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9 Natural Alternatives For Treating Psoriasis

Nowaday, herbal resources play a very important role in the management of the skin and inflammatory diseases. Some studies suggest that psoriasis symptoms can be relieved by change in diet and lifestyle. Fasting, low energy diets and vegetarian diets have improved psoriasis symptoms.

In some treatments supplementation with fish oil shows a beneficial effect due to the presence of omega – 3 Fatty Acids and Vitamin E. Cannabis is also suggested for treating psoriasis due to the anti-inflammatory properties of its cannabinoids and their regulatory effect on immune system (Bhuchar et al., 2012, Brown et al., 1998, Brown et al., 2004; Farber et al., 1986; Koo et al., 1998, Mantle et al., 2001; Deng et al., 2013).

Some herbal alternatives for natural psoriasis treatment and the possible rationale of their anti-psoriatic activity have been discussed below briefly on the basis of reports of some researches.

Herbal Remedies for Treating Psoriasis

1. Cayenne

Capsicum annuum/ Capsicum frutescens It is commonly known as Cayenne, its chief component being capsaicin. One hypothesis on the pathogenesis of psoriasis suggests a neurogenic inflammatory etiology mediated through substance – P (SP). SP activates inflammatory cells and ultimately perpetuates vasodilatation, angiogenesis and keratinocyte hyperproliferation. In accordance, psoriatic lesions are known to be more densely innervated with higher SP content than control or uninvolved psoriatic skin. Capsaicin stimulates the release of SP by binding to the vanilloid receptor on slow – conducting, unmyelinated type C neurons and ultimately leads to its depletion (Joe et al., 1997, Bernstein et al., 1986, IIis et al., 1993).

2. Aloe vera

Aloe vera is a popular plant used in cosmetic care and first aid products in case of thermal injuries. Aloe containsanthroquinones, steroids, saponins, mucopolysaccharides and salicylic acid. Syed and colleagues (1996) conducted a double – blind, placebo – controlled study on 60 patients with psoriasis with slight to moderateplaque type psoriasis and an average 8.5 year duration of their disease. Patients self – administered topical Aloe vera extract cream or vehicle placebo three times a day without occlusion for 4 weeks to their psoriatic plaques. The aloe group showed significantly higher rates of clearing the psoriatic plaques in almost all patients. Anthraquinone and acemannan, the main active compounds in Aloe vera, have antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus and Streptococcus species and may provide a rationale for their therapeutic efficacy in psoriasis. In addition, salicylic acid, a component of Aloe vera, is a keratolytic and would contribute to its reported efficacy in the desquamation of psoriatic plaques (Syed et al., 1996, Klein et al., 1988, Robson et al., 1982, Choonhakarn et al., 2010, Paulsen et al., 2005, Dhanabal et al., 2012).

3. Milk Thistle

Silybum marianum It is commonly known as Milk Thistle. This plant is very well known for its hepatoprotective activity. Numerous changes have been detected in the liver of patients with psoriasis, including steatosis, periportal inflammation, fibrosis, necrosis and cirrhosis. A multifactorial etiology of liver disease in patients with psoriasis includes changes due to alcohol use, nutritional factors, anti – psoriatic medications and a direct effect of the psoriasis itself. Abnormally high levels of cAMP and leukotrienes have been observed in psoriatic patients and normalization of these levels may improve the condition. The importance of silymarin in the treatment of psoriasis may be due to its ability to improve endotoxin removal by the liver, inhibit cAMP phosphodiesterase and inhibit leukotriene synthesis. (Sabir et al., 2014).


4. Dong quay

Angelica sinensis It is commonly known as Dong quay. This Chinese herbal medicine extracts contain potent furocoumarin i.e. psoralen. Psoralens are potent photosensitizers in the presence of UVA. Exposure to UVA, following psoralen ingestion, causes epidermal DNA cross – linking and thus a decrease in the rate of epidermal DNA synthesis. Patients are self-administering a form of psoralen– UVA (PUVA) therapy by consuming dong quay and then receiving ultraviolet light therapy or natural sunlight. Koo & Arain, 1998 studied patients with psoriasis, two-thirds patients got complete relief from their disease after oral treatment with this plant extract. Another herb used in treating psoriasis hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium ), also contains a psoralen but the efficacy and side effects are not available (Bhuchar et al., 2012, Koo et al., 1998).

