Affecting 2% of the population, psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory skin disease. Current treatments are solely symptomatic and do not provide a cure for the disease. Moreover, these treatments are the source of numerous side effects. Consequently, natural products have sparked increasing interest in the treatment of psoriasis due to their better tolerance. But are they as effective as claimed?
Remedy No. 1: UV Radiation.
It has been known for a very long time that sun exposure, due to its anti-inflammatory role, improves the condition of the vast majority of patients suffering from psoriasis. Therefore, it is recommended for patients with psoriasis to expose themselves to the sun. However, this exposure should be cautious, either outside of peak UV radiation hours and with sun protection. A specific treatment through phototherapy, which involves UV irradiation in a medical cabin, distinctly different from UV cabins used for cosmetic tanning, can be suggested to patients, except those with very fair skin.
This involves either a UVB irradiation, which is generally proposed as a first-line treatment, or a UVA irradiation combined with a psoralen tablet. These treatments are usually very well tolerated. However, be aware that there are rare cases of photosensitive psoriasis, meaning they are worsened by exposure to the sun. In such cases, phototherapy treatment is obviously not appropriate.
Remedy No. 2: Alternative Medicines.
Natural medicine has garnered significant attention in the pursuit of new therapies. Following steroids, alternative medicines are the most utilised in the treatment of psoriasis in Asia and the Middle East. A study has shown that in Southern Europe, 47% of individuals use alternative medicines in the treatment of psoriasis.
Clinical trials have been conducted using natural products to examine the effect of alleviating psoriasis. The results prove that aloe vera, natural indigo, kukui vegetable oil, Mahonia aquifolium and capsaicin are the most effective phytotherapies for alleviating psoriasis. These improve psoriasis lesions by promoting apoptosis and inhibiting inflammation.
Thealoe vera is a succulent plant with diverse properties used in many traditional medicines. Indeed, it is rich in anti-inflammatory agents and anti-pruritic compounds, such as anthraquinones, polysaccharides, vitamins and salicylic acid.
The natural indigo ointment is highly effective in reducing the affected area and severity of psoriasis. This is due to the presence of indirubin, which has anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties.
Mahonia aquifolium is a small shrub from the Berberidaceae family. This shrub contains berberine, an isoquinoline alkaloid that inhibits the proliferation of keratinocytes and inflammation at the site of psoriasis lesions.
The capsaicin, active component of chilli pepper, deprives sensory neurons of Substance P, a neuropeptide involved in pain transmission, which results in an improvement in redness and itching in patients with psoriasis.
Alternative medicines are a new avenue of research in treatments for psoriasis. However, their effectiveness still remains to be proven by scientific studies.
FANG J. Y. & al. Apoptotic or antiproliferative activity of natural products against keratinocytes for the treatment of psoriasis. International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2019).