Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition. The condition is mild but chronic, and there is no true cure. In psoriasis, skin cells rev up and accelerate their life cycle. This results in reddish patches, often with silvery scales, on the elbows, knees, back, or scalp. People with psoriasis may feel embarrassed because it can be scary looking; others may need to be reassured that it is not contagious in any way. Sometimes psoriasis affects toenails or fingernails. At times psoriatic nails may be mistaken for nails infected with fungus, but antifungal medicines will be of no help. Psoriasis is an inflammatory disease, and it can also affect joints. Psoriatic arthritis can be quite debilitating and may require heavy-duty medications such as methotrexate or newer ones like Remicade or Enbrel, which are also used for rheumatoid arthritis. In some cases, sun exposure (but not enough to burn the skin) can help tame the plaques of psoriasis. In others, a doctor will prescribe oral medicine to sensitize the skin before the patient is exposed to ultraviolet light of a carefully controlled frequency and period of time in the clinic. This is often helpful, but an experienced clinician must supervise this PUVA (psoralens plus ultraviolet radiation) treatment because of the potential hazards. There is no specific diet recommended to ease psoriasis, but many readers have reported benefit from putting curcumin or turmeric on their food. Preliminary research suggests that there may be some scientific basis for their enthusiasm.1
I’ve been fascinated with remedies people are using for psoriasis. Several years ago my husband suffered from psoriasis on his arms and legs. The medication the dermatologist gave him was not helpful. I bought some flaxseed oil capsules in the health food store. My husband was skeptical, but by the time he finished the first bottle we saw improvement. He has continued with it and is still free of scabs. I don’t know why it works, but others might want to know about it.
Thanks for sharing your husband’s experience. Flaxseed oil, like fish oil, is rich in essential fatty acids, especially alpha-linolenic and linoleic acid. There are reports that flaxseed oil is beneficial for cell membranes and skin health. Although we have not seen any double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, some people report improvement in both psoriasis and eczema through use of flaxseed or fish oil.
My father had a problem with psoriasis of the scalp. A doctor told him to rub a small amount of Listerine (original formula) into his scalp each morning. He does and hasn’t had flaking or itching since.
Many readers have shared their success with Listerine in fighting dandruff. This condition is often caused by a yeast infection. The alcohol and herbal oils in Listerine have antifungal properties that may control the infection. How Listerine might help psoriasis, which is not caused by infection, is a mystery.
A few months ago you wrote about the use of turmeric for boils and possibly arthritis or cancer. This bit of information has changed my life. I’ve suffered with psoriasis for 25 years and have it over nearly half my body. I’ve seen many physicians and tried every medication and ultraviolet treatment. The enormous cost has been matched only by my disappointment. When I read that turmeric might have anti-inflammatory properties, I wondered if it might help me. I immediately bought some and sprinkled a rounded teaspoonful on my cereal. I continued the regimen daily, and the results are unbelievable! After ten days, the awful itching and bleeding had ceased. My scalp, which had been heavily flaked and itchy, was returning to normal. The skin problems on my legs and thighs cleared up after eight weeks. Now, five months later, I have no psoriasis, just a few reddened areas where it was bad. I am grateful to you for the information that made a huge difference for me.
Turmeric, a spice in curry powder, is popular in India. In this country, yellow mustard often contains some turmeric. Curcumin, the active ingredient, has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help explain how it could help an inflammatory condition like psoriasis. Several readers have reported that taking turmeric capsules or putting the spice on food is helpful against psoriasis. Turmeric was used for digestive problems in traditional Chinese medicine.
I want to thank you for writing about turmeric for treating psoriasis. I developed this condition two years ago, and it made my skin very itchy and sensitive as well as unsightly. I saw three different dermatologists who all diagnosed psoriasis. Each prescribed creams and ointments, but none worked. After I read your article on turmeric, I tried it. Within one month I was better. After three months, every sore was gone. They have not returned, even though I stopped taking the turmeric nearly a year ago.
Several readers have reported that taking turmeric capsules or putting it on food helps relieve psoriasis, and one reader has found it helpful for treating irritable bowel syndrome.
