Mirror of the Interior: Chinese Medicine Dermatology

With Guest: Olivia Hsu Friedman

Episode Qi125

It’s easy to think of our skin as the outside wrapper, but really its a mirror of the internal environment. And while topical treatment of skin has it use, it’s learning to adjust that inner milieu that over time makes for the biggest changes with the skin. It’s quite in line with Chinese medicine that we work on the inside to change the outside.

Olivia Hsu Friedman is well studied and practiced with treating skin conditions with Chinese medicine. And beyond that she also works with conventional medicine practitioners and uses an integrative perspective to help those with difficult and recalcitrant dermatological conditions.

Listen in to this conversation on an evolving holistic approach to treating skin problems.
In this conversation we discuss:
  • The skin is a mirror of the body
  • Seeing a patient’s condition as both a snapshot and a movie
  • Eczema and asthma as two sides of a coin
  • Knowing when to drain, harmonize and tonify
  • Learnskin an integrative community treating dermatological conditions
  • Pharmaceuticals, biologics, and steroids
  • Chinese medicines strengths and weaknesses in treating skin conditions
  • People often blame themselves undeservedly
  • Why decoctions are the preferred way to treat skin conditions
  • Psycho-emotive considerations and the influence of chronic illness
“Listen to your patients. They’ll teach you more about yourself and life than you ever imagined if, you’re open to the lesson.”
Olivia Hsu Friedman
After suffering from full body eczema all my younger life and then, having a TCM herbalist completely resolve it, I experienced firsthand how powerful it is to give someone their life back. It inspired me to learn TCM dermatology so I could help others.

Because skin diseases are visible and obvious, dermatology patients often can’t hide. They become self-conscious, depressed and may even isolate themselves to avoid strange looks, snide comments and constant misguided advice. Having lived this life, my approach to treatment is not just about prescribing the right combination of herbs but also, to provide the psychological support that helps patients find their confidence, self-esteem and sometimes their life’s direction, again.

When I watch my patients’ skin get better, I also get to watch the sparkle in their eyes return or I get to hear about how they’ve regained the courage to reenter and enjoy all aspects of their lives. There’s no better feeling than knowing something I learned or said helped someone have a better day or life. My patients remind me every day how TCM and its appreciation for the whole person really makes a difference in changing lives for the better.
Links and Resources


Visit Olivia's website

Olivia is also involved with the American Society of Acupuncturists



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I’ve heard it said that for something to be heard — it takes someone to speak and another to listen.

Michael Max

Acupuncturist, Podcast Host
About me
I've always been more drawn to questions than answers. And the practice of medicine seems to more lively when infused with a sense of curiosity and inquiry. It's been delight and honor to be able to discuss our medicine with so many thoughtful and skilled practitioners.