ayurvedic treatment

Can Ayurvedic Treatment Help My Psoriasis?

By Kerry Weiss
Reviewed by Allison Truong, M.D.
September 06, 2021

When you have psoriasis, following the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor is your best bet to help you gain—and maintain—control of your condition and prevent related health complications. But many people with psoriasis are looking for additional steps they can take, outside of their treatment, to take charge of their health.

About half of those people with psoriasis turn to complementary and alternative options to add on to their treatment regimen, including things like dietary modifications, meditation, and acupuncture, according to a systematic review published in JAMA Dermatology. For some, that may also include a practice called ayurvedic treatment, or simply, Ayurveda.

What Is Ayurvedic Treatment?

Ayurvedic treatment is the traditional medicine of India. It’s one of the world’s oldest medical practices, dating back to about 1,000 B.C., though it has evolved over the years.

The term “Ayurveda” comes from the Sanskrit words for life (ayur) and knowledge (veda)—or “knowledge of life.”

Ayurveda is based on theories and practices that differ from the conventional Western medicine approach that’s typically used in the United States. It takes more of a holistic view of health, going beyond just looking at any symptoms you’re experiencing when you have a condition like psoriasis.

“Ayurveda utilizes a variety of products and practices with an aim to integrate and balance the body, mind, and spirit,” explains Saakshi Khattri, M.D., an assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.

Simply put, the belief behind Ayurveda is that each individual is comprised of the five elements found in nature: air, earth, fire, space, and water. These elements combine and form into three energies called doshas: Vatta (air and space), Pitta (fire and water), and Kapha (earth and water), which control how your body functions.

In Ayurveda, it’s thought that when any of your doshas are out of balance, this can lead to disease. The goal of Ayurvedic therapy is to rebalance your doshas to restore health through things like dietary modifications, herbal remedies, and mind-body practices such as meditation.

How Ayurvedic Treatment Is Used for Psoriasis

The practice of Ayurveda combines a variety of approaches that are very individualized from person to person.

The first step in Ayurvedic treatment is a purification process. “An invasive procedure of Panchakarma [detoxification] by a Panchakarma specialist is often required as pretreatment,” says Amala Guha, Ph.D., M.P.H., president of the International Society for Ayurveda and Health in West Hartford, Connecticut.

“After careful examination and diagnosis, a comprehensive treatment is designed on a case-by-case basis,” adds Guha. “It involves herbs, herbal formulas, diet, nutrition, and lifestyle and rejuvenation therapy.”

People with psoriasis, in particular, are often prescribed topical herbs, herbal formulas, and medicated oils by an Ayurvedic practitioner, explains Guha. These remedies are prescribed based on your individual dosha type. “Certain dietary restrictions, including avoiding salty, sour, or acidic foods, may also be recommended.”

Depending on your individual needs, you may also be prescribed additional therapies, such as massage, yoga, or meditation as a part of your comprehensive Ayurvedic treatment.

Is Ayurveda an Effective Psoriasis Treatment?

There’s not much research to back the efficacy of Ayurvedic treatment, particularly for psoriasis. A case report published in 2019 in the Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine showed a 36-year-old woman’s psoriasis cleared after 43 days of Ayurvedic treatment; but, that certainly isn’t enough evidence to suggest that it works for others. Western medicine treatments definitely have more studies to back up their effectiveness.

Currently, there are investigations going on to help scientists understand how certain botanical extracts work to improve psoriasis on a cellular level. Hopefully, this will allow for researchers to turn these natural compounds into possible future conventional therapies for people with psoriasis.

“As a doctor, I don’t proactively discuss [Ayurvedic treatment] unless a patient brings it up,” says Khattri. “When they do, I encourage them to [ask the practitioner which specific] Ayurvedic therapy is going to be done [in advance].” That’s because not all Ayurvedic treatments are right for everyone, and you should first clear any treatment with your doctor to ensure it’s safe for you.

How Safe Is Ayurvedic Treatment for Psoriasis?

As with any treatment, there are some drawbacks to be aware of with Ayurvedic therapy.

Ayurvedic supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as strictly as conventional medications are. Some of the ingredients they contain may be harmful if used improperly. Additionally, some supplements used in Ayurvedic therapy have been shown to be contaminated with heavy metals, like lead and mercury.

“Some herbs can also cause side effects or interact with conventional medicines,” says Khattri.

So it’s important to talk to your doctor about which supplements you plan to take. It’s also important to see a qualified Ayurvedic practitioner, if you’re planning to try Ayurveda.

“Improper treatment, including improper Panchakarma, may have undesirable or harmful outcomes,” adds Guha.

Other Ayurvedic recommendations, such as drinking lots of water and eating vegetables, are good for almost everyone. But it’s not clear in the scientific literature if these changes alone are enough to stop psoriasis symptoms.

How to Safely Incorporate Ayurveda into Your Psoriasis Treatment

Before you start incorporating Ayurveda into your psoriasis treatment plan, be sure to get the green light from your dermatologist. And when looking into Ayurveda, find a qualified practitioner that has been properly trained in the practice.

In India, practitioners undergo state-recognized, institutionalized Ayurveda training. While there’s no standard training across the U.S., certain medical schools have gained approval for Ayurvedic training programs. “In order to assure safety and efficacy of the treatment, all treatments must be selected and administered by a qualified clinician,” emphasizes Guha.

You can search for a qualified practitioner near you through the National Ayurvedic Medical Association.

Ayurvedic treatment is not meant to replace your prescribed psoriasis treatment regimen—but when used properly, and in conjunction with your standard medical treatment, it may have positive effects. “Both [treatment] systems can function in collaboration when clinicians work together and understand each other,” says Guha.

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