Eumelanin is the proper expression of human skin pigmentation.
Eumelanin is responsible for black/brown skin tones in not just human beings, but ALL living beings.
Get ready because I am about to uncover the power of dark skin according to modern science AND Oriental Holistic Medicine (OHM).
We will find out that when it comes to skin pigmentation, it’s influenced by two major melanins that have opposing attributes.
Out of the two, one is superior to the other.
Hi, thanks for clicking on this blog.
I am passionate about reading holistic medicine literature and ways to connect ancient knowledge of health to attain longevity.
The research I’ve done for this post was so valuable and has completely changed the way I see my skin.
Let’s get straight to the science!
Melanin & Its Different Types
The word melanin comes from the Greek word melas (“black”).
Melanin is a group of naturally-occurring dark pigments found in most living beings.
Melanin is derived from amino acid (Tyrosine) and composed of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen.
Melanin is produced by melanocytes, a group of neural crest cells located under the epidermis (the outermost layer of the skin)
The three types of melanin are eumelanin, pheomelanin, and neuromelanin.
Eumelanin is the darkest with dark-brown pigments (Think brown/black hair with dark skin).
Pheomelanin has lighter pigments (Think blond/red hair, freckles, and light skin).
The specific skin tone produced depends on the person’s DNA.
Albinism, on the other hand, is caused by genetic mutation which reduces or completely prevents the synthesis of eu/pheomelanin.
Neuromelanin is mostly concentrated in substantia nigra of the midbrain that is responsible for supplying dopamine, as well as eye movement, motor planning, and learning.
Eumelanin (“Eu” for short) and pheomelanin (“Pheo” for short) are the ones responsible for skin pigmentation, whereas neuromelanin is for central nervous system function.
So, what makes Eu darker than Pheo? Eu contains a higher concentration of dark carbon.
As a result, the main advantage of possessing eumelanin is in the absorption of the Sun’s UV rays and skin protection.
Absorbing more UV rays sounds counterintutive to protecting the skin, but eumelanin is actually trapping the radiation to prevent it from penetrating deeper into the skin layer.
So, what does the melanin do with the trapped solar energy?
Eumelanin Converts Sunlight to Energy
In this research article from 2012, melanins were discovered to conduct electricity and are naturally occurring amorphous (shapeless) organic semiconductors.
Definition of semiconductor: a crystal material whose ability to conduct electricity rises as its temperature goes up.
By trapping the solar radiation, the melanin’s temperature would rise and would enable it to become electrically charged…
To be used as a source of energy for the body.
Is this like how plants get their energy from the Sun?
This research article from 2015 explains the ability of melanin to transform light energy into chemical (= metabolic) energy through the dissociation of water molecule.
Breaking up the water molecules is how our body gets hydrogen, the “energy carrier” of nature.
Matter of fact, this is the essence of plant photosynthesis equation.
Anyways, the chemical energy released through the dissociation of water molecule by melanin represents over 90% of cell energy requirements!
This is a groundbreaking conclusion that challenges the current dogma of glucose being the major energy source that is converted to ATP in mitochondria.
How about pheomelanin?
Pheomelanin is much less able to block UV energy and in fact may synergize with UV photons to promote free radical formation and carcinogenesis in the skin
To discover the reasons why, we need a deeper dive into cell biology.
The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) controls which type of melanin is produced by melanocytes.
When the receptor is activated, it triggers a series of chemical reactions inside melanocytes that stimulate these cells to make EUMELANIN (by default!).
If the receptor is not activated or is blocked, melanocytes make pheomelanin instead.
This means that the receptor is genetically designed to produce dark pigment. If it is not functional/turned off due to gene mutation, light pigment will be produced.
Thus pheomelanin does not come close to providing the benefits of eumelanin.
Tip to remember: The prefix “eu” signifies “good,” so eumelanin is the healthy melanin!
