Can coconut oil help treat psoriasis?
However, no current scientific studies support this as an effective treatment or as a cure.
Taking this into consideration, coconut oil is an effective moisturizer, and while it does not directly help to reduce the size and extent of psoriatic scales, the oil can soothe the dryness that accompanies them.
No full cure is available for psoriasis, but your doctor can help you manage the symptoms with medication. However, it may also help to soothe symptoms by using natural or home remedies.
Keep in mind that home remedies may help some people and not others, as well as helping in one flare-up and not during others.
In this article, we look at the effectiveness of coconut oil as a treatment for psoriasis as well as other possible home remedies.
Coconut oil and psoriasis
People claim that coconut oil can treat psoriasis. However, little evidence is available supporting this.
Coconut oil is a natural moisturizer, and applying it can help to reduce dry skin, particularly in the winter.
The oil is available at most health food stores, either in a pure form or incorporated into lotions and ointments.
If a person has psoriatic plaques on the scalp, the National Psoriasis Foundation recommends massaging the oil into the scalp.
For children with psoriasis, the National Psoriasis Foundation also recommends adding coconut oil to a warm bath to soothe the skin as an alternative to traditional oatmeal baths. Pat the skin dry after the bath without vigorously rubbing it.
Mixing coconut oil with aloe vera might also enhance its skin-softening properties.
Despite this anecdotal evidence, the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database advises that insufficient evidence is currently available to suggest coconut oil as an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Researchers have studied the application of the treatment before using ultraviolet light therapy, but the results were inconclusive.
As a topical treatment, coconut oil is a safe option without many, if any, adverse effects. However, it rarely serves as an effective treatment for psoriasis on its own. It is normally used as a moisturizing therapy, alongside other treatments.
Coconut oil can possibly cause an allergic reaction if a person has sensitivity to it. An allergic reaction would cause additional redness, itching, and warmth at the point of contact on the skin.
A person may need to try other topical, moisturizing treatments to relieve the symptoms, as coconut oil is often not effective.
What causes plaques in psoriasis?
Psoriasis disrupts the immune system, instructing the body to grow skin cells faster than usual – in a matter of days rather than weeks.
The body does not shed these skin cells as it normally would. Instead, the cells start to build up on the skin, causing the characteristic plaques in psoriasis to develop.
Psoriasis is a chronic condition that is normally passed on through families or environmental factors, but it is not contagious. However, the autoimmune nature of psoriasis means that a full cure is not yet possible.
While coconut oil cannot reverse this process of excess skin cell production, it can provide moisture and temporary relief.
What is coconut oil?
Psoriasis can form scaly plaques on the skin, and the coconut oil has moisturizing qualities.
According to Harvard University, coconut oil is gaining popularity both as a topical treatment and as a cooking oil. The flavor makes it suitable as an ingredient for baked goods and other dishes.
Coconut oil consists of 90 percent saturated fat - much higher than butter, lard, or beef fat. However, coconut oil helps to increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, or "good" cholesterol, despite also contributing to low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, or "bad" cholesterol, in the diet.
Topical coconut oil can also be used as a beauty treatment in a number of ways. These include:
- moisturizing the skin
- improving hair texture
- reducing stretchmarks
- removing makeup
When a person applies to the skin, coconut oil can reduce skin inflammation. It can also help to relieve skin dryness because it reduces the amount of water lost from the skin.
Fatty acids also have skin-soothing benefits for treating psoriasis. Coconut oil might help soften the skin, due to containing lauric, capric, and caprylic acids, which are all types of fatty acid.
Lauric acid also has antimicrobial activity, which helps to reduce the risk of skin infections and irritation.
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Other natural treatments for psoriasis
While topical ointments, oral and intravenous medications, and light therapy are available to treat the symptoms of psoriasis, a range of natural and alternatives have demonstrated positive effects on psoriatic plaque.
Alternative and home remedies for soothing psoriasis might include the following:
Aloe vera and propolis: A combination of aloe vera and propolis, a natural bee product, showed promising effects on psoriasis in a 2018 study.
Fish oil: Including certain fatty acids in the diet can help maintain normal bodily function and prevent anomalies of the skin.
Probiotics: Some microbial supplements can help regulate the immune system, such as Bifidobacterium infantis, according to this 2013 study. This might help reduce the inflammatory effects of psoriasis.
Bathing with colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salts: Some anecdotal evidence suggests that a bath containing oats or Epsom salts can soothe symptoms. Applying moisturizer afterward might also help to retain moisture in the skin.
Exposure to sunlight: Phototherapy is a recognized treatment for psoriasis, as ultraviolet (UV) light slows the growth of skin cells. Natural sunlight also contains UV light, and 5 to 10 minutes of exposure to the sun at its highest point, around noon, can provide similar effects.
Few studies support natural remedies as a psoriasis treatment. Much evidence supporting their use is anecdotal, and controlled research provides inconclusive results.
However, trying these options is rarely harmful, and if they provide relief in particular instances then this can improve the quality of life for people with psoriasis.
Seek medical advice before beginning any alternative treatments for psoriasis to ensure that these treatments will not interfere with any prescription creams. A person might need to try a few different treatments before finding effective relief.
Some people suggest that coconut oil is a suitable alternative treatment for psoriasis. While very little scientific research confirms its effectiveness, it might have a soothing effect on some people and is safe to try.
As a natural moisturizer, coconut oil might help the skin retain moisture following a bath. It also contains several fatty acids that some studies have linked to positive effects on the skin.
Psoriasis is not yet curable, but certain natural remedies, such as aloe vera with propolis, sunlight exposure, and fish oil, might relieve symptoms and discomfort in some cases.
What are the medical treatments for psoriasis?
Medical treatment for psoriasis is related to the severity of the disease. For mild-to-moderate psoriasis, the first line treatment is topical creams and ointments.
Over-the-counter (OTC) topical treatments would usually contain salicylic acid or coal tar ingredients. Prescription topicals include corticosteroids or steroids, anthralin, synthetic vitamin D3, and vitamin A.
A doctor may use phototherapy is used in the form of regulated and timed sunlight treatments and Ultraviolet B (UVB) light. Excimer laser treatment can target selected areas and is especially effective for scalp psoriasis.
For moderate-to-severe cases of psoriasis, systemic medications are available that work throughout the body, such as acitretin, cyclosornine, and methotrexate. New oral drugs are designed to treat molecules inside the immune system, such as Otezla (apremilast).
Biologic drugs impact the specific parts of the immune system, but a doctor injects them or applies them intravenously (IV). Examples include Enbrel (etanercept), Humira (adalimumab), Remicade (infliximab, and Simponi (golimumab).Debra Sullivan, PhD, MSN, RN, CNE, COI Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.