Q: Dear Dr. Mao,
I have been suffering from psoriasis for quiet some time and it flares up every so often without any apparent causes. I have tried western medicines, creams, and internal medications. I am at my wits end. Can you recommend some natural remedies for treatment of persistent psoriasis?
A: Diseases of the skin in Chinese medicine have direct correlation to the state of the lungs, vital qi and blood. When the lungs are weak the skin is not nourished properly, when the blood is deficient or there is “excess heat” in the blood, this also manifests on the skin. Vital qi plays a role in immune function. Psoriasis is best treated when the underlying conditions are addressed by removing the wind, clearing the heat and toxins from the skin and body and by strengthening the vital qi and blood. Treatment approach involves cleansing the body of the heat and toxins by herbal bowel cleansing, and internal formulas. Then I help harmonize the immune system to prevent allergic reactions. With proper dietary, life style advice and regular treatments including acupuncture, many of my patients have gotten relief from their symptoms. Below is a summary of my approach to treating such skin conditions.
Many people consume foods without consideration to their content. Many of our foods today have chemical, artificial ingredients that can cause allergic reactions and irritate our immune response. By keeping a diary of your meals, and being more attentive to what you eat you can eliminate foods that can worsen your condition. Avoiding these foods can significantly reduce flare-ups, and prevent reoccurrence. Eat a wholesome diet with foods that nourish the skin. Incorporate more Chinese prunes, guava skins, pearl barley, vinegar, garlic, walnuts, cucumber, beets, beet tops, dandelion greens, squash, mung beans. Fishes are rich in omega fatty acids and can nourish the skin. Water is essential in cleansing the body. People who drink at least 80 ounces of water per day have better bowel habits and develop less allergic reactions.
Eliminate processed foods, foods containing artificial additives, simple bleached sugars, flowers and soft drinks, spicy, hot, fried and oily foods. Dairy products, eggs, shellfish, wheat, tomatoes, eggplants, peanuts and certain soy products can aggravate the condition and should be avoided. Excessive sun exposure should be avoided.
• Take 15 peeled and sliced water chestnuts and 1 cup of rice vinegar. Slowly simmer in non-metal pot for 20 minutes to allow for the chestnuts to absorb the vinegar. Remove from heat and let cool, drain excess vinegar and mash the chestnuts into paste. Seal in a jar for storage. This ointment can be applied to affected area as poultice up to 3 times per day. Expect results within one to two weeks of use.
• Ash three cloves of fresh garlic and apply to affected area as poultice, changing twice daily, for one week.
• Mash walnuts (without shell) to release oils. (Alternatively you can obtain walnut oil from health food stores) soak cotton ball into oil and apply to affected area three times daily for one week.
Supplements and herbal remedies
• GLA (omega-6 fatty acid) 200-400 mg daily has been shown to be effective in regulating inflammatory response. As well as Omega-3 (oily fish, flaxseed oil) 1,000 mg two times per day.
• Vitamins: B12 (100 to 1,000 mcg) folate (400 mcg per day), vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day), zinc (30 mg per day), selenium (200 mcg per day) and Quercetin: 500 mg three times per day before meals have been studied for treating psoriasis with good results.
• Probiotics in the intestines are very helpful in removing toxic substances and regulating immune response as well.
• Evening primrose (4g daily) or borage oil (1-2g) can deliver substantial amounts of GLA to help regulate the immune inflammatory response. Burdock, red clover, licorice, chamomile and calendula can be used as well.
• Milk thistle stops breakdown of substances that contribute to psoriasis and protects the liver, Yellowdock, Sarsaparilla and Coleus forskohlii are also effective in psoriasis.
• Calendula, Apis Mellifica, and Sulfur are good homeopathic remedies for psoriasis.
• Traditional Chinese herbs including siler, schizonepeta stem, cnidium fruit, wormwood leaf, gypsum, sulfur, walnut oil, cattail pollen, angelica root, glabrous greenbrier rhizome, zaocys, bushy knotweed and sanguisorba have been used in clinical settings with good results for psoriasis.
• A good internal formula which is also used as external wash to help with itching and scaling of eczema (eliminate wind powder) contains herbs such as Sschizonepeta stems, siler, burdock fruit, cicada molting, atractylodis, sophoria root, akebia, gypsum, anemarrhena, rehmannia, angelica dang gui, sesame seeds, and licorice.
• The prescription can be obtained from a licensed practitioners, to locate a licensed practitioner visit www.healingpeople.com or www.acupuncture.com
Mind and body Exercise
Research has shown that stress and anxiety can worsen psoriasis and may trigger outbreaks. It is important to implement stress reduction exercises in your regular workout routine. Tai chi or Qigong, are great for reducing stress, calming the emotions and also provide a good physical benefit. A good Qigong meditation called the General Cleansing Qigong can help with the circulation, and promote opening of the pores. It should be done indoors and not too vigorously.
General Cleansing Qigong
1. Sit comfortably or lie down on your back. Slow your respiration to deep, abdominal breathing. Utter the word “calm” in your mind with every exhalation. Visualize a part of your body relax and release tension with every exhalation. Trace the following 3 pathways outlined below.
2. Start on top of your head, inhale and then exhale while visualizing your scalp muscles relax and say, “calm” in your mind. Repeat the same practice with each part as you move downward through your face, throat, chest, stomach, abdomen, thighs, knees, legs, ankles and feet. Finally when you have relaxed your feet, visualize all the tension in your body leave through your toes as dark smoke.
3. Start back on your head at the temple region. This path focuses on the sides and upper extremities. Inhale and then exhale while visualizing your temple muscles relax and say the word “calm” in your mind. Repeat the same practice with each body part as you move downward through your jaws, sides of neck, shoulders, upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists and hands. Once you’ve completely relaxed your hands, visualize all the tension leaving your body via your fingertips as dark smoke.
4. Final pathway begins back on back of your skull. This path achieves relaxation of the backside of your body. Repeat the above breathing/visualization/word routine as you go from back of neck, upper back, middle back, lower back, back of thighs, calves, heels and then focus on the acupoint Bubbling Spring at the sole of your feet for about 1 minute.
5. Practice for at least 15 minutes, twice daily.
Persistent psoriasis cases can receive good results with regular visits to an acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. The best results are obtained when these treatments are adhered to on regular bases and are combined with dietary and life style modifications.
Additionally, you might try the herbal supplement “Exquisite Skin” Traditions of Tao. Of course, discuss with your physician before beginning any new health regime.