Psoriasis is a skin disorder that appears as raised, reddish-pink areas
covered with silvery scales and red borders. Psoriasis most commonly appears on
the scalp, elbows, knees, groin, and lower back. It "comes and goes," and may
appear as a few spots or involve large areas. It is not contagious, either to
other body parts or other people. More than 6 million people in the United
States have psoriasis, which is seen in both sexes and all age groups. It can be
triggered by emotional stress and can run in families. Severe cases can be
physically painful and emotionally traumatic due to its unsightly appearance.
Approximately 10 percent of psoriasis sufferers develop psoriatic arthritis, a
painful arthritic condition.
Signs and Symptoms
The following are symptoms of psoriasis.
Raised skin lesions, deep pink with red borders and silvery surface
scales; may be cracked and painful
Blisters oozing with pus (usually occurs on the palms or
Pitted, discolored, and possibly thickened fingernails or
Itchy skin in some people
Joint pain (psoriatic arthritis) in some
What Causes It?
The cause of psoriasis is uncertain, but researchers do know that it involves
a higher-than-normal rate of skin-cell production. Dead skin cells accumulate
and form thick patches. Several underlying factors may trigger the disorder or
flare-ups, including the following.
Faulty immune system
Skin injuries or sunburn
Streptococcal (strep) infection (symptoms sometimes first appear two
weeks after strep throat)
Certain drugs (gold, lithium, beta-blockers)
What to Expect at Your Provider's Office
Your health care provider will examine your skin and ask questions about your
physical and emotional health. You may need a blood test to check levels of
calcium, zinc, and certain other elements.
Your provider may suggest one or several different treatment
Topical creams and lotions
Changes in your diet
Vitamin or mineral supplements
Elimination therapy (in which you discontinue taking certain
medications or eating certain foods)
Topical creams include the following.
Corticosteroids—reduce inflammation and
irritation; can only be used for a short period of time at the beginning of
Salicylic acid ointments—help the scales to
Capsaicin ointment—blocks chemicals in the
skin that cause inflammation; painful if used on open wounds
Calcitriol ointment—may be as effective as
corticosteroids with fewer side effects
Etretinate—for severe cases that do not
respond to other treatments
Systemic drugs are taken orally and are used for more severe conditions.
Methotrexate—an anti-cancer drug that reduces
symptoms; serious side effects
Psoralen—used with UV therapy; least toxic
Tegison—inhibits rapid cell growth; more
effective with UV therapy; numerous side
Over the Counter
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as
ibuprofen)—reduces inflammation and pain especially for
psoriatic arthritis; various side effects
Petroleum jelly—softens skin, helps it to
Coal tar ointments and shampoos—relieves
symptoms; helps UV light therapy to work more effectively; possibly serious side
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
You may benefit from mind-body therapies and stress management. Exercise can
help too, as can drinking plenty of water.
Essential fatty acids: omega-3 (oily fish, flaxseed oil, 1,000 mg two
times per day)
Vitamins: B12 (100 to 1,000 mcg) may need to be intramuscular
injections, folate (400 mcg per day), vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per
Minerals: zinc (30 mg per day), selenium (200 mcg per day)
Quercetin: 500 mg three times per day before meals
Digestive enzymes taken with each meal help with proper protein
Herbs may be used as dried extracts (capsules, powders, teas), glycerites
(glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts). Teas should be made with
1 tsp. herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or
flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots.
Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) stops breakdown of substances
that contribute to psoriasis, protects the liver.
Yellowdock (Rumex crispus), red clover (Trifolium
pratense), and burdock (Arctium lappa) are alternatives.
Sarsaparilla (Smilax sarsaparilla) can be effective in
Coleus forskohlii (tincture, 1 ml three times a day) has been
historically used for psoriasis.
Mix equal parts of the above herbs and use 1 cup tea three times per day or
30 to 60 drops tincture three times per day. This is especially effective if
sipped. Take 5 to 15 minutes before meals to stimulate digestion.
Topical creams may relieve discomfort. Chickweed (Stellaria media)
relieves itching, and marigold (Calendula officinalis) speeds healing
of open lesions.
There have been few studies examining the effectiveness of specific
homeopathic remedies. Professional homeopaths, however, may recommend one or
more of the following treatments for Psoriasis based on their knowledge and
clinical experience. Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a
person's constitutional type. In homeopathic terms, a person's constitution is
his or her physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced
homeopath assesses all of these factors when determining the most appropriate
remedy for a particular individual.
Apis mellifica—for skin rashes
that feel hot and dry and are sensitive to touch; symptoms are relieved by cool
baths and worsened by heat; this remedy is most appropriate for individuals who
often feel sad, disappointed, or even depressed; they tend to cry easily but may
also be irritable and envious by nature
particularly if the affected area becomes inflamed; this remedy will soothe but
not cure the skin condition
Rhus toxicodendron — used for skin
disorders accompanied by intense itching that worsens at night and improves with
the application of heat; this remedy is most appropriate for individuals who are
generally restless and unable to get comfortable at night
Sulphur—for skin disorders
that are accompanied by intense itching; this remedy is most appropriate for
individuals who are thirsty, irritable when not feeling well, lazy and messy
under ordinary circumstances, and who describe a sensation of internal heat and
burning; symptoms tend to improve with open, cold air and worsen with warmth
No well-designed studies have evaluated the effect of chiropractic on
individuals with psoriasis, but there have been a few case reports about spinal
manipulation reducing skin lesions in some individuals. One expert, for example,
wrote about a 52-year old man with severe psoriasis who experienced significant
improvement after receiving chiropractic care (even more than the improvement
seen with conventional medication). Although this report is encouraging,
researchers are still not clear whether chiropractic care is helpful for all
people with psoriasis.
See your provider regularly until your psoriasis is under
In pregnancy, oral medications can be damaging to a fetus and topical creams
can be absorbed into the bloodstream.
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Review Date: August 1999
Reviewed By: Participants in the review process include: Constance Grauds, RPh, President,
Association of Natural Medicine Pharmacists, San Rafael, CA; Gary Guebert, DC,
DACBR, (Chiropractic section October 2001) Login Chiropractic College, Maryland
Heights, MO; Lonnie Lee, MD, Internal Medicine, Silver Springs, MD; Scott
Shannon, MD, Integrative Psychiatry, Medical Director, McKee Hospital Center for
Holistic Medicine, Fort Collins, CO; Joseph Trainor, DC, (Chiropractic section
October 2001) Integrative Therapeutics, Inc., Natick, MA; Tom Wolfe, P.AHG,
Smile Herb Shop, College Park, MD.
The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of
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of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage
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of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds
currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a
guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information
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practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts)
regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications
before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed