Can Turmeric Treat Psoriasis?

Medically reviewed by Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI on April 7, 2016Written by Annette McDermott on April 7, 2016

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a peppery, fragrant spice best known for adding flavor to curries. For millennia, turmeric has been used in Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. The spice is known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Western culture is discovering the health benefits of the ancient spice.

Turmeric gets its distinct color from the chemical compound curcumin. Curcumin is responsible for most of turmeric’s health benefits. In alternative medicine, turmeric is used to heal wounds. It’s also used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis.

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes red, scaling lesions on the skin. These lesions form because the skin cells are pushed to the surface faster than normal.

The healing benefits of turmeric

According to a 2015 study, turmeric may be considered as an alternative topical treatment for psoriasis. It may also be helpful when used alongside traditional treatment methods.

Researchers believe turmeric hinders the inflammatory enzymes associated with psoriasis. In this study, participants applied a turmeric gel twice daily for nine weeks. Those who used the gel experienced improvement in the size, redness, thickness, and scaling of their psoriasis lesions.

The treatment was well tolerated. Some participants experienced minor side effects, such as dry skin and a slight burning sensation. It’s unclear if the turmeric or other inactive ingredients in the gel caused these side effects.

According to a 2016 animal study, extracts of Ayurveda medicinal plants such as turmeric may help treat and prevent plaque psoriasis. Turmeric extracts may also lessen high levels of cytokines. Cytokines stimulate cell inflammation.

Research has also found that people with moderate to severe psoriasis may benefit from combining the turmeric’s extract curcumin and visible light phototherapy. Study participants experienced no adverse effects. This led researchers to conclude that the complementary therapy may be safer than existing treatments.

Side effects

Turmeric is generally considered safe to use. Like all natural remedies, it may cause side effects. These side effects may include:

  • upset stomach
  • allergic reaction
  • skin irritation or burning (when used topically)
  • dry skin (when used topically)

Your risk of side effects is higher if you take turmeric in large doses for long periods. Only use turmeric in medicinal amounts and as recommended by your doctor.

Risk factors to consider

Turmeric isn’t a good choice for everyone. You should avoid the spice if:

  • you’re pregnant or breast-feeding. Turmeric may encourage menstruation, stimulate the uterus, and lead to vaginal bleeding or miscarriage.
  • you have gall bladder disease. Turmeric may worsen the condition.
  • you have diabetes. Turmeric may lower your blood sugar levels.

Turmeric may interfere with certain medications. These medications can include:

  • blood thinners
  • diabetes medications
  • acid reducers

Turmeric is a blood thinner, so you shouldn’t use the spice in the two weeks leading up to any surgery.

Keep reading: 10 psoriasis triggers to avoid »

How to use turmeric for psoriasis

Turmeric is available in many forms. You can buy turmeric supplements at most natural health stores. Powdered turmeric may be added to smoothies or juice. Black pepper helps the body absorb turmeric. Some turmeric preparations include black pepper or black pepper extract.

It’s safe to ingest about 1.5 to 3.0 grams of turmeric per day. It’s unlikely that you’ll consistently eat enough turmeric in foods to relieve psoriasis symptoms, though.

You may consider using a turmeric ointment on psoriasis lesions. Follow these instructions to prepare and apply the ointment:

  1. Slowly add water, stirring after each addition, to about ½ teaspoon powdered turmeric until a pasty mixture forms.
  2. Apply a thin layer of the ointment onto psoriasis lesions.
  3. Cover with gauze or other breathable fabric.
  4. Leave the ointment on for several hours or overnight.
  5. Remove the cover and rinse your skin thoroughly with warm water. Then pat dry.

Turmeric stains clothing and surfaces. It also may temporarily stain your skin.

Outlook

Research on turmeric as a treatment option is promising. More clinical trials are needed to determine the best way to harness turmeric’s healing properties. It’s hard to say how long it will take for you to see results. Results will vary based on the severity of your psoriasis and your overall health. Talk to your doctor to determine if turmeric is a good option for you.

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