Is Turmeric Really Any Good for Psoriasis?
Do you love looking at food pictures on Instagram? I love it. There is nothing that makes me happier than looking at a beautifully presented turmeric latte. There is something distinctly chirpy about the bright yellow color, the cozy feeling you get from a warm drink and the smug knowledge that you are smothering your cells in an anti-inflammatory bath of turmeric goodness.
But is turmeric that great?
That would make this a short article, wouldn't it? So here comes the but…
The active ingredients in turmeric
The active compounds we think about when we are talking anti-inflammatory properties of turmeric are called Curcuminoids, and keeping things simple we will talk about the most important, curcumin. Curcumin has fantastic healing properties but does not behave how we would like it to in the body; it has what is known as poor bioavailability. This means that you can eat a lot of it, but the body finds it hard to use in the way that we want it to. The good news? If you add pepper (which contains piperine), you can increase the bioavailability by up to 2000 times.1 I say good news because my favorite food is curry. Pepper curry works, it is not great news for your turmeric latte though (unless you plan to swallow whole peppercorns which I am not entirely sure is a good idea).
What can curcumin do for psoriasis?
This is an exciting area because the answer is quite a lot. Curcumin is an antioxidant and can activate the bodies own antioxidant machinery providing multiple ways for your body to improve its resilience to damage.
In mice which have been given chemically induced psoriasis-like inflammation, curcumin inhibited disease development when applied on the skin;4 and yes, scientists can inject mice with a chemical that creates psoriasis-like lesions (poor mice).
A word of caution?
As with almost everything psoriasis, there is no miracle cure. The evidence from scientific studies shows that there are notable anti-inflammatory properties when curcumin is both taken orally and applied to the skin. The effect it has on psoriasis is as individual as a persons response to prescription medication. There is a lack of large-scale, well-designed studies into the impact of taking high doses of curcumin as a treatment for psoriasis but there is promising data from a smaller study. Twelve people with psoriasis took high doses of curcumin for 12 weeks. Ten of the participants showed little to no improvement. However, the two that did improve cleared by over 80%.5 Was this because of the placebo effect? We don't know, but I for one will be adding a spoonful of turmeric to my morning smoothie for the next twelve weeks, so fingers crossed for improvement.
Turmeric vs. curcumin extract
It is easy to go onto Amazon and buy whatever you want but make sure you consider these facts before you do. If the thought of curry every day or shooting back peppercorns does not float your boat, then you can buy curcumin extract which is much more potent that turmeric itself. Turmeric contains only around 3% curcumin6 which means you do need to consume quite a lot of it. Most studies start at roughly 1g/day which is about three tablespoons of turmeric powder. If you do decide to take the extract, remember you will want something with piperine in it too. Now, before you jump into Amazon, it is worth remembering the advantages of whole foods, food in its natural form tends to contain other compounds that complement each other. So there may be enzymes in the whole food that help that we do not know about yet. It is also better to get into a consistent habit such as having a turmeric latte instead of a cup of tea every day at 11 am over sporadically taking high doses of supplements. I know which one sounds most enjoyable to me.
Where on your body does psoriasis bother you the most?