Before taking any herbal remedy for your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis, talk with your doctor. Some herbal remedies can cause dangerous interactions with your medications. Also, you should not take some herbal remedies if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, or if you have pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure, or mood disorders. Stop using the remedy immediately should you experience side effects and tell your health care provider.
Here are some herbs/natural remedies that may help with your psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
Gel from the aloe plant (which is related to the cactus) can be applied to the skin up to three times a day. Some research shows it can help reduce redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. Look for creams containing 0.5% aloe. No benefit has been shown from taking aloe in tablet form and it can be dangerous.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Used by ancient cultures as a disinfectant, apple cider vinegar may help relieve scalp itch from psoriasis. You can buy a bottle of organic apple cider vinegar at the grocery store and apply it to your scalp several times a week. Some people report diluting vinegar with water on a 1-to-1 ratio helps prevent a burning sensation. Others say they need to rinse the skin once the solution has dried to prevent irritation. Skip this cheap remedy if your scalp skin is cracked or bleeding. If you have open wounds, vinegar will only irritate your skin and cause a burning sensation. If it works for you, you should see results within a few weeks.
Capsaicin is the ingredient in chili peppers that make them hot. Added to creams and ointments, capsaicin blocks nerve endings that transmit pain. Researchers from the University Medical Center Freiburg, in Freiburg, Germany, found OTC creams containing capsaicin may help reduce the pain, inflammation, redness and scaling associated with psoriasis. However, more research is needed to assess its long-term benefits and safety. Some people may feel a burning sensation where capsaicin ointment is applied.
Dead Sea Salts
Adding Dead Sea salts or Epsom salts to your warm (not hot) bath water and soaking in the tub for about 15 minutes may help remove scales and ease itching. Be sure to apply moisturizer to your skin as soon as you get out of the tub. You may see some improvement.
Oats are considered one of nature's best skin soothers. There is no scientific evidence to support the use of oats to relieve psoriasis symptoms. But many individuals with psoriasis report applying an oat paste or taking a bath in oats relieves their itchy skin and reduces redness.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil is from the leaves of a plant that is native to Australia. Tea tree oil is believed to have antiseptic qualities and can be applied to the skin. Some people find using shampoos with tea tree oil helps relieve their scalp psoriasis. However, there are no scientific studies to prove the effectiveness of tea tree oil on psoriasis. Use tea tree oil with care as some people may be allergic to it.
This herb is being frequently studied for its powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric also has the ability to alter gene expression. A 2012 review by the International Union of Biochemistry and Molecular biology highlights turmeric's ability to alter TNF cytokine expression. This is the likely reason some patients find it helpful in minimizing psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares. You can take turmeric concentrated in pill or supplement form or if you like curries, adding it liberally to your food. The FDA considers 1.5 to 3.0 grams of turmeric per day to be safe. However, we suggest that you consult with a naturopathic practitioner for help in determining the correct dosage for you.
Mahonia Aquifolium (Oregon Grape)
Mahonia is a powerful antimicrobial herb that plays a role in immune response. Studies show that applying a cream containing 10% mahonia is effective in treating mild to moderate psoriasis. Because it is in the alkaloid family, mahonia should only be used topical unless under physician supervision.
To learn more about botanical medicine or natural approaches to psoriasis, contact a licensed naturopathic physician by checking with your state associations or www.naturopathic.org.