38: How Ayurveda Looks At Skin Rashes w/ Dr. Marc Halpern

Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India, and it is slowly gaining popularity in the West because of its holistic approach to treating each person based on their unique needs.   


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My guest today is Dr. Marc Halpern, the founder and President of the California College of Ayurveda.

A Doctor of Chiropractic and an Ayurvedic Doctor, he is the co-founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, the National Council on Ayurvedic Education and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine.

Dr. Halpern has written three textbooks as well as the popular book, Healing Your Life; Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda. He has also recorded the #1 best-selling Meditation CD in the United States: Yoga Nidra and Self-Healing.

Join us as we talk about the ayurvedic approach to skin conditions.

Have you tried Ayurveda for your skin rashes? Let me know in the comments!

In this episode:

  • What is Ayurveda (and how does it differ from Western Medicine)?
  • Skin issues and Ayurveda
  • What are Doshas (and what can they tell you about your skin type)?
  • How does itchiness (for example) relate to the Doshas?
  • What oils work best for different skin types
  • Herbs to aid skin health


“In Ayurveda, we understand that each person with a skin condition actually has a different skin condition. Something different may have caused it and it may be manifesting a little bit differently, and therefore the treatment is also going to be unique.” [1:40]

“If you don't digest your food well, Ayurveda teaches that a toxin forms in your digestive system. That toxin overflows from the digestive system. It's called ama. And then it's secreted onto the skin and causes skin disease.” [20:27]


Find Dr. Halpern online

Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda

Yoga Nidra and Self Healing CD

Follow Dr. Halpern on Facebook | Facebook

138: How Ayurveda Looks At Skin Rashes w/ Dr. Marc Halpern FULL TRANSCRIPT

Jennifer:  Hello everyone. Welcome back. Today I'm joined by a special guest. His name is Dr. Marc Halpern. He is the founder and president of the California College of Ayurveda, a doctor of chiropractic and an Ayurvedic doctor. He is the co founder of the National Ayurvedic Medical Association, the National Council on Ayurvedic Education, and the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine. Dr. Halpern has written three textbooks as well as the popular book Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda. He also has recorded the number one bestselling meditation CD in the United States, Yoga Nidra and Self Healing. So for those of you who are looking for something to help soothe your mind, which you guys know is very important, that would probably be an excellent choice. Thank you so much for joining us, Dr. Halpern.

Dr. Halpern: Thank you, Jennifer. It's such a joy to be here with you and to spend this time with your audience.

Jennifer:  Well, let's start off, if no one has any idea what the word Ayurveda is, and I've said it a bunch already. What is Ayurveda?

Dr. Halpern: Well, Ayurveda is the traditional medicine of India. It's often called the healing side of yoga. And it's a form of holistic medicine that understands that each person is unique and individual, and each person's path toward optimum health is also unique and individual. Also, when a person has a challenge, whether it's in their skin or other part of their body, well, that challenge is also unique. We tend to want to put everybody's disease into a box, and then treat all the diseases the same way. If somebody has eczema, then everybody should do this. But in Ayurveda, we understand that each person with a skin condition actually has a different skin condition. Something different may have caused it and it may be manifesting a little bit differently, and therefore the treatment is also going to be unique. So everything that we do in Ayurveda is uniquely tailored for the person who has the condition.

Jennifer:  That's super interesting. And so, this ancient system is based around … I know one thing that I learned from years ago is there's a lot of lifestyle components that go into it as well, which is wonderful, because it can't always be about supplements and pills and all sorts of things. There's a lot of amazing things that can be helpful and I've even personally found benefit from doing some Ayurveda practices to be able to sleep, number one. And I am a big fan of sesame seed oil, as well. I think it can be very helpful, especially in the winter time when it's cold and dry, and whatnot. But you talk about the way that skin issues manifest, I feel like in a much different way than when I talk to a conventional doctor. So how do you relate skin issues for someone who just … they're entering this conversation of trying to understand what Ayurveda is, what boxes would you start checking off, or how would you begin to dive into this conversation?

