Ayurveda, also known as Ayurvedic medicine, aims to help a person heal their body, mind, and spirit. The practice originated in India more than 3,000 years ago.
Ayurvedic medicine features treatments that have been used to treat psoriasis. Psoriasis is a condition that causes excess and rapid growth of skin cells, leading to plaque-like deposits that build up on the skin.
While Ayurveda may be able to treat psoriasis in some people, its results haven't been studied in large-scale clinical trials or systematic research reviews.
It is these types of research studies that are needed to prove that Ayurvedic treatments are effective. However, until there is more scientific evidence, it is always a good idea for a person with psoriasis to check with their doctor before using any Ayurvedic treatments.
Ayurveda and psoriasis
A person with psoriasis could use special Ayurvedic preparations on their skin.
One of the most common topical preparations used to treat psoriasis in Ayurvedic medicine contains turmeric. This is a compound that is derived from a root that is similar to ginger.
Often used in cooking, turmeric can also be mixed into a paste that can be applied to the skin.
Meditation and movement
Pranayama, a breathing exercise, can help people with psoriasis relax and manage stress levels.
Ayurveda practitioners emphasize a balance of three elements, which they define as:
- a person's universe
- the body's constitution (known as the "prakriti")
- the body's life forces (known as "dosha")
Meditation and the practice of "Pranayama," a method of controlled breathing techniques, may benefit a person in reducing their psoriasis.
Ayurvedic practices generally revolve around a vegetarian diet. Foods to avoid include those that contain an excess of carbohydrates and products that contain lots of sugar.
In addition, Ayurvedic practices suggest a person should avoid foods that are "in the extreme," such as ones that are too salty, too sour, or too acidic.
Ayurveda practitioners recommend that a person "listen" to their body. By responding to urges to urinate or defecate, for example, they will help clear their body of toxins.
As well as turmeric, there are many other Ayurvedic herbs available, and several could potentially benefit people with psoriasis.
One example is applying fresh banana leaf to areas of skin affected by psoriasis.
Additional Ayurvedic herbs that may be used to treat psoriasis include:
Aloe vera may be applied as a topical treatment in Ayurvedic medicine.
- aloe vera
- black nightshade
- boswellia (frankincense)
- jasmine flower paste
Many types of herbs used to treat inflammation exist in Ayurveda. A person should always ask their doctor before using them in addition to or in place of their current topical treatments.
Baths and moisturizers
Having regular baths are helpful in keeping areas of psoriasis lesions clean and soft. Additionally, baths can be soothing and reduce stress, which may offer further benefits in reducing the incidence of psoriasis.
Applying natural soothing oils, such as coconut or olive oils may help to soften the skin and relieve itching and discomfort associated with psoriasis.
How Ayurveda explains psoriasis
According to an article in the International Journal of Green Pharmacy, Ayurvedic practitioners classify psoriasis as a "kushtha" health condition. This means the condition is a chronic one, which is also "krucchasadhya" (intractable) and "asadhya" (incurable).
Ayurvedic texts say that psoriasis arises due to an imbalance of two "doshas" (areas of energy) known as the "Vata" and "Kapha."
Vata is responsible for controlling bodily functions, and could cause the dryness and skin scaling associated with psoriasis. Kapha is responsible for body growth and can lead to the itching and rapid skin cell turnover that psoriasis is known for.
The energy imbalance causes toxins to build up in a person's system, leading to inflammation. As a result, Ayurveda treatments often revolve around not only herbal applications, but also diet and lifestyle advice.
There are many Ayurvedic treatments, but they are not widely researched. However, some studies have examined some of the more popular treatments, specifically in regards to psoriasis.
Some of the studies that support turmeric as an Ayurvedic treatment for psoriasis include:
Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research study
A study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research reported the effects that turmeric gel had on a group of people with mild to moderate psoriasis.
After 9 weeks, the participants were evaluated in terms of skin redness, thickness of lesions, and the size of the lesions.
At the study's conclusion, the researchers found those who applied the turmeric gel experienced less redness, thickness, and scaling than those who had applied a placebo treatment.
The study's authors also reported that there were few side effects associated with the gel's application.
Clinical Dermatology study
A study published in the journal Clinical Dermatology found that topical applications of the 3-0-Acetyl-11 Keto Beta Boswelic Acid (AKBBA), which is a naturally occurring gum resin from the stem of the Boswellia serrate tree, helped to manage mild to moderate chronic plaque psoriasis.
People with psoriasis applied the cream three times a day for 12 weeks. After the 12-week period, researchers reviewed photographs to note changes in psoriasis lesions.
Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research study
A study published in the Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research reported the effects of a starch-fortified turmeric bath (SFTB), which is a mixture of rice starch and turmeric, in treating psoriasis.
A control group participated in therapies, such as massage, yoga, hydrotherapy, and diet therapy. The experimental group used these therapies as well as the SFTB.
At the conclusion of the study, the researchers determined that SFTBs reduced the severity of psoriasis as well as the areas of the skin that were affected.
The researchers concluded that SFTBs could be a low-cost complementary therapy in the management of psoriasis.
Other studies may have examined the effectiveness of an herb, but may not be specific to psoriasis treatments.
Risks and safety considerations
Ayurveda is a medical practice that has existed for thousands of years. However, research supporting or disputing its practitioners' claims isn't widely available.
Most studies on Ayurveda are small and don't employ the type of research methods needed to make firm conclusions.
It is important to remember some Ayurvedic products may not have undergone the same testing for safety and effectiveness as other medicines.
As such, it is hard to say with much certainty that Ayurveda will help to reduce the incidence of psoriasis. However, many people report that it has helped them.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently classify Ayurvedic products as dietary supplements. This means they do not have to go through the same rigorous testing as many other medications do for both safety and effectiveness.
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health conducted a study where their researchers ordered nearly 200 Ayurvedic products online.
The researchers found that 21 percent of these products contained harmful levels of lead, arsenic, and mercury. The levels exceeded the acceptable standards for these compounds.
Consumers should take care when using Ayurvedic products, even if they are marked as "all-natural." People should not use Ayurvedic products as a substitute for other medical treatments unless they have discussed this with their doctor.
However, there are other mind-body practices associated with Ayurvedic medicine that could benefit a person's overall well-being, such as meditation and yoga.
These practices may not only reduce the incidence of stress-related psoriasis outbreaks, they are also beneficial for a person's mental and physical health.