Turmeric for Psoriasis: Does It Improve Symptoms?
You don’t have to spend much time on the Internet to find mention of various “superfoods” and supplements said to cure all kinds of ailments. Sometimes, there is actual research to back up these claims. Other times, word of mouth and endorsement from the right celebrity can mean a simple fruit suddenly gains notoriety it doesn’t deserve.
Similarly, you may have heard people with psoriasis using topical turmeric or incorporating it into their diet. But does it really work to improve psoriasis symptoms? We got to the bottom of it.
Turmeric has been touted as a remedy for psoriasis for years. This yellow spice, popular throughout Asia, is believed to contribute to all kinds of health benefits—from reducing inflammation to combatting the impact of diabetes. And research has backed up many of those claims.
Those who have studied turmeric identify curcumin as the key active ingredient responsible for the many health benefits associated with the spice—health benefits that seem especially appealing for people with psoriasis.
What Does the Research Say?
Board-certified dermatologist Scott Paviol, M.D., of PHC Paviol Dermatology in Charlotte, North Carolina, explains that chronic inflammatory conditions such as psoriasis typically result from excess inflammation in the body.
“It makes sense that turmeric, a superfood and anti-inflammatory, could help decrease that unchecked inflammation,” he says, adding that recent research has shown turmeric to be a safe, effective, and affordable treatment option.
There are a handful of studies on the treatment potential of turmeric for psoriasis. One small study published in the Iranian Journal of Pharmaceutical Research, found that a topical turmeric gel could help reduce plaque psoriasis lesions with minimal side effects. A more recent review of the various existing studies concluded that eating turmeric had shown some efficacy in treating psoriasis, while calling for more placebo-controlled studies to be done.
“When compared with patients using topical steroids only, patients using topical steroids plus taking oral turmeric had more clearance of their psoriasis after 12 weeks of treatment,” Paviol explains, citing a study published in BioMed Research International on the effectiveness of turmeric. For the study, patients took Meriva, a curcumin supplement.
“Certainly, we need more research on the subject, but turmeric appears to be a safe and cost-effective addition to a psoriasis treatment plan,” Paviol says.
Turmeric: A Complement to Treatment
Paviol says he tries to align treatment recommendations with his patients’ preferences. “A lot of attention is focused on biologic medications for psoriasis, and rightly so, but turmeric is an attractive treatment adjunct because it has been around forever, is effective, and is cheap,” he says.
For people who have somewhat well-controlled psoriasis, stick to their treatment regimen, and are looking to fine-tune their treatment plan, he believes there can be a role for turmeric.
“It is not going to cure someone’s severe psoriasis, but it is a nice complement to a well-formed treatment plan,” Paviol explains. “It is also appealing because it’s viewed as a ‘superfood’ used for its anti-inflammatory effects, so patients get excited about the possibility that it helps not only their psoriasis but also their total health.”
Getting Started with Turmeric for Psoriasis Treatment
As with anything new you add to your health regimen, it’s always a good idea to consult with your doctor first. But if you’re looking to give turmeric a try and want to come to your doctor with a proposed treatment plan, Paviol said he typically recommends oral turmeric for his patients—either adding the spice to meals or taking supplements.
“Some people suggest topical use, but I question how much absorption they are getting,” Paviol explains.” And considering that psoriasis is a multisystem inflammatory condition, topical use would miss out on potentially lowering inflammation elsewhere in the body, such as [in the cases of] psoriatic arthritis and cardiovascular disease.”
There are plenty of options for adding turmeric to your diet, whether you take turmeric supplements or add the spice to your daily smoothie routine. Golden milk is another option you may want to try, a concoction made with milk, turmeric, black pepper, and coconut oil to be sipped on every day.
Dietitian and author Jorg Wijnen said he recommends adding turmeric to your cooking whenever possible. “Always add a pinch of black pepper to increase the bioavailability of the turmeric, which increases its anti-inflammatory effects,” Wijnen says. “This is especially important for an inflammatory condition such as psoriasis.” Indeed, research has confirmed that black pepper does improve absorption and the overall benefits of including turmeric in your diet.
Turmeric can add a lot of flavor to meals, especially if you’re a curry fan. But the typical study dosage of turmeric is between 500 and 4,500 mg daily, which may prove difficult for most people get through diet alone. For this reason—plus the fact that most supplements are already blended with pepper to aid in absorption—you may find that taking turmeric or curcumin supplements are the easier way to go.
While the National Psoriasis Foundation touts turmeric as a natural anti-inflammatory, it does not make any dosage recommendations. The Arthritis Foundation, on the other hand, recommends taking 500 mg curcumin extract capsules twice daily. These can be found at health supplement stores and some grocery retailers. A small study in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology found response in a few patients with moderate to severe psoriasis patients taking curcuminoid C3 complex at 4,500 mg daily (three pills of 500 mg, three times daily) for 12 weeks.
The good news is that turmeric has relatively few side effects to worry about.
“Some people can experience mild side effects such as stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea,” Paviol says, adding that these side effects are more common at higher doses. Heat intolerance and hot flashes have also been reported.
Wijnen adds that, “People who have gallstones need to be careful with turmeric and curcumin because they can stimulate the gallbladder to contract, leading to severe pain and, possibly, complications.” Research has backed this concern up. Also, as turmeric contains 2% oxalate, at high doses, this may contribute to kidney stones in people who are predisposed to them.
“Other than that, curcumin supplementation is generally very safe,” he said, adding that this is true up to 8 grams.
Still, it’s important to talk to your doctor about what you’re taking and why, even if what you are adding to your routine is natural and has a relatively high safety profile.
“Because psoriasis involves inflammation in the skin and elsewhere in the body, you really need to be under the care of a medical professional,” Paviol urges. “If you’re interested in adding turmeric to your regimen, ask your doctor and they can guide you in your plan.”
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