Acupuncture is a complementary and alternative medicine therapy, for which clear evidence supports the efficacy of this approach in treating plaque psoriasis. A meta-analysis on acupuncture and psoriasis showed that the therapeutic effect of acupoint stimulation is superior to that of nonacupoint stimulation in treating psoriasis . Acupuncture is a major Traditional Chinese Medicine technique that has been used for more than 2000 years. Since it is an effective approach, with few side-effects, this approach is now globally accepted .
The acupuncture procedure includes inserting needles into targeted acupoints with the intention of regulating internal organ function, and it is believed that acupuncture exerts its therapeutic effect by mediating neuronal, immune, and other systems [27, 28].
Psoriasis is a chronic relapsing skin disease, known to people for thousands of years.
The practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine describe psoriasis some 1600 years ago. Psoriasis is a common autoimmune disease. Acupuncture-related techniques have been widely used to treat psoriasis since its ability to engage neuronal function, the immune system, and other systems is well documented. But the precise etiology and pathogenesis of psoriasis are not known although there are many hypotheses. There are several commonly accepted points of view in TCM as for etiopathogenesis of psoriasis: syndrome of Blood and Wind Heat, syndrome of Blood Stasis, syndrome of Blood.deficiency- Dryness and Fire-Toxin Heat. In all cases the physician should pay attention to the color of psoriatic lesions. While suffering from psoriasis Liver and Kidneys are specifically affected and the insufficiency of these two organs is reflected on the level of Blood and nourishment. Physiotherapy is the main therapeutic method of TCM for treatment of psoriasis and is directed to elimination of stagnation and activation of Blood. Several methods for treatment of psoriasis with acupuncture are described- choosing points according to the syndromes; according to the location of lesions; points, which should be treated in all patients suffering from psoriasis; bloodletting from the root of ear and from the three kui points; application of plum-blossom needle and cupping therapy. The important place of auriculotherapy in the treatment of psoriasis is reviewed.
Psoriasis is a common chronic relapsing skin disease that is characterized by erythematous and scaly plaques. The prevalence of psoriasis is estimated at 1-3 percent of the world’s population and has increased rapidly in the past 20 years. In ancient times it was thought to be a kind of leprosy; in fact, it was regarded as leprosy even in the Bible. Although Celsus (25 BC- 45AD) was the first to describe psoriatic lesions, it was not until the 19th century that Willan and Hebra were able to classify it as an independent disease. 1 In 610 Ganxian from Chao Yuan Fang in his tractates Zhu Bing Yuan Hou Lun (Discussion on the origin of symptoms) first described the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) point of view for psoriasis. Many centuries later, in 1617, Baichuang from Chen Shi Gong in his study Wai Ke Zheng Zong (The real origin of surgery) tried to explain the pathogenesis of the disease. 2 Through the ages the Chinese have referred to this condition by many names: Bai bi (white dagger sore), She shi (snake lice) and Song pi xuan (pine skin tinea). 3 Nowadays in China, psoriasis is called Yin Xie Bing (the Disease of the Silver Squames).
The precise etiology and pathogenesis of psoriasis are not known although there are many hypotheses. There are several commonly accepted points of view in TCM as for etiopathogenesis of psoriasis.
Basic terms of TCM
Over 2000 years ago, TCM developed the physiological theories of Zang and Fu (viscera), Jing Luo (channels and collaterals), Qi, Xue (blood) and body fluids. 4 The concept of Qi refers to two different aspects: as refined nutritive substance flowing through the body and as the general function of the internal organs and tissues. Qi exists in every part of the body: Zong-Qi (pectoral Qi) is gathered in the chest, Yuan-Qi originates from the Kidney, Ying-Qi circulates through the blood vessels, while Wei-Qi protects the superficial portion of the body against external pathogenic factors warming up the in ner organs and moistening the skin. 5 According to TCM an abundance of Wei-Qi makes the skin soft, smooth and strong. Controversially, the deficiency of Wei-Qi causes skin dryness, muscle weakness and greater liability to the external pathogenic factors. Physiologically, the channels and collaterals Jing Luo perform the role of transporting Qi and Blood, connecting the interior and exterior, resisting exogenous factors and safeguarding the functions of the organs. Since the channels and collaterals connect the viscera inwardly and the body surface outwardly, pathogenic factors can move between the viscera and the body surface. 6 For instance, pathogenic factors from the superficial portion of the body can enter it, bringing harm to the visceral organs, while pathogenic change in the visceral organs can also be conveyed to the surface, causing certain skin diseases. In this respect, by judging the particular area of the certain skin lesion and examining the route and network of channels and collaterals in the body, it is possible to decide which inner organ the diseased area belongs to.
