Every once in a while, a reader comes up with a home remedy that surprises us. Although we have often written about capsaicin, the essence of hot chili peppers, we’ve never imagined using chili oil any way other than its intended purpose-giving stir-fried dishes some heat.
Chili Oil as a Psoriasis Remedy:
Q. Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition, and capsaicin fights inflammation. I use chili oil on the psoriasis on my elbows. (You can find it in Asian markets, sold for cooking.)
Apply it with a cotton swab every night (not your fingers!). The itching goes away almost immediately, and the dry patch fades in about two weeks.
A. You have discovered something dermatologists have been writing about for decades (Bernstein et al, Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, Sept. 1986). Topical capsaicin (the hot stuff in chili peppers) can help ease psoriasis and its itch. A recent review of botanical treatments for psoriasis confirmed this (Farahnik et al, American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, Aug. 2017). (In addition, the authors found some support for the use of Mahonia aquifolium, also known as Oregon grape holly, aloe vera and indigo.)
Chili Oil as a Source of Capsaicin:
Your method of applying capsaicin is unusual, though. Some people utilize a drugstore product such as Capzasin-HP or Zostrix, used to ease the pain of arthritis, muscle strain or shingles.
The hot oil you found in the Asian market is toasted sesame oil infused with hot peppers. We’ve never heard before of anyone using it for the itch of psoriasis. Your caution to use a swab is well taken: capsaicin on sensitive tissues such as eyes can burn for a long time.