Psoriasis is a chronic, but non-contagious skin disease that causes skin cells to grow too quickly. This results in red, white, or silvery thickened patches of skin or scaly areas. Skin cells normally grow gradually and then shed in a month or so. New cells grow to replace them. In Psoriasis, new cells rise rapidly to the surface within days and form thick patches. The cause of psoriasis is not clearly known. It is considered to be an autoimmune disease. Sometimes it is genetic.
Types of Psoriasis
Psoriasis Vulgaris, which is the common plague type, usually has polygonal or circular elevated areas of red skin which are very often covered with scales and are itchy. These are more likely to be present on the elbows and knees.
Guttate psoriases are small plaques or red spots which are itchy and scaly. They may be present over large parts of the skin surface. Guttate psoriasis is often preceded by a sore throat and appears all at once.
Inverse Psoriasis usually occurs in the folds like that of the underarms, navel, groin, and buttocks. Psoriasis in moist areas like the navel or the area between the buttocks looks like flat red plaques.
Pustular psoriasis is small pus-filled yellowish blisters. Groups of small bumps filled with pus occur on the body. Persons with this type of psoriasis usually run a fever.
Palmoplantar psoriasis occurs on the palms and soles of the feet.
Erythrodermic psoriasis covers extensive areas of the skin. People with this form of the disease often feel cold, and if they also have a weak heart, then psoriasis could aggravate the problem.
Scalp psoriasis looks like a severe dandruff problem with dry flakes and red areas of skin.
Psoriatic arthritis is an inflammatory disease. Even though this type could affect any joint, the joints at the hands, knees, and ankles are the most commonly affected. Sometimes joint pain is the only symptom in this condition, with completely clear skin.
Nail psoriasis occurs in some people. This condition causes the nails to pit, change color to yellowish or whitish at the tips, and separate from the nail bed. Dead skin may build up under the nails.
The Mayo Clinic lists the following triggers, due to which psoriasis starts or worsens. Identifying the trigger may help to avoid this condition. Factors that may trigger psoriasis include throat or skin infections; any injury to the skin in the form of a cut, scrape, or sunburn; Stress; cold weather; smoking; heavy alcohol consumption, and certain medications.
Natural Remedies to treat Psoriasis
Currently, there is no cure for psoriasis. Topical and other treatments are however available to help ease the symptoms of the skin conditions. These treatments help to reduce inflammation and the formation of plaques. The treatments also help remove the scales. The following are some natural remedies one can try at home to ease the symptoms.
Many patients report improvement with diets that include large quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, especially, carrots, garlic, turmeric, nuts, and seeds help control the symptoms of psoriasis. Oily fish, flaxseed oil, and olive oil for cooking may also help. Foods to avoid are those to which sensitivity has been established, and those with chemical additives, colorings, flavorings, and preservatives, including processed meats. Lifestyle changes include exercising, avoiding smoking, minimizing chemical exposure – hair sprays, perfumes, cleaning agents, paints, and thinners, and insecticides.
Keep the Skin Moist. Psoriasis causes the skin to dry. Dryness makes the skin itchier, which leads to scratching, itching, and burning, thus aggravating the symptoms. In order to prevent these symptoms, it is necessary to keep the skin moist. Using a thick moisturizer like petroleum jelly and even olive oil helps to keep the skin moist. While bathing, avoid hot water and harsh soaps. Use lukewarm water and mild soaps that have added oils and fats. After bathing, apply moisturizing ointment when skin is still moist.
Olive oil is a very good home remedy that can be used to keep the skin moist. Warm a little olive oil and gently massage it into the scalp to help soften the scales and remove them. Then shampoo and rinse as usual.
Exposing your skin to small amounts of sunlight is said to help. A controlled amount of sunlight can significantly treat psoriasis, but sunburns make it worse. Hence, one has to limit the amount of sun one is exposed to.
The gel from the aloe vera plant has long been known for its skin-soothing properties and for helping the skin heal from minor wounds and burns. The gel from the leaves of the aloe vera plant may reduce redness, scaling, itching, and inflammation associated with psoriasis.
