Women who spend time mirror worshiping to apply cosmetics and men who merely glance while brushing their teeth both miss something. Face reading is not exactly fortune telling: A traditional Chinese doctor cannot tell if you will inherit wealth or marry happily but is able to glimpse your health and beauty future.

Facial reading, used for traditional Chinese medicine TCM diagnosis, is combined with tongue and pulse analysis, observation of the client’s speech, movement, body odor and attitude. Our senses interpret Qi (aka vital energy.) Combined with a health history, such observations paint a picture of current and future health and beauty tendencies. The face, like the ears, nose, hands and tongue show the entire body’s energy systems. This is a mystical reality: The visible reveals the invisible. Daoists know our Qi comes from the Universe. We filter it though our genetics, lifestyle, and the environment where we live and breathe. The same elements that propel our earth through space affect body and mind: Dampness, wind, Qi, heat, and moisture/dryness (that may indicate inflammation or blood deficiency) are on the face for us to observe.

Dampness, often seen as water retention and abdominal bloating, comes from weak spleen/pancreas. The spleen produces white blood cells (our immunity to illness) and filters and protects red blood cells which carry oxygen. Along with stomach’s digestive fire, spleen chooses nourishment from food and, with help from the heart (circulation,) sends it where needed in the body. Dampness shows us edema, a puffy face, bags of water and fat under the eyes, and puffy flesh in legs that collects at the ankles.

Students at AcademyHealingNutrition know that spleen’s function is stressed by high GI (glycemic index) processed or overly sweet foods, including white flour, white sugar, rice cakes, popped corn, russet potato, pumpkin and refined carbohydrates such as white rice. They make the spleen overwork. The results of an under-nourishing diet of high GI foods is that they quickly turn into sugars causing inflammation, a blood sugar imbalance, bloating indigestion, acidic blood with resulting skin blemishes. Acidic blood causes acne that resembles bug bites. The redness is from excess acids a result of sugary or high GI foods. When liver congestion or heat impact the action of spleen, we look jaundiced with a yellowish cast to skin and eyes. Weak spleen or congested liver may be the cause.

See Letha’s Kitchen video: “How do blood cleansers work?”

Cheeks and Lips: Stomach/Spleen

Look for spleen and stomach health on the cheeks. Do you see red acne, blackheads or whiteheads? Acne is chronic inflammation trapped by poor digestion and elimination. It may reveal a B vitamin deficiency that may be improved with a varied diet including complex carbohydrates not highly refined foods. Lacking B vitamins we see cracked, peeling lips, small dot acne around the mouth and sores or cracks on the sides of the mouth. Chronic acid inflammation in the digestive tract looks like a reddish/ruddy hue around the mouth and rosacea as though inflammation from the digestive tract is rising to the face.

There may also be chronic heartburn, halitosis, bleeding gums, chronic gnawing hunger or diabetes. The stomach acupuncture meridian passes downward, from under the eyes, at the sides of the mouth. If the sides of your mouth have sores and redness, reduce your acidic foods intake. Think: cool, fresh and alkaline green foods. Aloe vera juice and bitter tasting herbal blood cleansers. Drinking aloe juice daily, with a lemon twist if you prefer, improves acid reflux, halitosis, PMS and menstrual pain accompanied by acne and constipation.

To correct weak spleen and stomach along with chronic indigestion, gas and bloating, see “Four Spirit Soup” at WingHopFung online. Foods that protect the spleen build its digestive fire by absorbing excess moisture: barley, millet, lentils, quinoa, old fashioned whole oats, root vegetables, sweet potato and taro, add dried orange peel (chen pi) to tea.

Chin: Urinary and Sexual functions, Hormones

Do you get breakouts during PMS? Do acne, headaches, painful breasts and irritability make your life miserable? Hormone changes during our menstrual cycle and so- called adolescent acne result from inflammation troubling the lower body. However, given a poor diet and weak digestion acne may develop at any age. When ignored underlying digestive problems may lead to irregular, painful periods and endometriosis. Chinese doctors recommend formulas that cool, cleanse and refresh the “lower burner” the bottom of the “triple heater.” That encompasses the lower abdomen, sexual organs and hormone balance.