Dr. Halpern: I think what will really help your listeners understanding is to understand the perspective of Ayurveda begins with the concept of beauty, that each person is naturally, inherently beautiful. And that's on all levels, physically, as well as emotionally, and even deeper than that at the level of their consciousness. And it's only disturbances in consciousness in the mind and in the body that gets in the way of their natural beauty. So Ayurveda seeks to remove those obstacles so that the natural beauty of a person can naturally shine. We say in Ayurveda that beauty is the end result of caring for the factors of external appearance, right? We want to take good care of our skin on the outside, but also internal virtue. This is what's going on in the mind of an individual. Who is this person? How do they think? How did they feel?

Dr. Halpern: And also beauty is dependent upon the factors of eternal youth. And I know that's a magical statement, the factors of eternal youth. But what that really means is that there is a way of living and that includes your lifestyle, as you mentioned, but also what you eat that can slow down the aging process. So many of the challenges that we have in our skin is the result of the aging process. And so it's years, and years, and years of living out of harmony, whether it's through diet, or whether it's real life style that causes the skin to age to become more sensitive, to become more fragile, and then challenges in the skin begin to emerge. So in Ayurveda, we take a three-pronged approach. It says, let's work topically on the skin, and we have many, many savs, and remedies, and herbs that we'll make in order to put on the skin, depending upon the type of a challenge a person is having, whether it's eczema, or acne, or wrinkles, whatever they're working on.

Dr. Halpern: But let's also do the deeper work. Let's work on the inside. Let's remove those obstacles so that a person's natural radiance can shine in the world. You know, one of the things that I've noticed is that when a person smiles, they're beautiful. When a person smiles, they're beautiful, okay? And I just notice that all the time. When they smile, their eyes smile, their face begins to radiate more, which says that there's something going on inside of you that can be affecting the energy you put out into the world. We all want to be perceived as beautiful. We spent so much time on the external parts of our beauty. We also need to spend some time on the internal parts of our beauty. Ayurveda puts equal emphasis on all of these areas.

Jennifer:  Interesting. So, and as I'm thinking about this, too, you also have three different, I don't even … Doshas, right? That's the correct term? How would you describe what a Doshas is to someone who's unfamiliar with this? Because that is important.

Dr. Halpern: So, in Ayurveda we talk about the three physiological forces that govern the functioning of the body. One of them is called the Vata Dosha, and this is the force of motion. And actually, the faster we move, the faster Ayurveda teaches that we age. So Vata is one of the factors that really accelerates the aging process. So if it goes out of balance, and we have too much of this movement going on, we're too busy in the world, we're too stressed, our mind, it's constantly moving, well, that's going to contribute to the aging process. But coming back to it, just as a simple Dosha, we all have some Vata in us, because we all move. The heartbeats, that's about the Dosha, the neurological impulses that move through your body, that's governed by Vata Dosha.

Dr. Halpern: Pitta Dosha is a second energy in our body and this is really the energy of a transformation. It's the energy of metabolism. It's what digests food. It's like a fire that's inside your belly but also inside of every cell, and it's governing all the metabolism in your body. We all have some of that, because we have to digest and then we all have Kapha Dosha. Kapha Dosha is the third Dosha that governs the structure of your body, and we all have structure. The thickness of your skin, the thickness of your bones, the shape of your eyes, how much muscle and fat you have is all governed by how much Kapha Dosha is present in your constitution.

Dr. Halpern: So at the moment of conception, we all have all three of these, but we have them in different amounts. We have them in different percentages. One person might be 65% Vata, 30% Pitta, and 5% Kapha. Somebody else could be 50% Vata, 25% Pitta, and 25% Kapha. We all have our own unique combination of these three Doshas determined at the moment of conception. It's with you the rest of your life, and it determines all of your tendencies, personality tendencies, as well as how your body's going to function, and even the tendencies towards certain conditions.

Dr. Halpern: Now, we come into the world that way. As we live our lives, because of our diet and our lifestyle, we disturb these Doshas. We came in balanced at the moment of conception, so we have tendencies, but now those tendencies start to manifest depending upon the diet we eat, the lifestyle we lead. And we talk about it in terms of disturbing the Doshas. So a person could have a Vata Dosha disturbance, or a Pitta Dosha disturbance, or a Kapha Dosha disturbance. So for instance, well, we'll stick with the skin. If you have a Vata Dosha disturbance in your skin, your skin will tend to become too dry. It's like having been in the wind for a long time. Wind is motion. Wind is Vata. And so too much movement in your life will dry out the skin, and over the years it'll make the skin thinner, as well, and rougher. And so that will just become the nature of the skin if you're a person with a Vata imbalance in your body. So we look at that in Ayurveda.

