Psoriasis is a life-long autoimmune skin condition. When a person has psoriasis, or more specifically plaque psoriasis, their immune system triggers skin cells to grow too quickly.
This rapid growth of skin cells leads to a build-up of new and old skin cells that results in red, scaly patches of skin. These scales usually appear on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but they can be anywhere on the body.
There is no single cause of psoriasis, but it appears to stem from problems related to the immune system, genetics, and certain triggers. Psoriasis is often itchy and painful, and its appearance can cause emotional distress and embarrassment for people who have it.
There is no cure, but a number of treatments are available, including several home remedies.
Contents of this article:
Home remedies for psoriasis
Some home remedies, either used alone or in combination with medical treatment, may improve psoriasis symptoms.
Though some home remedies can be helpful, others could interact with medications. A person thinking about using home remedies should talk to a doctor first. Psoriasis symptoms should always be tracked to ensure they are not getting worse.
Exposure to sunlight
The sun's UVB rays may help to treat psoriasis.
Many people with psoriasis find that exposure to sunlight can improve the appearance of their skin. Individuals should expose themselves to the sun gradually and for short amounts of time.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommend starting with 5 to 10 minutes of sun exposure once a day at midday.
It is important to cover healthy skin with sunscreen and clothing, leaving only the affected areas exposed. If the skin tolerates it, an individual can slowly increase sun exposure in increments of 30 seconds.
If a person gets sunburnt, they should avoid any further sun exposure. They should also talk to a doctor because sunburn can make psoriasis worse.
It is the sun's UVB rays that are beneficial for psoriasis symptoms, not the UVA rays. Sun and indoor tanning beds emit mostly emit UVA rays, which greatly increase a person's risk of skin damage and cancer. Many experts, including the National Psoriasis Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology, do not recommend the use of commercial tanning beds.
Patients should ask their doctor before trying sun exposure as a home remedy. Some medications can make skin more sensitive to the sun. People with a family history of skin cancer may be advised to stay out of the sun and seek other treatments.
Fish oil or omega-3 fats
Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and fish oil supplements, have been shown to reduce inflammation and improve autoimmune diseases. For this reason, they can be helpful for psoriasis, which is both inflammatory and autoimmune.
A study in Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology found that omega-3 fatty acids improved psoriasis symptoms when combined with a topical treatment.
Fish oil supplements are widely available in stores, and this source of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to be the most effective. People should follow dosage instructions carefully to avoid possible stomach discomfort. Because fish oil supplements can interact with some medicines, people should talk to a doctor before taking them.
Capsaicin is an ingredient found in red peppers that has been shown to fight inflammation. A study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found that moderate to severe symptoms of psoriasis improved with the use of a capsaicin topical cream.
A study in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology also reports that capsaicin may hold promise as a psoriasis treatment. Capsaicin creams are available in pharmacies and health food stores.
Probiotics are friendly bacteria that can be found in yogurt, fermented foods, and supplements. Experts agree that the right balance of bacteria in the body helps the immune system. Because psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, probiotics may be helpful in managing psoriasis symptoms.
A study in the journal Gut Microbes suggests that a certain type of probiotic called Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 may help regulate certain inflammatory responses in the body that contribute to psoriasis symptoms.
Curcumin is the active ingredient found in the spice turmeric. It may reduce inflammation in the body. A study in the journal Biochimie found it had a positive effect on psoriasis symptoms in mice. Curcumin is available in pill or capsule form in many health food stores.
Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
Oregon grape, or mahonia aquifolium, is an herbal remedy that may help calm the immune response in psoriasis. Applying a cream containing at least 10 percent mahonia aquifolium may improve symptoms. It should not be taken internally.
The gel from inside an aloe vera plant is known to help heal skin wounds. It may also help reduce redness, scaling, and inflammation from psoriasis. Aloe should be applied directly to the skin, not taken internally. Anyone using an aloe cream should check the label and choose one that contains at least 0.5 percent aloe. Many health food stores carry aloe creams and gels.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can be particularly helpful to soothe the itching and burning associated with scalp psoriasis. It contains natural germ-killing properties and can be soothing for the scalp. It should not be applied to broken or cracked skin. For a gentler treatment, the vinegar can be diluted with equal parts water. If it burns when applied, stop using it.
Bathing in colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salts may help to relieve symptoms of psoriasis.
Because itching and flaking can make psoriasis look and feel worse, it is important to keep skin moisturized. A heavy ointment or thick cream may help to control symptoms and keep skin feeling comfortable.
The most helpful moisturizers are normally labeled for "sensitive skin." People should look for creams that contain no added fragrances or dyes.
Warm baths with salts or oats
Baths can be relaxing, but baths or showers that are too long or too hot can strip the skin of its oils, and this can make psoriasis worse.
For some people, a warm bath containing colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salts is soothing and relieves symptoms. After bathing, an appropriate moisturizer should be applied while skin is still damp, to help prevent moisture loss.
Avoiding psoriasis triggers
It is not always easy to determine what causes an episode of psoriasis because triggers vary from one person to another.
Common triggers include:
- Skin injury, including cuts, scrapes, and sunburn
- Certain medications, including some drugs for high blood pressure, psychiatric disorders, arthritis, and malaria
- Infections and illnesses - such as strep throat, colds, and other common conditions - can tax the immune system, causing psoriasis to flare
People who suspect a certain trigger should take steps to avoid it, as this can help to keep symptoms under control.
Medical therapy for psoriasis
Mild to moderate psoriasis can sometimes be managed with home remedies alone, but patients should discuss any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or other home treatments with their doctor.
Even natural treatments can interact with some medicines and may cause problems for people with certain health conditions.
If home remedies do not work, prescription treatment options may be considered.
A variety of treatments are available for psoriasis, and finding the right option requires guidance from a medical professional.
Through trying different home remedies and medical treatment, many people with psoriasis can reduce or eliminate bothersome symptoms.