Skin's Vital Functions
No other organ is more actively engaged in discharging impurities
from the body than the skin; it is a close relative of both the
lungs and kidneys. Like the lungs, it absorbs oxygen and expels
carbon dioxide and water vapor; and, like the kidneys, it excretes
organic and saline matter in solution. The entire surface of the
skin is impregnated with millions of sweat glands which constitute
a vast drainage system whereby the blood, via perspiration, purifies
itself of poisonous waste it has collected from the cells.
There are approximately 17 square feet of skin surface. When the
skin's capillaries are fully dilated, it presents six times the
capillary surface area of the lungs. This vast blood vessel network
is required for nutrition and oxygenation of skin tissue; regulation
of body heat (the blood is cooled when it moves through the surface
capillaries); distillation of waste matter from the blood; and the
exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between blood and atmosphere.
The skin's blood vessel network is as crucial as the heart for normal
circulation. The vast storage capacity of the skin's blood vessels
enable them to act as blood reservoirs which release or store blood
The lymph vessels transport excess, waste-charged fluid away from
the intercellular spaces and return it to the bloodstream. Lymph
acts as a go-between medium for the transfer of vital materials
from the blood to the cells, and for cellular debris away from the
intercellular environment into the blood. Thus, the blood feeds
the lymph, and the lymph feeds the cells, making the drainage of
intercellular lymph one of the most crucial of all bodily functions.
The superficial lymph vessels terminate just below the outer layer
of skin and interjoin freely with the deeper lymphatic vessels.
Any blockage at the superficial lymphatic level will result in congestion
throughout the whole lymphatic system. Skin brushing is an excellent
way to stimulate the activity of the entire lymphatic system.
"Aliveness" derives from the presence of high-vibratory,
vital energy within an organism. This energy, or natural force,
which fills the universe is referred to in traditional naturopathy
and homeopathy as Vital Force and in Chinese medicine as Chi. Hence,
I have coined the term Vital Chi.
Vital Chi is the fundamental energy which sustains life and is present
in the vibratory, biological processes of every cell. Vital Chi
is not synonymous with the metabolically generated energy derived
from the oxidation of glucose. Rather, it is the force that animates
the metabolic processes which ultimately yield caloric energy. Vital
Chi differentiates life from death; it circulates through channels,
or meridians, throughout the body. Being an essential matrix for
the Vital Chi channels, the skin is a crucial medium for Vital Chi
movement. The places at which the various channels and vessels reach
the skin's surface are the acupoints used in acupuncture and acupressure.
Aside from the Vital Chi which courses through the channels, a superficial
portion of Vital Chi (which the Chinese refer to as Wei Chi or Guardian
Chi) flows outside the channels in a non-differentiated layer beneath
the skin. The Wei Chi serves as a defensive perimeter protecting
against environmental influences, such as varying weather conditions,
pathogenic micro-organisms, pollutants, emotional stresses derived
from human interaction and other external challenges.
Greeks and native North Americans alike realized the health benefits
of skin brushing.
Benefits of Skin Brushing
The outermost layer of skin cells which serve to protect the underlying
skin layers are not living cells, thus, they are continuously shed
and replaced via the multiplication and upward movement of living
skin cells. Inactive aging skin does not shed dead cells as easily
as does youthful skin, so "older" skin is susceptible
to cellular build-up which accounts, in part, for the dry, thick,
leathery-look of aged skin. The most obvious mechanical effect of
skin brushing is the detachment of dead skin cells.
Excites Physiological Functions
Proper skin brushing supports lymphatic drainage of the skin by
accelerating filtration from the intercellular spaces into the lymph
vessels, emptying of the smaller vessels into the larger lymph vessels,
and assisting the flow of lymph through the lymph nodes.
Skin brushing similarly increases venous blood flow. The veins carry
the blood back to the heart. Return blood flow through the veins
is not propelled as much by direct heart action as by muscular contraction
and vein constriction. Skin brushing excites and tonifies the muscles
and nerves of the skin, thus, it improves venous circulation. These
same mechanical effects directly enhance capillary circulation as
evidenced by the skin flush and feeling of warmth that skin brushing
The skin is impregnated with nerve end-fibers which play an indispensable
role in nervous system activity. This explains the remarkable relaxing
effect, including decreased muscular tension, elicited by skin brushing.
