People have used herbs to treat skin conditions for centuries, and recent research has supported the idea that some herbal treatments may improve psoriasis symptoms.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition that causes red, scaly patches of skin to develop, often on the elbows, knees, or scalp.
There is no cure for psoriasis, though treatments and natural remedies can help people to manage their symptoms. Many herbs have the potential to reduce inflammation or slow down skin cell growth, which can help with psoriasis symptoms.
This article will discuss the herbal remedies that currently have the most robust evidence base as treatments for psoriasis.
1. Mahonia aquifolium
Research has shown that Mahonia aquifolium can treat psoriasis.
Mahonia aquifolium is a flowering plant that comes from the mahonia shrub. It is also known as Oregon grape. This herb has a history of use in treating inflammatory conditions, including psoriasis.
Mahonia aquifolium contains berberine, which may help to suppress some of the inflammation that psoriasis causes.
The plant also has antiproliferative effects, meaning it can slow down the growth of skin cells. This ability helps with psoriasis because the condition causes the skin cells to divide too rapidly, which leads to scaly skin and plaques.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), Mahonia aquifolium has one of the strongest evidence bases of all herbal remedies for treating psoriasis.
Several systematic reviews, including two published in 2015 and 2017, agree that Mahonia aquifolium can help to treat the symptoms of psoriasis.
People can buy Mahonia aquifolium oil, cream, or tincture where it is in alcohol.
Always dilute essential oils before use. People can also apply topical creams directly to the areas of the skin that psoriasis affects.
Health stores and online stores sell Mahonia aquifolium essential oils, tinctures, and creams.
2. Indigo naturalis
Indigo naturalis, also known as qing dai, is a traditional Chinese herbal medicine that people use for treating skin conditions. Manufacturers extract it from a variety of different plants, including Baphicacanthus cusia.
Recent clinical trials suggest that the treatment can help with psoriasis, and a systematic review from 2015 found that, along with Mahonia aquifolium, indigo naturalis was an effective herbal remedy for psoriasis.
A study from 2017 gave 24 people with moderate psoriasis either indigo naturalis or a placebo for 8 weeks. After the trial, people in the psoriasis group had significantly fewer symptoms than those in the placebo group.
They also had lower levels of interleukin-17 (IL-17), which is a marker of inflammation in people with psoriasis.
3. Aloe vera
Although Aloe vera is beneficial for dry skin, it is not an effective treatment for psoriasis.
Creams and gels containing extract from the Aloe vera plant have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. They may help soothe the skin and fight bacteria that could cause infections.
The NCCIH state that there is some evidence that Aloe vera could help with psoriasis, though less evidence than for Mahonia aquifolium and indigo naturalis.
A systematic review from 2013 found a small number of studies suggesting limited backing for Aloe vera, along with Mahonia aquifolium, and indigo naturalis, as effective for treating psoriasis.
A more recent systematic review from 2017 suggested all three herbal remedies were the best ones for treating psoriasis. However, it added that more evidence was needed before science could confirm them as effective treatments for the condition.
There are many methods of using Aloe vera, which people can find in many different products.
For psoriasis, apply a topical aloe vera gel to areas of the skin that psoriasis affects.
Other natural treatments
There is currently not enough evidence that other herbal remedies are effective treatments for psoriasis. However, herbs that may be useful treatment options for people to try include:
- extracts of sweet whey
There is currently no convincing evidence that other herbs people commonly use for psoriasis are effective. These include:
- witch hazel
- licorice extract
- dandelion tea
There is some evidence that vitamin D creams can help with psoriasis.
A 2013 systematic review found evidence to suggest that using vitamin D creams could be as effective as corticosteroid treatments for treating symptoms. However, corticosteroids were more effective for psoriasis on the scalp.
Side effects and risks
Essential oils are potent and can cause skin irritation.
Using herbal remedies on the skin can cause side effects in some people, such as:
- skin irritation
When using essential oil, always dilute it with a carrier oil beforehand. People can apply creams containing herbs directly to the skin if the manufacturer recommends this method.
Before using any herbal remedy, test a small amount on the skin to check for allergic reactions.
Speak to a doctor before using any new, natural remedy, as some ingredients can interact with existing medications or affect specific medical conditions.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin condition. There is no cure, but people can manage their symptoms with treatments and natural remedies.
There is some evidence that three herbs or herbal treatments — Mahonia aquifolium, indigo naturalis, and Aloe vera — can improve psoriasis symptoms by reducing inflammation or skin cell growth.
The effectiveness of treatment will depend on many factors, such as the severity of the condition or the time of diagnosis.
These herbal remedies are usually safe to use, though they can cause side effects. It is sensible for people to always speak to a doctor before using any new herbs, herbal remedies, or natural treatments.