I want to thank you for writing about turmeric. I had psoriasis on my feet and my hands so bad that I lost all my fingernails. I went to doctor after doctor to heal my psoriasis, but nothing worked. When I saw the article, I thought I’d try it. I put turmeric on my food and in my coffee. Within two weeks, my psoriasis had started to heal. Within three weeks, it had cleared up. I have been free of psoriasis for six months now. My foot is no longer scaling, and the nails on my hands have grown back. I told the doctor about turmeric. I guess he didn’t believe me, but I know better.
Research demonstrates that a component of turmeric, curcumin, shows promise for treating psoriasis and other conditions.2 We have heard from many others that turmeric can help ease psoriasis. Some people are allergic to the spice, however, and those who take the anticoagulant warfarin should avoid it.
My stepdad has had a horrible case of psoriasis for over ten years. The rash was all over his body and caked on his scalp, and it itched constantly. The dermatologist he saw prescribed Dovonex, Capex, and clobetasol. He has used these medications off and on since about 2001, but they provided minimal relief. Mom found a suggestion in your book (Best Choices from the People’s Pharmacy) that turmeric might help treat psoriasis. We went to the local food co-op and picked it up in pill form. Within a week his scalp was halfway clear, and now, three weeks later, it is just a tiny bit flaky with no itching. This has been life changing for him. Nothing ever cleared up his psoriasis like the turmeric has. He discontinued using Dovonex and wants to drop the Capex and clobetasol next. All of these medications are very expensive, especially in comparison to turmeric.
People in India have used turmeric in traditional ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years. Basic research suggests a number of reasons why curcumin, the active compound in turmeric, would have a beneficial effect in treating psoriasis.3 We hope to see a double-blind study of the benefits of curcumin someday. Researchers looking into the potential health benefits of curcumin found that curcumin inhibits an enzyme called PhK, which is associated with overactive cell growth in psoriasis.4
I know you have written about taking turmeric for psoriasis. My fingernails are falling out from this condition. Is turmeric safe?
There is growing interest in turmeric and its active ingredient, curcumin, for treating a variety of inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis. Not everyone will benefit from turmeric, and there are cautions. Some people experience skin rashes or liver enzyme elevations. Turmeric may also interact with the anticoagulant warfarin (Coumadin) and increase the risk of bleeding. A new study shows that turmeric increases oxalate in the urine, so it may increase the risk of kidney stones in susceptible people.5
THE PEOPLE’S PHARMACY
Favorite Food #23: Curry (Turmeric and Curcumin)
Many spices can go into curry powder, but the one that is absolutely necessary for color and flavor is turmeric. Derived from the root of Curcuma longa—a plant related to ginger—turmeric is the golden yellow spice in curry and yellow mustard. It has been widely used in the cuisines of southern Asia for centuries, and lately it seems that the rest of the world has grown to appreciate turmeric as well.
The compounds in turmeric are not easily dissolved in water, but the tradition of making curry with ghee (clarified butter) or coconut milk overcomes this problem by providing fat to carry the important components. Researchers have been studying an ingredient in turmeric called curcumin.1 This compound has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may contribute to its use for treating conditions like arthritis, psoriasis, and gout.
Cancer researchers are investigating the potential of curcumin to affect an extraordinary range of tumors involving the breast, pancreas, colon, bladder, prostate, skin, ovaries, lung, and brain. Some data even suggest that curcumin might be active against the blood cancer multiple myeloma.2 Research also suggests that the compound curcumin may even be able to ward off Alzheimer’s disease, which seems to be rooted in brain inflammation.3
We do, however, want to issue a couple of cautions. If you develop a rash or hives, you should stop taking the turmeric immediately. The reaction could worsen. Some people have found that their liver enzymes go up when they take turmeric or curcumin. This is a warning sign that the liver is having trouble.
In addition, we have had several reports that turmeric can interact with the blood-thinner warfarin (Coumadin). If you take Coumadin, you should not take turmeric. It is too difficult to strike a balance between turmeric and warfarin, and the danger of bleeding is too great to risk taking both.
Source Credits: Joe Graedon & Terry Graedon, The People’s Pharmacy: Quick & Handy Home Remedies, published by National Geographic