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Essential Oils for Psoriasis: Are They Effective?

Medically reviewed by Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Written by Victoria Menard
Updated on January 31, 2024

Fans of essential oils sometimes hail these products as cure-alls, which may be intriguing if you have psoriasis, an autoimmune condition that has no cure. Essential oils won’t rid you of this skin condition, but some MyPsoriasisTeam members have tried these plant extracts as a complementary way of managing symptoms alongside their prescribed treatments for psoriasis.

Essential oils can’t treat psoriasis, but they may help relieve symptoms like dry, itchy skin and scaling. These oils can also help ease anxiety and promote better sleep. Here, we’ll consider the potential benefits of essential oils and explore how they may be used for psoriasis symptom relief.

Always talk to your doctor or dermatologist before adding any DIY approaches or home remedies, including essential oils, to your psoriasis skin care routine. Also, it’s important to note that very little research has examined essential oils in clinical trials, which look at a treatment’s safety and effectiveness in humans. Ultimately, more research must be done to determine how safe and effective essential oils are for psoriasis.

What Are Essential Oils?

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts — compounds found naturally in leaves, flowers, fruits, roots, and stems. Essential oils perform many functions in plants, including attracting or repelling insects and animals, controlling infections, and healing damage or wounds.

Pressing or steaming these plant parts releases their fragrance-producing compounds to make essential oils. Different methods of extraction lead to different end products, which are referred to as “oils” because they contain the plant’s oil-soluble chemicals — essential oils don’t actually feel greasy.

Research on Essential Oils for Psoriasis

Essential oils have been cited as natural remedies for a host of health conditions. Some lab studies have produced promising results, but not enough research has been done to determine essential oils’ safety and effectiveness in human health, including for psoriasis, especially when used long term.

In a 2022 study published in the journal Molecules, researchers reported that essential oil extracted from perilla leaves, an herb used in traditional Chinese medicine, improved psoriasis-like lesions in mice. An earlier study found that bitter apricot essential oil decreased the growth of psoriatic skin cells (plaques) in a petri dish. Other essential oils — including tea tree, chamomile, and bergamot oils — have been studied in psoriasis treatment. However, little clinical evidence confirms their effectiveness in people.

Other studies looking into the potential health benefits of essential oils have suggested several therapeutic benefits, including analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties, that may extend to psoriasis. One study on arthritic rats found that those treated with a topical ointment containing essential oils developed less severe clinical arthritis than the control (untreated) group. The essential oils blocked the activity of inflammatory mediators, inflammation-causing substances produced by the immune system to fight injury or infection. These findings may indicate potential benefits for people with inflammatory disorders like psoriasis.

How To Use Essential Oils To Treat Psoriasis

If you’re interested in trying this type of natural remedy for psoriasis, you can pick from different methods and dozens of essential oils. The approach that’s best for you depends on the oil’s potential benefits and the fragrance you prefer. One MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote, “Rosemary, cypress, and frankincense seem to help.”

Another member said that to help with itching, they use a cream that contains frankincense, tea tree, and lavender essential oils, among other ingredients.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary or alternative medicine that uses essential oils to affect mood or health. You can try this practice using an aroma stick, or an essential oil inhaler — a portable stick with an essential oil-soaked wick. Aromatherapy accessories such as bracelets, necklaces, and keychains made of absorbent materials can be dabbed with your chosen essential oil and sniffed when desired. “I wear a bracelet with essential oils and use an oil diffuser. I love it,” shared one MyPsoriasisTeam member.

Another member agreed: “They are great. I wear them, as well. I sprinkle lavender on them. It keeps me calm.”

However, Johns Hopkins Medicine advises avoiding essential oil diffusers. These devices release scented vapor and may have a negative effect on certain people, including young children and people with chronic health conditions.

Aromatherapy may be particularly useful in helping people with psoriasis ease stress and get better sleep. Research has shown that people with psoriasis have significantly higher rates of anxiety and depression than the general population. Several essential oils have been found to help relieve depression and anxiety, including lavender, rose, bergamot, sandalwood, and Roman chamomile. One review of 15 studies found that the majority of findings suggested positive effects of essential oils on sleep, and lavender was researched most often. Recent studies, particularly focusing on essential oils like lavender, have suggested that they could potentially interfere with hormones in children, acting as endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Topical Application

One safe way to use essential oils is to apply them topically in a body oil, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. A mixture of essential oils and a carrier oil (such as olive, jojoba, or coconut oil) can be massaged into the skin. Essential oils alone are highly concentrated and shouldn’t be used full strength on the skin because they may cause irritation.

Topical use of essential oils may be especially helpful for psoriasis that affects the scalp and face. One MyPsoriasisTeam member with scalp psoriasis reported good results using eucalyptus and mint: “I have mixed a couple of drops of essential oils into my favorite conditioner.”

