The People's Perspective on Medicine

Is There Science to Support Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis?

Psoriasis can be challenging to treat. New drugs are expensive and have some scary side effects. Are there alternative treatments for psoriasis that work?

Psoriasis sucks. It is a condition that causes red, dry, scaly, itchy skin patches. There is no cure. The causes are mysterious. Scientists believe that an overactive immune system is the culprit. For reasons that remain unclear, T cells stimulate the growth of healthy skin cells. One of the newest and most popular therapies involves immune modulating drugs such as Humira or Enbrel. They’re pricey, though. A month’s supply of Humira can exceed $5,000. That’s why many people with mild to moderate psoriasis may turn to alternative treatments for psoriasis.

Do Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis Work?

Many health professionals automatically turn thumbs-down on non-drug approaches. In our experience, dermatologists are quite skeptical when it comes to home remedies or alternative treatments for psoriasis.

A review published in JAMA Dermatology (online, Sept. 5, 2018), however, suggests that a few complementary and alternative treatment strategies do have evidence of efficacy. The dermatologists analyzed 57 clinical trials and 3 meta-analyses.


The authors found that treatment with curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric:

“conferred statistically and clinically significant improvement in psoriasis plaques.”

The dermatologists who undertook this review concluded:

“On the basis of preliminary high-quality evidence, a trial period of oral curcumin in a phospholipid-based delivery system can be recommended as an effective adjunctive treatment of psoriasis.”

Indigo Naturalis:

A traditional Chinese medicine, Indigo naturalis, demonstrated effectiveness when applied to the skin.

Here is what the dermatologists report:

Indigo naturalis (IN), derived from indigo plants such as Baphicacanthus cusia, has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Along with its active component indirubin, IN has shown anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antimicrobial, antipyretic, and antitumor effects via CDK2 inhibition of the cell cycle in proliferating cancer cells. Oral administration can cause gastrointestinal irritation and hepatic damage when used long term. Topically, however, IN has been shown to be a safe treatment of psoriasis.”

A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study published in BMC Complementary & Alternative Medicine (online Sept. 2, 2017) concluded:

“This study demonstrated the clinical efficacy of Indigo naturalis in moderate psoriasis, and exemplified a novel experimental medicine approach to understand TCM [traditional Chinese Medicine] targeting mechanisms.”

There is a downside to Indigo naturalis. It is a blue dye. That means skin will take on a blue hue. It can also rub off on sheets and clothes.

That said, some people report that it works quite well as one of the alternative treatments for psoriasis.

“Its blue pigment may affect compliance, and finding a reputable source for IN may prove to be a barrier for use because there are limited commercial sources for this product. Sources of IN can be found at traditional Chinese herb pharmacies as qing dai, but consumers should be wary of counterfeit chemical dyes.”

We can offer no insight on high-quality products containing Indigo naturalis. If you can’t find a trustworthy Chinese herb pharmacy in your neighborhood, you could search Amazon. There is no guarantee, however, that the products you find there will satisfy quality standards. Check the reviews to see if any one product stands out as beneficial.

Other Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis:

The dermatologists also listed meditation and guided imagery as potential alternative treatments for psoriasis.

They reviewed several studies and concluded:

“In conclusion, the evidence for meditation and guided imagery is based on a small number of studies with limited numbers of participants; nonetheless, early research suggests that this mind-body modality may be a beneficial adjunctive treatment as part of a holistic management approach to psoriasis.”

Finally, they analyzed data on acupuncture. They noted that:

“In conclusion acupuncture appears to be beneficial for the treatment of psoriasis.”

They point out that:

“The acupoint stimulation should be performed for a minimum of 6 weeks to achieve therapeutic effect.”

People’s Pharmacy Remedies:

We cannot offer randomized, placebo-controlled trials to back up any of these alternative treatments for psoriasis. But you may find them of interest:

How to Soothe Psoriasis with Cilantro

Can You Ease Psoriasis with Natural Remedies?

Share your own experience with psoriasis. Which medications work best for you? Have you tried alternative treatments for psoriasis? If so, how well did they work? Did you experience any side effects?

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About the Author
Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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I have psoriasis and my dermatologist a popular commercial dandruff shampoo with zinc. I put it on my flaking knees, elbows, and calf just befor getting into the shower and then wash as usual. One day later all the flakes were gone and have not come back. I now do this every day and all that is left is a slight pink at the flake sights.

A little over 2 years ago, I decided to try an herbal body lotion containing 10 or 12 differents herbs on my guttate psoriasis spots. After applying 3 or 4 X per day for 3 months, the spots are gone, and I have been clear for 2 years.

Can you share the name of the herbal body lotion?

From the early 80s until 2006 I searched for a cure for my plaque psoriasis, trying traditional and non-traditional treatments. I read about turmeric working for a rash (type undisclosed). I tried turmeric/curcumin supplements (took megadoses) and a week later the raw, red, itchy flakes that had covered the back and a side of my neck were reduced to smooth pink. A month later the size of the pink area was that of a quarter, and I reduced my doses to the recommended amount. Months later – total healing. I stopped the turmeric and within a couple of months, the psoriasis returned. I resumed curcumin, and my skin cleared again. After several more months, I stopped taking the curcumin and have remained free of psoriasis for 11 years.

What brand of supplement, how large a dose ?
Happy to hear of your relief.
J in Canada

Does anyone know of a natural treatment for psoriatic arthritis?

Oolong tea works for me. But it can be difficult to find in a grocery store.

Don’t try any of this w/out a doctor’s help. Psoriasis is serious and can take different treatments and a bit of experimenting before finding the right one. I am very skeptical of these treatments and have had psoriasis for decades. The new treatments really worked for me, and the sooner I used them the better off I was.

I have been on a low dose of prednisone for a few years now and it’s been working very well! I’m 68 and was diagnosed with psoriasis about 5 years ago maybe. We tried clobetasol and methotrexate, that was ruled out quickly.

Might these alternatives also work to treat eczema?

Would these treatments also help psoriatic arthritis?

I have had two bouts of scalp psoriasis. The first time I was offered medicated treatments by my dermatologist that said “flammable” on the bottles. I refused to use them. Instead, I shampooed with baby shampoo, which was, after all, created to remedy infant issues with overgrowth of cells. That did a fair amount of good but not enough. When the psoriasis came back, I shampooed with a good goat milk lye soap and rinsed with apple cider vinegar, which is how my mother washed my hair when I was a child. The psoriasis went away after about four rounds of the lye soap and vinegar and has not

I had been (mis)diagnosed with psoriasis by a dermatologist 32 years ago. Back then, treatment was limited to creams. Nothing worked. I continued to have patches on my elbows, knees, ankles, and various other places. Years later, my regular MD ordered a blood test to check my vitamin D levels. Lo and behold, I had low vitamin D. After taking vitamin D supplements, my skin cleared up. Permanently. This is not coincidental, because I need to take more in the winter months or the dry, scaly patches return.

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