According to TCM, our skin is constantly exposed to the external environment and can easily be invaded by external pathogens. This can cause imbalance in the Qi and Blood of the body, leading to poor circulation of moisture and nutrients to the skin, resulting in pale, dry and loose skin.
Our skin also reflects the health of our internal organs. Deficient Qi and Blood or dysfunctional organs can present themselves through the deterioration of our complexion.
While every organ in the body can affect the skin’s health, in TCM, there is a saying “The Lungs govern the skin”. In other words, our complexion is most closely related to the function of the Lungs (read about TCM organs).
1. The Lungs direct nutrients to the skin
In TCM, the Qi of the Lungs can rise and sink. This rising action of Lung Qi brings both nutrients and waste to the upper parts of the body and the body surface. The nutrients are used to nourish the upper body and the skin, while the waste are excreted through exhalation and perspiration.
Similarly, the sinking action of Lung Qi helps to bring nutrients to the lower parts of the body, and transports waste downwards to be excreted through urination.
Moreover, the rising of Lung Qi also lifts our body’s Protective Qi (卫气 Wèi Qì) to the body surface. The Protective Qi helps to defend the skin against external pathogens, which can invade the surface and cause skin diseases.
Therefore, the Lungs are said to “govern the skin” as it directs nutrition and protection to the skin, thus ensuring a fuller and clearer complexion.
2. The Lungs regulate the Qi of the entire body
A primary function of the Lungs is to govern breathing. As mentioned in the previous section, Lung Qi can rise and sink. This rising and sinking is influenced by our inhalation and exhalation. Our breathing drives the constant rising and sinking of Qi, which produces a flow through the meridians that powers circulation around the body.
When one’s Lungs are strong, breathing is deep, even and rhythmic. This produces adequate rising and sinking of Qi, which leads to a smooth and strong flow of Qi through the body, thus resulting in the proper functioning of all organs in the body.
As the condition of our skin relies heavily on the health of our internal organs, the Lungs play a vital role in supporting the smooth function of all other organs.
3. The Lungs take part in water metabolism
Apart from distributing Qi and nutrients, the rising and sinking of Lung Qi also aids in the circulation and metabolism of water in the body. The rising of the Lung Qi raises water to the body surface, thus moisturising the skin. The sinking of Lung Qi helps to expel waste metabolites through urination, keeping our internal environment healthy and our skin clear.
4. The Lungs support Blood circulation
In TCM, the Lungs assist the heart in blood circulation (read about TCM organs). As mentioned previously, the rising and sinking of the Lung Qi generates a flow through the meridians that powers blood circulation throughout the body.
Moreover, blood from all vessels eventually lead to the lungs, where our breathing facilitates gaseous exchange. This allows the body to take in the nourishing Qi from the environment while at the same time expelling the waste Qi from the body. The nourishing Qi is then transported to the rest of the body through the blood.
The lungs therefore contribute to supplying Qi and Blood to the skin, ensuring the rosiness and suppleness of our skin.
In conclusion, TCM draws a close correlation between the health of our lungs and our skin quality. This is because our skin receives the necessary moisture, nourishment, Qi and Blood through the rising and sinking function of Lungs. Therefore, a soft, supple and wrinkle-free skin can be achieved by nourishing the lungs. Some of the common foods that nourish Yin and moisture the Lungs are almonds, lily, solomon’s seal rhizome, asparagus, egg white, dwarf lilyturf root, milk, honey etc.
Stay tuned to read about lung nourishing recipes that improve the skin.
中医认为肺主宣发肃降，意思是肺气可向上升宣和向外周布散，也可向内向下通降。肺气的宣发作用，能将营养输布到头面以及外达全身皮毛，也能将浊气通过呼气及汗液向外排泄。肺气的肃降作用向内向下布散营养，并通过尿液排泄浊液。 此外，肺气的宣发也能将卫气宣散于体表。卫气具有防御外邪的作用，起到护肤的效果。 故此，所谓“肺主皮毛”，原理就是肺能将津液养分以及卫气宣散于全身皮肤，使皮肤得以护卫结白，滋润饱满。
以上肺功能正常，肺部才能把卫气，津液和血液运输到皮肤毛窍， 并发挥其保卫体表，濡养皮毛，调节毛孔的作用。 如此，皮肤才会细腻致密，柔润少皱。 因此中医在护肤方面，多采取宣降肺气防外邪，滋养肺阴润皮肤的措施。滋阴润肺之常用食品有：杏仁，百合，玉竹，天冬，麦冬， 蛋白，牛乳，珍珠， 蜂蜜等。