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Turmeric for Psoriasis: Is It Effective?

Medically reviewed by Lisa Booth, RDN
Updated on January 3, 2024

If you’ve been diagnosed with psoriasis, you’ve likely heard about alternative treatment approaches that may help ease your symptoms. For example, one of these options is turmeric, a bright yellow spice. Although some studies have indicated that turmeric is effective in managing psoriasis symptoms, not everyone has had success with it.

“I have started taking turmeric and the psoriasis on my feet has greatly improved,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote. Another, however, said, “I took it about four years ago and never noticed a change.”

To better understand the possible link between turmeric and reduced psoriasis symptoms, check out what the research says.

What Is Turmeric?

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a plant root, 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 Indian health systems, Ayurvedic medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine to treat various ailments, including arthritis pain, indigestion, skin conditions, cardiovascular diseases, and autoimmune disorders.

“I started using turmeric 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 Curcumin Connection

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

“I add turmeric to my tea, and you can add it to food as well,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote. Another said, “I put it in my food for cooking.”

A recent analysis that evaluated 26 studies on turmeric and psoriasis concluded that curcumin can reduce inflammation and “has excellent efficacy and broad potential to treat psoriasis in multiple ways.” The study authors noted that curcumin is an effective way to reduce psoriasis symptoms either when used alone or in combination with conventional treatments.

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

Does Turmeric Help When Used as a Topical?

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 for study participants. Some research also suggests that turmeric baths may decrease the severity of psoriasis.

Researchers from Iran concluded that a turmeric gel decreased rashes and lesions in mild to moderate psoriasis. In another study, a gel containing curcumin resolved psoriasis in 90 percent of the participants.

Should You Take Turmeric Supplements?

There is limited research on supplemental turmeric taken by mouth.

In Italy, researchers conducted a study to investigate how effective oral curcumin is for people with 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.

Due to the limited number of studies, experts cannot say conclusively whether turmeric is effective in psoriasis, nor what type and amount are recommended — though evidence is promising.

Can Turmeric Cause Side Effects?

Despite the potential benefits, turmeric has some limitations. Supplemental curcumin is poorly absorbed and circulated in the body. 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. “It turned my fingers yellow,” one MyPsoriasisTeam member wrote. Another said, “Turmeric has given me a huge headache.”

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.

Speak to Your Dermatologist

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 (FDA) as rigorously as medications are and should therefore be used with caution. 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 122,000 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 your Activities page.

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 — 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 — BioMed Research International
  12. Oral Curcuminoid C3 Complex in the Treatment of Moderate to Severe Psoriasis Vulgaris: A Prospective Clinical Trial — Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
  13. Curcumin: A Review of Its Effects on Human Health — Foods
  14. Efficacy and Safety of Curcumin in Psoriasis: Preclinical and Clinical Evidence and Possible Mechanisms — Frontiers in Pharmacology
  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

Updated on January 3, 2024
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Lisa Booth, RDN studied foods and nutrition at San Diego State University, in California and obtained a registered dietitian nutritionist license in 2008. 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.

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