Do you have acne on the chin or along the jaw line? Do you have clients who get very angry and out of control especially at PMS time? See “Cool and Collected” 龍膽瀉肝湯 (Lung Tan Xie Gan Herbal Soup.) It is a Chinese formula for liver/gallbladder inflammation that is useful for pounding liverish headache (possible jaundice and/or nausea), “liver heat rising” which results in irritability, angry PMS, aggravated herpes outbreaks and shingles. One of my middle-aged clients complained of a terrible headache on the top of his head “as though swollen and pounding.” He felt weak and may have looked a bit jaundiced. When I asked what he had eaten the night before he answered, “escargot, beef and a pastry.” As delicious as this was, it was too rich for my obese client who tried to digest this repast during a business meeting. The next morning his liver was still struggling to digest fats from the night before. The swelling and redness around his eyes were noticeable.

Lung Tan Xie Gan Wan literally means “cool the blood of the liver.” In Western medicine the liver is described as its functions of:

  • Bile production and excretion.
  • Excretion of bilirubin, cholesterol, hormones, and drugs.
  • Metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
  • Enzyme activation.
  • Storage of glycogen, vitamins, and minerals.
  • Synthesis of plasma proteins, such as albumin, and clotting factors.
  • Blood detoxification and purification

In TCM, the liver accomplishes all that plus functions as an energy system to ease and balance our circulation, emotions, thoughts, and behavior. The Lung Tan Xie Gan formula has been used in Chinese hospitals to curb chronic anger and violent behavior in drug addicts and people with an irritated stuck liver. It contains bitter liver-cooling herbs such as Chinese skullcap, gentian root, akebia, an antibiotic, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, a diuretic, and a pain reliever. Akebia is used to relieve mouth and tongue sores, promote urination, soothe painful urinary tract infections, and treat edema. Akebia fruit has recently been used in treatments for breast and digestive tract tumors.

It sounds as though Cool and Collected (Lung Tan Xie Gan herbal soup) is primarily a woman’s remedy for painful PMS, however, men also get overheated and suffer from headaches, hypertension, rashes, inflammatory arthritis, angry feelings and rash behavior.

Foods to cool and regulate liver/gallbladder include colorful salads, bitter, pungent and leafy greens such as watercress, chicory, cabbage, cucumber, bitter melon, dandelion greens and dandelion tea, cumin, tarragon, parsley, coriander, apple, berries, grapes. Most proteins are inflammatory so if you have a problem with recurrent excess heat, avoid animal protein until things cool down. You can get plenty of protein from chia seeds, bee pollen, mushrooms, and legumes. Coconut is the best cooling nut.

The Eyes

They say we sense the soul in a person’s eyes. We may observe if a client seems present–exhibits mental clarity, if they connect and look at us. Although that is culturally sensitive since an Asian or Latin person may find it rude to stare. The colored part of the eyes, the iris, shows layers of age and illness. White streaks indicate inflammation. A dark ring around the iris may result from poor circulation, nerve damage, the heaviness of Qi. Dark spots on the iris may indicate a buildup of toxins, possible illness. Some healers are trained in iridology a form of diagnosis created by a Hungarian doctor who observed how a bird with a broken wing showed the injury in the appropriate area of its eyes. What we can more easily observe is eye redness, dryness, and eye strain. Computer use is often the cause.

A famous French TCM doctor, Yves Requena, has advised that near sightedness is often due to liver inflammation or stuckness. Liver in TCM impacts muscles and nerves even those around the eyes and the optic nerves. Do your eyes flutter when you are nervous or irritated? That may indicate a stressed nervous system. Be sure you get enough sub-lingual vitamin B12, most people don’t. Foods for eye health and beauty include, as usual, greens, carrots, sources of vitamin A, D, E. Chinese herbs to benefit eye dryness, eye strain and cloudy vision include delicious, cooling chrysanthemum flower tea. Also schisandra berry tea (wu wei zi) five flavor berry because it is a Qi tonic for The Five Elements (the endocrine system.)


