See the signs and seek relief from psoriasis, a common condition affecting the skin and often the nails. According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
Try topical creams
Apply a cream containing 0.025 to 0.075% capsaicin four times a day to relieve itching and help heal sores
Address your stress
Learn stress-reduction techniques such as meditation to improve healing of sores
Give aloe a go
Improve skin-healing by applying a 0.5% herbal extract to affected areas three times a day
About This Condition
Psoriasis is a common, poorly understood condition that affects primarily the skin but may also affect
nails. A related condition, psoriatic arthritis, affects joints.
The fact that some people with psoriasis improve while taking prescription drugs that interfere with the
immune system suggests that the disease might result from a
derangement of the immune system. A dermatologist should be consulted to confirm the diagnosis of
The hallmark symptom of psoriasis is well-defined, red patches of skin covered by a silvery, flaky surface that has pinpoint spots of bleeding underneath if scraped. The patches typically appear during periodic flare-ups and are in the same area on both sides of the body. In some people with psoriasis, the fingernails and toenails may have white-colored pits, lengthwise ridges down the nail, or yellowish spots, or may be thickened or may separate at the cut end.
A preliminary trial treated 61 psoriasis patients with acupuncture that did not respond to conventional medical therapies. After an average of nine acupuncture treatments, 30 (49%) of the patients demonstrated almost complete clearance of the lesions, and 14 (23%) of the patients experienced a resolution for two-thirds of lesions.1 A controlled trial of 56 patients with psoriasis found, however, that acupuncture and “fake” acupuncture resulted in similar, modest effects.2 More controlled trials are necessary to determine the usefulness of acupuncture in the treatment of psoriasis.
Stress reduction has been shown to accelerate healing of psoriatic plaques in a blinded trial.3 Thirty-seven people with psoriasis about to undergo light therapy were randomly assigned to receive either topical ultraviolet light treatment alone or in combination with a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction technique guided by audiotape. Those who received the stress-reduction intervention showed resolution of their psoriasis significantly faster than those who did not.
Hypnosis and suggestion have been shown in some cases to have a positive effect on psoriasis, further supporting the role of stress in the disorder.4 In one case report, 75% resolution of psoriasis resulted from using a hypnotic sensory-imagery technique.5 Hypnosis may be especially useful for psoriasis that appears to be activated by stress.
The right diet is the key to managing many diseases and to improving general quality of life. For this condition, scientific research has found benefit in the following healthy eating tips.
Try a hypoallergenic diet
Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with psoriasis may improve on a hypoallergenic diet. Eliminating gluten has been beneficial for some people.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that people with psoriasis may improve on a hypoallergenic diet.6 Three trials have reported that eliminating gluten (found in wheat, rye, and barley) improved psoriasis for some people.7, 8, 9 A doctor can help people with psoriasis determine whether gluten or other foods are contributing to their skin condition.
Men: Avoid alcohol
Drinking alcohol has been reported to be a risk factor for psoriasis in men but not women.
Ingestion of alcohol has been reported to be a risk factor for psoriasis in men but not women.10, 11 It would therefore be prudent for men with psoriasis to restrict their intake of alcohol or avoid it entirely.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
Apply 0.025 to 0.075% capsaicin ointment four times per day over pain areas with unbroken skin
to relieve itching and help heal sores. Cayenne contains capsaicin, which relieves pain and itching and may help heal sores..
Cayenne contains a resinous and pungent substance known as capsaicin. This chemical relieves pain and itching by depleting certain neurotransmitters from sensory nerves. In a double-blind trial, application of a capsaicin cream to the skin relieved both the itching and the skin lesions in people with psoriasis.12 Creams containing 0.025 to 0.075% capsaicin are generally used. There may be a burning sensation the first several times the cream is applied, but this usually become less pronounced with each use. The hands must be carefully and thoroughly washed after use, or gloves should be worn, to prevent the cream from accidentally reaching the eyes, nose, or mouth and causing a burning sensation. The cream should not be applied to areas of broken skin.
Consult a qualified healthcare practitioner
Fumaric acid, in the chemically bound form known as fumaric acid esters, has been shown to be effective against psoriasis symptoms.
