Botox: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

by Dr. Meghan Gray |

Botox: A Chinese Medicine Perspective

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, simplistically we consider our nervous system as your Qi (pronounced “chee”).  It’s primarily the energy and communication system of our bodies. It’s the Yang side of that Yin/Yang perspective we’re all so oddly aware of. In contrast, blood is considered our “Yin.”  Blood is a more literal translation - basically, it’s our circulatory system including, shockingly enough, our blood!  

In ancient Chinese Medicine theory, Qi carries our blood throughout the body. 

It provides blood and therefore nutrients to the organs, the muscles, and the skin (yes, you read it right- logically the skin is an organ). So if we interpret that theory to the physiological functions of the body, our nervous system serves to nourish our body by regulating the circulatory system, or the circulation of blood throughout the body.

Let's Align on Botox for a Moment

Botox, or Botulinum toxin Type A, or Clostridium botulinum in the scientific terms, is a neurotoxin that has been used in humans for a variety of concerns, whether migraines, sweating, or the reduction of lines and wrinkles.  As far as this article is concerned, we are discussing the use of Botox for cosmetic reasons - in some medical settings, the positive aspects of Botox outweigh the potential negative side effects.

As far as this blog post is concerned, we are discussing the use of Botox for cosmetic reasons - in some medical settings, the positive aspects of Botox outweigh the potential negative side effects.

Botox is administered into facial muscles to paralyze nerve conduction.  As a result, the muscle relaxes and smooths, and therefore we see that ever so elusive and desirable reduction in the signs of aging. Sounds a-okay, right?  So long as you’re okay with not being able to use full facial expression, what’s not to love?

An Academic Consideration

Before we dive into the negative side effects of this, I want to clarify something important.  I’m about to refer to some scientific research about the side effects of Botox.  You should know though, that it’s not okay for scientists to study medical interventions with the intent to find the negative effects. 

That would be intentionally harming the participants, and I think we can all agree that it doesn’t seem cool. Therefore, the covered evidence is either carried on animals or analyzed in studies using Botox for other purposes. In other words, the negative effects were seen while studying other results. There are no studies about “negatives of Botox used for cosmetic purposes” because, as we said, it’s not cool to knowingly go into a study to see what harm an intervention might cause.

facial acupuncture

Your Muscles and Botox

Moving on.  Let’s start with the muscle itself, which is where the injection goes. What happens after repeated use of Botox?  Seems like, the muscle will begin to waste. If the nerves of the muscle never fire, it never contracts.  Just as with growing strong in the gym, this is important for the muscle health in terms of actual muscle mass.  

Sure, nobody likes a protruding forehead so you’re not thinking how to lift weights with it, but if the muscle itself begins to contract and waste away, the beautiful plumpness of your face will actually start to decrease. That perseverance we search for in the world of beauty will become fragile and thin. With the passage of time, Botox can become less potent, which is why we’re advised to start at a young age and prevent wrinkles instead of removing them.  

But what’s actually happens is the serious reduction in contractile muscle tissue and consequently, a reduction in the strength and shape of the muscle.  If you know someone with a spinal injury, where nerve conduction to the legs is interrupted, you might be aware of the fact that the muscle mass

The science and beauty worlds are still waiting for a research-based answer whether the facial muscles can heal from this wasting resulted from Botox injections or not, but my question to you is this -what if it can’t? Combine that with decreased efficacy with repeat injections, and what will the end result be?

Botox, Qi, Yang, Blood & Yin: My Personal Case Studies

So what about the skin itself?  Since I always like to bounce back and forth between Chinese medicine and modern western medicine, I’m going to revisit this Qi/Yang and Blood/Yin perspective.  Over the past few months, I’ve worked with a handful of women to restore their skin after the use of Botox.  In certain cases, it was just reversing Botox that they didn’t like by re-activating nerve conduction, but the difficult cases are trying to retrieve that muscle tissue and construct their thinned skin back up after prolonged use of Botox.  Whoa, wait- did I just say “thinned skin?”  Yes, I did.  

If we paralyze the Qi (aka the nerve conduction), and the Qi carries the blood, then is our skin still being properly nourished?  From a Chinese Medicine perspective the answer to that is a simple “no.”  Over time, many women experience increased bruising with Botox injections.  I have seen this many times in many patients.  Briefly, if the blood isn’t ideally reaching the skin, it will dry the skin, making it lose its elasticity and structure. Also, the invigoration of collagen and elastin will be diminished. Essentially, the collapse and fatigue of the muscle can be catered with Botox, but the skin itself will continue to age, dry, and pull apart.  So what we’re seeing right now is a fusion of wasted muscle and thinned, dismantled skin.

We'll dig into how Botox can affect people with autoimmune disorders in this next post!


Resources sited:

Borodic, G. (1998). Myasthenic crisis after botulinum toxin. Lancet (London, England)352(9143), 1832. 

El-Heis, S., Burke, G., Gibb, W., & Ardern-Jones, M. R. (2017). Myaesthenia gravis exacerbation caused by axillary injection of botulinum toxin A for treatment of hyperhidrosis. Clinical And Experimental Dermatology42(3), 357–359.

Fortuna, R., Aurélio Vaz, M., Rehan Youssef, A., Longino, D., & Herzog, W. (2011). Changes in contractile properties of muscles receiving repeat injections of botulinum toxin (Botox). Journal of Biomechanics44(1), 39–44.

Glass, G. E., Hussain, M., Fleming, A. N. M., & Powell, B. W. E. M. (2009). Atrophy of the intrinsic musculature of the hands associated with the use of botulinum toxin-A injections for hyperhidrosis: a case report and review of the literature. Journal of Plastic, Reconstructive & Aesthetic Surgery62(8), e274–e276. 

Patient awarded $212 million for adverse reaction to Botox: inadequate warning of potential autoimmune reaction alleged. (2011). Biotechnology Law Report, (4), 482. 

Dr. Meghan Gray, DACM, MSHNFM, L.Ac. found acupuncture while she was struggling with her health as an undergrad at CSU. In desperation she tried acupuncture, which ultimately changed her health, her career, and her life. She now holds a Doctorate in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine (DACM) and a Master's in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine. A Colorado native, Dr. Meghan loves wildflowers, blueberries, good books, deep laughter, her adorable blue heeler, and her cowboy husband. You can learn more about Dr. Meghan at

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