5. Chamomile

Matricaria recutita It is commonly known as Chamomile. The chamomile flowers have a long therapeutic tradition in treating gastrointestinal ailments. The rationale for its use in psoriasis is that chamazulene, a by-product of the non – volatile oil extract, matricin, known to have anti – inflammatory activity by inhibition of lipoxygenase and as a result, leukotriene B4 (LTB4) formation. There is evidence supporting the role of increased LTB4 formation in psoriatic plaques; therefore, inhibition results in disease improvement. Chamomile oil has antimicrobial activity against skin pathogens, Staphylococcus and Candida. The flavonoids, quercetin and apigenin, are also active compounds of the flower. Quercetin is reported to be a potent inhibitor of lipoxygenase and to a lesser degree, cyclooxygenase. Quercetin also shows good skin penetration property (Murti et al., 2012, Safayhi et al., 1994).

6. Tea Tree Oil

Melaleuca alternifolia It is traditionally known as Tea Tree Oil and is popular for its wound healing property. The oil contains terpin – 4-ol, alpha – terpineol and alpha – pinene which confer antimicrobial activity against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis. No studies have investigated the use of tea tree oil in psoriasis; however, its role in urticarial reactions and control of whale and flare has been reported. Hence, study can be made to evaluate its anti – psoriatic efficacy. Although there is reported efficacy in the treatment of acne, dandruff and cold sores, tea tree oil can produce allergic dermatitis in individuals sensitized to the sesquiterpenoid fractions. Oral ingestion can lead to the detrimental effects of cognitive disorientation, systemic contact dermatitis and coma (Carson et al., 2001, Carson et al., 1998, Koh et al., 2002, May et al., 2000).

7. Wintergreen

Gaultheria procumbens It is commonly known as Wintergreen. Wintergreen is a plant native to the Eastern United States and historically was used by Native Americans as an analgesic. It contains 118 Singh and Tripathy / Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science 4 (11); 2014: 114-121 methyl salicylate, which is having anti – inflammatory properties. Although used topically for psoriasis, wintergreen can cause systemic effects like tinnitus, vomiting, tachypnea and acid – base disturbances. Patients using aspirin or a prescribed salicylic acid compound in conjunction with a salicylate herbal (for example, wintergreen, aloe vera, or red clover) are more susceptible for systemic toxicities. Additionally, oil of wintergreen can increase prothrombin time and international normalized ratio (INR) of clotting, creating problems for patients on warfarin. There are no investigations on its effectiveness in psoriasis, but have potential anti – inflammatory effect and needs further scientific investigations for its use in psoriasis (Sahu et al., 2011).

8. Slippery elm

Ulmus rubra It is commonly known as Slippery elm, named so for its mucilage component, derived from the inner bark of the elm. Historically, Native Americans used this extract as a poultice for boils and wounds. It is currently marketed as a treatment for irritable bowel syndrome, reflux and cystitis. Brown and colleagues (2004) evaluated a study group of five patients with chronic plaque-type psoriasis on a home based six month medical nutritional therapeutic regimen. They assessed psoriasis symptoms and bowel permeability over the experimentation period and reported an improvement in all studied parameters. Psoriasis area and Severity Index averaged post test scores showed significant improvement (Buchar et al., 2012, Brown et al., 2004).

9. Turmeric

Curcuma longa/ Curcuma domestica Turmeric has a long history of being used for infections and kidney stones. The use in psoriasis is a relatively new adjunct. The anti-inflammatory components are thought to be contained in the curcuminoids and volatile oils which function through selective inhibition of phosphorylase kinase (PhK). PhK is an enzyme found in the epidermis. Significantly higher levels have been noted to correlate with clinical activity of psoriasis. It is also reported decreased PhK activity in the curcumin and calcipotriol treated groups corresponded to severity of parakeratosis, decreases in keratinocyte transferrin receptor expression and density of epidermal CD8 + T cells. The study did not report any adverse effects, although contact dermatitis is a reported adverse effect (Joe et al., 1997).