Another member uses a blend of essential oils and other ingredients in what they call a healing ointment: “I put in colloidal oats, coconut oil, peppermint oil, tea tree oil, and lavender oil. I use it as a facial oil, on my scalp psoriasis, as a face mask to heal my lesions, and as a body oil after the shower.”

The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends tea tree oil shampoos as a natural remedy — used along with doctor-directed treatment — to soothe pain, itching, and plaques from scalp psoriasis.

Storage Recommendations

Keep your essential oils out of children’s reach in dark glass bottles in a cool, dark place to maintain their quality. Exposure to air, light, and heat can make them less effective. In the case of accidental ingestion or improper topical use, particularly in children, there are potential risks that require immediate medical attention.

Potential Risks of Using Essential Oils for Psoriasis

Essential oils pose some risks related to a lack of regulation and the possibility of adverse reactions or side effects.

Poor Regulation

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve a medication before it can be considered an effective treatment for a health condition. However, essential oils aren’t medications, so they’re not regulated — no U.S. government agency grades or certifies them. Some companies might harvest products incorrectly, or labels might not disclose all of a product’s ingredients.

Many companies that sell essential oils claim that their products are “therapeutic grade,” but this is just a marketing term. It doesn’t refer to the safety or efficacy of the oils.

Adverse Reactions

Never ingest essential oils — you can’t know for sure exactly what’s in them and how an undisclosed ingredient might affect you. Additionally, some people may have adverse or allergic reactions if certain essential oils are inhaled or applied topically. Reactions are more likely in people who have atopic dermatitis (the most common form of eczema) or have had reactions to topical products in the past.

Although it’s possible to have a negative reaction to any essential oil, Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that the following oils are more likely to cause reactions:

  • Bergamot
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon bark
  • Jasmine
  • Lemongrass
  • Oregano
  • Ylang-ylang

Tips for Using Essential Oils Safely

If you’re looking to try essential oils for psoriasis, consult your health care provider or dermatologist first. They’ll be able to offer medical advice and alert you to any potential adverse effects. If you get the OK from your doctor, remember to use a carrier oil and do a patch test.

Dilute in a Carrier Oil

Pure (undiluted) essential oils are highly concentrated. Diluting them in a carrier oil may help prevent skin irritation or adverse reactions. As one MyPsoriasis Team member noted, using essential oils undiluted is “a great way to get a nasty contact rash (most essential oils should be no stronger than 10 percent, and most of them are closer to 0.5 percent to 2 percent to avoid irritation or an adverse reaction).”

Start With a Test

As with any new product, test a new oil mixture by applying a small amount to a clear (psoriasis-free) patch of skin. The American Academy of Dermatology suggests applying a new product to the same small area twice a day for seven days. If you experience any irritation or allergic reaction, don’t use the product, and contact your doctor or dermatologist.

Meet Your Team

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis and their loved ones. Here, more than 125,000 members come together to ask questions, share advice, and connect with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Have you tried essential oils as a complementary remedy for psoriasis? How did they work for you? Share your experience with others in the comments below or by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. A Look at Psoriasis — Harvard Health Publishing
  2. Aromatherapy: Do Essential Oils Really Work? — Johns Hopkins Medicine
  3. Essential Oils: Poisonous When Misused — National Capital Poison Center
  4. What Are Essential Oils? — University of Minnesota Earl E. Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing
  5. Can Essential Oils/Botanical Agents Smart-Nanoformulations Be the Winning Cards Against Psoriasis? — Pharmaceutics
  6. The Essential Oil Derived From Perilla frutescens (L.) Britt. Attenuates Imiquimod-Induced Psoriasis-Like Lesions in BALB/c Mice — Molecules
  7. Bitter Apricot Essential Oil Induces Apoptosis of Human HaCaT Keratinocytes — International Immunopharmacology
  8. Essential Oils Used in Aromatherapy: A Systemic Review — Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine
  9. Analgesic-Like Activity of Essential Oil Constituents: An Update — International Journal of Molecular Sciences
  10. The Concept of Psoriasis as a Systemic Inflammation: Implications for Disease Management — Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology
  11. Topical Dermal Application of Essential Oils Attenuates the Severity of Adjuvant Arthritis in Lewis Rats — Phytotherapy Research
  12. Essential Oils and Anxiolytic Aromatherapy — Natural Product Communications
  13. Prevalence and Odds of Anxiety Disorders and Anxiety Symptoms in Children and Adults With Psoriasis: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis — Acta Dermato-Venereologica
  14. Association Between Psoriasis and Depression: A Traditional Review — Cureus
  15. Integrative Approaches to Care — National Psoriasis Foundation
  16. A Systematic Review of the Effect of Inhaled Essential Oils on Sleep — The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine
  17. Essential Oil Metabolites Can Regulate Adrenal Androgen Production by Inhibition of CYP17A1 Activities — The FASEB Journal
  18. How To Test Skin Care Products — American Academy of Dermatology

Updated on January 31, 2024
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.

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Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Victoria Menard is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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