Dermatoses are of great variety, but in terms of pathological changes, there are several external factors that can cause the disease: Wind, Dampness, Heat, Poison, Dryness, Blood Stasis, and Deficiency of the Liver-Qi and Kidney-Qi. 7 The classic TCM concepts refer psoriasis as Blood Heat, subsequently developed into Blood Dryness and Blood Stasis. 8 The damage of skin by Heat is manifested by reddened skin, erosion, pustule, scorching, itching and pain, accompanied possibly by constipation and dark urine, as well as heat sensation and thirst. Dryness leads to skin xerosis, rhagades, squamae, atrophia trichoxerosis, and trichomadesis, usually accompanied by severe itching. The skin damage under the category of Blood Stasis is manifested by petechia, ecchymosis, violet red or dark red spots, pigmented spots, thickened and hardened skin, verrucous vegetations. These changes may be accompanied by purple lip, tongue ecchymosis, and menstrual disorders as well. The subjective symptoms include pain, numbness, and bradyesthesia.9
Etiopathogenesis and clinical syndroms of psoriasis from the view of TCM
According to TCM different pathogenic mechanisms for psoriasis exist:
Blood and Wind Heat.
Etiopathogenesis. The excessive Blood Heat is an internal factor for causing psoriasis. Erythema and spreading of lesions depend on the predominance of Heat in the Blood. The disease is often due to the invasion of Wind- an external pathogenic factor, which dries the Blood and increases the inner temperature. Eruption and white scales result from excessive Wind Heat while the subsequent drying may cause nutritional muscle and skin deficiency, and severe itching. The Auspitz’s sign and Koebner phenomenon are easy to obtain. More often Blood Heat type affects young people, under the age of 40. 10
Clinical syndrome. This syndrome is a clinical equivalent of the traditional Western medicine guttate and nummular psoriasis. The lesions are numerous, punctiform or oval, intensively red, with plenty of thin silver squames and tiny bleeding points. New lesions continue to appear. Itching is severe. Some patients complain of thirst, dryness of the tongue, constipation and deep colored urine. Anxiety and excitability are often symptoms. The tongue is covered with yellow or yellowish grimy coating. The pulse is rapid and thin. The therapeutic approach tries to clear the Heat and cold the Blood by activating it.
Etiopathogenesis. An external mechanism, which causes rapid course of the disease with intensive erythema and excess of new lesions, often covered with thick, yellow scales. The form is therapeutically resistant. It comes from the stagnation of Heat in the Blood, which does not allow the Fire and Toxins to be expelled from the body heating them to extreme temperature. 11
Clinical syndrome. The syndrome corresponds to psoriatic erythroderma, pustular and palmo-plantar psoriasis. The lesions are red plaques, covered with thick yellow or yellowish-brown scales. There is a tendency of forming tiny pustules. The Auspitz’s phenomenon is easily obtained. The nails are severely affected. The patients often suffer inflammatory diseases of the upper respiratory tract such as tonsillitis and laryngitis. They complain of graveolent feces, constipation and arthralgia. Most of them have strong burning sensation. As to lingual diagnosis, there may be redness of the tongue and a thin white coating. The pulse is rapid.
Etiopathogenesis. This hypothesis which is brought to view in the recent decades, greatly facilitates the various therapeutic approaches. According to it, psoriasis is attributed to Wind and Heat, which are longer kept in the body to cause imbalance of Yin and Blood, leading to meridian and collateral obstruction and stagnation. Squames, Auspitz phenomenon, a purple tongue and arthralgia are signs of Blood Stasis. 10
Clinical syndrome. It corresponds to a chronic relapsing form of nummular, geographic or gyrate psoriasis. The course is usually prolonged. The disease ceases to extend or extends slowly. Some lesions may resolve gradually. The lesions are dark-red, thick, indurative, scaly and dry, not itchy. The most important symptom is xerostomia. The tongue is dark-red to purple in color with plenty of petechiae. The pulse is hard. The therapeutic approach requires elimination of Stasis and activation of Blood.
Blood deficiency - Dryness.
