Which complementary and alternative medicine therapies are most effective in treating psoriasis? That’s the question that a team of doctors from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida asked. To find the answers, the physicians conducted an online search for studies and clinical trials that focused on alternative treatments for psoriasis published in scientific journals between 1950 and 2017.1
Of the hundreds of studies conducted worldwide in this 67-year time frame, the researchers ultimately reviewed and compiled the results of 57 clinical trials and 3 meta-analyses that met their criteria for scientific rigor.1
It’s an important area of study since so many people with psoriasis try alternative therapies to find relief from the pain and itchiness that may not be alleviated by commonly prescribed medical treatments.
Topical medicines, systemic medicines, and phototherapy are the primary ways that people with psoriasis control their symptoms and manage their condition. However, the oral and topical medications typically prescribed can come with significant side effects, leaving many patients searching for other approaches.
Most effective CAM therapies
The results revealed that six alternative therapies showed the most evidence of improving the side effects of plaque psoriasis. In order of effectiveness, these therapies were:
The herb indigo naturalis is also known as Qing dai in traditional Chinese medicine. It is extracted from the leaves of the same indigo plants used for blue dyes and turned into a topical ointment to treat psoriasis.3 The study found that indigo nautralis showed significant improvements in the treatment of psoriasis.
Curcumin is a polyphenol found in the golden spice turmeric, which is often used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking.4 Curcumin “conferred statistically and clinically significant improvements in psoriasis plaques” in the studies reviewed by the team.1
Both indigo naturalis and curcumin are thought to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis due to their anti-inflammatory properties.
Fish oil showed more mixed results. Twenty of the most scientifically rigorous studies showed no significant improvement in psoriasis symptoms, but uncontrolled studies found benefits when fish oil was taken daily.
Meditation, which included guided imagery therapy, provided modest improvements in the symptoms of psoriasis.
Acupuncture seemed to provide significant relief compared to a placebo according to a meta-analysis of 13 randomly controlled studies.
Dietary supplements popular with people with psoriasis include vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids and glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. It is unclear from the study which dietary modifications were found to be most effective.
Regardless of the alternative therapy you try, it is extremely important to talk with your healthcare provider before beginning any new treatment. While it is thought that most CAM therapies are safe, some can interact in dangerous ways with your topical or systemic psoriasis treatments.
Most CAM therapies require more study to detail the exact effect that they have on psoriasis symptoms and any potential interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Gamret A, Price A, Fertig R. Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for Psoriasis: A Systematic Review. JAMA Dermatology. Accessed https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamadermatology/article-abstract/2698668. Accessed 9/12/2018.
Menter A, Korman NJ, Elmets CA, Feldman SR, Gelfand JM, Gordon KB,et al. Guidelines of care for the management of psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis. Section 3. Guidelines of care for the management and treatment of psoriasis with topical therapies. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2009 Apr;60(4):643-59.
A Study of Topical Indigo Naturalis Treatment in Patients With Mild to Moderate Plaque-type Psoriasis. https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01901705. Accessed 9/12/2018.
Sarafian, G,et al. Topical Turmeric Microemulgel in the Management of Plaque Psoriasis; A Clinical Evaluation. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4518115/. Accessed 9/12/2018.