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Essential Oils for Psoriasis: Are They Effective?

Posted on March 18, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Victoria Menard

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that has no cure, but certain treatments and natural remedies may help relieve its symptoms. Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have tried plant extracts called essential oils as a complementary way of managing psoriasis symptoms alongside their prescribed treatments.

Essential oils cannot treat psoriasis, but they may help manage skin symptoms like dryness, itchiness, and scaling. These oils can also alleviate anxiety and facilitate 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 trying any new home remedies as part of your psoriasis skin care routine.

Please note there have not been any formal clinical trials assessing the safety or efficacy of essential oils.

What Are Essential Oils?

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

Essential oils are made by pressing or steaming these plant parts to extract their fragrance-producing compounds. Different methods may be used to extract essential oils, each of which can result in a very different end product. They are referred to as “oils” because they contain the plant’s oil-soluble chemicals.

Research on Essential Oils for Psoriasis

Essential oils have been cited as natural remedies for a whole host of health conditions. However, not enough research has been done to determine their efficacy in treating psoriasis, in particular.

Studies evaluating the potential health benefits of essential oils have suggested several therapeutic benefits, including analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties. One study on arthritic rats found that those receiving a topical ointment containing essential oils developed less severe clinical arthritis than the control group. The essential oil was responsible for inhibiting inflammatory mediators. These findings may indicate potential benefits for people with inflammatory disorders like psoriasis.

Another study found that bitter apricot essential oil decreased the growth of psoriatic skin cells (plaques) in a petri dish. However, this study was not done in humans, so it cannot be considered a clinical trial. Other essential oils — including tea tree oil, chamomile oil, and bergamot oil — have been studied in psoriasis treatment. However, there is no clinical evidence to confirm their effectiveness. Ultimately, more research must be done to determine the safety and efficacy of essential oils for psoriasis.

How To Use Essential Oils To Treat Psoriasis

There are several approaches people take to using essential oils for psoriasis. There are also dozens of essential oils to choose from. Which ones are best for you depends on the oil’s potential benefits and the types of fragrances you prefer. One MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote, “Rosemary, cypress, and frankincense seem to help.” Another member found a cream that helped with itching that included frankincense oil, tea tree essential oil, and lavender essential oil, among other ingredients.

Aromatherapy

Aromatherapy is a form of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) that uses essential oils to affect a person’s mood or health. Aromatherapy may be done with an aroma stick (essential oil inhaler) — a portable stick with a wick soaked in essential oil. As Johns Hopkins Medicine advises, essential oil diffusers (devices that release scented vapor) may not be a good idea, as they may have a negative effect on certain people, including young children and people with chronic health conditions.

Aromatherapy accessories (such as bracelets, necklaces, and keychains) made with absorbent materials allow you to apply your preferred essential oils and smell them throughout the day. As one MyPsoriasisTeam member shared, “I wear a bracelet with essential oils and use an oil diffuser. I love it.” Another mentioned, “They are great. I wear them, as well. I sprinkle lavender on them. It keeps me calm.”

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 depression and anxiety 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, in particular, found that the majority of studies suggested positive effects of essential oils on sleep, and lavender was the most frequently studied essential oil.

Topical Application

As Johns Hopkins Medicine reports, one of several safe ways of using essential oils is to apply them topically in a body oil. This oil, which should consist of a mixture of essential oils and a carrier oil (such as olive oil, jojoba oil, or coconut oil), can be massaged into the skin. Essential oils alone are highly concentrated. They should not be used full strength on the skin, as they may cause irritation.

Potential Risks of Using Essential Oils for Psoriasis

There are some known risks associated with essential oils.

Poor Regulation

There is no cure for psoriasis at this time, and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) must approve a medication before it can be considered an effective treatment for a health condition. The difficulty when looking for essential oils is that they are not regulated — there is no U.S. government agency that grades or certifies essential oils. Some products may be harvested incorrectly or may not disclose all their ingredients. Many companies that sell essential oils also claim that their products are “therapeutic grade,” but this is just a marketing term. It does not refer to the safety or efficacy of the oils.

Adverse Reactions

Never ingest essential oils. Additionally, some people may have adverse or allergic reactions to certain essential oils when they’re inhaled or applied topically. Reactions are more likely in people who have atopic dermatitis (eczema) or have had reactions to topical products in the past. Although it is possible to have a negative reaction to any essential oil, an article from Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that the following are more likely to cause reactions:

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

Tips for Using Essential Oils Safely

If you are looking to try essential oils for psoriasis, consult your doctor or dermatologist first. They will be able to offer medical advice and alert you of any potential adverse effects. If you have gotten 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).”

Do a Patch Test

As with any new product, test a new oil mixture by applying a small amount to a clear (psoriasis-free) area of skin. If you experience any irritation or allergic reactions, do not 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 89,000 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? Share your experience with others in the comments below or by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
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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