The National Psoriasis Foundation states that psoriasis is the most prevalent autoimmune disease in the U.S. As many as 7.5 million Americans are affected.
This disease not only creates uncomfortable and embarrassing scales on the skin, it can also severely disrupt a person’s life. In addition to increasing the risk of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem, it’s also been linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
Current treatment options include so-called “biologic” medications, which are made from living human or animal proteins and target the precise immune responses involved in the disease. Treatment with ultraviolet light is sometimes effective, and there are also topical corticosteroid and retinoid creams. Other oral and injected drugs are also available, but they can create serious side effects, so are usually used only as a last result or for short periods of time.
If you’re suffering from psoriasis and looking for alternative, more natural treatments, here are some options you may want to try.
Herbs, Spices, and Other Natural Treatments
- Aloe vera: This natural cooling and soothing gel from the aloe plant has shown in some studies to help reduce the redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. Look for the most natural and pure gel you can find.
- Apple cider vinegar: This is recommended by the National Psoriasis Foundation as a good treatment for scalp psoriasis. Simply apply organic apple cider vinegar to the scalp several times a week—you can dilute it with water on a one-on-one ratio.
- Capsaicin: This is the ingredient in chili peppers that makes them hot. It has a pain-relieving property, and researchers from the University Medical Center Freiburg in Germany found that creams containing capsaicin may help reduce the pain, inflammation, redness, and scaling associated with psoriasis.
- Epsom salts: Add these or Dead Sea salts to your warm bath to help remove scales and ease itching.
- Oats: Many psoriasis sufferers say that applying an oat paste or taking a bath in oats helps relieve itching.
- Tea tree oil: One of the most powerful natural disinfectants, tea tree oil can help relieve scalp psoriasis.
- Peppermint oil: Combining peppermint oil with cayenne infused in organic olive oil has shown to be effective in many patients.
- Figwort: Figwort can be applied directly to the skin to sooth itching, swelling, redness, and inflammation.
- Castor oil: This oil is a great moisturizer and also contains a good amount of omega-3 fatty acids that can help tame redness and soothe inflamed skin.
- St. John’s wort: A 2012 study treated psoriasis patients with a St. John’s wort ointment. Patients experienced improvements in swelling and redness, scaling, and thickness.
- Omega-3s: Some studies have found that fish oil supplements—which contain omega-3 fatty acids—can help reduce the severity of psoriasis. In 2011, for instance, researchers found that supplementary treatment with omega-3 fatty acids helped reduce scalp lesions, scaling, and redness. In addition to a daily supplement, consume more fatty fish, including salmon, anchovies, and other foods that contain omega-3 fatty acids, like walnuts and flaxseed.
- Burdock root: Derived from the root and seeds of the burdock plant, this herb has historically been used to treat psoriasis. Though no current studies back up this connection, the plant does have anti-inflammatory factors that may help reduce redness.
- Vitamin D: Some studies indicate that vitamin D3 supplements may help alleviate psoriasis symptoms. Patients took 1.0 micrograms a day. Topically applied, vitamin D has also shown effective in some studies.
- Avoid Milk: Some people find relief of psoriasis when they avoid drinking milk. There is no specific study supporting this theory, but it’s worth a try.
- Milk thistle: This herb is reported to help support the function of the liver, which is key to the health of the immune system. Some psoriasis sufferers may experience an improvement when taking milk thistle, as it also reduces inflammation.
- Shark cartilage: According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, shark cartilage—better known as chondroitin sulfate—at about 80-100 grams per day in two to four doses, may relieve symptoms of plaque psoriasis.
- Follow an overall anti-inflammatory diet: The more you can tame inflammation in side your body, the better your skin will respond. Fast foods and foods high in fat have been linked to internal inflammation. Get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, particularly those rich in carotenoids, like sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, squash, and leafy greens.
Have you found natural treatments for psoriasis? Please share your tips.
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Reuter J, et al., “Botanicals in dermatology: an evidence-based review,” Am J Clin Dermatol, 2010;11(4):247-67, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20509719.
G Marquez Balbas, et al., “Study on the use of omega-3 fatty acids as a therapeutic supplement in treatment of psoriasis,” Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol., 2011; 4:73-77, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3133503/.
Morimoto S, et al., “An open study of vitamin D3 treatment in psoriasis vulgaris,” Br J Dermatol October 1986; 115(4):421-9, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3022784.
Finamor DC, Sinigaglia-Coimbra R, Neves LCM, Gutierrez M, Silva JJ, Torres LD, Surano F, Neto DJ, Novo NF, Juliano Y, et al. A pilot study assessing the effect of prolonged administration of high daily doses of vitamin D on the clinical course of vitiligo and psoriasis. Dermato-Endocrinology 2013; 5:222 – 234; http://dx.doi.org/10.4161/derm.24808.
Najafizadeh P, et al., “The evaluation of the clinical effect of topical St Johns wort (Hypericum perforatum L.) in plaque type psoriasis vulgaris: a pilot study,” Australas J Dermtol. 2012 May;53(2):131-5, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22571563.
“Psoriasis,” University of Maryland Medical Center, http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/psoriasis.