Herbal Remedies for Psoriasis

The NIMH supports Psoriasis Awareness Week 2016

Issued 31st October 2016

Members of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists will be participating in Psoriasis Awareness Week Saturday 29th October - Saturday 5th November.

Psoriasis Association’s campaign ‘PsoriasIS' encourages people to share their experience of psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.  NIMH members have experience of people seeking herbal medicines to manage their symptoms.

Many people explore complementary therapies to manage chronic skin conditions. One study showed 62% of 578 psoriatic patients used complementary therapies, with herbal medicine ranked highest.¹ Medical Herbalists offer expertise in the safe use of herbal medicine and can provide diet and lifestyle advice to those seeking to proactively manage their health and wellbeing.

Psoriasis affects 1 in 50 people, usually starting in early adulthood. This chronic inflammatory skin condition typically develops in patches or plaques of red, scaly skin appearing on elbows, knees, scalp or lower back, which can make some people feel embarrassed about showing their skin and cause them to lose self-confidence. Flare-ups can be triggered by stress, smoking, scratched or sunburnt skin, hormonal changes and alcohol. 

Herbalists have access to a wide range of plant medicines they can use to alleviate the discomfort psoriasis causes. Some people find that the symptoms can be reduced by making dietary changes and medical herbalists can also assist in creating personal dietary plans.  When creating a formula for the individual, your herbalist may include one of following herbs which have been traditionally used to help manage psoriasis:

Oregon grape (Mahonia/ Berberis aquifolium) extract was found to inhibit the growth of keratinocytes by 50% in vitro.²    This can be a useful herb to manage the condition as people with psoriasis have a faster than normal turnover of skin cells in the top layer of the skin. NB. Oregon grape is not suitable in pregnancy.

Chamomile (Matricaria recutita) flowers contain 1-2% essential oil which has anti-inflammatory properties, and a study on human volunteers found it can penetrate below the skin’s surface into the deeper skin layers which is important for its use as a topical anti-inflammatory.³

Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) cream was compared to a placebo in a double-blind, placebo controlled study of 60 patients with slight to moderate psoriasis. After 4 weeks, the aloe vera cream showed significantly higher rates of clearing the psoriatic plaques in 25/30 (83%) patients compared to 2/30 (6%) in the placebo group.⁴

¹ Fleischer AB Jr, Feldman SR, Rapp SR, Reboussin DM, Exum ML, Clark AR. Alternative therapies commonly used within a population of patients with psoriasis. Cutis. 1996; 58(3):216-220.

² Brinker F. Eclectic Case Histories: Psoriasis Treatment with Oregon Grape Extracts. Journal of the American Herbalists Guild. 2005; 6 (1): 36-39.

³ Merfort I, Heilmann J, Hagedorn-Leweke U, Lippold BC. In vivo skin penetration studies of camomile flavones. Pharmazie. 1994 Jul;49(7):509-11

⁴ Syed TA, Ahmad SA, Holt AH, Ahmad SA, Ahmad SH, Afzal M. Management of psoriasis with Aloe vera extract in a hydrophilic cream: a placebo-controlled, double-blind study. Tropical Medicine & International Health. 1996 Aug;1(4):505-9.

Medical herbalists tailor herbal prescriptions, diet and lifestyle advice, to meet the needs of individuals. When taking herbs, the NIMH always recommends seeking the advice of a qualified medical herbalist.  Your nearest NIMH herbalist can be found here.

More about the NIMH

The National Institute of Medical Herbalists is the UK's leading professional body representing herbal medicine practitioners.

First established as the National Association of Medical Herbalists in 1864, today the National Institute of Medical Herbalists has more than 700 members across the UK and beyond.

The Institute promotes the benefits of herbal medicine and oversees the provision of the best patient care through the work of its members.

NIMH members undergo a lengthy training programme before they can register as qualified medical herbalists. Practitioners train for at least three years and adhere to a strict code of conduct before they can gain MNIMH or FNIMH after their name. Recently qualified practitioners will have taken a BSc in Phytotherapy (herbal medicine). All NIMH-registered herbalists are fully insured, and follow a strict code of conduct.

NIMH-registered medical herbalists are trained in the same diagnostic skills as mainstream doctors but take a more holistic approach to treating illness. Herbalists treat a wide range of acute and chronic conditions and frequently work in collaboration with GPs and consultants to achieve the best combination of treatments for individual patients.