Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo, MM and Physician Anita Pee
Psoriasis Treatment Options to Alleviate this Chronic Condition
Published | 6 min read
Psoriasis is a common autoimmune disease that causes scaly and flaky patches of skin. There are several treatment options, including traditional medicine and TCM that can help you to alleviate and treat this skin disorder.
Did you know that approximately 7.5 million people in the United States have psoriasis? This common yet chronic autoimmune skin disease causes redness, joint inflammation, skin plaque, and flaky patches. This shows up as silvery or red bumps on the skin that can be itchy, painful, and uncomfortable. Psoriasis tends to go in cycles, flaring up for a few weeks or months, then going into remission.
All ages, races, and genders can experience psoriasis with the majority of those affected being older (typically around 45-64 years old). Additionally, most cases are mild and won’t impact your life too greatly. However, according to the American Academy of Dermatology, 20% have moderate to severe psoriasis that can be debilitating and extremely painful.
As a chronic immune-mediated disease, it requires proper psoriasis treatment to manage its symptoms. While there is no cure, you can modify your lifestyle, take medications, or incorporate certain treatments, such as TCM as a part of your healing regime.
Common Psoriasis Triggers
Psoriasis symptoms are commonly seen on a person’s back, scalp, and the sides of their limbs. In addition, several factors can induce psoriasis. These include:
- Immune dysfunction
- Upper respiratory tract infections (urtis)
- Insomnia, stress and anxiety, extreme mental stimulation, or
- Family history
- Pregnancy and childbirth
- Streptococcus inflammatory disease
- Endocrine dysfunctions
- Environmental triggers
- Heavy drinking
- External injuries like infections, bruises, injections, scratches, insect bites, burns
Over the Counter Psoriasis Treatment Options
Psoriasis treatment options are determined per case and can be varied based on the severity of the condition. Treatments are aimed at preventing the immune-mediated disease from causing inflammation in the body.
Generally, there are three types of psoriasis treatment your doctor may suggest:
- Topical – creams and ointments that you can apply externally to your skin (emollients, steroid creams, Vitamin D analogue creams)
- Systemic – prescribed oral and injected medications that work internally (methotrexate, ciclosporin acitretin)
- Phototherapy – use of ultraviolet light (ultraviolet light A or ultraviolet light B) to slow the growth of affected skin cells.
Additionally, a doctor may suggest a combination of treatments. On the other hand, there are also integrative therapies such as modifications to your diet, lifestyle, and healing treatments like acupuncture that can help.
The Stages of Psoriasis
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), meanwhile, explains that psoriasis is caused by excessive heat in the body. This causes issues in the blood, dryness, or stasis. As such, TCM also believes that psoriasis is characterized by skin lesions of varying sizes. This is classified as 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, sweet, or fatty.
“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 the 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 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 this skin condition to reoccur.
Physician Luke noted, “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.”
Best Treatment for Psoriasis, According to TCM
TCM differentiates psoriasis into seven individual syndromes with three independent stages. Thus, the management of psoriasis involves a combination of internal and external treatments. Therefore, treatments that focus on the progressive stage aim to cool blood and eliminate heat. However, psoriasis treatment options for the stationary and regressive stages center around improving dryness, nourishing the blood, promoting better blood circulation, and removing blood stasis.
1. Blood heat syndrome
The blood heat syndrome is the equivalent of progressive psoriasis vulgaris. This treatment involves the consumption of Xijiao Dihuang or Liangxue Jiedu decoctions, which potentially detoxifies, eliminates heat, 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
Manage your psoriasis vulgaris with a Taohong Siwu or Huoxue Jiedu concoction. This can 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. For example, a Bixie Shenshi decoction can treat this syndrome. The goal of treatment is to detoxify, dissipate heat, dredge collaterals, and remove dampness.
5. Excessive heat and toxin syndrome
This syndrome is connected to pustular psoriasis which is signified by pus-filled lesions that appear on the body in widespread patches. Thus, you can alleviate this by removing heat, cooling the blood, and detoxifying the body.
6. Stasis-blocking collateral syndrome
Psoriatic arthritis leads to swollen and painful joints that can be alleviated using a combination of Duhuojisheng and Santeng decoctions. This remedy helps to dredge collaterals, promote blood circulation, and dispel wind and dampness. You can also use Joint Pain Relief Herbal Plaster, which contains ginger oil to help relieve joint pain and reduce inflammation.
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. Interestingly, these modalities target detoxification, blood cooling, heat dissipation, and yin nourishment.
Lifestyle Changes to Alleviate Psoriasis
Modify your lifestyle to alleviate your psoriasis and lessen or prevent flare-ups. For example, a consistent exercise regime such as Yoga or Pilates and consuming healthy food can help. In addition, staying away from pungent-smelling and spicy foods can help this condition. Avoid smoking, stay away from hot showers and abrasive soaps, and apply a soothing cream like an aloe extract on the skin. Additionally, take a fish oil supplement, get regular massages, avoid heavily fragranced products, and use a humidifier to keep the air moist. As a general rule, don’t scratch your psoriasis which can cause tearing or bleeding of the skin.
In addition, try TCM remedies like snow fungus or Si Shen soup, Buqi Jianzhong pills, dampness-removing tea, and consume raw or cooked barley to your diet.
As you can see, every psoriasis condition is different. It may take time and a combination of traditional psoriasis treatments and TCM practices to manage and treat this ailment. Ultimately, be consistent when following the dos and don’ts of living with psoriasis. This will help you to live a worry-free life.
- Mayo Clinic. 2021. Psoriasis. [Accessed on January 20, 2022]
- American Academy of Dermatology. 2021. Skin Conditions by the Numbers. [Accessed on January 20, 2022]
- National Psoriasis Association. 2021. Treatments for Psoriatic Disease. [Accessed on January 20, 2022]
- Cleveland Clinic. 2021. Cleveland Clinic. [Accessed on January 20, 2022]
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