Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo, MM and Physician Anita Pee
Psoriasis Treatment: Remedies to Alleviate This Autoimmune Condition
Published | 5 min read
Psoriasis is an immune system disorder. If left untreated, the disease can put a person at risk of conditions like psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriasis causes your skin to develop skin plaque and scaly patches that are silvery or red and can be itchy and painful. It’s a chronic immune-mediated disease that requires proper psoriasis treatment.
Psoriasis symptoms are commonly seen on a person’s back, scalp, and sides of the limbs. Several factors can also induce psoriasis. These include:
- immune dysfunction
- upper respiratory tract infections (urtis)
- psychological factors like insomnia, stress, extreme mental stimulation
- pregnancy and childbirth
- streptococcus inflammatory disease
- endocrine dysfunctions
- environmental triggers
- external injuries like bruises, injections, scratches, insect bites, burns
Medications for Psoriasis
Correspondingly, psoriasis treatment in modern medicine is aimed at preventing the immune-mediated disease from causing inflammation in the body. Generally, there are three types of psoriasis treatment that your doctor may prescribe:
- topical – creams and ointments that you can apply externally to your skin (emollients, steroid creams, Vitamin D analogue creams)
- systemic – oral and injected medications that work internally (methotrexate, ciclosporin acitretin)
- phototherapy – exposing your skin to certain types of ultraviolet light
At the same time, doctors may recommend using a combination of them for better results. However, if you are experiencing side effects from the medication or if the treatment isn’t helping you, talk to your doctor.
The Pathogenesis of Psoriasis
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), meanwhile, is of the opinion that psoriasis is caused by an excess of heat, which can manifest and blood, dryness, or stasis. In addition, TCM shares the same belief that psoriasis is characterised by skin lesions of varying sizes, erythema — a type of skin rash caused by inflamed blood capillaries — and silvery white scales with well-demarcated borders.
During the early stages of psoriasis, internal blood heat and an invasion of external wind-cold or wind-heat pathogenic factors cause heat toxins to accumulate on a person’s skin. In addition, it can result from emotional disturbances like excessive irritability or anger, or from the consumption of foods that are pungent, spicy, overly sweet, or rich in fat.
“All these factors can hurt the spleen and stomach, and impair spleen function, causing stagnant qi (vital life energy) which transforms to excessive heat. Furthermore, excessive heat in blood manifests as bright red psoriatic lesions that spread quickly. It also generates wind and dryness that presents as dry and flaky scales,” explains Eu Yan Sang TCM Physician Luke Yau Wai.
As the disease progresses, prolonged blood heat causes yin and blood to be depleted. Thus, without yin and blood to nourish the skin, the skin becomes dry and flaky. Moreover, if the person also has a weak body, they’ll most likely experience blood and qi circulation disruption. As a result, these can lead to blood stasis, obstruction of a person’s qi and meridians, and recurring skin conditions.
Physician Luke adds, “In other cases if the heat accumulates in the body for too long until wind-dry patterns surface, the skin starts to lose nourishment while the heat spreads through joints and blocks the meridians. Moreover, excessive heat and toxin in the body can result in the syndrome of intense heat in qifen and xuefen.”
Psoriasis Treatment Using TCM
TCM differentiates psoriasis into seven individual syndromes with three independent stages. Consequently, their management will usually involve a unique combination of internal and external treatments.
Therefore, treatments that focus on the progressive stage aims to cool blood and eliminate heat. Separately, treatments for the stationary and regressive stages centre around improving dryness, nourishing blood, promoting better blood circulation, and removing blood stasis.
1. Blood heat syndrome
The blood heat syndrome is the equivalent of progressive psoriasis vulgaris. Its treatment involves the consumption of Xijiao Dihuang or Liangxue Jiedu decoctions, which potentially detoxifies, eliminates heat, and spots, and cools down blood.
2. Blood dryness syndrome
This syndrome relates to the stationary and regressive phases of psoriasis vulgaris. Therefore, the purposes of treatment are to detoxify, enhance dryness, nourish blood, and dispel wind from the body by using Danggui Xiaobi decoction and Yangxue Jiedu decoction.
3. Blood stasis syndrome
Like the stationary phase of psoriasis vulgaris, you can manage this syndrome with Taohong Siwu or Huoxue Jiedu decoction. The objectives of using these decoctions are to detoxify, dredge collaterals and remove blood stasis by promoting blood circulation.
4. Dampness-toxin accumulation syndrome
This condition equals palmoplantar pustulosis, or inverse psoriasis — a type of psoriasis that affects skin folds. It’s treated with a Bixie Shenshi decoction. The goal of treatment is to detoxify, dissipate heat, dredge collaterals, and remove dampness.
5. Excessive heat and toxin syndrome
This syndrome can be likened to pustular psoriasis. You can alleviate it by removing heat, cooling blood, and detoxifying the body.
6. Stasis-blocking collateral syndrome
Represented by psoriatic arthritis, you can alleviate this condition using a combination of Duhuojisheng and Santeng decoctions. The intent of using this remedy is to dredge collaterals, promote blood circulation, and dispel wind and dampness.
7. Injured yin by heat toxicity syndrome
Sheng Mai Yin and Qing Ying decoctions may help treat injured yin (passive energy) by heat toxicity syndrome. These modalities target detoxification, blood cooling, heat dissipation and yin nourishment.
Lifestyle Changes to Keep Psoriasis at Bay
It’s important to note that switching up your lifestyle habits can have a direct effect on your body’s ability to stave off potential psoriasis flare-ups. For example, a physical workout routine that boosts resistance and healthy eating habits like refraining from pungent-smelling and spicy foods can help the condition.
In the same way, it may also be beneficial to introduce remedies like snow fungus or Si Shen soup, Buqi Jianzhong pills, dampness-removing tea, and raw or cooked barley to your diet.
It’s also advisable for people with psoriasis to avoid smoking, stay away from hot showers and abrasive soaps, and apply moisturising cream to the skin directly after a shower.
In essence, psoriasis treatment works best if it involves a combination of traditional remedies and healthy lifestyle practices. Ultimately, remain steadfast when following the dos and don’ts of living with psoriasis. This will help you to live a worry-free life.
- National Psoriasis Foundation. 2021 About Psoriasis. [Accessed 9 December 2021]
- Acupuncture Today. 2011. TCM Differentiation of Common Psoriasis. [Accessed 9 December 2021]
- TCM Simple. Chinese Medicine Treatment for Psoriasis.[Accessed 9 December 2021]
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