columbia University in New York City.

Dr. Shaobai Wang

Dr. Wang considers several factors when choosing a course of treatment for his acne patients, including how the acne responds to changes in season, hormonal cycle, mood and diet, as well as where acne occurs on the body. Based on the principles of TCM, every acne patient receives an individualized therapy, he says, so it is not possible to conduct a clinical trial examining a specific, uniform TCM treatment for acne, as is done with Western medicine. Clinical trials of TCM treatments can be performed only if the study incorporates the standard procedures for TCM diagnosis and differentiation.

Combo Effective

Dr. Baker also looks at the big picture when treating acne with acupuncture and other TCM tools. “It is also important to treat the patient’s underlying TCM imbalances for optimal results, which translates into treating problems like an irregular menstrual cycle first, and then observing the effect on a patient’s acne,” he says. “… Patients who have an incomplete response to antibiotics but do not want to take Accutane can benefit from combining topical therapy and monthly acupuncture as maintenance therapy, while using doxycycline for acne flares.” Dr. Wang, who was educated in China, doubts whether most Western physicians truly appreciate the amount of training that is necessary in both TCM theory and practice. In China, doctors of TCM must undergo a minimum of five years of intensive training, including one yearof clinical internship. He does not believe that a few hundred hours of training in acupuncture or a similar TCM treatment is enough to permit doctors to use these tools correctly. Thus, he says, it would be best for Western dermatologists who want to incorporate aspects of TCM into their practice to work in collaboration with a TCM practitioner who has spent several years studying TCM full-time and is familiar with Western practices. In the wrong hands, he says, TCM, like any medical therapy, can even be dangerous.

For more information:

Additional information about TCM can be found on Dr. Wang’s Web site at acupuncturechineseherbs.com. The role of vitamin B in acne is described on the Web site for Evolution-X at www.b5supplements.com