Cosmetic Acupuncture Radha Thambirajah Publishers: Singing Dragon, London and Philadelphia (2016) 2nd Edition Hardcover: 243 pages with illustrations RRP: £40.00; Kindle edition: £33.24
(Reviewed by Sue Kalicinska, Vol. 8 No. 3)
The title of this book might lead you to think primarily of anti-ageing treatments. This work aims to give acupuncture practitioners a practical and detailed approach to a wide range of issues that may affect appearance: from acne to psoriasis, from hair loss to obesity, as well as the effects of the passage of time.
Over many years of experience the author has developed specific constitutional treatments to work alongside local treatments, together with advice on diet and lifestyle. Her work demonstrates that beauty is much more than skin-deep and that true beauty can only arise from good internal health. The thesis of her work seeks to provide acupuncturists with a fully systemic approach to dermatological wellbeing.
The author, Radha Thambirajah is a well-known acupuncturist and lecturer with more than 40 years’ experience. She trained in medicine and acupuncture at the Shanghai Medical College and until 1984 practised in Sri Lanka. There she was a pioneer of acupuncture and founded the Academy of Chinese Acupuncture. Since moving to the UK she has carried on her clinical work as well as lecturing widely across Europe. She has also written the book Energetics in Acupuncture (Churchill Livingstone, 2010).
The author’s constitutional understanding of conditions and factors affecting the skin and appearance are rooted in TCM and the Five Elements. However it is important to realise the familiar terms of Blood, yin, yang and qi are used here in a particular way. To appreciate the rationale for the treatments given throughout the book, the reader needs to be fully aware of the intended use of well-known terminology to avoid any possible confusion.
The author clearly sets out her paradigm and explains her concepts of Blood, yin, yang and qi and their relation to the nature and appearance of the skin. She then explores the relevant energetics and pathologies in the context of the Five Elements. There are plenty of helpful diagrams and schematics to help the reader visualise the energetic shifts and imbalances involved. We are given a detailed explanation of how all the elements affect the skin. In the instance of Liver Blood deficiency she finds local facial treatment will be of no value until the constitutional issue is corrected. She emphasises the importance of identifying the underlying cause of issues such as wrinkles that might be related to stress, sinus issues or eyesight. The reader is encouraged to address these as well as giving local treatment for a more longterm result. There is a specific chapter on the Lungs in relation to water and the potential effects if there is poor distribution of moisture to the skin.
Various techniques in relation to needling, cupping, plum blossom, moxibustion and gua sha are described which the author has found helpful in her constitutional and local treatments. She also discusses laser treatment. Of particular interest is her descending technique for needling Spleen 6 (san yin jiao) for hot skin conditions that occur only in the upper part of the body.
Following her general approach to diagnosis and treatment the author proceeds to discuss a wide range of specific conditions affecting the skin. Diagnosis and treatment of issues such as warts, psoriasis, alopecia and eczema are addressed using the author’s traditional Chinese paradigm. Explanations are clear and to the point. There are a selection of case histories and some brief Western medicine interpretations. It would have been good to see a few more case histories given the author’s vast experience.
We then come to the treatments offered for particular ‘cosmetic’ problems. These include facial concerns as well as approaches to some body issues such as cellulite, firming the abdomen and obesity. This will be the chapter you feel you are seeking if you are interested in adding facial acupuncture to your practice.
The author explains that it is preceded by the vital information of previous chapters so that the reader’s treatments can work with all aspects of the skin to give the best results. The treatments described are split into two sections. Firstly the author applies constitutional treatment. This is completed and then any local work is performed. Useful suggestions for patients’ self-help are given with the treatments as well as in a dedicated chapter. It is important to note that the local treatments given for the face are not related to specific acupuncture points or identified muscular treatments but simply to the areas needing attention for say lifting or wrinkle reduction. The amount of local needling in any one session is usually less than some other forms of facial acupuncture that include facial meridian points, where a half-hour gap between constitutional and facial is advisable, or treating on separate days.
This is the second edition of this book and the author has added a new chapter. This looks at the facial types in relation to the Five Elements and offers treatments for imbalances arising from the specific tendencies. The relation of the upper, middle and lower areas of the face to the Triple Heater is also discussed and provides for some additional understanding of facial diagnosis and treatment. A couple of ‘cosmetic’ points: this edition is in hardback and the new layout and choice of diagrammatic colours has added clarity. There are some additional photos and many more of the photos are in colour.
This book is a valuable contribution to understanding dermatological problems from a Chinese medicine perspective. On the whole the constitutional treatments can be studied and used without the need for personal instruction. If you are new to the facial or cosmetic acupuncture techniques you may feel a practical workshop would be beneficial, for which this book would provide helpful support.
In the relatively small number of works in English that include the topic of facial and cosmetic acupuncture, each has their own unique perspective. Constitutional Facial Acupuncture (Churchill Livingstone, 2014) by Mary Elizabeth Wakefield, for example, works with the eight extraordinary meridians and particular facial treatments. There is no one definitive approach to cosmetic and facial acupuncture and Radha’s book adds an interesting and different approach to the field.
(Reviewed by Sue Kalicinska, Vol. 8 No. 3)
Sue Kalicinska originally trained at the International College of Oriental Medicine (lCOM ), East Grinstead, UK and has been practising traditional acupuncture for 28 years. For the last eight years she has also been offering facial and restorative acupuncture treatments in her practices which are located in London and Surrey. Sue runs occasional postgraduate workshops for qualified acupuncturists including ‘The Inner and Outer Makeover’ providing training in facial and restorative acupuncture.