Skin as Mirror and Border

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By: Dr. med. Olaf Koob

Our wonderful skin—it's not just a cloak keeping wind and sun out. It is one of the most important organs of our body. Without its constant activity and adaptable perme­ability we could enjoy neither health nor long life. -- C. W Hufeland, 1762-1836

The skin is our largest organ, enveloping us with form and function. Because it is external we believe we can treat symptoms with external means. So-called "skin diseases" are easy to diagnose, and allopathic ointments are very effective in removing symptoms quickly. Such cures may be deceptive however. The skin itself does not get ill; it reflects underlying causes, and allows an avenue for their release.

Last century Samuel Hahnemann, founder of homeopathy, recognized that the inner organism is always the cause of skin illnesses. If the symptoms are sup­pressed, or if they don't surface at all, the illness becomes more intractable, often masking itself, and possibly reemerging elsewhere in a more chronic or serious way. Children whose measles don't fully erupt may be more susceptible to pneumonia. A conscientious physician would hesitate to eliminate a rash of whatever kind by topi­cal means, although certain ointments can support skin function during the eliminatory process.

A woman came to me with ulcerative colitis. She said she had been treated with cortisone ointments for years for eczema. Eventually the eczema disappeared only to reemerge as asthma. Then the asthma was treated with internal cortisone and sprays. It disappeared but reemerged as colitis. In other words the eczema was masked twice and pushed inwards, transforming itself into a more chronic ailment.

Recognizing that the skin also mir­rors the soul has given me great perspec­tive in diagnosis. I've had occasion to treat eczema of the elbows in persons who are stuck in a restrictive life situation; clearly their soul was in need of "elbow room."

Likewise I've seen eczema on the palms of the hands in people in life crisis, who had stopped "taking hold."

Some psychoanalysts in France say that our true being is not inside us some­where, but on the periphery, in contact with the world (the center becomes periph­ery). If children are overtaxed by the envi­ronment, their soul "skin" can become damaged: "kernels without a shell." Unconsciously we defend ourselves against pollution or invasion of all kinds by creat­ing an inner barrier, but it is the skin that really shows where the borderline is.

Teenage acne is a typical soul/organic phenomenon, which has as much to do with boundaries as with metabolic imbalances. It may sometimes be a developmen­tal ally in disguise if the necessary retreat from the world towards finding the self is not successful. Serious acne is often found in youths that feel they must conform and participate in everything, overstraining their capacity. The illness "scares away," sometimes saving those who would other­wise become stretched too thin.

Natural plant-based skin care prepa­rations externally and remedies internally can help the skin find its individual bal­ance as mirror and mediator.


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