Alternative Treatments for Psoriasis

If you have psoriasis, you might be wondering if there’s more you can do to manage your condition. There are some alternative treatments you may be able to try, alongside the care you get from your doctor.

They may help symptoms like itching, scaling, and painful plaques. Before you try one, even an over-the-counter product, talk to your doctor.

Sun

Some people with psoriasis notice that their symptoms improve after they’ve spent time in the sun.

How It May Help:

Sunlight contains ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVB rays slow the growth of skin cells, which can make psoriasis patches less severe.

What to Know:

Topical psoriasis treatments, including tazarotene and coal tar, up your odds of getting a sunburn. And if you’ve had skin cancer or are at a high risk for it, treating psoriasis with sunlight may not be an option for you.
If you have severe psoriasis, your doctor may recommend prescription phototherapy (also known as light therapy) instead of sun. It gives you more concentrated UVB rays than sunlight. If you use prescription phototherapy, you’ll need to be even more careful about your time in natural sunlight.

Epsom or Dead Sea Salt Baths

Bathing can help calm irritated skin and remove scales from your psoriasis plaques. Some people with psoriasis like to add Epsom or Dead Sea salts to their baths.

How It May Help:

The salts may help remove scales and ease itching.

How to Use It:

To try it, add a few teaspoons of bath salts to a warm bath and soak for 15 minutes. Make sure that your bath water is warm and not hot. Hot water can dry out your skin and make psoriasis worse. After you’re done bathing, pat your skin dry and apply a moisturizer to lock in moisture.

What to Know:

Limit yourself to one bath or shower a day. Bathing more than that can irritate your skin.

Oats

Some people say oats help bring relief to psoriasis symptoms.

How It May Help:

There’s no research showing that oats help, but some people with psoriasis use them to ease itching and redness.

How to Use It:

You can use oats two ways:

  1. Add ground oats to your bath. Instead of whole oats, use colloidal oatmeal, which is ground very fine so it blends in the water. You can buy colloidal oatmeal or make your own by chopping dry oats in a food processor.
  2. Create a paste out of ground oats and a small amount of water. Apply it to areas of your skin that have psoriasis plaques.

Plastic Wrap

It may sound strange but wrapping your skin in plastic wrap is a known alternative treatment for psoriasis.

How It May Help:

It can make over-the-counter or prescription topical treatments easier for your skin to absorb. That can make them more effective.

How to Use It:

Use a thick cream to moisturize the areas of skin where you have plaques. Then wrap the areas with plastic wrap.

What to Know:

Because plastic wrap can make a topical product more potent, ask your doctor whether this is safe for you and how long you should keep your skin wrapped. It may cause skin thinning, bruising, pigment changes, stretch marks, and other issues.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel comes from the leaves of the aloe vera plant.

How It May Help:

It may ease psoriasis-related scaling, itching, and redness.

How to Use It:

Choose a gel or a cream with ingredients that include at least 0.5% aloe, or use gel from the plant itself. The gel oozes out when you break the plant’s leaves. It can be sticky and can take several minutes to absorb into your skin. Wash your hands after you use it, and don’t put clothing over your skin until the gel has absorbed.

What to Know:

You’ll probably have to apply the gel to your skin two to three times a day for at least a month to notice an improvement.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Scalp psoriasis is among the many things apple cider vinegar may help with.

How It May Help:

Applying it to your scalp may help ease itching.

How to Use It:

  • Choose organic apple cider vinegar, which you can find at many grocery stores.
  • Dilute it by adding one part water to one part vinegar. Straight apple cider vinegar may cause a burning feeling to your scalp.
  • Carefully pour the diluted vinegar onto your scalp. Tip your head back so it doesn’t get in your eyes.
  • Let it sit on your scalp for a minute or two. Then rinse your scalp thoroughly with water.
  • Repeat a few times a week.

What to Know:

Don’t use apple cider vinegar if you have cracked or bleeding psoriasis patches on your scalp or on other areas that would come in contact with the vinegar as you apply it, such as your hands. It can burn and cause more irritation.

How to Use It:

You can buy over-the-counter creams or ointments that contain it. Rub it into your affected areas.

What to Know:

You may notice a burning sensation when you apply capsaicin cream or ointment. That feeling should let up after a few minutes, and you may not notice it after you’ve used it for several weeks. You may want to wear gloves when applying creams containing capsaicin. It may not come all the way off your hands after washing with soap and water. That can make it painful if you touch your eyes or nose.

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil (a.k.a. melaleuca oil) is an essential oil from the leaves of the Australian tea tree.