Fumaric acid, in the chemically bound form known as fumaric acid esters, has been shown in case studies,13 preliminary trials14, 15, 16 and double-blind trials17, 18, 19 to be effective against symptoms of psoriasis. However, because fumaric acid esters can cause significant side effects, they should be taken only under the supervision of a doctor familiar with their use. Nevertheless, these side effects have been reported to decrease in frequency over the course of treatment and, if they are closely monitored, rarely lead to significant toxicity.20
Apply a 0.5% extract three times daily
Topically applied aloe may improve skin-healing in people with psoriasis.
A double-blind trial in Pakistan found that topical application of an aloe extract (0.5%) in a cream was more effective than placebo in the treatment of adults with psoriasis.21 The aloe cream was applied three times per day for four weeks.
Take orally 10 grams daily oil or 3.6 grams daily EPA, or apply a 10% topical solution twice per day
Fish oil has been found to reduce the severity of psoriasis and improve skin lesions. It also may help prevent increased triglyceride levels that result from certain psoriasis drugs.
In a double-blind trial, fish oil (10 grams per day) was found to improve the skin lesions of psoriasis.22 In another trial, supplementing with 3.6 grams per day of purified eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, one of the fatty acids found in fish oil) reduced the severity of psoriasis after two to three months.23, 24 That amount of EPA is usually contained in 20 grams of fish oil, a level that generally requires 20 pills to achieve. However, when purified EPA was used in combination with purified docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, another fatty acid contained in fish oil), no improvement was observed.25
Additional research is needed to determine whether fish oil itself or some of its components are more effective for people with psoriasis. One trial showed that applying a preparation containing 10% fish oil directly to psoriatic lesions twice daily resulted in improvement after seven weeks.26 In addition, promising results were reported from a double-blind trial in which people with chronic plaque-type psoriasis received 4.2 g of EPA and 4.2 g of DHA or placebo intravenously each day for two weeks. Thirty-seven percent of those receiving the essential fatty acid infusions experienced greater than 50% reduction in the severity of their symptoms.27
Supplementing with fish oil also may help prevent the increase in blood levels of triglycerides that occurs as a side effect of certain drugs used to treat psoriasis (e.g., etretinate and acitretin).28
Refer to label instructions
An ointment containing barberry may reduce inflammation and be effective against moderate psoriasis.
An ointment containing Oregon grape (10% concentration) has been shown in a clinical trial to be mildly effective against moderate psoriasis but not more severe cases.29 Whole Oregon grape extracts were shown in one laboratory study to reduce inflammation often associated with psoriasis.30 In this study, isolated alkaloids from Oregon grape did not have this effect. This suggests that there are other active ingredients besides alkaloids in Oregon grape. Barberry, which is very similar to Oregon grape, is believed to have similar effects. An ointment, 10% of which contains Oregon grape or barberry extract, can be applied topically three times per day.
Refer to label instructions
In traditional herbal texts, burdock root was believed to clear the bloodstream of toxins. It was used both internally and externally for psoriasis.
In traditional herbal texts, burdock root was believed to clear the bloodstream of toxins.31 It was used both internally and externally for psoriasis. Traditional herbalists recommend 2 to 4 ml of burdock root tincture per day. For the dried root preparation in tablet or capsule form, the common amount to take is 1 to 2 grams three times per day. Many herbal preparations will combine burdock root with other alterative herbs, such as yellow dock, red clover, or cleavers. Burdock root has not been studied in clinical trials to evaluate its efficacy in helping people with psoriasis.
Refer to label instructions
Some herbalists use the herb coleus in treating people with psoriasis.
Although clinical trials are lacking, some herbalists use the herb, coleus, in treating people with psoriasis.32 Coleus extracts standardized to 18% forskolin are available, and 50 to 100 mg can be taken two to three times per day. Fluid extract can be taken in the amount of 2 to 4 ml three times per day.
Only for people who are not taking prescription drugs such as methotrexate that interfere with folic acid metabolism
High amounts of folic acid have been shown to improve psoriasis.
