Alternative and complementary therapies, supplements and home remedies for psoriasis

Alternative therapies (such as herbal medicine) can be used alongside ‘conventional medicine’ (such as steroid creams and phototherapy) or on their own. Some people we talked to had used alternative therapies or hoped to try them in the future. A few people wanted more information from their GPs and dermatologists about alternative therapies. Others, like Damini, saw herbal medicines as “separate” from prescription treatment and didn’t talk about these at medical appointments.
A few people had tried herbal medicines. Sofia had a medicine from a local Chinese herbal shop to put in the bath. She didn’t like the smell or find it helped, so stopped using it after a while. Damini had herbal drinks twice a day whilst in India. She knew where she could get the herbs from in the UK but no longer takes it.

Taking supplements (e.g. cod liver oil) and being aware of the foods they were eating were seen as an important part of psoriasis management by some young people (see also diet). A few had been given advice about the foods thought to be their triggers from alternative therapy practitioners.
People often found examples of home remedies online. Hannah read on forums about teas to help psoriasis. Friends and family members sometimes researched this too. Lucy’s mum had heard about using apple cider vinegar and Guinness (beer) for scalp psoriasis, and helped with trying these out. Other examples include applying coconut oil or olive oil to the skin and drinking aloe vera juice.
Bath salts and products containing sea salts were talked about by some people. Abbie and Carys had exfoliating products which they found helped reduce skin flaking and itchiness, but could be painful to use and damage the skin. Lots of people mentioned Dead Sea salt products, something which Sofia’s dad had researched about online. As well as trying products made with certain ingredients, some people had visited famous ‘healing water’ sites like the Dead Sea and Lourdes. Others said they had thought about going at some point.
Meditation and mindfulness were talked about as ways to manage psoriasis. Calming activities can help coping with stress, a key psoriasis trigger for many.
Some said it can be hard to know what to believe about alternative psoriasis treatments. Abbie would like “more natural ways” to manage psoriasis, but struggles to get reliable information: “it's just a pain to just traipse through different websites, different comments from people to try and see and to actually try and experiment”. Hannah’s cautious about what she tries but is open to ideas, explaining “I don’t think everything’s a scam”. Lola would like to have acupuncture for her psoriasis in the future, even though she’s unsure how it works.

Alternative therapies and home remedies were seen by most young people as unlikely to cause harm, but some had negative experiences. Lucy had a bad reaction to coconut oil when she put it on her scalp psoriasis. The cost of trying lots of different home remedies could add up too.
There were mixed views on whether alternative therapies helped psoriasis. Some who had tried alternative therapies or approaches didn’t see a difference in their skin. Others found they had reduced symptoms or helped limit triggers. Damini says baths salts make her skin less itchy. Lucy finds rubbing olive oil on her scalp soothing and meditation helps with stress. Russell found it useful seeing a homoeopath and learning more about diet, but didn’t think a conventional doctor would approve: “whether it’s a placebo effect or whether it’s a real effect, it seems to work”.
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Some people liked the idea of more ‘natural’ psoriasis treatment, but thought there were also times when conventional medicines (like steroid creams) were needed. For them, a complementary approach was best because it included both alternative and conventional treatments together. Damini thinks herbal medicines are slower to work and so prescribed medicines are needed as “quick fixes”.


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