Psoriasis is unfortunately a very common disease, yet most sufferers are not very satisfied with their medical treatment. Fortunately, natural methods can be quite successful.
Psoriasis is persistent, unpredictable, disfiguring and irritating, and one of the most baffling of skin disorders. Characterized by dry, well-circumscribed, silvery, scaly growths and plaques of various sizes, psoriasis is a chronic and recurrent disease. In psoriasis, skin cells multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. Underlying cells reach the skin’s surface and die. This sheer dead cell volume causes the characteristic raised, red patches covered with white scale. Usually, patches occur on the knees, elbows, and scalp. Psoriasis takes many forms- each differing in location, severity, and duration. So-called “plaque psoriasis” is the most common. The disease comes and goes, with remissions and flare-ups, over a lifetime.
Emotional stress, trauma, dry skin, and streptococcal infection can trigger a psoriasis episode. As many as 80% of flare-ups follow a recent emotional trauma, such as a new job or the death of a loved one. An immune system abnormality likely plays a role. Psoriasis is not contagious, but it tends to run in families. An estimated 1-3% of the population endures it.
Natural healing does not focus on disease names, but treats the whole person, with attention to restoring proper function. From the natural healing point of view, psoriasis is a type of inflammatory skin disease, akin to dermatitis, a general term for a wide selection of skin disorders. Literally “inflammation of the skin,” dermatitis involves a superficial inflammation, with blisters when acute, redness, swelling, oozing, crusting, scaling and usually itching.
Health practitioners use many terms to describe various collections of these symptoms. “Eczema” is synonymous with dermatitis. There is no general agreement among authorities regarding any distinction between these conditions.
Adults with this grab bag of symptoms may receive a diagnosis of any of these disease names. From the natural healing point of view, though, this whole process is the final manifestation of the same underlying situation, and we can conveniently label all these conditions as “inflammatory skin disease.”
Sufferers know that this uncomfortable skin disease can be difficult and frustrating to treat. The orthodox medicine position is that, while medications can help to temporarily clear up the patches of red, scaly, thickened skin, there is no cure. Even so, it responds well to most medical treatments for dermatitis. With medical treatments, even those with severe psoriasis can get relief during flare-ups in about 85% to 90% of cases.
A standard medical treatment is to soak in a warm bath for 10 to 15 minutes, then apply a topical ointment. Petroleum jelly helps the skin retain moisture. Other treatments include salicylic acid ointment, steroid-based creams, calcipotriene, which is related to vitamin D and coal-tar ointments and shampoos.
Witch hazel, a distilled bark extract, is widely known as an astringent and anti-inflammatory. It is a staple medicine for psoriasis in Germany. Research has shown significant vasoconstriction from witch hazel, and indicated that it benefits dermatitis. For psoriasis, it was similar to cortisone.
The most successful natural ointment I have used, which is phenomenally successful, is a combination of aloe gel, witch hazel, Vitamin E oil, menthol, tea tree oil, pine tar, cedar leaf oil and clove oil.
Treating the surface helps symptoms, but does not treat the full disease. Herbalists use a multi-pronged attack to slowly balance the body systems involved in psoriasis. Natural healing practitioners the world over understand that inflammatory skin disease is fundamentally a problem of accumulated waste material in the body. These undesirable wastes, which come from outside the body (pesticides, pollution, etc.) or inside the body (accumulated cellular wastes), irritate the skin and cause the persistent inflammation. In fact, in Ayurveda, the ancient holistic healing system of India, the name for this disorder translates as “that which comes out from the inner part to the outer part.”
Herbal medicine focuses on reducing inflammation in the skin, healing the tissue of the skin if necessary and eliminating the source of the irritating toxins through the liver, kidneys, and large intestine.
Anti-inflammatories reduce skin symptoms. The best skin anti-inflammatory I know is green vegetables. Use as large a percentage of green vegetables (spinach, lettuce, green beans, collard, bok choy, etc.) in the diet as possible. Because it is easy to fill up quickly on fibrous raw green vegetables, juicing is a good choice for getting in large amounts of the active ingredients. Try a couple of tall glasses of cucumber or celery juice per day. After the skin begins to settle down, it’s time to heal the underlying structure of the tissue. Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), is a well known remedy in Ayurvedic medicine that is just beginning to be available here. Gotu kola, a famous herb in India, is the most spectacular herb I have ever seen in treating damage, not only to skin, but to all types of connective tissue. A recent study from London confirmed that gotu kola is a potent remedy for reducing skin cell proliferation.
Next come tissue detoxifiers that herbalists call “alteratives”. Oregon grape is an effective one, and a favorite of European skin specialists. A 1995 study showed that berberine, contained in this herb, was able to reduce skin cell growth in psoriasis. Liver detoxifiers help the body remove skin irritating wastes. Burdock root is a classic. This member of the daisy family is rich in anti-inflammatory flavonoids, lignins, and bitter glycosides.
It is also important that people undergoing natural psoriasis treatment have good bowel function. Mild bowel promoters like rhubarb root will ensure proper elimination.