Decreased muscular tension affords better lung capacity, digestion,
bowel movement, blood circulation and lymph drainage, as well as
the Bioenergy System
Unimpeded Vital Chi flow is essential to the prevention and cure
of disease. Since the Vital Chi meridians course through the skin,
they are readily accessible to the ministrations of skin brushing.
When these channels are massaged, the movement of energy along their
length is stimulated and the delivery of Vital Chi to their associated
organs greatly improved. Proper skin brushing can also exert a profound
influence upon the Wei Chi: the undifferentiated layer of Vital
Chi which hovers near the skin's surface.
Benefits Mature Skin
Decreased sweat gland and oil gland functions are features of aging.
The oil secreted by the sebaceous glands coats the surface of the
skin and prevents excessive water loss through evaporation. Proper
skin brushing stimulates both the sweat and oil glands, and in this
way, contributes to the restoration of moist, supple skin. Also,
it strengthens the skin pores through which the skin is moisturized
and cleansed, and oxygen and CO2 are exchanged. Aging and devitalization
of the skin often results in pore enlargement and flaccidity due
to loss of skin tone and depleted Wei Chi.
Promotes Skin Beauty
Skin brushing makes a strong impression upon the dermis (the skin
layer that contains an abundance of blood and lymph vessels), nerves,
glands and elastin and collagen fibers. The dermis provides nutrients
and moisture to all the skin layers and lends contour and flexibility.
When the dermis ages, its connective tissue fibers reduce, rigidify,
lose resilience and even break into pieces, causing the skin's support
muscles to lose tone and volume and the skin to dehydrate and collapse
into sags, wrinkles and lines.
Healthy connective tissue and muscles are products of efficient
nutrient support and oxygenation, a waste-free milieu, optimal water
balance and moderate exercise, all of which are promoted by regular
skin brushing. The gentle stretching of connective tissues, afforded
by proper skin brushing, helps to increase and regenerate the production
of collagen and elastin fibers.
Cellulite is a structural disturbance of fat tissue. The fat content
of cellulite-containing tissue is normal, but fibrous nodules surrounding
the fat cells give affected skin areas their typical orange-peel
appearance. Cellulite formation is related, in part, to local vein
and lymph congestion. Proper skin brushing can help to alleviate
Dr. Bruce Berkowsky's Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System addresses
the entire skin surface (with the exception of the breasts and genitals).
The following excerpts focus on the armpit and chest regions.
the Armpit Region (but not full armpit area) as follows:
Using circular strokes, exert firm pressure only when moving through
the headward arc of the circle. The remainder of the circle is executed
as a very light stroke (see Figure 1). Perform seven clockwise,
then counterclockwise, circles, on each side. Note: The axillary
(armpit) nodes are the drainage center for a vast region, including
the nape of neck, skin of chest, breasts, back, shoulder blades,
arms, hands and parts of the ribcage. Hence, the armpit region should
be activated first to facilitate better drainage from all the regions
the Chest Region (up to, but not including, armpit) as follows:
1. Above Breast: (see Figure 2): Brush seven times on each side
of chest, from the breastbone to the armpit. Note: The two major
lymphatic ducts empty into the venous system in the left and right
chest, just below the collar bone. Puffiness above or below the
collarbone is indicative of congestion in these ducts. Reducing
lymphatic tension in the chest enhances tissue drainage of the entire
body. 2. Below Breast: Using upward, curving strokes (under breast),
brush seven times on each side, from sternum to armpit. 3. Sides
of Upper Torso: Brush upward seven times along each side (in line
with the armpit), from the waist up to the armpit.
a salt glow treatment, indulge in a brief, cool shower and follow
with a vigorous towel rub.
1 Always treat the major lymph gland drainage
site of a given body region before brushing said region, thus allowing
for more effective regional lymphatic clearance. For instance, brush
the armpit (site of axillary nodes which drain the chest) before
brushing the chest.
