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Turmeric for Psoriasis: Is It Effective?

Posted on March 22, 2021
See how 690 members reacted on this article
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Paz Etcheverry, Ph.D.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is commonly used as a spice, food preservative, and coloring agent in many countries. Recently, researchers have suggested that turmeric may be beneficial for people living with psoriasis as a complementary therapy to treatments such as biologics and topical therapy.

Turmeric has been used for more than 4,000 years in India's Ayurvedic medicine and in traditional Chinese medicine to promote health and treat various ailments, including arthritis pain, indigestion, skin conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and autoimmune disorders.

“I started using turmeric curcumin supplements, 1,000 [milligrams] a day, before Christmas [and] it seems to help some, but I still need to take a pain reliever when flare-ups are really bad,” wrote one MyPsoriasisTeam member.

The beneficial effects of turmeric for psoriasis may be due to the presence of curcumin, the spice’s main active ingredient. Curcumin, which is a member of the curcuminoid family, has strong antioxidant, anticancer, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers have studied curcumin as a topical (applied directly on the skin) and supplemental (ingested) agent in dermatology.

It can be helpful to understand the potential benefits and risks of using turmeric to treat psoriasis symptoms. Before starting any new treatments, however, confer with your health care provider.

Topical Curcumin and Turmeric

Several studies have looked at the effects of topical curcumin on psoriasis and found a benefit. Scientists have reported that a turmeric tonic, a topical application, improved scalp psoriasis. Some research also suggests that turmeric baths may decrease the severity of psoriasis.

Researchers from Iran concluded that a turmeric gel decreased skin rashes and lesions in mild to moderate psoriasis. In another study, a gel containing 1 percent curcumin resolved psoriasis in 90 percent of the participants. The curcumin gel was more effective than calcipotriol, a vitamin D analog, in the treatment of moderate to severe psoriasis.

Supplemental Curcumin and Turmeric

In addition to topical treatments, supplemental turmeric taken by mouth has been studied by the scientific community. However, research is limited.

In Italy, researchers conducted a study to investigate how effective oral curcumin is for people with psoriasis vulgaris, the most common type of psoriasis. Among participants who used a topical corticosteroid, those who also took 2 grams of oral curcumin per day saw more improved psoriasis symptoms than participants who used the steroid alone.

In another study, researchers enrolled participants with moderate to severe psoriasis. One group of participants received oral curcumin and light therapy. The other group of participants (the placebo group) received the same dose of oral curcumin and a fake light therapy. While 81 percent of participants responded favorably to the curcumin plus light therapy, only 30 percent of participants in the placebo group had a reduction in skin lesions. The study’s findings suggest that oral turmeric had a beneficial effect on plaque psoriasis when combined with light therapy.

In the U.S., researchers performed a clinical trial to determine the effect of oral curcumin on moderate to severe psoriasis. Out of eight participants, only two responded favorably to oral curcumin.

Due to the limited number of studies, experts cannot say conclusively whether turmeric is effective in psoriasis — though evidence is promising.

Limitations of Turmeric

Despite the potential benefits, turmeric has some limitations. Supplemental curcumin is poorly absorbed and degrades rapidly. Additionally, it may cause mild but undesirable side effects, such as:

  • Mild gastrointestinal upset
  • Hot flashes
  • Headache
  • Rash
  • Yellow stool

Topical curcumin also tends to temporarily stain the skin yellow.

However, there has been progress in overcoming these limitations. For example, researchers are developing formulations with increased oral absorption and gel-based topical preparations with improved topical absorption. Some turmeric dietary supplements contain piperine, the major active component of black pepper. When combined with piperine, the bioavailability (i.e., the amount that enters the bloodstream) of curcumin increases by 2,000 percent. Novel delivery systems for curcumin show promise as potential future treatments of psoriasis.

Topical and supplemental curcumin or turmeric are widely available on the internet and from supplement and health food stores. However, turmeric and other vitamins and supplements for psoriasis are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Talk to your health care provider or dermatologist before using supplements or topical products containing turmeric.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam more than 89,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Are you using turmeric for psoriasis? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyPsoriasisTeam.

References
  1. Turmeric Tonic as a Treatment in Scalp Psoriasis: A Randomized Placebo-Control Clinical Trial — Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology
  2. Use of Curcumin in Psoriasis — Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences
  3. The Protective Role of Curcumin in Cardiovascular Diseases — International Journal of Cardiology
  4. Turmeric — National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
  5. Curcumin and Autoimmune Disease — Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology
  6. Get the Facts: Turmeric — National Eczema Association
  7. Effect of Starch‐Fortified Turmeric Bath on Psoriasis: A Parallel Randomised Controlled Trial — Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies
  8. Topical Turmeric Microemulgel in the Management of Plaque Psoriasis; A Clinical Evaluation — Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research
  9. Drug-Induced Suppression of Phosphorylase Kinase Activity Correlates With Resolution of Psoriasis as Assessed by Clinical, Histological, and Immunohistochemical Parameters — The British Journal of Dermatology
  10. Nutritional Strategies for Psoriasis: Current Scientific Evidence in Clinical Trials — European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
  11. Oral Curcumin (Meriva) Is Effective as an Adjuvant Treatment and Is Able to Reduce IL-22 Serum Levels in Patients with Psoriasis Vulgaris [PDF] — BioMed Research International
  12. Effects of Curcuma Extract and Visible Light on Adults With Plaque Psoriasis — European Journal of Dermatology
  13. Oral Curcuminoid C3 Complex in the Treatment of Moderate to Severe Psoriasis Vulgaris: A Prospective Clinical Trial — Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
  14. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health — Foods
  15. Dose Escalation of a Curcuminoid Formulation — BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
  16. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for Psoriasis: A Systematic Review — JAMA Dermatology
  17. Piperine and Its Role in Chronic Diseases — Anti-inflammatory Nutraceuticals and Chronic Diseases
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Paz Etcheverry, Ph.D. has an M.S. in food science and nutrition from North Carolina State University and a Ph.D. in food science and technology from Cornell University. Learn more about her here.

A MyPsoriasisTeam Member said:

I took it for about 4 years, never noticed a change. :(

posted 10 days ago

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