Psoriasis can be a debilitating condition.

Treat Psoriasis Naturally with Turmeric

Psoriasis is an inflammatory autoimmune disease condition. It's most common in the Arctic, Norway, and western European populations and much less so in natives of warm, sunny climates (such as Africa, Samoa, and South America). (ix.19-21)

The most common type of psoriasis causes thick, scaly flakes on reddened skin. At the cell level, the skin of people with psoriasis makes new cells at 10 times that of normal skin, while shedding it at the slower, normal rate. (ix.19-21)

Psoriasis Is a Debilitating Condition

Psoriasis can have a substantial negative impact on a person's sense of well-being. In fact, research shows that the effect on quality of life is similar to patients with congestive heart failure(ix.2022-23)

The often chronic nature of psoriasis requires long-term treatment that can be expensive, time-consuming, and come with adverse side effects. Combined with the embarrassment, self-consciousness, and discomfort of psoriasis, it's easy to understand its effects on quality of life. (ix.23)

Increased Risk for Other Diseases

Psoriasis is linked to greater risk for a number of other inflammatory diseases, including: (ix.20-22)

Conversely, metabolic syndrome conditions (including diabetes and obesity) appear to increase the risk for developing psoriasis(ix.2024)

Psoriasis is also linked to higher risk of certain cancers (such as skin cancer and lymphoma). However, it's not clear whether this increased risk is due to psoriasis or a side effect of conventional treatments for it. (ix.20)

Causes and Triggers for Different Types of Psoriasis

Psoriasis can be either acute (appear suddenly) or chronic. There are 5 types of psoriasis. The causes/triggers and symptoms of each includes: (ix.2025)

Table IX.1: Types of Psoriasis
Type Looks Like/Location Triggers/Causes

Psoriasis vulgaris

(approximately 90% of chronic psoriasis cases) (ix.20-21)

  • Lesions are itchy, sharply defined, raised areas of deep-red colored thickened skin with varying degrees of silvery, flaky plaques topping it. (ix.23)
  • Most commonly found on elbows and knees, but also typical to ears, scalp, face, body, and lower back. (ix.22-23)
  • Pitted, discolored, and thickened nails occur in up to 50% of cases). (ix.2023)

Guttate psoriasis

(2nd most common type, usually an acute, sudden form) (ix.2226)

  • Lesions are multiple unconnected small, red spots typically on body and limbs. (ix.26)
  • May have fine scaling. (ix.22)
  • Usually not as thick as psoriasis vulgaris plaques. (ix.26)
  • Typically resolved within 3-4 months. (ix.20)

Inverse psoriasis (ix.27)

  • Lesions are typically non-scaly, bright red, shiny patches of skin. (ix.27)
  • Found in areas where skin folds (such as under the arms and breasts and in the groin area). (ix.27)
  • Topical steroid treatment, though effective, increases risk of bacterial and fungal (such as yeast) infections and side effects because of where it occurs. (ix.2227)
  • Can occur simultaneously with other forms of psoriasis. (ix.27)
  • More common in overweight patients. (ix.27)

Pustular psoriasis

(acute and cyclical types) (ix.2028)

  • Lesions are white, pus-filled, itchy blisters. (ix.28)
  • Acute type (von Zumbusch) occurs on top of shiny, painful, red skin. (ix.28)
  • Limited to certain areas (such as hands and feet) or can cover most of the body. (ix.2028)
  • Can cause permanent loss of nails. (ix.22)

Erythrodermic psoriasis (ix.29)

  • Poorly defined, bright red lesions that cover over 80% of body. (ix.2229)
  • Appears similar to severely sunburned skin. (ix.29)
  • Often extremely itchy and painful(ix.29)
  • Skin sheds in large sheets instead of smaller flakes. (ix.29)
  • Increases heart rate. (ix.29)
  • May cause heart and kidney failure and/or sepsis(ix.22)
  • Can be fatal. (ix.29)


At the Cellular Level

In people with psoriasis, immune cells are abnormally activated by triggers for the condition. These psoriatic T-cells produce inflammatory cytokine proteins, activate other immune cells, and create chronic inflammation(ix.22)

Can Dysbiosis and a "Leaky Gut" Aggravate Psoriasis?