Folic acid antagonist drugs have been used to treat psoriasis. In one preliminary report, extremely high amounts of folic acid (20 mg taken four times per day), combined with an unspecified amount of vitamin C, led to significant improvement within three to six months in people with psoriasis who had not been taking folic acid antagonists;those who had previously taken these drugs saw a worsening of their condition.33
Refer to label instructions
Oregon grape has been shown to be effective against moderate psoriasis and to reduce inflammation.
An ointment containing Oregon grape (10% concentration) has been shown in a clinical trial to be mildly effective against moderate psoriasis but not more severe cases.34 Whole Oregon grape extracts were shown in one laboratory study to reduce inflammation often associated with psoriasis.35 In this study, isolated alkaloids from Oregon grape did not have this effect. This suggests that there are other active ingredients besides alkaloids in Oregon grape. Barberry, which is very similar to Oregon grape, is believed to have similar effects. An ointment, 10% of which contains Oregon grape or barberry extract, can be applied topically three times per day.
Find Drug Interaction Information
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2. Jerner B, Skogh M, Vahlquist A. A controlled trial of acupuncture in psoriasis: no convincing effect. Acta Derm Venereol (Stockh) 1997;77:154-6.
3. Kabat-Zinn J, Wheeler E, Light T, et al. Influence of a mindfulness meditation-based stress reduction intervention on rates of skin clearing in patients with moderate to severe psoriasis undergoing phototherapy (UVB) and photochemotherapy (PUVA). Psychosom Med 1998;60:625-32.
4. Shenefelt PD. Hypnosis in dermatology. Arch Dermatol 2000;136:393-9.
5. Kline MV. Psoriasis and hypnotherapy: a case report. Int J Clin Exp Hypn 1954;2:318-22.
6. Douglas JM. Psoriasis and diet. West J Med 1980;133:450 [letter].
7. Michaelsson G, Gerden B. How common is gluten intolerance among patients with psoriasis? Acta Derm Venereol 1991;71:90.
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13. Ameen M, Russell-Jones R. Fumaric acid esters: an alternative systemic treatment for psoriasis. Clin Experiment Dermatol 1999;24:361-4.
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15. Kolbach DN, Nieboer C. Fumaric acid therapy in psoriasis: results and side effects of 2 years of treatment. J Am Acad Dermatol 1992;27:769-71.
16. Altmeyer PJ, Matthes U, Pawlak F, et al. Antipsoriatic effect of fumaric acid derivatives. J Am Acad Dermatol 1994;30:977-81.
17. Nugteren-Huying WM, van der Schroeff JG, Hermans J, Suurmond D. Fumaric acid therapy for psoriasis: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. J Am Acad Dermatol 1990;22:311-2.
18. Nieboer C, de Hoop D, Langendijk PN, et al. Fumaric acid therapy in psoriasis: a double-blind comparison between fumaric acid compound therapy and monotherapy with dimethylfumaric acid ester. Dermatologica 1990;181:33-7.
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23. Kojima T, Terano T, Tanabe E, et al. Long-term administration of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid provides improvement of psoriasis. Dermatologica 1991;182:225-30.
24. Kojima T, Ternao T, Tanabe E, et al. Effect of highly purified eicosapentaenoic acid on psoriasis. J Am Acad Dermatol 1989;21:150-1.
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26. Dewsbury CE, Graham P, Darley CR. Topical eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) in the treatment of psoriasis. Br J Dermatol 1989;120:581-4.
27. Mayser P, Mrowietz U, Arenberger P, et al. W-3 Fatty acid-based lipid infusion in patients with chronic plaque psoriasis: results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, multicenter trial. J Am Acad Dermatol 1998;38:539-47.
28. Ashley JM, Lowe NJ, Borok ME, Alfin-Slater RB. Fish oil supplementation results in decreased hypertriglyceridemia in patients with psoriasis undergoing etretinate or acitretin therapy. J Am Acad Dermatol 1988;19:76-82.
29. Wiesenauer M, Lüdtke R. Mahonia aquifolium in patients with psoriasis vulgaris—an intraindividual study. Phytomedicine 1996;3:231-5.
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35. Galle K, Müller-Jakic B, Proebstle A, et al. Analytical and pharmacological studies on Mahonia aquifolium.Phytomedicine 1994;1:59-62.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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