Does Ayurvedic Treatment Work for Psoriasis?

Because psoriasis is a long-lasting condition that can be hard to treat, you might be interested in trying ayurvedic medicine to ease your symptoms.

Ayurvedic medicine is a system of medical care created in India more than 3,000 years ago. It combines:

  • Diet
  • Exercise
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Products (ayurvedic medicines)

A few studies have found that ayurvedic treatment could help people who have psoriasis. But there have been few large, well-designed studies of how well it works.

Some ayurvedic practices, like eating veggies and drinking plenty of water, are healthy for almost everyone. Others, like bloodletting, could be unsafe in the wrong hands. So always check with your doctor before trying ayurveda or any other alternative treatment for your psoriasis.

How Does Ayurvedic Medicine Work?

Ayurvedic medicine is based on the idea that everyone is made up of five basic elements:

  • Air
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Ether (space)
  • Water

These elements combine in the body to form life forces called doshas. Everyone is thought to contain a mix of doshas, but has one that’s stronger than the others. The three doshas are:

  • Vata, which is ether and air
  • Pitta, which is fire and water
  • Kapha, which is water and earth

Ayurvedic specialists believe psoriasis results from unbalanced vata and kapha doshas. They think that toxins, stress, and too much of certain foods, like yogurt, seafood, and salty food, also can be to blame.

What Ayurvedic Treatments Are Used for Psoriasis?

If you visit an ayurveda practitioner, they'll create a treatment plan based on your symptoms and lifestyle. It may include:

  • Diet changes
  • Herbs
  • Massage
  • Oils applied to your body
  • Enemas or laxatives
  • Controlled vomiting
  • Blood cleansing using herbs or bloodletting, which involves draining blood from your body

Most of these treatments should be done only by an ayurvedic specialist after you get your doctor’s OK.

Many ingredients and methods that ayurvedic experts use to treat psoriasis may be familiar to you as herbal supplements or other types of alternative treatments. They include:

  • Diet changes. In ayurveda, drinking lots of water and eating green, leafy vegetables is thought to help with psoriasis. Foods and drinks to avoid include alcohol, red meat, spicy food, junk food, and acidic foods.
  • Turmeric. This bright yellow-orange spice is used as a psoriasis treatment in ayurvedic medicine. Many studies show that turmeric reduces inflammation and has antioxidant properties, meaning it protects cells. You can eat turmeric in food, such as curries, or take it as a supplement.
  • Andira araroba. This is a botanical powder made from the andira araroba tree. Ayurvedic specialists mix the powder with vinegar or lemon juice to form a paste that they apply to psoriasis patches.
  • Olive oil. You apply this directly to psoriasis patches or add it to a bath to ease dryness and irritation.
  • Milk thistle. Ayurvedic experts think this herb eases psoriasis symptoms because it helps the liver and immune system work better.
  • Cayenne pepper. It contains a compound called capsaicin, which is also used in ayurvedic medicine. When applied to your skin in a cream, capsaicin may block nerve endings that add to pain. It may also ease inflammation, scaling, and redness from psoriasis. Be careful if you use a capsaicin product, because it can cause a burning feeling on your skin.
  • Aloe vera. In ayurvedic medicine, the gel of this plant is applied to plaques. Some research shows it reduces itching and scaling.

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Is Ayurvedic Medicine Safe for Psoriasis?

There's not much thorough research on ayurvedic medicine for psoriasis or most other health conditions. One 2011 study of 111 people with psoriasis found that using ayurvedic medications improved their quality of life.

In India, ayurvedic doctors must meet certain training standards. But licensing isn't available in the United States, where ayurveda is considered an alternative therapy. The FDA regulates ayurvedic medicines as supplements, not drugs. So they don't have to meet the same requirements.

If you choose to use ayurvedic medicine to treat your psoriasis, here are some steps you can take to stay safe:

  • Continue to see your doctor. Don't use ayurvedic medicine instead of a doctor for your psoriasis.
  • Let your doctor know what ayurvedic treatments you use. Be open about all the steps you’re taking to manage your psoriasis. That way, your doctor can let you know if any of them might be harmful or might interfere with your other treatments.
  • Be careful about what you use and buy. The FDA doesn’t review ayurvedic products. And one study found 1 in 5 ayurvedic medicines contain toxic metals like lead and arsenic. When in doubt, ask your doctor before trying a new product.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Debra Jaliman, MD on May 11, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

Charles E. Crutchfield III, MD, medical director, Crutchfield Dermatology, Eagan, MN; clinical professor, University of Minnesota Medical School.

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Complimentary, Alternative, and Integrative Health: What’s in a Name?”

National Psoriasis Foundation: "Herbs and Natural Remedies."

AYU: "A clinical study of some Ayurvedic compound drugs in the assessment quality of life of patients with Eka Kushtha (psoriasis)."

AyurVaid Multispecialty Hospitals: "Psoriasis."

International Journal of Dermatology and Clinical Research: "Management of psoriasis -- ayurveda and allopathy -- a review."

Journal of Clinical & Experimental Dermatology Research: "Employing the power of ayurveda to treat and cure psoriasis."

Indo American Journal of Pharmaceutical Research: "Fight psoriasis naturally through ayurveda.”

FDA: "Use Caution with Ayurvedic Products.”

Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine: "A glimpse of Ayurveda -- The forgotten history and principles of Indian traditional medicine."

Johns Hopkins Health: "Ayurveda."

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