The following article was originally published in Health Keepers, a magazine created by Trinity's founder, Dr. Wendell Whitman. This article appeared in Volume 7 • Issue 1 • pg 32-34. This article originally titled, "The Benefits of Dry Skin-Brushing" was written by Bruce Berkowsky, NMD, NCTMB.
The body’s largest organ is the skin. It is often overlooked as being an organ but, averaging over 17 square feet of surface area, its responsibility in maintaining our health is vital. It handles one-fourth of the body’s daily detoxification making it our most important elimination organ. The skin is also called the “3rd” kidney (with lungs being known as the “2nd” kidney). As much as the skin wants to help the body eliminate toxins, it can become insufferably bogged down with toxicity through such things as improper pH levels in body soaps, skin creams, and antiperspirants.
The following discussion highlights the tremendous, but often overlooked, physiological importance of the skin and the potential benefits of Dry Skin-Brushing.
Functions Of The Skin
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 a 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 that it has collected from the cells.
There are approximately 17 sq. feet of skin surface. When its capillaries are fully dilated, it presents 6-times the capillary surface area of the lungs. This vast blood vessel network is required for: 1) nutrition and oxygenation of skin tissue; 2) regulation of body heat (the blood is cooled when it moves through the surface capillaries); 3) distillation of waste matter from the blood; and 4) 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 as needed.
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 body 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 microorganisms, pollutants, emotional stresses derived from human interaction and other external challenges.
The Primary Benefits of Vital Chi Skin-Brushing
Assists Shedding of Dead Skin Cells:
The outermost layer of skin cells which serve to protect the underlying skin layers are not living cells; therefore, 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 it is susceptible to cellular build-up which accounts, in part, for the dry, thick, leathery-look of older skin. The most obvious mechanical effect of skin-brushing is the detachment of dead skin cells.
Excites Vital Functions:
Proper skin-brushing supports lymphatic drainage of the skin by: 1) accelerating filtration from the intercellular spaces into the lymph vessels; 2) the emptying of the smaller vessels into the larger lymph vessels; and 3) assisting the flow of lymph through the lymph nodes.
Skin-brushing similarly increases venous (i.e., vein) 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; thereby, 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 imparts.
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 movements, blood circulation, lymph drainage as well as clearer thinking.
Strengthens 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 and oil gland functions are a feature 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 reduce this condition.
This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a prescription. Each person is unique and advised to seek the advice of 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 regimen. HK
NOTE: This article was edited to adhere to current legal and practical standards.