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Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is a complex autoimmune disease that occurs in up to one‐third of people with psoriasis, causing joint pain, stiffness, and swelling. Many effective PsA treatment options exist, including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), immunosuppressants, and biologic drugs. However, some people are also interested in natural remedies for relieving the pain and inflammation that characterize PsA.
Many types of natural remedies exist for psoriatic arthritis. Some options are considered complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs), a term used to describe therapies beyond standard Western medications. CAMs include various herbal treatments, integrative approaches, and dietary supplements. Other natural complementary therapies include lifestyle changes and home remedies, such as exercise.
Your doctor may approve natural treatments as an alternative or addition to your traditional PsA medications to ease your symptoms. In many cases, people seek natural options to reduce the unpleasant side effects they may experience from their prescription medications. Others seek natural remedies when other drugs fail to ease their PsA symptoms or when prescription medications aren’t accessible.
Some studies show that natural remedies may ease PsA symptoms. Importantly, however, these therapies are generally not tested in controlled clinical trials and are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They may have dangerous side effects or interfere with other medications. Additional scientific evidence is needed to demonstrate their effectiveness in treating joint damage and arthritis pain.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends that individuals seek medical advice from a qualified health care provider before seeking alternative therapies.
Many people living with PsA use different herbs and supplements to ease their symptoms. Talk to your rheumatologist before taking any herbal products to avoid dangerous side effects and drug interactions. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also exercise caution and speak to their health care team before using any herb or supplement.
Vitamin D can be obtained from sunlight. However, many people need vitamin D supplements to get the recommended amount for their bodies. Studies have looked at vitamin D’s potential for treating PsA, due to its ability to regulate the immune system. Several clinical studies have demonstrated that vitamin D supplementation can decrease PsA disease activity, ease symptoms, and reduce inflammatory compounds in the blood.
Many MyPsoriasisTeam members recommend taking vitamin D. One member wrote, “I would suggest taking vitamin D. I take 2,000 units every day.”
Fish oil contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA). Several clinical studies have found that PUFA supplementation lowers PsA severity, improves joint pain, and reduces joint tenderness and swelling. However, results vary depending on the oil source and dosage.
Curcumin, a compound naturally found in the turmeric plant, is known to have anti-inflammatory properties. A systematic review and meta-analysis examined randomized clinical trials in people with the joint conditions rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The study found that turmeric or curcumin eased pain more effectively than placebos and at similar levels to NSAIDs or glucosamine — a supplement harvested from shellfish shells or made in labs. However, additional research is needed to determine whether turmeric and curcumin are effective in treating PsA.
Some MyPsoriasisTeam members use turmeric to help with their PsA. One member wrote, “I have been trying out a turmeric supplement, and it has helped a lot. It's been a lifesaver.”
Several herbal topical gels and creams are made to help ease pain by stimulating nerve endings within the skin. These include formulations containing cannabis extracts, aloe vera, or capsaicin — a compound found in chili pepper plants. These creams can be especially helpful for painful joints in the knees and hands.
Observational reports show that cannabis cream may reduce swelling and discoloration. Additional research is needed to demonstrate its efficacy, however.
Creams containing extracts from aloe vera may ease psoriasis plaque itching, discoloration, and scaling that can accompany PsA. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends using a cream containing 0.5 percent aloe up to three times daily.
For people living with scalp psoriasis and PsA, apple cider vinegar can help relieve an itchy scalp. The National Psoriasis Foundation recommends using organic vinegar several times a week. Dilute the vinegar with an equal amount of water and apply the solution to affected areas to relieve burning sensations. Rinsing your skin once the mixture has dried is recommended to limit skin irritation.
Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for managing psoriatic arthritis symptoms. Obesity is linked with higher disease activity in PsA, and losing weight is associated with improved symptoms.
The Arthritis Foundation advises a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in sugar, fat, and salt. This can help people with PsA limit inflammation, manage their weight, and improve their overall health. Individuals with PsA surveyed about their diet reported that certain types of food, such as meat and coffee, exacerbated their symptoms. Following a gluten-free, low-carb diet may improve symptoms in some people — a dietitian can help develop a tailored nutrition plan for your needs.
Low-impact exercises such as yoga, tai chi, swimming, and walking can increase range of motion, decrease joint pain and stiffness, and reduce stress. The Arthritis Foundation recommends 30 minutes of low-impact exercise at least five days a week.
Numerous manual therapies may be beneficial for PsA, including acupuncture and massage. Additional research is needed to demonstrate the efficacy of these treatments. However, both the American College of Rheumatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation recommend them for managing PsA symptoms. If you’re interested in these options, seek care from a qualified massage therapist or licensed acupuncturist.
Many MyPsoriasisTeam members use acupuncture and massage to help with their PsA. One member wrote, “I go to acupuncture, which has worked the best for me, and massage has also helped.”
MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people and their loved ones with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. More than 93,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
Are you interested in natural psoriatic arthritis treatments? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.