12 home remedies for treating psoriasis
Psoriasis causes red, scaly patches of skin called plaques. Plaques usually appear on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but they can develop anywhere on the body.
Before using home remedies, it may be a good idea to speak to a doctor. Home remedies tend to work best when people use them alongside medical treatment.
Getting a little sunshine every day can help, but too much sun can make symptoms worse.
Using home remedies either alone or in combination with medical treatment may improve psoriasis symptoms.
However, some home remedies may interact with medications, so anyone who is thinking about using any of them should talk to a doctor first.
It is also important to monitor psoriasis symptoms to ensure that the remedies are not causing them to get worse.
1. Exposure to sunlight
Exposure to sunlight can sometimes improve the appearance of the skin when a person has psoriasis. People should expose their skin gradually and for brief periods.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommend starting with 5 to 10 minutes of midday sun exposure once a day.
It is essential to cover healthy skin with sunscreen and clothing so that only the affected areas get exposure to the sun. If their skin tolerates it, an individual can slowly increase sun exposure in increments of 30 seconds each day.
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 rather than the UVA rays. Sun and indoor tanning beds mostly emit UVA rays.
Many experts, including the National Psoriasis Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology, do not recommend the use of commercial tanning beds.
Some medications can also make the skin more sensitive to the sun.
People should ask their doctor before trying sun exposure as a home remedy. Those with a family history of skin cancer may need to stay out of the sun and seek other treatments.
2. Fish oil or omega-3 fats
A 2014 meta-analysis found "moderate evidence" that fish oils might help people with psoriasis, which is both inflammatory and autoimmune.
However, the extent of this benefit may depend on the type of fish oil, the dosage, and the type of psoriasis.
Omega-3 fatty acids appear to be the most effective component of the oil.
It is possible that some people may experience side effects when using fish oil. Potential side effects include:
People who take blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), have a higher risk of bleeding if they also take omega-3 supplements.
People should follow dosage instructions carefully to avoid possible stomach discomfort. As fish oil supplements can interact with some medications, people should talk to a doctor before taking them.
Ideally, it is better to consume fish that contain omega-3 rather than taking supplements.
Omega-3 supplements are widely available to purchase online and in stores.
Capsaicin is a component of red peppers, and it has demonstrated the ability to fight inflammation. Even though the following examples of experimental research are relatively old, these are the most recent studies in this area. Both show that capsaicin can improve psoriasis symptoms.
In 1986, in a study that featured in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 44 people with moderate-to-severe symptoms applied a topical capsaicin cream for 6 weeks.
Nearly half of the group noted burning, stinging, itching, and redness on first applying the cream, but this stopped or vastly decreased as they continued using it. The researchers suggested that capsaicin might be a useful treatment for psoriasis.
In 1993, another study investigated the use of substance P, a component of capsaicin, for pruritic psoriasis. The 98 participants who used the cream four times a day for 6 weeks reported more significant improvements in skin thickness, scaling, redness, and itching than those in the placebo group.
However, some participants reported side effects, including a stinging sensation in the area where they applied the cream.
There appears to be little additional research to support these findings.
Capsaicin creams are available online as well as in pharmacies and health food stores as well as online.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that are present in yogurt and fermented foods. People can also consume them in supplements.
Having the right balance of bacteria in the body may help the immune system. Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, so probiotics may be helpful in managing symptoms.
Research suggests that a specific type of probiotic called Bifidobacterium infantis 35624 may help regulate inflammatory responses in the body that contribute to psoriasis symptoms.
Curcumin has anti-inflammatory properties and may help in treating psoriasis.
Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric. It may lessen inflammation in the body, and it may also reduce psoriatic activity.
The authors of a recent review of research stated that there is lots of evidence to support the therapeutic effect of curcumin in treating psoriasis.
Prior to that, the findings of a 2016 study in mice led researchers to conclude that curcumin has "great potential to treat psoriasis."
Curcumin is available for purchase online or in stores in pill or capsule form.
For more information about how curcumin can help people with psoriasis, click here to see our dedicated article.
6. Oregon grape
Oregon grape, or Mahonia aquifolium, is an herbal remedy that may help calm the immune response in psoriasis.
In a report on three clinical trials involving a total of 104 people, the authors conclude that M. aquifolium cream is a "safe and effective" treatment for mild-to-moderate psoriasis.
In 2018, authors reviewing the evidence to support treating psoriasis with M. aquifolium found seven studies investigating its use. They concluded that M. aquifolium can improve symptoms and is safe and effective with few side effects.
7. Aloe vera
Aloe vera cream may help soothe redness, inflammation, and scaling.
Traditional medicine has long used the gel from inside the aloe vera plant to treat skin wounds. Applying an ointment containing aloe vera may also help reduce the redness, scaling, and inflammation that psoriasis causes.
A 2018 study, in which 2,248 people with mild-to-moderate psoriasis used an ointment containing either 50 percent propolis and 3 percent aloe vera or a placebo, suggested that aloe vera might be helpful for people with this condition.
Those who used the preparation containing aloe vera experienced a "noteworthy improvement" in their symptoms.
