Psoriasis is a chronic skin disease characterized by itchy, red scaly patches of skin on various parts of the body.
More than 7.5 mn people in US alone have Psoriasis.
The cause underlying the disease is an immune system disorder wherein skin cells grow rapidly and rise to the surface of the skin.
Generally in normal human beings this process takes about a month but in psoriasis, it can occur in a day leading to accumulation of dead cells on the surface.
These changes occur as a result of inflammatory process and inappropriate responses by immune cells.
Infection, injury to skin, stress, medications, cold weather etc can worsen the condition.
Depending on the appearance, there are 5 types of psoriasis – inverse, plaque, guttate, erythrodermic and pustular. The most common is plaque or psoriasis vulgaris.
This looks like patches of silvery white or red skin that is scaly and thick to touch. It occurs mostly on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back.
Causes of psoriasis are still being studied for it is very complex. However, even intimate contact cannot transmit psoriasis.
There is no particular group that is more vulnerable to contracting psoriasis. Both men and women of all ages can get it with family history being one cause.
General treatment includes application of steroid creams, UV treatment and immune suppressing agents.
How turmeric can help in treating psoriasis?
Turmeric is a member of ginger family. It is commonly used in Asian countries as a spice. Traditional Chinese and Indian medicine systems employ turmeric as a herb to cure many diseases.
Curcumin, an active ingredient of turmeric is said to be responsible for most of its medicinal properties. Turmeric paste has been used since time immemorial for aesthetic purposes and to treat skin diseases.
Lets go over a few pharmacological properties that make turmeric a potential anti-psoriatic agent.
1. Curcumin is beneficial for the skin
Few ways by which curcumin serves to be therapeutic are:
- It protects skin by scavenging oxidising reactive species.
- It controls inflammation by inhibiting nuclear factor kappa B, group of proteins that regulate inflammation in the body.
- It accelerates wound healing and has skin regenerating potential.
- It influences detoxification enzymes that protect against oxidative stress.
- It is used to treat itchy skin conditions like scabies.
What does this mean? Curcumin has a potential of treating many skin related disorders such as psoriasis, vitiligo, skin cancer etc and is thought of as a potential drug in the field of dermatology.
2. It has anti-inflammatory property
Turmeric manipulates various biochemical pathways and proteins involved in inflammation in order to control it.
Tumor necrosis factor alpha and interleukin are important proteins that involved in inflammation and spread of psoriasis.
Researchers conclude that this property of curcumin could be useful in treating psoriasis.
Specific drugs are prescribed to block the activity of tumor necrosis factor in order to treat an inflammatory condition like psoriasis.
Research suggests that curcumin can be an inexpensive and safe alternative to these drugs.
What does this mean? Psoriasis is marked by inflammation and curcumin is proven to control such a reaction.
3. It has antioxidant property
Turmeric exerts its antioxidant activity by destroying harmful reactive species, increasing levels of antioxidant enzyme and reducing oxidative stress (imbalance between prooxidant and antioxidant agents).
What does this mean? Turmeric can restore the impaired antioxidant status in psoriasis patients.
4. It is an anti-microbial agent
Individuals suffering from psoriasis are highly susceptible to developing infections which can worsen the condition. Turmeric is a natural anti-microbial agent.
Curcumin has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
Turmeric extracts have parasiticidal activity.
Ar-tumerone, a compound obtained from turmeric oil is proven to have stronger anti-fungal activity than ketoconazole, a standard drug prescribed to treat fungal infections.
What does this mean? Turmeric oil and curcumin can reduce risk of developing skin infections.
5. Curcumin helps battle autoimmune diseases
Curcumin has immunomodulatory properties- it can control inappropriate immune responses and ameliorate the condition.
T cells are the major immune cells involved in proliferation of psoriasis. These cells secrete proteins that stimulate abnormal production of skin cells.
Immunosuppressants or steroids are prescribed as first line of treatment for psoriasis.
Turmeric especially curcumin is a great alternative to steroids. [Read here: Why Turmeric Beats Many Steroidal Medications Hands Down]
In fact turmeric can also protect from side effects such as liver damage caused by immunosuppressants.
What does this mean? Curcumin can influence the inappropriate immune responses occurring in psoriasis.
What does research have to say about turmeric as a remedy for psoriasis?
Here are a few research studies that have tested turmeric, mainly curcumin for its anti-psoriatic effect.
