Holistic TCM Dermatology: Chronic Fungal Infections


fu ling (poria cocos)

Most fungal infections of the skin respond well to over-the-counter antifungal creams or simple vinegar soaks, but sometimes they return and we have to treat them again. And again and again. If you experience recurring or chronic fungal infections, that’s frustrating and I’m sorry! You might wonder, why am I so vulnerable to this pest?

Just like conventional medicine, Chinese medicine recognizes that our skin and immune system protect us from infection by fungus. When this protective mechanism is disturbed, also like conventional medicine, Chinese medicine provides a nuanced understanding of the disruption and a corresponding approach to restore healthy function. Herbal therapy gently manipulates the body’s tissues and microbiome through the effect of plant compound chemical components. Just like the food we eat, these chemicals are absorbed and affect the body across multiple systems. The effect is more powerful and efficient than food and as a result, the skin becomes less hospitable to fungus.

The poria mushroom is a fabulous herbal ingredient to address chronic tinea corporis. Its primary bioactive components are triterpene acids, which have shown anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, antiviral activity, are effective in regulating blood sugar, and have activity and efficacy against the Epstein-Barr virus. It’s interesting to note that reishi is another fungal medicinal high in triterpene acids, yet its function in Chinese medicine is vastly different than poria. I would not use them interchangeably.

In Chinese medicine I often use poria for its function as a gentle, safe diuretic. It can play a role in treating many symptoms and conditions: generalized edema and puffiness, disturbed digestion, menstrual conditions, mood disorders. To treat a fungal infection I might employ herbs to address fluid retention and inflammation in the skin, and combine them with poria to escort the fluid and inflammation from the body via the urine. Using fungus to treat fungus!

At my acupuncture practice in Northeast Portland, Betsy Gordon Acupuncture, I specialize in the treatment of skin, digestive, autoimmune, and allergic conditions. Traditional Chinese medicine provides a wealth of resources for relief and complete healing in holistic dermatology and other complex conditions. If you’d like to know more about how I can help, schedule a free consultation online or by calling 971-341-9546.

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