However, before this, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) noted that only two randomized placebo-controlled trials had looked at the effect of aloe vera for treating psoriasis. One showed that it was helpful, while the other showed that it had no effect.
People should apply aloe vera directly to the skin and avoid taking it internally.
The National Psoriasis Foundation recommend choosing a cream or gel that contains at least 0.5 percent aloe.
Many health food stores carry aloe creams and gels, which are also available to purchase online.
8. Apple cider vinegar
Anecdotal evidence suggests that apple cider vinegar might help soothe itching and burning resulting from scalp psoriasis, although it is not suitable for applying to areas of broken or cracked skin.
It contains natural germ-killing properties and can be soothing for the scalp.
For a gentler treatment, a person can dilute the vinegar with an equal amount of water. If it burns during or after application, it is vital to stop using it.
There does not appear to be any scientific evidence to support the use of apple cider vinegar for psoriasis.
Moisturizer is a standard treatment and important for skin hydration.
Itching and flaking can make psoriasis look and feel worse, so it is essential to keep skin moisturized.
The AAD note that moisturizing creams, or emollients, are a standard treatment to use alongside other therapies.
Applying a heavy ointment or thick cream three times a day may help control symptoms and keep skin feeling comfortable.
People should look for products that are free of fragrances and dyes with the label "for sensitive skin."
A cream that contains aloe vera may help.
Moisturizers that are suitable for people with psoriasis are available for purchase online.
Doctors may also recommend topical treatments and creams containing coal tar, salicylic acid, and other medicinal ingredients.
10. Wet dressings and warm baths with salts or oats
Baths and showers can be relaxing, but those that are too long or too hot can strip the skin of its oils, and this can make psoriasis worse.
Some people find that a warm bath containing colloidal oatmeal or Epsom salts is soothing and relieves symptoms.
According to research, an oatmeal bath or a wet dressing can reduce itching, and a warm bath containing a suitable bath oil can help moisturize the skin.
In 2005, researchers found evidence that Dead Sea salts might help with dry skin. Volunteers immersed a forearm in water with a 5-percent concentration of magnesium salts, the most common minerals in the Dead Sea, for 15 minutes.
The participants' skin barrier function improved, their skin hydration was better, and they had reduced roughness and inflammation compared with the control group who used tap water instead.
After bathing, applying an appropriate moisturizer while the skin is still damp can help prevent moisture loss.
11. Exercise and diet
Some people with psoriasis may be more likely to be overweight and have a higher risk of some other conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Exercise can help lower the risk of these additional problems.
Diet is also key to maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding cardiovascular and other types of disease.
Tips that may help include:
- avoiding sugar
- drinking plenty of water
- cutting out trans fats, which are present in many fast and processed foods
- eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties, including many fruits and vegetables
For more information about what to eat, click here to see our dedicated article.
12. Other alternative therapies
Yoga can reduce stress, which is a trigger for psoriasis.
Other home remedies that people have tried include:
There is no evidence that any of these can specifically benefit a person with psoriasis.
However, acupuncture and massage can help relieve pain, and they may be beneficial for someone who has psoriatic arthritis.
People should speak to their doctor before undergoing any treatment that might involve essential oils, such as a massage, as some of these products may make symptoms worse. A doctor can offer advice on suitable products.
Psoriasis tends to involve flares, when symptoms get worse, and times of remission, when a person may have no symptoms.
Avoiding triggers, where possible, may help prevent a flare.
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
Triggers vary between individuals. People who can identify their triggers should find it easier to avoid them.
Find out more here about different triggers for psoriasis and how to avoid them.
Many different treatments are available for psoriasis, and medical advances are producing treatment options that may be more effective than those available in the past.
The main types of treatment that are available are:
- biologics, which are proving effective for moderate-to-severe symptoms
- systemics, which affect the whole body
- phototherapy, a type of light treatment that people can have in a doctor's office
- new oral treatments, which prevent inflammation by inhibiting specific molecules
- topical treatments for applying to the skin
Finding the right option requires guidance from a medical professional, who will also discuss any home remedies that may help.
People can sometimes manage mild psoriasis with home remedies alone. However, if symptoms worsen, it is best to see a doctor about additional treatment options.
Individuals should discuss any supplements, herbs, vitamins, or other home treatments with their doctor to ensure that the therapy will be suitable and safe.
Sometimes, natural treatments can interact with medicines and cause problems for people with certain health conditions.
By trying different home remedies and medical treatments, many people with psoriasis can reduce or eliminate bothersome symptoms.
Would you recommend using a natural or alternative remedy?
This would depend on the severity of the psoriasis. If you have very mild symptoms, a natural remedy might help.
However, once psoriasis gets to the point where it is affecting your daily routine, leading to a loss of sleep, or causing you to scratch constantly, you should consult with a physician to find a better treatment.
Most of these natural therapies would not interact with any other treatments, so if they prove helpful, you can use them as a complementary treatment as opposed to an alternative remedy.
However, always let your doctor know if you decide to use any of these types of natural or alternative remedies.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.