7 Natural Remedies for Psoriasis That Doctors Actually Recommend
There may not be a magical cure for psoriasis, but there are plenty of at-home methods people use to manage their symptoms. Natural remedies may not prevent a flare-up or treat severe psoriasis, but many are worth trying and can really work to soothe itchy skin and reduce redness and swelling.
“Most of these can be excellent companion treatments to other therapies,” says board-certified dermatologist Rhonda Q. Klein, M.D., F.A.A.D. “But always check with your dermatologist before combining natural and Rx therapies.” She recommends doing a patch test on your arm when first trying a new topical product—including natural ones—before applying it to large areas of your body, in case you experience a bad reaction.
Aloe vera, a succulent plant with gel-filled leaves, has played a role in alternative medicine for thousands of years. People of many cultures use aloe gel to treat skin conditions, including psoriasis.
A 2018 study published in the Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences found that people with mild to moderate psoriasis who applied a combination of 50-percent propolis and 3-percent aloe vera for 12 weeks saw an improvement in their symptoms. (Just note that this study did not look at the effect of aloe vera alone.)
“Aloe can soothe and hydrate patches of psoriasis,” agrees Dr. Klein. “To be effective, look for a topical gel that contains at least 0.5 percent pure aloe vera.”
You may be most familiar with turmeric as an aromatic spice (it’s commonly used in Middle Eastern cooking). Its active ingredient, curcumin, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties.
For a 2011 study published in the Journal of Cosmetics, Dermatological Sciences and Applications, 647 people with psoriasis applied a curcumin gel to their psoriasis lesions. After 16 weeks, they reported a significant reduction in symptoms in general, and 72.2 percent of participants experienced a complete loss of symptoms.
While curcumin gel isn’t widely available as an OTC remedy, it’s easy to get hold of turmeric/curcumin supplements at a health-food store or online. You can eat or drink turmeric powder, too, but know that one teaspoon of turmeric powder (about 5,000 mg) provides only about 150 mg of curcuminoids, per a ConsumerLab report, which isn’t much. Of course, it can’t hurt—and if you consume the spice with a healthy source of fat (avocado, nuts or fish), you allow the curcumin to be better absorbed into your bloodstream.
Dead Sea Salts
Many people with psoriasis swear by sprinkling Dead Sea salts in their bathwater to help remove scales and soothe itching. It’s believed that all the minerals in the salts (magnesium, potassium, sodium, and calcium) help boost hydration to the skin, which helps ease the redness and itching associated with psoriasis. Just know that it’s not going to stop your flare-up.
“Dead Sea salts will offer more discomfort relief than visible improvement to the outbreak,” Dr. Klein says.
Apple Cider Vinegar
If you’re desperate for relief from the itch of psoriasis, apple cider vinegar (ACV) could be the natural remedy you’re looking for.
“Apple cider vinegar, with its incredible antiseptic properties, can be particularly effective on the scalp,” says board-certified dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) spokesperson Debra Jaliman, M.D.
To avoid burning, dilute ACV with water in a 1:1 ratio. You can apply it to your skin with a washcloth, spray bottle or simply by pouring it on your scalp. After the ACV has dried, rinse it off to help prevent irritation, and don’t use vinegar if you have open wounds or if any part of your skin is cracked or bleeding.
Rather than scratch at your skin when you experience a psoriasis flare-up, ease into a soothing oatmeal bath. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology is one of many to find that colloidal oat extracts have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and they can provide relief from itching and swelling caused by dry skin conditions, such as psoriasis.
“Oats contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids that are healthy for your skin,” Dr. Klein says. She recommends using colloidal oatmeal (whole oat kernels that have been finely milled and processed for use as a topical treatment), or grinding up oatmeal you already have at home with a food processor, before adding it to your bathwater. Many skincare brands, including Aveeno, Eucerin, and St. Ives, sell oatmeal lotions, too.
Tea Tree Oil
Dr. Jaliman recommends adding tea tree oil to your at-home treatment, since the essential oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties.
“It has a number of compounds that have been shown to kill certain bacteria and viruses, and it helps to soothe redness and inflammation associated with psoriasis,” she says.
There’s no clinical research to confirm tea tree oil’s effectiveness for psoriasis, but studies attest to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. Before you apply tea trea oil to your skin, always dilute it properly in a carrier oil. Dr. Klein recommends fractionated coconut oil.
Oregon Grape (Mahonia Aquifolium)
A 2015 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Dermatology found that the flowering plant Mahonia aquifolium, also known as Oregon grape, may be one of the most effective herbal remedies for treating psoriasis.
“Mahonia aquifolium contains berberine (barberry), which may help to suppress inflammation and reduce redness,” Dr. Klein explains. It also has antiproliferative effects, meaning it can slow down the growth of skin cells, leading to less of the cell buildup that causes red, scaly patches.
Oregon grape is available as a topical skin cream. Take a close look at ingredients lists—some brands (like Reliéva) use the Latin name Mahonia aquifolium.
Whatever natural remedies you try on your psoriasis, never forget the basics of psoriais skin care, Dr. Jaliman says.
“Keep your skin moisturized—every time you get out of the bath or shower—with a moisture-rich cream to keep your skin supple and hydrated and stop water from escaping,” she says. “And use a humidifier in the winter to help with the dry winter air.”