Dr. Halpern: If you had a Pitta imbalance in your body, too much heat, too much metabolism, then we look at the skin, and we see the skin's become too hot. It's become too red. It's become a tendency toward being inflamed. Also, Pitta doesn't exist by itself in the body. It's always encased in a little bit of oil. So it's as though there's a hot layer of oil on the skin, and that hot oil on the skin leads to a lot of inflammatory skin conditions.

Dr. Halpern: And then we have Kapha Dosha, and there are people who have a Kapha Dosha imbalance. And Kapha Dosha tends to make skin thicker. It tends to make it a softer, but it's also cold and moist, and so, it becomes clammy and pale. And because of all that moisture, people are more likely to get pustules on their skin, different kinds of lesions that are more fluid filled on their skin. So an Ayurvedic doctor is going to look at the skin and identify what Dosha is out of balance, and then utilize natural approaches using the external treatments and the internal treatments, in order to remedy the Dosha that is disturbed in the skin. And that's the approach that we take.

Jennifer:  Wow, that's super interesting. And actually, I mean granted, I have some experience with this, but that was really easy to understand. So I appreciate you sharing it in that way, because I think oftentimes people like to pigeonhole themselves into one particular bucket. But knowing that you're actually all three, and then seeing some out of balance issue is helpful to understand that you can learn to embrace all these different facets of yourself, and utilize different tools, whether it is the exterior savs, or it is some other food, or internal process, or practice that you can use to bring these things back into balance. So with that said, do you find any particular issues, like with itchiness? Say someone has a ton of itchiness all over, is that necessarily related to any particular out of balance Dosha, or is that sometimes related to other things, or do you have to consider … because I get a lot of questions about itchiness.

Dr. Halpern: Yeah, you have to consider more factors when you look at itchiness. The Dosha that's most often involved in itching from a classic Ayurvedic perspective is the Kapha Dosha. And this would be the kind of itching a person gets maybe with a moist, more fungal type of an infection on the skin, causing a lot of itchiness, things like ringworm for instance, things like that. But too much moisture on the body tends to be associated with itching, but there's also a dry itch and a hot itch. And so, we really have to examine the skin of a patient in order to be able to identify which Dosha is disturbed, and then know which remedy is going to be the best remedy for them.

Jennifer:  Interesting. Well, is there anything to like the type of oil that you put on your skin? I mean, I know that most of my audience is not a big fan of using coconut oil, because they've tended to react to it. One of the greatest lessons that I learned years ago was using sesame seed oil in the winter time. I live in the area of the country where we have all four seasons, and sesame seed oil really makes me feel warm whereas some oils are too thin, and you just don't feel like you've even put anything on. They don't seem to hold the moisture in. Do you have any recommendations just from an Ayurvedic perspective of maybe certain types of oils, or when to use them, when not to use them?

Dr. Halpern: Well, the first thing that I would say is that putting oil on your skin is actually a very good idea in the sense that it's important in our society to keep our skin moist and well-lubricated. The skin, as you know, is the barrier between the outside world and the inside world, and when you've got a nice layer of oil on your body, you're actually better protected from the outside world. Of course, it also holds in the moisture of sweating. And so therefore, you're going to get better hydration, not just from the oil that's slowly absorbed into your skin, but also from the sweat glands that are secreted onto the skin all the time. So it's maintaining the hydration of your skin. So it's a very healthy practice overall to do.

Dr. Halpern: Now in Ayurveda, we talk about different types of skin and different types of skin require different types of oil. So if you have a dry skin and a cold skin, if your skin is cold, and dry, and rough, sesame oil is a great oil use because sesame oil has the opposite qualities. Sesame oil is warming, and it's smooth, and it's soft. And so sesame oil is a great one to put on for a person with a Vata imbalance. And we're more likely to get those about the imbalances in the winter time, in the early part of the winter when it's very, very dry and cold outside. So that's a wonderful oil to use. Now in the summertime, when it's already very hot, and maybe depending upon where your listeners are living, but if it's very hot and humid, sesame oil may not be the right oil.