According to practitioners of herbal medicine, anything that causes imbalance in the normal microbial environment in the intestines (dysbiosis) can lead to leaky gut. What can cause dysbiosis? Besides antibiotics, diet, and other medications, the following conditions are linked to dysbiosis: (ix.30)

The increased permeability of the intestines allows bacteria, improperly digested proteins, and toxins to escape into the blood. The flow of toxins creates chronic inflammation, overwhelms the liver's detoxification defenses, and makes the immune system more sensitive to other psoriasis triggers. (ix.30)

Aggravating Factors

Other conditions or lifestyle factors may increase the severity of psoriasis. This include: (ix.20-2224)

However, in about half of pregnant patients their psoriasis symptoms actually improve. (ix.22)

Some acute subtypes of psoriasis, such as von Zumbusch pustular and erythrodermic psoriasis, can be life-threatening. Pustular psoriasis may also increase the risk for developing other types of psoriasis. (ix.2028-29)

Conventional Treatments

Conventional therapy for psoriasis depends on the severity of the condition. Some treatments may be limited because of coexisting conditions that may make potential side effects worse. For example, people with kidney disease are cautioned when taking drugs that can impair kidney function. (ix.2031)

These drugs are associated with a number of other potentially serious side effects as well. The risk of developing an adverse side effect typically increases with the length of time the medication is used. (ix.20)

Table IX.2: Conventional Psoriasis Treatments
Conventional Treatment Drug How They Work to Relieve Psoriasis Flares Potential Side Effects

Biological Agents (e.g., fusion proteins and synthetic antibodies) (ix.20)

Injectable/IV infusion drugs such as Amevive®, Simponi®, Raptiva®, Enbrel®, and Humira® for moderate to severe psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis(ix.2032)

Calcipotriene (Dovonex®) (ix.2033)

Synthetic vitamin D3 derivative used topically for mild psoriasis. (ix.20)

  • Slows growth of skin cells. (ix.33)
  • Reduces scaling. (ix.33)
  • Rash. (ix.33)
  • Skin irritation. (ix.33)
  • Worsening of psoriasis (less common). (ix.33)

Corticosteroids (ix.20)

Topical treatment for mild psoriasis. (ix.28)

  • Anti-inflammatory. (ix.28)
  • Reduces swelling and redness. (ix.28)

Cyclosporine (ix.20)

Powerful immunosuppressant systemic drug only used after other drugs fail for severe psoriasis. (ix.20)

  • Slows down growth of inflammatory immune system cells. (ix.31)

Methotrexate (ix.20)

A systemic drug for severe psoriasis. (ix.20)

  • Blocks enzyme involved in rapid skin cell growth. (ix.34)
  • Slows down growth rate of skin cells. (ix.34)

Retinoids (such as acitretin and tazarotene) (ix.20)

Synthetic form of vitamin A; taken orally for severe psoriasis, topically for mild cases. (ix.20)

  • Slowly helps reduce growth and shedding of skin cells. (ix.35)
  • May worsen psoriasis before improvement and take up to 6 months for achieving best results. (ix.35)

Systemic:

Topical:

  • Increased risk of sunburn. (ix.33)
  • Skin irritation. (ix.33)

Salicylic or Tar Shampoos and Topical Ointments (ix.20)

Used for mild psoriasis. (ix.20)

Salicylic acid:

  • Softens and helps shed plaque faster. (ix.36)
  • Incompatible with calcipotriene. (ix.23)

Coal and wood tar:

  • Slows down growth of skin cells. (ix.36)
  • Sensitivity to sunlight and sunburn (tar). (ix.36)
  • Skin irritation. (ix.36)
  • Temporary hair breakage and loss (salicylic acid). (ix.36)

Ultraviolet A (UVB) with Psoralen Sensitizer (PUVA) (ix.2023)

Photochemotherapy. (ix.23)

  • Decreases oversensitive Langerhans cells that activate this response. (ix.20)
  • Interferes with DNA and reduces cell proliferation. (ix.23)
  • Reduces local inflammatory immune system response. (ix.2023)

Ultraviolet B (UVB) with Topical Agent (such as calcipotriene or corticosteroid) (ix.2023)

Phototherapy. (ix.20)

  • Decreases oversensitive Langerhans cells that activate this response. (ix.20)
  • Not as effective as UVA and psoralen therapy. (ix.2023)
  • Reduces inflammatory immune system response. (ix.20)

How Can Turmeric Help?