Etiopathology. In the opinion of Gu Buo Hua, a famous TCM practitioner, the deficiency of Yin and Blood, transformed in the muscles and skin as Wind-Dryness, trigger psoriasis. At the initiation of the disease, Wind-Heat and Wind-Cold cause imbalance of Yin and Blood, leading to stagnation of Qi and a blockade of Blood with formation of eruptions in the skin. The lesions are pale, thin, and the Auspitz’s phenomenon can be hardly obtained. 10
Clinical syndrome. This is the classical chronic- relapsing form of psoriasis. The lesions are pale-red, thin, with no tendency to extend or resolve. They are usually covered with silver squames. Itching could be severe. The patients complain of vertigo, insomnia and constipation. They have asthenic constitution. The tongue is pinkish in color, covered with a thin, white coating. The pulse is moderate and loose. The principle of treatment consists of enriching the blood (and Yin) and moistening the dryness.
Etiopathology. This syndrome is rarely seen. It corresponds to psoriatic arthritis and is a consequence of the invasion of Wind and Dampness in the joints.
Clinical syndrome. The most significant symptom is arthralgia, as the metacarpal and metatarsal joints are worst injured. If the skin is affected, it forms small, pale-red lesions with tiny pustule on top. The lingual diagnosis points out intensively red tongue with a greasy coating. The pulse is rapid and filiform. 7
In summary, in TCM Blood Heat is considered the most important pathogenic factor for psoriasis. When Blood Heat is blocked in the superficial skin layers, xerosis develops. The causal basis of psoriasis is pre-existing deficiency at the nutritive and blood levels that provokes wind and dryness, such that the skin loses its nourishment. These are the internal predisposing factors. External factors, such as seasonal changes, psychosomatical stress, improper diet, infections, mechanical traumas, etc. in the context of genetic predisposition towards imbalance cause a blockade in the upper layers. Expelling of Heat seems a proper therapeutic approach. Remission periods require elimination of stasis, enforcement of Qi and activation of Blood.
Acupuncture Treatment For Psoriasis.
Several methods for treatment of psoriasis with acupuncture are described.13, 14
The treatment of lesions affecting upper extremities, face, and scull takes place in acupuncture points:
Li 11(Qu Chi),
TW 6 (Zhi Gou),
GB20 (Feng Chi),
Li 4(He Gu).
In addition, Sp 10(Xue Hai) and
Sp 6(San Yin Jiao) can be used.
Greater affection of skin requires treatment in two more points:
Li 20 (Ying Xiang) and
GV 25(Su Liao).
The major points used in the treatment of low extremity involving, are:
Sp 10 (Xue Hai),
Sp 6 (San Yin Jiao) and
St 36(Zu San Li).
Additional points are:
TW6 (Zhi Gou) and
Li 11 (Qu Chi).
Disseminated over the body lesions are treated in:
GV 14 (Da Zhui),
Li 11 (Qu Chi),
Li 4 (He Gu),
Sp 10 (Xue Hai) and
Sp 6 (San Yin Jiao) points.
A coordinating point that is appropriate for all forms of psoriasis is:
Bl 40 (Wei Zhong)
The orthodox pinning technique requires a proper De-Qi effect and performing of the procedure twice or three times daily in a 30-minute interval. One treatment course includes 10 days and is followed by a ten-day break. Then the course can be repeated with a maximum of four times according to the dermatological status of the patient.
According to other scientific sources 15 the major psoriatic acupuctural points are:
GV 14 (Da Zhui),
Bl 13 (Fei Shu),
Li 4 (He Gu),
Li 11 (Qu Chi),
Sp 10 (Xue Hai) and
Sp 6 (San Yin Jiao).
As additional points for facial and head lesions:
GB 20 (Feng Chi) and
St 9 (Ren Ying) can be used.
An appropriate acupoint for upper extremity involvement:
TW 6(Zhi Gou)
In consideration in lower extremity lesions can be taken:
St 40(Feng Long)
The major auricular points are:
Auricular additional points are considered
Bloodletting from the root of ear and from the three-kui points is performed.16 The ear points are located on its dorsal surface in a straight line. The palmar side of the middle finger proximal interphalangeal joint possesses three major bloodletting points called the inner middle Kui. The proper technique requires letting of few drops once daily, preferably in the morning.
Once daily the lesions are tapped persistently with a sterilized plum-blossom needle circling from the edge to the center until minor blood drops appear. In case of many lesions, they could be pricked by turns.17
Cupping therapy and acupuncture.
