Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that affects your skin. Its main symptoms are scaly patches that appear red or silvery-white. Psoriasis affects at least 2 percent of the population and is often accompanied by a related condition called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis treatment methods vary, from topical creams to light therapy to oral medication.
More and more research is being done to discover natural remedies for treating psoriasis. Evidence is growing to support the use of herbs to treat certain types of psoriasis. Here’s what to know.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium) is also called barberry. Oregon grape has anti-inflammatory properties. The stem and leaves of the plant can be ground into a powder or distilled into an extract that is then used to make a topical skin cream. It’s been found to reduce redness in psoriatic flares when used topically.
In effective clinical studies, skin cream contained 10 percent Oregon grape extract. The cream can cause a burning sensation during application, but there are few other side effects to using Oregon grape on your skin.
Oregon grape works best if your psoriasis is mild to moderate.
How to use: Use as a topical skin cream.
Indigo naturalis is a plant used in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s also been used to make indigo-colored dye for many centuries.
Indigo naturalis can be distilled into an oil extract. This extract can treat nail psoriasis. In one study, using the oil on nail psoriasis every day for 24 weeks resulted in significant improvement.
The herb extract can also be used topically on other parts of your body where you’re having a psoriasis flare.
Aloe vera is a plant known for its soothing and cooling properties. Aloe vera may also help regenerate skin cells and heal irritated skin.
Psoriasis can be treated with aloe vera using a cream containing at least 0.5 percent aloe. Applying the cream topically up to 3 times per day for 5 days in a row could decrease inflammation and help clear up a mild psoriasis flare, according to the Mayo Clinic. After 3 to 4 weeks of this treatment, give your skin a break from the aloe treatment to prevent redness.
Turmeric is part of the same family as the ginger plant. Its active ingredient is called curcumin. Turmeric has unique anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, which have led scientists to study it as a treatment for psoriasis.
A gel that contained curcumin was used in a study of people with psoriasis. This treatment was mixed with topical steroids and a low-dairy diet. The people in the study reported a dramatic improvement in their psoriasis symptoms.
Capsaicin is the active ingredient in chili peppers. It’s the reason you feel a burning sensation when you eat food seasoned with chilies. The ability to create a “burning” of cells might actually help heal psoriasis flares. Moderate and severe psoriasis that was treated with topical capsaicin during a six-week study improved significantly.
When you first start using capsaicin, you may experience an intense burning sensation at the site of application. But people in a successful psoriasis treatment study reported that the burning discomfort subsided when they kept using the capsaicin cream.
It’s important to be careful when using herbal remedies. Botanical products can interact with your other medications. For instance, applying creams to an area of skin may cause your skin to absorb the active ingredients from topical corticosteroids more easily.
It’s also important to be vigilant about allergies. Always test a new topical ointment or cream on a small part of your skin that isn’t affected by your psoriasis before you use it on a psoriasis flare. If you have any sort of redness, hives, or itching from a topical cream, don’t use that product as a psoriasis treatment. Don’t apply it to a flare that has an open wound.
Psoriasis can’t be cured, but there are more and more ways to manage its symptoms. Herbal treatments for psoriasis are promising. Researchers are continuing to learn more about them. But herbal treatment is not a replacement for professional medical oversight. If you have success treating your psoriasis with an alternative therapy, don’t stop other parts of your treatment plan without speaking to your doctor first.