The use of herbs or other plants to manage psoriasis symptoms is a popular topic on MyPsoriasisTeam. Members wonder if they can use commonly available products like turmeric or aloe vera gel to lessen inflammation or soothe itchy plaques. The answer is, it depends.
Herbs may be an appropriate complement to treatments like topical corticosteroids, phototherapy, or biologics. However, it’s important to talk to your dermatologist if you’re interested in incorporating natural treatments into your psoriasis treatment and management regimen. Some herbs, supplements, or natural treatments can cause allergic reactions, can be unhealthy in too high doses, or can interact negatively with prescribed medications.
The following herbs and plants are sometimes used to manage psoriasis symptoms.
Aloe vera is a succulent that is native to Africa and has been praised for its dermatological uses. It’s frequently used to soothe sunburn and has been used for almost 2,000 years to treat skin diseases. Aloe vera has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic properties when applied topically.
There is mixed evidence to support the use of aloe vera for psoriasis. A 1996 study of 60 people with mild to moderate psoriasis found that a topical aloe cream with 0.5 percent extract was more effective than a placebo at reducing plaques — and produced no unpleasant side effects. However, a similar study from 2005 found that aloe vera was not more effective than the placebo.
MyPsoriasisTeam members have also had mixed results with aloe vera. One member reported, “I've used lotions and gels many times. Really soothes the itch for me.”
Another member had a less positive experience: “Allergic to the aloe vera. There goes $18.00.”
You can find aloe vera in the drug store as a gel or as an ingredient in moisturizers. The National Psoriasis Foundation suggests using creams with a formulation of 0.5 percent aloe topically up to three times a day.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is an evergreen shrub that is native to the northwestern region of North America, in the area of the Cascade mountains. It has been used by indigenous people for centuries to treat a wide variety of ailments. Oregon grape is widely known for its antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Oregon grape is available as an ingredient in creams and as an oral supplement in liquid extract or pill form.
In 1995, Oregon grape was used in a trial with more than 400 people who had chronic plaque psoriasis. The participants applied an ointment with a 10 percent concentration of Oregon grape for 12 weeks. Initially, many people felt burning and itching when it was applied. However, most described the side effect as tolerable. At the end of the three-month study, 81.1 percent of the participants noticed improvement from this herbal remedy when examined by a dermatologist.
Moreover, a 2018 review of several studies of Oregon grape showed that offered a statistically significant improvement psoriasis symptoms with little side effect.
A few MyPsoriasisTeam members have tried Oregon grape. “Best thing I have found for my psoriasis,” one member shared. “Doesn’t help with the joint pain, though.”
Capsaicin is the derivative of hot peppers that causes the sensation of spiciness on your tongue. It can help relieve pain when applied topically. Chili peppers originated in the lowlands of Brazil as small red, round, berry-like fruits. Use of chili peppers dates back centuries.
Almost 40 years ago, a study found applying capsaicin topically to psoriatic lesions as a cream reduced scaling and erythema, or redness. It’s unclear how it works but scientists believe it affects the chemicals that transmit pain signals to the brain.
Capsaicin can be found as an ingredient in over-the-counter ointments. Capzasin is a common name brand. Capsaicin creams can cause skin irritation, so use caution when applying it, and be certain to wash your hands thoroughly afterward. Also, avoid getting it in your eyes or mouth. One MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote, “I once used it on my knees and couldn’t handle the burning from it. It really burned when I had a shower too and kept me awake until it finally wore off.”
Contact your doctor if the irritation is severe or persists.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a root with an appearance similar to ginger. Found primarily in India, the herb has been traced back to ancient pots discovered in New Delhi as early as 2,500 B.C. Turmeric is a common ingredient used in many dishes, especially in Indian and Southeast Asian cuisines. It is also available as an oral supplement.
Turmeric has antioxidant, antimicrobial, and other benefits, and one of its components, curcumin, has been studied in the treatment of psoriasis. Promising results show that it may disrupt psoriasis at the cellular level with no known side effects, but more clinical trials need to be conducted to determine efficacy.
Turmeric is popular with MyPsoriasisTeam members. “I just made a batch of golden milk (coconut milk, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, cardamom). Hoping that the turmeric will help subside the flare-ups,” one member wrote.
Some members take turmeric supplements. “I take two capsules a day. It only took two days for me to get some relief.”
Taking turmeric supplements may not be safe for everyone, especially if you are taking blood-thinning medications for a heart condition. Cooking with turmeric is unlikely to be a problem, as the amount usually called for in a recipe is less than that in a dose of a supplement.
Read more about turmeric for psoriasis.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is a plant that grows to 3 feet and is native to the Mediterranean region of Europe. Milk thistle seeds have been used for their medicinal value for hundreds of years. It is available as an oral supplement in pill or liquid form.
Milk thistle has a protective effect against damage to the liver, which may benefit people with psoriasis who are at increased risk of liver disease. However, there isn’t evidence to determine that milk thistle can treat the skin symptoms of psoriasis.
Milk thistle isn’t commonly discussed on MyPsoriasisTeam. However, a few members have tried it. One wrote, “I have just started milk thistle alternative therapy, so here's hoping.”
Indigo naturalis has been cultivated around the world for centuries. In traditional Chinese medicine, this group of plants is known as qing dai. Indigo naturalis includes:
Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have used indigo naturalis: “I found Indigo Healing Cream to be the best for my face. I usually use it at night before bed. The smell isn't the best nor is the purple tint.”
It’s important to keep the lines of communication open with your physician if you decide to use herbs to help you manage your psoriasis. Herbal supplements can carry risks and may cause side effects, just like prescribed treatments for psoriasis. Also, be a smart consumer. Herbal medicine is not regulated in the United States. Make certain you read the label for warnings, expiration date, details of potential interactions, and information as to where it was manufactured.
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 92,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
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