After a lifetime we have wrinkles. Sometimes they come early. Dehydration and poisons from smoking and pollution are a killer for heart, lungs and skin. Weight loss, as useful as it is for general health, will reduce the necessary fat in the face and cause wrinkles. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, an early Chinese text, describes what was considered the typical aging process for his time: Women get wrinkles at around 40 and lose their fertility. Wrinkles are said to be a result of Qi deficiency in triple heater meridian, the Qi pathway that extends over the tops of the arms.

Shocker numero uno: We will have deeper wrinkles on the side of the face that we sleep on. The flesh gets smushed. Also the computer mouse arm takes a beating. That impairs circulation and reduces wei qi our protective energy against harsh weather, allergies and illness. The most important herb for tonifying wei qi is huang qi, astragalus, an ingredient in all Qi formulas. Enjoy the tea between meals. Simmer it in water for at least 30 minutes. Astragalus also tonifies spleen qi. Even in acupuncture point combinations for tonifying wei qi almost always include needles or moxa on St 36. From this, we gather that there can be no tonification of wei qi without tonification of the middle burner—stomach and spleen. The spleen is said to “give shape to the flesh.” In other words protect against edema and cellulite and tone the skin. We may lack nourishment and immunity following childbirth, injury, emotional shock or illness.

Shocker numero two: Applying cosmetic goohs merely affects the skin’s surface. Wrinkles start deep. Oxygen-rich blood and collagen are the sources of radiant skin, shiny hair and strong nails. Asian women with ageless skin eat sea cucumber and drink bird’s nest soup or cook white fungus which are rich sources of collagen.

See Letha’s Kitchen: 2 videos on white fungus.

Famous Chinese blood tonics rehmannia, he shou wu, tang kuei, and dangshen (codonopsis) are also important for lustrous skin. Mix the cool tea made with the blood tonics with a dash of cinnamon and honey to bring the herbal power to affect the surface of the skin. Ganoderma lucid. Lingzhi mushroom (aka reishi) is nourishing and anti-inflammatory. It is an adaptogen, heart tonic and regular use reduces stress. Also see Four Friends Tea a source of valuable blood tonics for health and beauty.

Exfoliation, removing the top layer of dead skin cells, helps rejuvenate the complexion. Since skin cells renew regularly, you can exfoliate once a week unless your complexion is very sensitive. You can exfoliate by applying raw papaya or papaya enzyme powder mixed with water as a facial pack. Korean beauties have elaborate herbal facial packs that contain quality nutrition—ginseng, lingzhi mushroom, aloe, powdered gold etc, etc. They make nourishing facial creams using snail ooze which contains hundreds of enzymes that our body needs. It’s lots of fun. Gradually adding moisture and nutrition to the skin improves its appearance and eases fine lines.

Wrinkles are definitely stress related. During tough times it is better to address the source by eating foods and remedies to ease stress. Medicinal mushrooms are balancing, cooling and nutritious. B vitamins, eggs, fish and neutral (not too hot) proteins such as legumes, whole grains and minerals from seaweeds help. “The Longevity Diet” at AcademyHealingNutrition is beautifying in that it provides nutrition from a wide variety of sources, helps the body to deal with stress while it rejuvenates every organ and trains an adaptable, smart immune system. Reishi water extract can be slow cooked to be consumed as tea and used as a facial rinse or added to a beauty pack. Yogurt and raw honey make a pleasant moistening facial treatment.

Observe the face: The cheeks reveal digestion, the chin sexuality and hormone balance, the nose the heart and general health, the forehead the small intestine. Longitudinal lines on the forehead may indicate chronic diarrhea, malnutrition, empty Qi, and lack of sleep. Frown lines may indicate poor vision and stress. It’s the eyes we look to for recognition; the caring look of a mother, a flirtatious wink, a gaze of connection and empathy that reveals the spirit.