Melasma - Traditional Chinese MedicineTraditional Chinese Medicine Summary

Traditional Chinese Medicine

TCM Summary

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, melasma is known as mian chen (), or “dusty complexion.” It is most commonly attributed to strong emotions, poor diet, and a deficiency of the kidney vital organ system and stagnation in the flow of Qi, so that the complexion lacks vitality and color. This condition may present as one of excess, deficiency, or a combination of both.[1]


Treatment Philosophy

Traditional Chinese Medicine highlights the role of stress and its management in the treatment of melasma. The goal of Traditional Chinese Medical treatment of melasma is to reduce stress, regulate the kidney vital organ system for hormonal support, strengthen the spleen vital organ system for digestion, and soothe the liver vital organ system to harmonize strong emotions.


Symptoms and Causes

TCM related imbalances

TCM related imbalances leading to melasma most often come from internal excesses of the liver or the spleen (leading, respectively, to fire rising upwards or dampness collecting internally) or deficiencies of yin of the heart and kidneys.


Chinese Herbs

Herbs play an important role in any skin condition by working to re-balance the body, soothe emotions, support vital organs, support vital substances, and resolve changes in pigmentation. Single herbs and herbal formulas for the treatment of melasma will be chosen based upon the Traditional Chinese Medicine pattern that you are diagnosed with.



Acupuncture supports the generation and movement of Qi and blood. It also expels pathogens, supports the functions of vital organs, and harmonizes strong emotions.

Diet and Lifestyle

Nutrition and diet

  • Diet: Diets high in fat, carbohydrates and meat, and low in whole fruits and vegetables prevent your body from receiving important nutrients that support your protective Qi and vital substances.[7] Maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is the key to healthy skin. Reduce or avoid alcohol, soda, greasy, fried, spicy foods and sugar to keep your skin happy.[7,8]
  • Exercise: Exercise is something that everybody has been told to do, and for good reason. If you are stressed out and feel that your emotions exacerbate your condition, exercise is a great way to move Qi and blood.[3]


  • Stress reduction: Strong emotions and prolonged stress depress the smooth flow of Qi and blood-specifically in the liver system - which can affect how the kidney system regulates hormones.[3,9]


  1. Xu Y, Sumei Y. Dermatology in traditional chinese medicine. St. Albans: Donica Pub.; 2004.
  2. Wiseman NE, A. Fundamentals of Chinese Medicine. Brookline, MA: Paradigm Publications; 1996.
  3. Maciocia G. The foundations of Chinese medicine : a comprehensive text for acupuncturists and herbalists. 2nd ed. / foreword by Su Xin Ming. ed. Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone; 2005.
  4. Shen D-H, Wu H-f, Wang N. Manual of dermatology in Chinese medicine = [Pʻi fu kʻo]. Seattle: Eastland Press; 1995.
  5. Y. X. Dermatology in Traditional Chinese Medicine. United Kingdom: Donica Publishing Ltd.; 2004.
  6. O'Connor J, Bensky D, Shanghai Zhong yi xue yuan. Acupuncture : a comprehensive text. Chicago: Eastland Press; 1981.
  7. Pitchford P. Healing with whole foods : Asian traditions and modern nutrition. 3rd ed. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books; 2002.
  8. Kastner Jr. Chinese nutrition therapy : dietetics in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). 2nd ed. Stuttgart ; New York: Thieme; 2009.
  9. Maciocia G. Obstetrics and gynecology in Chinese medicine. 2nd ed. ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone; 2011.