2The body should be brushed in a strategic,
sequential pattern to allow for maximum drainage. For instance,
as the neck and head drains into the venous system in the upper
chest, and to a small extent into the axillary nodes, the chest
and armpit regions should be brushed before the neck and head regions.
direction always conforms to the route of lymphatic drainage. Example:
The chest region drains into the armpit. Hence, the chest on each
side is brushed from breastbone to armpit.
Rejuvenation, Circulation & Vital Chi
Dr. Bruce Berkowsky, N.M.D., M.H., NCTMB
it day in and day out. We protect it from the sun's harmful rays. We rub
everything from baby oil to the most expensive potions on it. But are
we and our clients forgetting one of the healthiest things we can do for
brushing can sustain or reestablish the skin's functional integrity and
youthful glow. It aids in waste removal, helps slow the skin's aging process,
increases circulation, even improves digestion and alleviates muscular
tension. As such, skin brushing is a particularly powerful therapy which
can positively impact the entire body.
History of Skin Brushing
is as major an organ as the heart, lungs and kidneys. Its primary functions
include respiration, excretion, blood and lymph circulation, immunity
and the conduction of Vital Chi. However, unlike other vital organs, the
skin can be non-invasively accessed and mediate systemic rejuvenation
by a variety of therapeutic techniques, including proper skin brushing.
of skin brushing have been practiced for thousands of years. For many
centuries, the Japanese employed vigorous skin brushing with loofah sponges
as a prelude to their traditional hot bath. Prior to bathing (following
a hard training session or physical competition), ancient Greek athletes
used strigiles - specialized, spoon-like skin scrapers to remove the grime
of exertion and encourage circulation. Among the Cherokee Indians, skin
brushing with dried corn cobs to enhance skin beauty and durability was
once a traditional practice. The Comanche Indians scrubbed their skin
using sand from the Texas river bottoms; the Texas Rangers followed their
in his Nature-Cure (the root of naturopathy) classic, Back To Nature,
tells that he learned the importance of skin rubbing by observing wild
animals: "Higher land animals, especially wild boars and deer, in
free nature, are in the habit of lying down in small muddy swamps and
pools and rubbing to and fro in the mud. After awhile they rub themselves
against the earth, trees and other objects. The birds go to brooks or
springs, and, by immersing their necks, throw water over their bodies...then
they rub or scrub the body using their head, bill and wing elbows."
individuals whose lifestyles reflect an understanding of "The Laws
of Nature," skin brushing is almost invariably a primary aspect of
their formula for longevity. F.O. Havens, in his 1896 publication, The
Possibility of Living 200 Years, describes three centenarians' regimens
as follows: "The first, for the last 40 years of his life used skin
brushes vigorously applied. The second, Old Gabriel (who died March 16,
1890 at an authenticated age exceeding 120 years), induced perspiration
by heated smoke and vapor while scraping his body with sticks. The third,
now in his 100th year, has for the past 60 years followed this unvarying
habit: Before retiring he has used a towel dipped in water at the temperature
of the room, then drying by vigorous rubbing."
after much longevity research, suggested: "The following directions
are adapted to nearly all conditions of life, and if persisted in, will
be found sufficient to keep the skin in perfect condition: Before retiring,
rub the body vigorously with skin brush, hair glove or rough towel until
the blood is brought to the surface. Follow this immediately by a sponge
bath with the water at the temperature of the room."
Chi Skin-Brushing SystemTM Guidelines and Technique
Vital Chi Skin-Brushing System, which required hundreds of hours of research
and experimentation to develop, evolved from my training and experience
in anatomy and physiology and various bodywork disciplines, as well as
the Oriental healing arts. I designed this system to support blood and
lymph circulation, the immune system, the movement of Vital Chi along
the acupuncture channels, and all the major physiological functions of
the skin, as well as to enhance skin beauty and encourage the breakdown
of cellulite. Yet, my system is quick, concise and user-friendly. The
boxes on pages 15 and 16 are excerpted from my book, Vital Chi Skin-Brushing
System. They will provide some insight regarding associated guidelines
Having studied and practiced classical naturopathy, or Nature-Cure, for
25 years, I have come to appreciate the great value of many of the traditional
hydrotherapies and their particular synergy with skin brushing. Hence,
I instruct that a skin-brushing session should always be followed by an
appropriate hydrotherapy. In addition to the Salt Glow, described here,
some other hydrotherapies which may prove beneficial in this regard include
alternating hot and cold shower, full cold bath, blitz guss, epsom salt
bath and cold ablution.
