Step out of time for a moment. Picture Hippocrates of Kos, the towering figure in the Western history of medicine. At the age of 90, the "Father of Modern Medicine," as he is known, has gathered his colleague physicians at a temple of the healer-god Asclepieia where he begins a discourse on traditional Greek healing therapeutics, his colleagues enraptured by the vast knowledge of which but a slice is being imparted to them today.The first medical school having been established some 200 years prior, today's lecture describes the well-established detoxifying technique of dry skin brushing. Hippocrates begins demonstrating the art with gentle strokes over his skin, toward his heart to increase the exfoliation of dead skin cells, increasing his blood flow and encouraging removal of wastes via his lymphatic system.There is evidence that the Comanche Indians of the Southern Plains also practiced the lost art of skin brushing and that this practice was eventually adopted by the Texas Rangers. Nowadays, I recommend this ancient technique to my patients who are seeking to boost the natural cleansing of their bodies through this largest organ of detoxification.The timing right now is very good to include skin brushing with a spring cleanse, which usually results in clearer thinking, a normalization of digestion, a boost in energy, and significant weight loss. I tailor individualized cleanses for my patients as part of my practice of Naturopathic Medicine. The technique for skin brushing is very simple, can be done at home and results in lasting health benefits. The theory is as follows...The skin is, indeed, one of the major organs of elimination in the body. By keeping the skin free from dry, dead skin cells, efficiency of the skin to remove wastes from the body is enhanced. Skin brushing has been practiced in many cultures over many years as part of a daily hygiene routine.
• Assists skin exfoliation and removal of waste. Removal of dead skin cells opens skin pores, allowing for efficient removal of waste products. • Decreases the quantity of bacteria on the skin surface. Bacteria are normally present on the skin surface and layers of dead skin provide a habitat for them to flourish, resulting in a toxic load of bacterial debris that the body needs to handle.• Enhanced lymphatic drainage. The lymph system removes waste fluids and is an important component in the circulatory system. Skin brushing invigorates the lymphatic drainage and its effectiveness in eliminating waste.• Enhances and supports venous system. By helping the veins move blood from the extremities back to the heart. • Improves the movement of nutrients and oxygen into the skin. By enhancing the lymphatic and venous drainage, skin brushing improves the movement of nutrients and oxygenated blood into the skin.• Improves skin tone, especially in aging skin. By removing dead skin cells, stimulating the surface oil and sweat glands and enhancing circulation, the tone and suppleness of aging skin is enhanced.
The best skin brushes are natural vegetable bristle brushes, although a loofa brush or a baby's hairbrush can also be used. You can find these brushes in most health food stores. Skin brushing is best done on dry skin, prior to your shower or bath. Brushing should be gentle and can be done in short strokes.1. Start by brushing on your legs. Brush from your toes towards the center of your body, as this is the direction of venous and lymph flow toward your heart. When finished, your skin will tingle and might be a little red, but do not brush so hard that your skin is bright red.2. Next, brush lightly up your stomach and lower back making sure to include your buttocks. 3. Move to your arms and brush from your fingers to your shoulders in short strokes toward the center of your body.4. Finally, lightly brush your shoulders and upper back toward the center of you body.5. Do not brush your face, as this skin is very delicate. However, you can lightly brush the back of your neck.Some of these areas may be more easily reached with a long-handled skin brush. If you are unable to reach all these areas, just brush what is most comfortable for you to brush.Areas that should be avoided:1. Open wounds2. Your face (if too sensitive)3. Areas of skin that are easily damaged4. Areas of known skin malignancies or lymphatic malignancies5. Open and weeping rashesOne of my patients turned me on to the Ayate cloth, a nice alternative to the bristle brush that was used by the Aztecs and is now woven in central Mexico. Made from the Maguey cactus (also known as American Aloe or the Century Plant), the fiber is coarse but gentle, and can be moistened and used as a regular wash cloth in the shower.If you have never done skin brushing before, I suggest starting with a soft bristle brush, moving on to a loofa or Ayate cloth as you become more accustomed. After several weeks, you'll notice your skin is softer and has a healthy glow. Combine this with good hydration and nutrition, especially healthy oil consumption like olive, coconut and sesame oils, and you'll see a whole new person emerge.Dr. Christopher Lepisto graduated as a naturopathic doctor (ND) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit www.grandjunctionnaturopath.com or call 970-250-4104.