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Ayurvedic Treatment for Psoriasis: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD
Posted on March 1, 2024

Ayurvedic medicine (also known as Ayurveda) is a traditional medicine system in India that uses a holistic (whole-person) approach to promote balance and wellness. Although Ayurveda is regarded in India as a type of medical care equivalent to conventional Western medicine, it’s only recently become popular in Western countries.

In the United States, Ayurveda is considered a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). People with psoriasis may turn to CAM if their psoriasis treatment causes side effects or doesn’t address all of their symptoms. Past research has found that anywhere from 42 percent to 69 percent of people with psoriasis have used CAM.

A MyPsoriasisTeam member asked, “I’m just wondering if any of you have tried Ayurvedic medicine for your psoriasis? Anything you know about it, good or bad, please let me know.”

If you’re also curious about Ayurvedic medicine for psoriasis, continue reading.

What Is Ayurvedic Treatment?

“Ayurveda” is a Sanskrit word that means “the knowledge of life.” Ayurvedic medicine started in India at least 5,000 years ago. It focuses on preventing and treating illness by balancing the mind, body, and consciousness. To do this, ayurvedic practitioners combine different treatments and techniques, including:

  • Supplements
  • Dietary changes
  • Exercises
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Meditation
  • Breathing exercises
  • Yoga

Ayurvedic medicine is based on the idea that everyone is made up of a unique energy called doshas. There are three doshas: vata, pitta, and kapha.

Vata is the energy that controls motion, including your heart and circulation, breathing, and blinking. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that when vata is balanced, it’s associated with creativity and vitality. When unbalanced, it’s associated with fear and anxiety.

Pitta is the energy that controls your metabolism (how you turn food into energy), including your digestion, nutrition, and temperature. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that when pitta is balanced, it’s associated with feelings of contentment and intelligence. When unbalanced, it’s associated with anger.

Kapha is the energy that controls how your body grows, including supplying water to your body, moisturizing your skin, and maintaining your immune system. Ayurvedic practitioners believe that when kapha is balanced, it’s associated with love and forgiveness. When unbalanced, it’s associated with envy and insecurity.

Ayurvedic practitioners believe that when one or two of these energies become unbalanced, illness can occur. The energy balance may become disturbed by factors such as your diet, stress, or the weather. The aim of Ayurveda is to cleanse your body and bring these three energies into balance.

A few clinical trials have found that Ayurvedic medicine may be helpful in easing pain associated with osteoarthritis and in managing symptoms of type 2 diabetes. However, more studies are needed to understand if Ayurveda is safe and effective for other medical conditions, such as psoriasis.

How Is Ayurvedic Treatment Used for Psoriasis?

In Ayurvedic medicine, skin disorders are known as kushthas, which come from the vata and kapha doshas. Balance is restored with purification, called shodona.

An Ayurvedic practitioner will recommend the best Ayurvedic treatment plan for you. An example of an Ayurvedic treatment program for psoriasis is panchakarma. Panchakarma therapy for psoriasis involves:

  • Eating medicated ghee (clarified butter)
  • Detoxifying the body
  • Dripping medicated oil or buttermilk on the head
  • Applying medicines and mud to the skin
  • Making dietary changes

Specific Ayurvedic treatments used in psoriasis are discussed further below.

Topical Treatments

Several different topical treatments can be applied to the skin to help improve the symptoms of psoriasis, such as:

  • Andira araroba — A paste made with vinegar or lemon juice that’s spread on psoriasis lesions (affected area of skin)
  • Olive oil — Can relieve dryness and help mild plaque psoriasis heal
  • Cayenne — Helps to relieve itching and pain associated with psoriasis

  • Aloe vera — Helps to decrease discoloration and scaling caused by psoriasis
  • Neem oil — Has antiseptic properties and can be used to treat many different skin conditions

Talk to your Ayurvedic practitioner and doctor about whether it’s safe to apply a topical treatment to the affected area. For example, if you have scalp psoriasis, the topical treatment you choose should be safe to apply to your scalp.

Herbs

Ayurvedic herbs can be taken as teas, tinctures, or extracts. Examples of herbs used in Ayurvedic medicine include:

  • Milk thistle — Thought to protect the liver and regulate the immune system
  • Calendula officinalis — Believed to help with wound healing
  • Coleus — Thought to promote normal division of cells

Other herbs that may be used to treat psoriasis include:

  • Turmeric
  • Sarsaparilla
  • Oregano oil
  • Goldenseal
  • Burdock root
  • Red clover
  • Echinacea

Learn more about other herbs used to treat psoriasis.

