A thoughtful reader recently asked a question about psoriasis, and I quickly provided a short answer. But it got me thinking a lot more about this challenging condition.
Psoriasis is a mind-body disorder that presents a mystery to mainstream medicine. Conventional medicine likes to define every disorder as either physical or mental. (with all the stigma attached). But taking this “simple-minded” approach means all conditions that have connections to the mind and the body are inherently—and unfortunately—mysterious to the mainstream.
In fact, some years back, psoriasis was simply described as “the heartbreak” by a large, and seemingly relentless, big pharma advertising campaign. Indeed, psoriasis can be a heartbreaking condition. Unfortunately, the cures peddled as magic bullets by the mainstream won’t ease your pain. Worse, some toxic chemicals and treatments promoted as “natural” are anything but.
Fortunately, there are truly natural remedies that can effectively address both the mental and physical components of psoriasis. I’ll get to those in a moment. But first, let’s take a closer look at some of the disastrous mainstream AND natural “cures” that have been foisted on psoriasis sufferers.
Five psoriasis “miracles” that fall flat
Steroids. Psoriasis treatments that contain steroids knock out your immune system for a while, which can give some temporary relief. But using steroids to manage your psoriasis on an ongoing basis can lead to thinning of the skin, skin infections, and other complications, not to mention disruptions to your normal immune system.
And the last thing you want to have is thin, infected skin without a normal immune response, especially with dangerous and deadly untreatable skin infections like MRSA lurking around every hospital and many gyms.
Coal tar. There are a variety of ridiculously expensive gels, lotions, and shampoos advertised as containing “natural” coal tar derivatives to treat psoriasis. Popular brands include Exorex, Elta Tar, and Psoriasin.
Coal tar is what’s left over after they clean out the bottom of the catalytic cracking tanks used to refine crude oil for petroleum products like gasoline, heating oil, and kerosene. (You may have seen my former colleague Mike Rowe cleaning one out on his TV show, “Dirty Jobs.”). The oil industry would normally have to pay someone to haul coal tar away, but the cosmetic industry figured out a way to get this residue for next to nothing and pass it on to consumers at its usual exorbitant prices.
The FDA does allow coal tar to be marketed for psoriasis, and coal-tar treatments have been used for decades to try to manage skin and scalp conditions.
But unless you are in the habit of bathing at the local tar pit or gas station, it really doesn’t seem very natural.
Neem oil. This plant oil is another “natural” remedy for psoriasis. Made from the seeds of the neem tree, it’s found in a variety of cosmetics, and is also used as a pesticide. Because it’s an oil, it may make your skin look less dry and flaky. But it may not really be treating the underlying psoriasis, and it has the potential to actually irritate your skin.
Nystatin. This drug is an oral antifungal cream sometimes used to treat psoriasis. The problem is, psoriasis is not caused by a fungus. And the side effects of this treatment include itching, irritation, burning, and skin rash. In other words, it may very well make psoriasis symptoms worse.
Zinc. Back in 1994, a clinical trial found that taking zinc supplements didn’t reduce psoriasis. But more recently, some studies have suggested that using zinc creams while taking zinc supplements may be beneficial.
I would not rely solely on zinc treatments to manage psoriasis, but it is important for everybody to maintain healthy zinc levels in any case. Your body does not store zinc, so it’s key to get adequate daily intakes from food or supplements. Oysters, crab, beef, and beans are good dietary sources. A good starting point for zinc supplementation is 40 mg a day.
Unfortunately, the fact is that none of these “cures” is likely to offer significant, long-term relief of psoriasis.
But that doesn’t mean you just have to live with this painful condition.
Mother Nature knows best
I’ve found that what remains a mystery to modern medicine in regard to psoriasis seems like common sense to any natural practitioner: Follow the old-fashioned Nature Cure, including the following components:
Rethink bath time. Do not shower or shampoo too often—it removes the natural oils from your skin and scalp and dries them out. To stay clean, consider a bidet, douche, or sitz bath (European traditions), which keep your private parts clean without having to take a full shower or bath.
When you do bathe or shower, use warm water. Hot water removes skin oils. For a soothing bath, add sea salts, mineral salts, oatmeal, or fragrant nut oils like almond.
Moisturize. After bathing, use fragrance-free skin moisturizers. Cetaphil and Eucerin creams are reported to have good results. Lightweight lotions don’t have the staying power to provide much help.
Soak up the sun. For reasons that remain mysterious to dermatologists (the same experts who want you to avoid the sun altogether), exposure to sunlight is actually good for the skin.
Your healthcare practitioner may prescribe ultraviolet light treatments, but tanning beds don’t produce the same healing benefits and may actually be harmful. You’re better off spending 15-20 minutes per day in direct sunlight (without sunscreen). This exposure may improve your psoriasis symptoms as well as help maintain healthy vitamin D levels in your skin and body.
De-stress. Mind-body treatments like hypnosis, relaxation, biofeedback, acupuncture, yoga, and others may all help with psoriasis. Take the Emotional Type Quiz at www.drmicozzi.com to see which approach will work best for your individual type.
You can also reduce stress by getting enough physical exercise and sleep and following a healthy, balanced diet.
Reach out to others. An estimated 125 million people worldwide have psoriasis, so you are not alone. Use in-person or online support groups to discuss your feelings— which may include depression, discouragement, and isolation—as well as the types of treatment you find effective or ineffective.
With psoriasis, one of the most frustrating experiences is that what works for one person may not work for another. We are all individuals. That’s another reason why my Emotional Type Quiz is important for anyone using any type of mind-body therapy.
Managing your psoriasis can be a lifelong pursuit, but don’t give up. Find out what works for you.
Psoriasis by the seasons
You might find your psoriasis symptoms changing with the seasons. Now, at the height of summer, when the air has more moisture and you can spend more time in the sun, your psoriasis may improve. But with fall and winter coming, you may discover that the colder, drier air and reduced sunlight will begin to worsen your symptoms.
The key is to keep your skin hydrated year-round. When you’re indoors in the winter, you can increase the moisture in the air by turning down the heat and using a humidifier.
It’s also important to hydrate your skin from the inside. And the best way to do that is to stay hydrated at the cellular level by adding South African red bush water-soluble powdered extract to any hot or cold beverage—all day, every day. I recommend the red bush product I helped develop, Red Joe rooibos water-soluble powder.