The discomfort of psoriasis can be relieved or lessened -- and many treatment options include common kitchen items found in your home. Just a little measuring, mixing and applying, and you're on your way to feeling better. Try the following home remedies when psoriasis causes problems.
Home Remedies from the Cupboard
Try a vinegar dip. Like aloe, apple cider vinegar has a long history of being used to soothe minor burns and other skin inflammations, and it's also a disinfectant. According to the Psoriasis Foundation, some folks with psoriasis have reported success in using it to treat their condition. As a liquid, it makes a great soak for affected fingernails and toenails -- just pour some in a bowl or cup and dip your nails in for a few minutes -- and apparently has even been effective when applied to plaques using cotton balls. It might just be worth a try. To prepare an apple cider vinegar compress, add 1 cup apple cider vinegar to 1 gallon water. Soak a washcloth in the mixture and apply it to the skin to ease itching.
Pass the plastic wrap. Doctors have known for years that covering psoriasis lesions helps them go away. The cover-up strategy also helps to work medications into the skin and keep moisturizers in place longer. You can use regular kitchen plastic wrap, or you can buy special OTC patches (Actiderm). Apply your prescribed medication (be sure to confirm with your doctor first that the medication you are using can safely be used with an occlusive wrap) or moisturizer, then cover the area with the wrap. Don't keep the wrap on so long that the skin becomes soggy, since it's more susceptible to secondary infection that way; consult your doctor or pharmacist if you need more specific instructions.
Pass the warm olive oil. If psoriasis scale is a problem on your scalp, warm a little olive oil and gently massage it into the scale to help soften and remove it. Then shampoo as usual and rinse thoroughly.
Baking soda. To take the itch out of your scaly patches, mix 1 1/2 cups baking soda into 3 gallons water. Apply to your itchy patches with a washcloth soaked in the solution.
Epsom salts. Add a handful of these healing salts to your bath. They'll keep swelling down and bring healing to your psoriasis.
Mineral oil. This is another time-proven skin soother. Add a bit to your bath and soak your aching skin.
Olive oil. An old favorite for easing psoriasis outbreaks is mixing 2 teaspoons olive oil with a large glass of milk and adding the concoction to your bathwater. Or if you are dealing with psoriasis on your scalp, massage some warm olive oil on your scaly patches. It will help soften the dead skin and make it easier to remove.
Plastic wrap. After you douse your patches in moisturizer, wrap them in plastic wrap to help hold the moisture in. Change the wrapping often.
Vegetable oil. Get in the tub and add a cupful of vegetable oil to your bath to ease your psoriasis.
the Spice Rack
Cayenne. Capsaicin, the substance that gives cayenne pepper its heat, helps relieve pain and itching by blocking the communication system of sensory nerves. And studies have found that a cream containing capsaicin helped relieve itching and got rid of psoriasis plaques. Look for a cream containing .025 to .075 percent capsaicin -- any more than that and you'll risk burning your skin. It takes about a week for the cream to work. It may cause an initial, brief burning sensation when applied to plaques, and it must be kept away from the eyes and mucous membranes because it can produce an intense burning sensation that is certainly irritating. But you may want to try a little capsaicin-containing cream on a small psoriasis lesion to see if it helps.
Home Remedies from the Supplement Shelf
Fish oil. There have been numerous studies linking the omega-3 fatty acids in fish oil to improvement in psoriasis patches. The people in these studies had to take large oral doses of the supplement to show any results, but one study did find simply slathering fish oil on a psoriasis patch helped with healing. There are also commercial creams available that contain fish oils or derivatives of the oils. Whichever way you decide to use it, if you think fish oil might be worth a try, talk it over with your doctor.
Home Remedies from the Medicine Cabinet
Beat the tar out of it. Tar-containing shampoos, creams, and bath additives can help loosen psoriasis scales. Tar-containing bath oils are especially beneficial for psoriasis that is widespread on the body. These over-the-counter (OTC) products have been successful psoriasis treatments for many years.
Bring on the salicylic acid. You may also want to use "sal acid," as salicylic acid preparations are sometimes called, to remove scales. Shampoos, creams, gels, and other topical psoriasis treatments containing salicylic acid are sold over the counter.
Try OTC cortisone. Nonprescription topical medications containing 1 percent cortisone (Cortaid is one familiar brand) can also relieve the itching and irritation of psoriasis, especially for plaques that arise in skin folds or on the face. Be sure to get your doctor's OK before using one of these medications, though, and follow the package directions carefully; overuse of topical steroids such as cortisone can cause thinning and easy bruising of the skin.
Apply aloe. The gel from the aloe vera plant has long been known for its skin-soothing properties and for helping the skin heal from minor wounds and burns. Research in the 1990s appears to have extended the plant's repertoire of possible benefits to include clearing psoriasis plaques. If you want to try aloe, you can buy the plant itself, split open one of its leaves, and smear the gel onto the plaques. For larger areas of plaque or a more portable balm, you can instead purchase a bottle of pure aloe vera gel at many pharmacies and health-food stores.
Psoriasis is no picnic -- but its discomfort can be eased by preventing outbreaks through minor lifestyle changes and by treating outbreaks with a number of home remedy options, including baking soda, olive oil and mineral oil.
To learn more about other skin issues, visit the following links:
- To see all of our home remedies and the conditions they treat, go to our main Home Remedies page.
- For information about treating dry skin naturally, visit our Home Remedies for Dry Skin section.
- Battling limp locks? Read the Home Remedies for Dry Hair page.
- To read about treatments for an oily face, check out the Home Remedies for Oily Skin section.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Timothy Gower is a freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in many publications, including Reader's Digest, Prevention, Men's Health, Better Homes and Gardens, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times. The author of four books, Gower is also a contributing editor for Health magazine.
Alice Lesch Kelly is a health writer based in Boston. Her work has been published in magazines such as Shape, Fit Pregnancy, Woman's Day, Reader's Digest, Eating Well, and Health. She is the co-author of three books on women's health.
Linnea Lundgren has more than 12 years experience researching, writing, and editing for newspapers and magazines. She is the author of four books, including Living Well With Allergies.
Michele Price Mann is a freelance writer who has written for such publications as Weight Watchers and Southern Living magazines. Formerly assistant health and fitness editor at Cooking Light magazine, her professional passion is learning and writing about health.
ABOUT THE CONSULTANTS:
Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.
David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.
This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.