Study 1. Turmeric as a herb to treat psoriasis
Four Ayurvedic herbs were evaluated for their anti-psoriatic effect in an animal model of psoriasis. One of the tested herbs was turmeric.
Combination of the four herbal extracts significantly controlled the inflammation by lowering the concentration of pro-inflammatory chemicals.
Interestingly turmeric extract alone was also able to bring about a similar effect thus indicating its potential as a remedy for psoriasis.
In a study evaluating the anti-psoriatic effect of Thai medicinal herbs, it was observed that turmeric extract suppressed psoriasis by regulating nuclear factor-kappaB.
NF-kappaB is a group of proteins that control inflammation and the genes involved in it.
Study 2. Curcumin acts at molecular levels to control spread of psoriasis
Phosphorylase kinase is an enzyme involved in pathogenesis of psoriasis and scientists’ hypothesize that inhibition of its activity can help treat psoriasis.
In this study , patients were treated with calcipotriol (a compound similar to vitamin D3) and curcumin.
Enzyme activity in curcumin group was much lower than that seen in the group treated with calcipotriol.
This proved the hypothesis and also demonstrated a new technique by which curcumin can treat psoriasis.
Another mechanism by which curcumin can treat psoriasis is by inhibiting skin cell growth. Psoriasis is characterised by rapid skin cell growth.
An experimental study proves that curcumin inhibits the activity of cyclin D1, a protein involved in cell proliferation and thereby prevents growth of psoriatic skin cells.
Study 3. Curcumin is as effective as clobetasol in reducing psoriasis like inflammation
Another animal study also validates the use of turmeric in treating psoriasis.
This study demonstrates that curcumin reduces the concentration of pro-inflammatory chemicals and thereby controls inflammation and inhibits growth of T cells present in the skin.
Curcumin’s anti-psoriatic activity was comparable to clobetasol, a topical steroidal cream used to treat skin disorders.
Study 4. Oral turmeric supplementation to cure plaque psoriasis
A study was conducted wherein individuals suffering from plaque psoriasis were given either turmeric extract with phototherapy or phototherapy alone.
Plaque psoriasis is the most common form of psoriasis in which red, raised patches of skin with silvery layer of dead skin is observed.
Response rate was 81% in the turmeric group and 30% in the other group.
Researchers concluded that turmeric combined with phototherapy can be a safe treatment for those suffering from moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
In another clinical trial , 12 patients suffering from chronic plaque psoriasis were given 4.5g of curcumin capsules everyday for 12 weeks.
Curcumin was well tolerated and no side effects were observed.
Response rate was low, however two patients who responded to the treatment showed 83-88% improvement in 12 weeks.
Study 5. Novel formulations of curcumin as potential anti-psoriatic drugs
Meriva is a novel formulation wherein curcumin is combined with fat like compounds to enhance its bioavailability.
A study was conducted wherein patients suffering from psoriasis vulgaris (plaque psoriasis) were given Meriva in combination with steroidal cream or steroidal cream alone.
At the end of the study, both groups showed improvement but response rate was higher in patients treated with the combination.
Results indicated that curcumin can be an effective adjuvant to regular treatment of psoriasis.
Ways that Turmeric can be used for Psoriasis
Based of experience of users and also studies conducted here are a few ways that turmeric can be used for psoriasis:
- It can be included in daily diet. This is one of the best ways to get turmeric benefits. Here are some great recipes to give you some ideas
- Golden paste is another great way to take turmeric. It already has fats and black pepper to help in its absorption. Recipe here>
- Make a paste of turmeric powder and water and apply on psoriasis lesions
- Turmeric milk – Make a drink of turmeric powder and warm milk. Recipe here>
Any good quality turmeric powder is fine to use. if you are confused which one to buy, here is a list of our recommended turmeric brands>
Avoid turmeric supplements in case of pregnancy and lactation, prior to surgery or if suffering from gall bladder issues.
Also avoid it if you are taking blood sugar lowering medications. Do give turmeric a shot when it comes to psoriasis and let us know your experience.
Psoriasis is a disease governed by genetic factors and immune responses, so there is no cure for it but symptomatic and regular treatment can ameliorate the condition.
Research supports the idea of utilising turmeric and most importantly curcumin as a treatment for psoriasis.
To start off, you can include turmeric in your diet. You can also take curcumin supplements or apply turmeric paste locally on the affected area.