Salt Glow is a wonderful circulation-enhancing treatment. In Lectures
to Naturopathic Hydrotherapy, Wade Boyle, N.D. and Andre Saine, N.D.
list the following indications for salt-glow therapy: "...chronic
conditions with inactive skin, including chronic indigestion, kidney disease,
diabetes [if there are no skin lesions], sluggish circulation [especially
in those who do not react well to hot or cold weather], low vital force,
poor resistance, frequent colds, general weakness, neurasthenia, epilepsy,
cancer [but not over a palpable tumor], joint problems [especially if
followed by oil rub]."
1. Wet a good amount of epsom salt (in an unbreakable bowl) with sufficient
water to create the consistency of wet snow. Vigorous individuals may
wish to opt for moistening the salt with ice water for extra stimulation.
2. Add a few inches of warm water - 98 F to 100 F - to bathtub, then sit
in tub and hand-rub or use a washcloth to rub the body thoroughly using
this warm water.
Stand up in tub (on non-slip mat) and apply moistened salt as follows:
Begin with each arm, starting with fingers - rub vigorously until skin
turns pink, or to tolerance, whichever occurs first. Then, rub each leg
similarly, beginning with toes, working up to hips. Rub salt into the
rest of the body in the following order - chest, abdomen, back, hips and
buttocks. Follow with a cool shower spray - one to two minutes - being
sure to hand-rub the skin throughout. Finish with a vigorous towel-rub
by an open window in a private area. Rest for at least 30 minutes to one
hour before initiating activity.
Aromatherapy With Skin Brushing and Hydrotherapy
I have found that the application of a few drops of the appropriate essential
oils can have a profound effect. Bear in mind that the absorption of only
a few molecules of an essential oil may be sufficient to elicit both a
physiological and emotional response. Homeopathy sets a precedent in this
reference; it utilizes medicinal preparations which are essentially matterless.
Through serial dilution, an ultramolecular entity is extracted which is
an isolate of the original substance's vital vibratory essence. This non-physical
force field is considered to be the active, curative principle contained
within this original substance. Biochemic cell salt therapy, a branch
of homeopathy, utilizes mineral salts in minute quantities; cell salt
tablets contain only a few molecules of the given mineral. In this way,
the dose is provided in amounts approximating actual cellular need. Too,
microdosing in this manner avoids the side effects associated with macromolecular
doses. Similarly, three or four molecules of the essential components
of an aroma oil, taken up by the blood, may not only be sufficient, but
best suited (in conjunction with skin brushing and hydrotherapy) to elicit
a cellular response in a given individual. In fact, for hypersensitive
individuals, this may be the most judicious course.
Aromatherapy Protocol To Enhance The Salt Glow
I learned about using fresh lemon juice as a skin application by studying
the writings of Dr. John T. Richter, a popular naturopath who practiced
in the early- to mid-20th century. Richter writes in his book, Nature
- The Healer: "The morning cold shower or cold water rub-down
may be taken without the use of soap, and lemon juice applied over the
body with the hands, either before or after washing. The juice will smooth
the skin, is a good dirt chaser, disinfectant, and also will act as a
mild astringent. Soaps often contain caustics; even those made of vegetable
oils have a tendency to dry the skin, but lemon juice has no harmful effects...After
shampooing the hair, lemon juice mixed with the last rinsing water will
soften both the water and the hair. After the shower or bath, rub your
body down with the juice of half a lemon while the skin is still moist.
Massage until perfectly dry; otherwise the skin will have a tendency to
be somewhat sticky. This massage will dislodge outworn skin. With the
slightly astringent effect, you will feel clean and be clean. Only a few
minutes are required."
the rub, use the juice from one lemon as your base. Add to your base one
to two drops of each oil listed in the box on page 18. For the bath, add
one to two drops each of the same oils to the water. Note: As a general
rule to avoid potential skin irritation, do not exceed a total of seven
drops of essential oils in either the lemon juice rub or bath water.
