Herbal Treatments for Psoriasis

Psoriasis affects an estimated 2 to 4 percent of us, and causes scaly, red patches on various areas of the body. The patches of psoriasis occur most frequently on the scalp, back, elbows, knees, and hands, and may or may not cause itching. In some cases, psoriasis occurs on the nails, causing discoloration and pitting, and in severe cases may cause cracks and blisters on the skin. It generally appears for the first time during the teen years, but can make an appearance at any time during a person's life.

The cause of psoriasis is not well understood, but many believe it to be some sort of autoimmune disorder which causes a rapid overgrowth of skin cells. Genetics, infection, allergies, and vitamin deficiencies do not appear to play a major role in the development of this disorder, although research is still ongoing to determine the exact cause. Several genes have recently been uncovered that may play a role in this disorder, but the evidence is still inconclusive. Illness and stress have been known to trigger an attack in some people.

Treatment of psoriasis is usually with hydrocortisone creams and exposure to sunlight, and depends on the severity of the condition. There is no cure for this skin disorder, and treatment is symptomatic and aimed at preventing new flare-ups of the illness. As more and more people begin to avoid the sun due to the risk of skin cancer, the incidence of psoriasis is rising. Psoralens, compounds found in plants, are also used to treat psoriasis, and some natural sources of those compounds are listed below:

  • Bishop's Weed: Bishop's weed contains high levels of a compound known as methoxypsoralen, a psoralen that inhibits cell division and slows down the division of the skin cells that leads to patches of psoriasis. Bishop's weed can be rubbed directly into the skin, but causes skin irritation in some sensitive individuals. Some evidence shows that high doses of psoralens can be carcinogenic.
  • Angelica: Angelica is another herb that contains high levels of psoralens. These herbs work best in the treatment of psoriasis if you remember to expose yourself to sunlight immediately after eating them.
  • Red Pepper: Red pepper is an effective treatment of psoriasis because it contains a compound known as capsaicin. Capsaicin is responsible for making red peppers hot, and therefore can cause irritation in sensitive individuals. Studies have shown a reduction in both scaling and redness in those who have applied a cream containing capsaicin or red pepper to patches of psoriasis.
  • Flax: Flaxseed oil contains eicosapentsenoic acid and alpha-linolenic acid, two compounds that have been shown to reduce the symptoms of psoriasis. Adding a bit of flaxseed to your food, or using it as a salad dressing, are good ways to increase your consumption of this beneficial plant oil.
  • Camomile: Camomile contains flavonoids, which are potent anti-inflammatory compounds. Some studies in Europe have shown creams containing camomile to be at least as effective in the treatment of psoriasis and other skin conditions as a number of commonly prescribed medications. This herb should be applied externally, but be on the lookout for allergic reactions. Camomile belongs to the ragweed family, which is an allergic trigger for many people.
  • Licorice: Licorice is believed to be at least as effective in treating psoriasis as hydrocortisone cream. Licorice contains glycyrrhetenic acid, a compound that reduces itching, redness, and inflammation. Licorice extract can be applied directly to the affected area using a cotton ball or clean cloth for relief of symptoms.
  • Oat: Oat works wonders on the itching associated with psoriasis. Add some handfuls of oatmeal to warm bath water, or make an oatmeal paste and apply it directly to the skin.

author: Sandra Ketcham

See more on: - Health and Fitness Articles

© Startpage Ireland 2004 - 2024