That’s enough science for now. Let’s talk about this in terms of ~oriental holistic medicine~
14th-century doctor who acknowledged the superiority of dark skin
The excerpt below is written by a renowned doctor and author from Yuan dynasty.
He was born in the year 1281 common era and educated in Confucian classics since childhood. He was led to study medicine when his mother became severely ill.
His philosophy emphasized the importance of the conservation of vital substance known as the Essence, which I will explain in a detail.
The color of a person 人之色 Is better to be black than white 白不及黑 Better to be dark than pale 嫩不及蒼 White people (= albinos) are deficient in lung energy. 白者肺氣虛 Black people (= dark skinned) have sufficient kidney energy. 黑者腎氣足 Every person is different in complexion and shapes, 形色旣殊 So their organs and bowels are different compared to others. 藏府亦異 This is why even if patients show the same symptoms, 外證雖同 Treatments can vary for each individual. 治法逈別.
Clarification: When he is writing about the skin color, it makes the most sense to think of him literally referring to the colors white, black, dark, pale. We’re talking skin pigmentation here, not race!
I decided to categorize the “white people” as albinos since it would provide a more stark contrast.
So, why did he claim that albinos have poor lung energy, out of all organs?
We would need to know about the Five Phases.
Introduction to Five Phases
The Five Phases, along with Yin Yang, is one of the most fundamental principles of oriental philosophy.
Water, wood, fire, earth, and metal make up the five phases.
Concisely, the five phases are abstract images that represent a particular energetic nature.
When we’re saying water in context of the five phases, it’s the abstract image of the downward, bottomless and condensable quality of water.
The metal is an abstraction for pulling inward, astringing and solidifying quality.
The wood represents its upward and germinating quality.
The fire represents its dispersing and exuberant quality.
The earth represents its centered, receptive and harmonizing quality.
Oriental Holistic Medicine (OHM) identified five organs which correspond to the five phases. Our kidneys correspond to water, liver to wood, heart to fire, spleen to earth, and lungs to metal.
Another connection to note is that metal corresponds to color white, while water corresponds to black. We’ll get to this one as well.
Relationship of Lungs and Skin
It makes sense to compare lungs to metal since they are responsible for pulling in the air (potential energy) into the body.
Also in OHM, Lungs also govern the skin and its pores.
Also note that metal corresponds to color white.
OHM diagnoses bright-white complexion as a sign of lung Qi deficiency.
In modern medicine, pale skin can be a sign that there is a shortage of normal red blood cells (anemia), which means that less oxygen is delivered to throughout the body.
Which organ controls how much oxygen is being brought inside the body?
It would be the lungs!
Why Eumelanin Indicates Healthy Kidney Energy
The function of the kidneys is more than just a waste filter according to OHM.
They are seen as the origin of our bodily energy and storage of the vital substance called Essence, which governs birth, growth, reproduction, and development.
Essence represents the physical expression of the genetic profile. Someone with a strong Essence would have healthy physical traits, such as MC1R receptors working properly to produce eumelanin for darker skin.
Interestingly, the Essence is divided into pre-natal and post-natal. Pre-natal essence is inherited from our parents, just like DNA. And it is replenished after birth by energy from the air we breathe and food we eat. Or it can be damaged.
This is relevant especially today: modern science has been confirming how air pollution and change in diet can significantly impact our DNA.
Healthy DNA = healthy Essence (dark skin) = healthy kidney energy
Also makes sense with the water-black-kidney connection.
Another role of kidneys according to OHM is to produce marrow, which generates bones.
Modern science knows the importance of adequate sunlight because we generate vitamin D from it. And we know vitamin D is critical for maintaining healthy and strong bones.
So having a healthy skin that can properly convert sunlight into vitamin D is essential.
At this point, we know which type of skin can do that most optimally.
The fact that dark skin can better absorb sunlight to strengthen bones is another reason why it reflects good kidney energy.
This was one of the life-changing moments for me as I conducted the research.
I appreciate you all for reading to the end.
eternal student of life