Notes: This article is for information purposes only and is not
meant as a prescription. Each person is unique and advised to consult
a qualified health care practitioner to determine relevance in a given
case. Never skin brush during an active metastatic cancer state. All cancer
patients are advised to consult an oncologist if considering a skin-brushing
Berkowsky, N.M.D., president/ director of Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research,
Inc., Natural Health Science™ advisor to the Institute of Applied Biochemistry
and faculty member of the British Institute of Homeopathy, is the founder/teacher
of the Natural Health Science System™ which he designed following 25 years
of research and clinical practice. This system includes herbology, nutrition,
aromatherapy, exercise, traditional Nature-Cure, as well as East/West
healing arts/bodywork and homeopathy. A 1994 recipient of the Hahnemann
Award, Dr. Berkowsky presents in-depth seminars/workshops to health care
professionals. He designs nutritional and herbal formulations for several
companies and formulates his AromAnita™ pure essential oil blends. As
well, he writes an internationally acclaimed journal: Nature's Therapies™,
contributes articles to several national and international health magazines
and journals and has been a popular guest on many radio and television
talk shows. Dr. Berkowsky recently retired from private practice to work
on various health-related books/videos based upon his Natural Health Science
System. His books, Berkowsky's Synthesis Materia Medica of Essential Oils
and 21st Century Self-Care will soon be available. For information regarding
Dr. Berkowsky's Spiritual Aromatherapy Diploma Course workshops, contact
the Event Coordinator, Marcia Elston, firstname.lastname@example.org or call 800/782-4532.
To order or find out more about Dr. Berkowsky's Vital Chi Skin-Brushing
System book ($10.99), video ($19.99) or book/video set ($25.99), (plus
$6 s/h, each or for set) contact Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc.,
P.O. Box 2090, Mount Vernon, WA 98273, e-mail requests to DrBruceB@cnw.com,
or fax to 360/422-7729.
Boyle, Wade and Saine, Andre. Lectures in Naturpathic Hydrotherapy.
East Palestine, Ohio: Buckeye Naturopathic Press, 1988.
Havens, F.O., The Possibility of LIving 200 Years. New York: The
200 Company, 1896.
Just, Adolph. Return to Nature. New York: Benedict Lust, 1904.
John T. and Vera M. Nature - The Healer. Wisconsin: John T. Richter
and vera M. Richter, 1962.
Oils, Relevant Properties and Indications
Carrot seed - Body purifier, reduces fluid
retention, eases muscular tension, increases red blood cells, stimulates
lymphatic system and immune system, supports cardiovascular system;
beneficial for arthritis, rheumatism, abscesses, boils, skin ulcers
and necrotic tissues.
Dr. Bruce Berkowsky has spent a quarter century researching
Reduces muscular soreness, neuralgia, sciatica and arthritis; detoxifies
connective tissue and skin; activates lymphatic drainage, supports
kidney and cardiovascular functions, warms, soothes aching feet;
increases white blood cells; useful in treating itching, dermatitis,
fungal infections, blackheads, colds, fevers, upper respiratory
disorders and numbness of limbs.
General detoxification; cardiovascular tonic; increases arterial
and peripheral circulation, aids degenerative tissue, eases fluid
retention; beneficial for muscle pains, cramps, sprains, contractures,
arthritis and myalgia; stimulates repair of damaged skin, reduces
cellulite, stimulates circulation and metabolism of skin layers;
helpful for obesity and varicose veins; counteracts debility and
- Increases excretion function of all glands, supports metabolism
and fluid balance, strengthens circulation, increases joint mobility;
useful for arthritis, sciatica and rheumatism; reduces swelling;
beneficial for sports injuries; respiratory detoxifier.
- Relieves sinus congestion and respiratory congestion; vascular
tonic; stimulates blood renewal, reduces varicose veins; beneficial
for backache and rheumatism; lymphatic stimulant.
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