How It May Help:

Research shows that it can be helpful for conditions like acne and dandruff. But studies don’t show whether it’s an effective treatment for psoriasis. Still, some people say it helps ease their scalp psoriasis.

How to Use It:

Look for shampoos that contain tea tree oil. Don’t apply the oil straight to your skin.

What to Know:

Never drink tea tree oil. It can be toxic. Some people are allergic to it. If you’re using it for the first time, be on the lookout for swelling, redness, or other signs of an allergic reaction.

Oregon Grape (Barberry)

Oregon grape is also known as barberry or “Mahonia Aquifolium.” Its roots, bark, and stem are used to make medicine.

How It May Help:

Oregon grape has antimicrobial properties and may play a role in how your immune system works. It can calm psoriasis flares in people with mild to moderate psoriasis.

How to Use It:

Look for a cream that contains 10% Oregon grape bark extract. Apply it to your plaques a few times a day.

What to Know:

Talk to your doctor before choosing or using any products that contain Oregon grape. Side effects are thought to be mild, but may include a burning sensation or rash. Don’t use it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

Oral Supplements

You might be wondering whether adding some supplements or nutrients to your diet can help your psoriasis. Some have been shown to ease psoriasis symptoms. Others don’t seem to have an impact. Supplements people use for psoriasis include:

Vitamin D.

Often used in topical ointments for psoriasis, it can slow skin cell growth, which can ease psoriasis symptoms when it’s applied to your skin. But researchers aren’t sure whether taking vitamin D by mouth as a supplement can help with psoriasis. Taking too much vitamin D can be dangerous, so ask your doctor before trying it.

Turmeric.

Studies show that the active compound in this bright yellow-orange spice, curcumin, reduces inflammation and has antioxidant properties, meaning it protects cells. That may be why research also shows that turmeric and curcumin supplements can help with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis flares. You can eat turmeric in food or take it as a pill or supplement. Turmeric can have a blood-thinning effect, so get your doctor’s go-ahead before taking it as a supplement.

Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids).

Not all experts agree on whether fish oil is an effective treatment for psoriasis. But one review of 15 studies found that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil can reduce psoriasis-related scaling, itching, and redness.

Glucosamine and chondroitin.

Both are found in your body’s cartilage. Experts think glucosamine may help with pain relief. Likewise, chondroitin might help cartilage stay elastic and prevent it from breaking down. Some people with psoriasis take these supplements, but there’s no evidence they help with psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.

Oregano oil.

Some people say that oregano oil eases psoriasis symptoms. But there are no studies showing whether it’s safe or effective for psoriasis. Oregano may contribute to miscarriage, so if you’re pregnant, don’t take it. It can also interfere with lithium, a medication that’s used to treat bipolar disorder.

Ease Stress

Stress can cause your body to release inflammatory chemicals. Those chemicals may be why excess stress is linked to psoriasis flare-ups. Stress may make itching worse too.

How It May Help:

Massage, acupuncture, yoga: There are lots of ways to calm your mind and reduce stress and that can help keep psoriasis symptoms in check. But there are things to consider when you have this skin condition:

Reviewed By Neha Pathak, MD on November 18 2021

National Psoriasis Foundation: “Herbs and Natural Remedies,” “Life with Psoriasis,” “Phototherapy,” “Integrated Approaches to Care,” “Dietary Modifications.”

National Cancer Institute: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, medical director of Crutchfield Dermatology in Eagan, MN, and clinical professor at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

Harvard Men’s Health Watch: “A deeper look at psoriasis.”

Epsom Salt Council: “Epsom Salt Baths for Eczema, Psoriasis, and Acne.”

American Academy of Dermatology: “8 Ways to Stop Baths and Showers from Worsening You’re Psoriasis.”

Mayo Clinic: “Psoriasis,” “Tea tree oil,” “Yoga: Fight stress and find serenity.”

Pharmacy Times: “Psoriasis: New Treatment Options Make Clear Skin Possible.”

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: “Effects of topically applied capsaicin on moderate and severe psoriasis vulgaris,” “Diet and Psoriasis: Part 3. Role of Nutritional Supplements.”

UpToDate: “Treatment of Psoriasis in Adults.”

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: “Review of the Efficacy and Safety of Topical Mahonia aquifolium for the Treatment of Psoriasis and Atopic Dermatitis.”

PennState Hershey Milton S. Hershey Medical Center: “Psoriasis.”

BMJ Open: “Acupuncture for psoriasis: protocol for a systematic review.”

Medical Acupuncture: “Does Acupuncture Reduce Stress Over Time? A Clinical Heart Rate Variability Study in Hypertensive Patients.”