A needle can be cupped in the major GV 14(Da Zhui ), GV 10(Ling Tai) and the additional Bl 13(Fei Shu), Bl 15(Xin Shu), Bl 18(Gan Shu), Bl 21(Wei Shu) and Bl 23(Shen Shu) points. Disseminated over the body lesions are treated in the GV 14(Da Zhui) and GV 13(Tao Dao) points. Si 2(Qian Gu) is mostly used in the treatment of lesions on the upper extremities. Sp 10(Xue Hai), St 34 (Liang Qiu) and GB 34 (Yang Ling Quan) play role in the treatment of lesions on the groins, while GV 14(Da Zhui), GV 13(Tao Dao), Bl 18(Gan Shu) and Bl 20(Pi Shu) are used for thoracic and abdominal lesions. Lesions on the neck are preferably treated in TW 17(Yi Feng). The procedure is performed every second day.18
Phytotherapy is considered the most effective TCM psoriatic treatment. It is directed towards elimination of stagnation and activation of Blood-Xue. Radix salivae Miltiorrhizae, Semen Persiace, Rhizoma sparganii, Gummi Olibanum, Radix Rubiae, Radix Angelicae Sinensis, and Rhizoma Ligustici herbal products as tinctures and decocts are most commonly used. 11, 12 A Formula recommended for Blood and Wind Heat pattern includes "Modified Rhinoceros Horn and Rehmannia Decoction":
Xi jiao di huang jia jianCornu Rhinoceri 1.5 gRadix Rehmanniae Glutinosae 30gDry-fried Cortex Moutan Radicis10gRadix Paeniae rubrae10gRadix Arnebiae seu Lithospermi 10gFlos Carthami Tinctorii10gCharred Flos Lonicerae Japonicae15gRadix Sanguisorbae officinalis15gGypsum15gCalcitum15gRadix Adenophorae seu Glehniae10gTuber Ophiopogonis Japonici10gRadix Scrophulariae Ningpoensis10g
Fire –Toxin pattern requires formulas for elimination of toxins and cleaning the body fluids such as "Combined Coptis Decoction to relieve Toxin and Five-Ingredient decoction to eliminate toxin":
Huang lian jie du tang wu wei xiao du yin he caiHerba Taraxaci Mongolici cum Radice15gFlos Lonicerae Japonicae15gHerba cum Radice Violae Yedoensitis15gRhizoma Coptidis6gRadix Scutellariae Baicalensis6gCortex Phellodendri6gCharred Fructus Gardeniae Jasminoidis6gRadix Rehmanniae Glutinosae10gRadix Paeniae rubrae10g
A Blood Stasis formula is the "Invigorate the Blood and Scatter Stasis Decoction":
Huo xue san yu tangLignum Sappan9-15gRadix Paeniae rubrae9-15gRadix Paeniae lactiflorae9-15gFlos Carthami tinctorii9-15gSemen Persicae9-15gHerba Buchnerae cruciatae15-30gRhizoma Sparganii stoloniferi9-15gRhizoma Curcumae ezhu9-15gRadix Aucklandiae lappae3-9gPericarpium Citri reticulatae9-15g
"Overcome psoriasis" Formula could be used in the treatment of Blood deficiency- Dryness clinical syndrome:
Ke yin fangRadix Rehmanniae Glutinosae30gRadix Scrophulariae ningpoensis30gSemen Cannabis sativae10gRhizoma Menisperi daurici10gRadix Sophorae flavescentis10g
Traditional Chinese Medicine is an alternative method of therapy that can be administered in oral, topical, or injectable forms. Among some patients it has become increasingly popular as a mode for treating dermatologic diseases. Intuitively sensible, the various TCM approaches in treatment are proven beneficial in the therapy of many complex, chronic inflammatory skin diseases as flexible in use, highly efficient and safe. 19 Nowadays, many experimental studies for finding out the cellular and molecular mechanisms of TCM psoriatic treatment modalities are performed. 20 The relationship between typing of psoriasis based on TCM syndrome differentiation and laboratory parameters such as platelet activation molecules CD 62P and CD 63, intercellular adhesion molecules, cytokines and haemorheology have been investigated. 21, 22, 23, 24 However, the present studies lack depth and scope in the methods. It is our hope that in the future more systemic and precise analysis would be conducted for better understanding the efficacy, mechanism of action and adverse effects of the various TCM treatment options.
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