Decades of research shows that turmeric, turmeric oil, and its compounds have several different powerful properties that may help relieve psoriasis. These include helping to regulate the immune system, boosting liver function, and preventing the effects of metabolic syndrome conditions. (ix.37-42)

Turmeric's Anti-inflammatory and Immune System Activity

Abnormal immune system activation and the chronic inflammation it causes are key factors in the development and severity of psoriasis. Turmeric extracts and oil have potent anti-inflammatory and anti-psoriasis effects. So do many of its compounds (especially curcumin and quercetin). (ix.38-39)

Similar Activity as Pharmaceutical Drugs

Curcumin helps regulate the immune system response, and experts suggest the turmeric compound may be a cheap and safe alternative treatment. Similar to the biologic drug Enbrel®, curcumin blocks TNF-alpha, a cytokine protein involved in severe psoriasis inflammation. (ix.172943-44)

Curcumin also helps counteract dysfunctional immune activity in cells that is involved in breaking down proteins. Called the ubiquitin-proteasome system (or UPS for short), UPS is also associated with psoriasis. (ix.45)

Evidence of Benefit

Clinical trials indicate that turmeric and its curcumin compounds may help treat psoriasis, but in different ways: (ix.1746-49)

Clinical Trial
Table IX.3: Clinical Evidence of Turmeric Benefit in Psoriasis
Turmeric Form or Compound Study Details Take Away Point

600 mg/day of turmeric extract and 2 sessions of UVA therapy a week (ix.46)

(for up to 8 weeks)

A pilot study was conducted with 22 patients suffering from moderate to severe psoriasis. (ix.46)

Within 45-65 days, all patients had greater than 75% reduction in severity. (ix.46)

By the end of the study, al had achieved over 90% improvement. (ix.46)

Turmeric supplements with ultraviolet-A phototherapy could significantly improve symptoms of psoriasis. (ix.46)

Topical treatment with ointment containing 1% curcumin (ix.4750)

Clinical research measured effects of gel containing the turmeric compound curcumin compared to placebo and Dovonex®-treated patients with psoriasis. (ix.47)

Curcumin gel performed significantly better than placebo or calcipotriol (a vitamin D derivative) ointment. (ix.47)

The turmeric compound dramatically reduced PhK enzyme activity involved in psoriasis. Patients treated with the curcumin gel showed an average of over 83% less enzyme activity than the placebo group, compared to about 46% reduction in those treated with Dovonex®. (ix.47)

Reduced enzyme activity corresponded to reduced levels of other psoriasis markers (including activated immune system T-cells). (ix.47)

Topical ointments containing turmeric's curcumin compound could help suppress psoriasis activity. (ix.47)

4.5 g/day of curcumin C3 complex for 12 weeks (ix.50)

Open study involving 12 patients with moderate to severe psoriasis. (ix.50)

Only 2 of 12 study participants responded (16.7%) after completion of the study. (ix.50)

The 2 responders showed 83-88% symptom improvement. (ix.50)

However, this low rate of response could mean the patients showed a placebo benefit which wasn't caused by curcumin. (ix.50)

Oral curcumin may only help a limited number of patients with moderate to severe psoriasis. (ix.50)

Better Together

Experts suggest that using less-toxic topical or oral agents (such as Dovonex®) in combination with systemic drugs for severe psoriasis could be beneficial. Lower doses of drugs such as cyclosporine may be given, reducing its potential toxic side effects. This suggests turmeric and its compounds could offer the same benefit. (ix.31)

Studies suggest turmeric and its curcumin compounds could offer the same benefit. In fact, animal research show that curcumin actually reduced kidney damage caused by cyclosporine. And results of the pilot study mentioned above suggest that turmeric could be as effective as psoralen with UVA therapy in a shorter amount of time. (ix.46-4751-52)

Folic acid supplementation unfortunately reduces methotrexate's effectiveness. (ix.20)
Reduced production of blood cells by bone marrow, which can lead to infection and anemia. (ix.4)
Studies suggest turmeric's curcumin compounds work well when combined with vitamin D3 and could help fight Alzheimer's disease and leukemia. Could the combination help with psoriasis too? (ix.48-49)
Phosphorylase kinase, an enzyme involved in cell migration, proliferation, and energy. (ix.47)

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