Apple cider vinegar is another home remedy that can be used to treat skin conditions. It can be applied to the finger and toenails if they are infected. One can also apply apple cider vinegar to the scalp, either directly or by diluting the vinegar with water on a 1-to-1 ratio. This helps to prevent a burning sensation, and may also help relieve scalp itch. Do not use this remedy if you have open wounds or cracks on the skin.
Avocado oil is considered to be useful in the treatment of psoriasis. It should be applied gently to the affected parts. It helps in taking the scales off. In a randomized, clinical trial, the effects of the vitamin D(3) analog calcipotriol were evaluated against those of a recently developed vitamin B(12) cream containing avocado oil. It showed that applying a cream containing avocado oil and vitamin B12, to the skin for 12 weeks reduces symptoms of psoriasis as effectively as conventional medication, calcipotriol ointment but caused less irritation than calcipotriol.”
Mahonia aquifolium, or Oregon Grape Root, a member of the barberry family, is an ornamental bush that produces edible berries. The bark and root of Mahonia aquifolium contain alkaloids which have been shown to be strong antimicrobial and antifungal agents. According to an article in positivehealth.com, “Scientists at the National Cancer Institute, NIH, Bethesda, USA have demonstrated that Mahonia aquifolium inhibits lipoxygenase and lipid hydroperoxide and that this effect may be a crucial factor in explaining why it seems to be so beneficial for psoriasis sufferers.” Studies show that applying a cream containing 10% mahonia is effective in treating mild to moderate psoriasis.
Ayurvedic Remedies to Treat Psoriasis
In Ayurveda, psoriasis is considered to be a consequence of an imbalance of the energies Vata and Kapha. This imbalance could be a result of improper food choices and food combinations and also the accumulation of toxins in the digestive tract. Robin Landis in the book ‘Herbal Defence’ says that psoriasis has been linked to high levels of endotoxins. If the liver is overwhelmed by the size of the toxic burden and is not able to filter and detoxify as needed, psoriasis can result or worsen.
- Turmeric is a herb that is very useful for treating inflammatory skin diseases like psoriasis, as it reduces heat and cleanses the liver. The antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric, helps relieve the pain, swelling and inflammation associated with psoriasis and arthritis. It can be taken in the form of capsules.
- Neem is one of the best blood purifiers in Ayurveda. It is also a detoxifying agent and also enhances the immune system. Neem oil is an antiseptic and can be effectively used in treating psoriasis. It not only destroys fungus and bacteria, but also helps soothe redness of skin and itching.
- Acacia concinna (shikakai) has a good amount of saponin and saponin rich herbs have a beneficial effect on the symptoms of persistent psoriasis. Boil one tsp powdered shikakai in one cup water. Cool and apply on affected parts.
- White cabbage leaves have an affinity for pus and hence draw out toxins from the body. Drinking half a cup of fresh cabbage juice every day is said to help treat psoriasis. The cabbage leaves can also be used as a compress. The thickest and greenest outer leaves should be rolled out flat, and then warmed. This should be applied as a compress on the affected areas.
- Grind one cup Indravalli (Cardiospermum halicacabum) leaves into a fine paste along with 1/2 cup coconut oil. Keep it in the sun and apply over affected areas.
- Coleus forskohlii is an ayurvedic herb which has been traditionally used in treating psoriasis and eczema. Forskolin, a compound isolated from the roots was found to have some incredible therapeutic effects.
- Guggul is said to be very useful in treating psoriasis. It has anti-inflammatory and is a effective Kapha- and Vata-pacifying supplement.
- Garlic (Allium sativum) is another blood purifier. Crush a few cloves of garlic and eat every morning on an empty stomach. It purifies the blood and removes toxins from the body, which provides protection against psoriasis.
- The application of buttermilk compress is highly beneficial in skin disorders like psoriasis. Soft cloth saturated with buttermilk can be applied to the surface. Clean the surface after the compress is removed. It is very effective remedy to reduce skin inflammation.
- A cup of fresh juice of bitter gourd mixed with a tsp of lime juice, taken on an empty stomach, daily for four to six months helps reduce the symptoms of psoriasis.