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Vicks for Psoriasis: Can It Help Relieve Symptoms?

Posted on September 07, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D.
Article written by
Marnie Willman

When you’re living with psoriasis, symptoms like itching, dry skin, lesions, and skin irritation can be frustrating. This is particularly true because people with plaque psoriasis don’t always have symptoms. Sometimes, they experience flares, and at other times, the condition lessens.

Your dermatologist can help you come up with a psoriasis treatment plan that may include medications and lifestyle changes to help treat psoriasis. In some cases, people also like to try natural remedies to find relief.

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have found that using the topical cough-suppressing ointment Vicks VapoRub is one home remedy that helps reduce their itching. One member said, “I only use Vicks for itchiness at night … It’s been the best thus far!” Another member said, “Everyone needs to try Vicks salve for itch relief.”

Make sure to consult your doctor before trying any new treatments for your psoriasis — even widely available, over-the-counter remedies like Vicks. Here, we’ll review the ingredients in Vicks that you should know about if you’re using this ointment for psoriasis.

Ingredients in Vicks That May Reduce Itching

Vicks VapoRub is an over-the-counter, topical treatment for cough and nasal congestion, using ingredients like camphor and menthol to help clear upper respiratory congestion.

The American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD) suggests that products containing menthol or camphor can help relieve the itching and dryness associated with psoriasis. Both are active ingredients in Vicks, which may be why some people turn to it for psoriasis itching.

Camphor

Camphor is a cooling, antibacterial, itch-reducing agent with a very strong smell. It comes from the camphor tree. Leaves from these trees have been investigated for their impact on inflammatory skin conditions. Lotions or creams like Vicks contain 1 percent to 5 percent camphor.

In one study of mice with atopic dermatitis, allergic skin inflammation was reduced after applying the leaves. This finding suggests there could be potential for camphor as an itch reliever and dermatological treatment, but more studies on humans are needed to confirm this. Camphor has also been used to relieve itch from bugbites and can reduce pain.

Eucalyptus Oil

Eucalyptus oil has antiaging effects on the skin and may be able to increase collagen production. Per the journal Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, in clinical studies evaluating its effectiveness, eucalyptus oil has shown a decrease in inflammation and improved healing from bacterial infections. Eucalyptus oil is also known to relieve pain.

That said, research on eucalyptus oil is lacking, and no specific psoriasis improvement has been linked to eucalyptus oil yet. All evidence of the effects of this essential oil remains anecdotal.

Menthol

Menthol has two potential uses for those with psoriasis symptoms. The primary reason why it’s included in many pharmaceutical topical products is because it can increase the penetration and availability of drugs. That means it can help drugs get through your protective skin cell barrier and deep into the affected area, making applied treatments more effective. It helps relieve itch and is used as a topical analgesic for minor aches and pains.

Beyond this, however, menthol is being investigated for its anti-inflammatory properties. One study in rats showed reduced inflammation and better skin healing, but more studies are needed in humans to determine whether it’s safe and effective for people with psoriasis.

The Bottom Line: Talk to Your Doctor

There’s very little direct evidence to indicate that the ingredients in Vicks can improve psoriasis symptoms and no solid evidence that Vicks itself is effective for psoriasis.

Dealing with itching can be hard, and it’s understandable to look for remedies to make it feel better. However, talk to your dermatologist before trying any potential home remedies, whether that involves Vicks, supplements, shampoos, coconut oil, or other options.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, nearly 110,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis.

Are you living with psoriasis and wondering if Vicks could help improve your symptoms? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Kevin Berman, M.D., Ph.D. is a dermatologist at the Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
Marnie Willman is a Ph.D. candidate in medical microbiology and infectious diseases at the University of Manitoba. Learn more about her here.

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