Jennifer:  No.

Dr. Halpern: Yeah, right?

Jennifer:  Yeah, that's not a good choice for that type of year.

Dr. Halpern: And if your skin in general is hot and moist, even if you're not in a hot, moist environment, but if you have a clammy skin that's also very hot, and you tend to get red rashes, sesame oil is still not the best oil to use. That's when an oil like coconut can be good, but also thinner oils. If a person reacts to coconut oil, sunflower oil is a very cooling oil as well, and that's a great oil for people with Pitta type skin, or Pitta imbalances. That's the skin that was red, and that's the skin that's prone to more inflammation. All right, and then if a person has a Kapha type of skin, now their skin already tends to be quite moist to begin with. So if there's somebody who doesn't need oil, it would be a person with a Kapha type of an imbalance in their skin.

Dr. Halpern: But if they were to use oil, they would use a small amount. And the best oils to use would be oils that are more stimulating to the skin. And that would be oils like a mustard seed oil, or a very light oil that's more dry in quality, like a safflower oil for instance. So there are oils for everyone. We in Ayurveda a very important statement, and that's that nothing is right for everyone. Everything is right for someone. Ayurveda is a path of understanding what's right for you, so it's based on understanding your unique constitution, the balance of energy at the moment of conception, what the state of balance is right now, and how that's affecting your body, your tissues, your skin.

Jennifer:  And can I ask you one other questions, since we are discussing, Ayurveda? A lot of people ask me about turmeric as an option to help reduce inflammation. And I feel like I relate turmeric to curries, and that. So do you feel like turmeric, from your perspective is a good option, a good spice that can be helpful for someone who is experiencing a lot of inflammation in the system? And I know there's other really wonderful herbs, and things for people to try. I mean, there's a lot of really cool … I mean, I got introduced to, “Hey, if you need help with your digestive fires, add some black pepper to your food to help stimulate them. I mean, there was some really great tips that I learned in the process, but what are your thoughts on turmeric?

Dr. Halpern: Well, turmeric is a wonderful herb. It helps digestion. It can be very good for many systems of your body, including your skin. It does have an anti-inflammatory component to it, but it's usually mixed with other herbs when there's a lot of inflammation in the body. So, it's one very good herb to use. Now other herbs that are also very, very good to use that are wonderful for the skin. They're classified in Ayurveda as having the quality called Vanya. Vanya means that it just improves complexion. And so it's wonderful for the complexion of the skin.

Dr. Halpern: And some of the most famous ones are herbs like sandalwood and licorice. There's a lesser known herb called Gotu Kola, and these are great herbs for general complexion in the body. And you'll see a lot of Ayurvedic products are made with these herbs along with other herbs as well. And so, I would highly recommend those. They can be taken internally. They can be used topically on the skin, just for general complexion. There are other categories of herbs we might use more specifically for conditions, psoriasis, versus eczema, versus a seborrhea of some kind. So there are different conditions that need different herbs, but those are my favorite general herbs for the skin would be Gotu Kola, the sandalwood and licorice.

Jennifer:  Awesome, awesome. Well, I-

Dr. Halpern: And turmeric is great too, to mix in.

Jennifer:  Yeah, it's a great one. But I feel like, too, the important thing to tell people is in order to get the most out of it, my understanding from my training was that it must be blended with black pepper in order for you to extract the biggest benefit.

Dr. Halpern: Yeah. For absorption and utilization, it's generally taken with … actually, the ideal herb is a long pepper. Long pepper is the most common herb that's mixed with it. Long pepper is called pippali, and that's maybe the best one to take. But yeah, it'll help activate the accoutrements that are in there, and help them to be better absorbed in the body. What the black pepper does is, it enhances your agni, or your digestive power. And that's really important from an Ayurvedic perspective to your skin. What a lot of people don't realize is that from an Ayurvedic perspective, the number one cause of skin problems is poor digestion. So until we normalize the digestive system, we can't really expect to make a lasting change in the health of the skin.