Dietary Changes

Ayurvedic practitioners may recommend a diet rich in fruits and vegetables during psoriasis treatment. Practitioners might also recommend avoiding meat, salty food, and alcohol. These foods can often be food triggers for psoriasis for many people.

Lifestyle Changes

Ayurveda emphasizes the impact that stress and anxiety can have on psoriasis. Stress is one of the most common triggers for a psoriasis flare-up. Learning techniques to manage your stress can help decrease the impact it has on your psoriasis.

Yoga and meditation are lifestyle changes recommended in Ayurvedic treatment that focus on stress reduction. Yoga may have the added benefit of improving joint pain and range of motion for people with PsA.

Does Ayurvedic Treatment Work for Psoriasis?

Ayurvedic medicine hasn’t been extensively studied in the same way that conventional Western medicines have been. This means that there aren’t high-quality clinical trials to find out about the safety and efficacy of Ayurvedic treatments.

However, several in-depth reports about the effect of Ayurvedic treatments on one person with psoriasis have been published (known as a case report). Case reports have found that Ayurvedic medicines have improved symptoms in people living with different types of psoriasis, including:

  • Plaque psoriasis (thick, scaly, painful patches of skin on the body or scalp)
  • Palmar plantar psoriasis (psoriasis on the palms of the hand and soles of the feet)
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis (severe psoriasis affecting the entire body)

A 2011 clinical study with 111 people found that two months of Ayurvedic treatment improved the quality of life of the participants, based on a questionnaire.

More studies are needed to learn about the safety and efficacy of different Ayurvedic treatments and how they may interact with conventional psoriasis treatments.

Is Ayurvedic Treatment Safe?

Ayurvedic treatments such as a healthy diet and physical activity are safe for almost everyone. However, other Ayurvedic treatments — such as medications containing certain herbs, minerals, or other components — can be harmful if they’re used incorrectly or performed by an inexperienced practitioner.

Similar to dietary supplements, Ayurvedic herbs and preparations aren’t regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Additionally, the FDA has issued warnings about the presence of harmful substances in some ayurvedic medicines, such as mercury, lead, and arsenic.

In India, practitioners have state-recognized training. In the U.S., there isn’t a standard training program or certification process. Before visiting an Ayurvedic practitioner, make sure to ask about their qualifications and experience.

Consult Your Doctor

Always be open and honest with your doctor about other CAM treatments you’re currently using or thinking about starting. Your doctor can help you find the best way to integrate Ayurvedic treatments into your current treatment plan and prevent any complications. Certain herbs or treatments may interact with your medications or health conditions. Additionally, some herbs may not be safe to take if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Don’t stop taking your current psoriasis medication without talking to your doctor.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 126,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Have you used ayurvedic treatments? How did it work for you? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Ayurveda — Mount Sinai
  2. Ayurveda — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  3. Ayurvedic Medicine: In Depth — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  4. The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine by Patients Suffering From Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis — Advances in Dermatology and Allergology
  5. Management of Psoriasis — Ayurveda and Allopathy — A Review — International Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research
  6. Ayurveda — Better Health Channel
  7. Integrative Approaches to Care — National Psoriasis Foundation
  8. Ayurveda Management of Palmoplantar Psoriasis (Vipadika) — A Case Report — Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine
  9. Management of Erythrodermic Psoriasis Through Ayurveda – A Case Report — The Permanente Journal
  10. Psoriasis Treatment in Ayurveda & Panchakarma — International Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine
  11. Medicinals — Neem: A Tree for Solving Global Problems
  12. Scalp Psoriasis — National Psoriasis Foundation
  13. Psoriasis Diet: Foods To Eat and Avoid if You Have Psoriasis — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  14. Causes and Triggers — National Psoriasis Foundation
  15. Active and Mindful Lifestyles — National Psoriasis Foundation
  16. Ayurveda and Panchakarma: Measuring the Effects of a Holistic Health Intervention — TheScientificWorldJournal
  17. Potential Implications of Ayurveda in Psoriasis: A Clinical Case Study — Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine
  18. A Clinical Study of Some Ayurvedic Compound Drugs in the Assessment Quality of Life of Patients With Eka Kushtha (Psoriasis) — Ayu
  19. Facts About Dietary Supplements — U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Posted on March 1, 2024
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Kelsey Stalvey, PharmD received her Doctor of Pharmacy from Pacific University School of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon, and went on to complete a one-year postgraduate residency at Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. Learn more about her here.
Amanda Jacot, PharmD earned a Bachelor of Science in biology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2009 and a Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Texas College of Pharmacy in 2014. Learn more about her here.

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