Dr. Halpern: So when we work with our patients in Ayurveda, we're working topically on the skin, but we're also normalizing the digestive system at the same time. And that's going to be affected by what you eat, by how you eat, and also by herbs you might take in order to enhance your digestion. So if you don't digest your food well, Ayurveda teaches that a toxin forms in your digestive system. That toxin overflows from the digestive system. It's called ama. And then it's secreted onto the skin and causes skin disease. It also can launch itself in different tissues of your body, and cause other diseases, too. So taking care of your digestive system is essential to good health of the skin.

Jennifer:  That is really helpful. And in your book, do you talk about how to balance your digestion and make improvements?

Dr. Halpern: I do. The book is called Healing Your Life: Lessons on the Path of Ayurveda. It begins really talking about my own journey of healing, and my journey of healing was due to a autoimmune-type condition related to Lyme disease that just ravaged my body about 30 years ago. I was very, very ill. It starts off talking about my healing journey, and then talks about how to go on your own healing journey and how to use diet and Ayurveda, and Yoga Nidra for your own healing. In fact, it goes extensively into the sense of taste, but also how important it is for what you see, what you smell, what you hear and what you touch.

Dr. Halpern: In Ayurveda, we say, “You're not only what you eat, you're what you take in through all your senses. You are what you see. You are what you smell. You are what you hear, and you are what you touch.” so we're always taking the environment inside of us, and it affects our physiology. And this book, Healing Your Life, will take you through the process of understanding what your constitution is, what's going on in your body right now, and then what you need to do in order to restore health, not only to your digestive system, but to all the systems of your body.

Jennifer:  Oh, that's really, really cool. And that is available on Amazon. So we'll put the links to that, and to your Yoga Nidra audio, which I actually want to check out after having listened to you talk about it.

Dr. Halpern: Yoga Nidra is such a wonderful practice. We didn't talk too much about slowing down the aging process. And when you quiet the mind, you slow down the aging process of the skin and all the tissues of the body. Yoga Nidra is a meditation practice found in yoga that really deeply relaxes the body, and quiets the mind. And it's a beautiful practice for self healing, and also for creating in your life the experience you want to have. It's more than just relaxation. It's actually an active form of creation. So you'd start to create your own healing. And that's talked about on the recording. So that's called Yoga Nidra and Self Healing. And I hope that your listeners will enjoy that.

Jennifer:  Well thank you very much. And they can find you over at ayurvedacollege.com. And you've got a couple of really great Facebook groups as well. Do you just want to share quickly about those?

Dr. Halpern: Yeah, the best way to keep in touch with me is through Facebook. We have thousands of people in our Facebook group called Ayurveda Yoga Nidra, and Ayurvedic yoga therapy with Dr. Marc Halpern. I know it's a mouthful, so just look up my name, Dr. Marc Halpern. And you'll find the Facebook group there, and there are posts every single day, and also I answer questions. So many of the followers send in questions, and I publish at least one every single day.

Jennifer:  Oh great. And we'll post links to those in the show notes. That way it's super easy. Everybody can just head there, and they'll know exactly where they need to go to get access to you and all of your resources. I just want to thank you so much for sharing about this, because I feel like we assume when we go … a skin rash happens, right? And you're like, “Where do I go? I go to the dermatologist.” And yet so many of us feel like we're not seeing the results that we expect.

Jennifer:  And so that's why I'm so glad that we can share some alternatives like this, of looking at your body, your life, your skin from a completely different perspective that may have unintended but very positive consequences for something that's even larger than your skin, you might not realize going in. And this is a very ancient system, so it's not something that's new and someone just made up. It's been around for thousands of years, and even I personally have benefited from working with an Ayurvedic practitioner years ago. So I would highly recommend if this is something that interests you, check it out, check out Dr. Halpern's book, and his audio resource. And we'll have to have you come back some time, Dr. Halpern to dive deeper into this.

Dr. Halpern: Well, thank you so much, Jennifer, for inviting me to be here today and to introducing me to your audience. It's a true honor. Thank you.

“In Ayurveda, we understand that each person with a skin condition actually has a different skin condition. Something different may have caused it and it may be manifesting a little bit differently, and therefore the treatment is also going to be unique.”