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Created for Greatist by the experts at Healthline. Read more
Woo woo wellness advice is everywhere, but is there any weight behind alternative treatments for psoriasis? Yes, but not as a first-line of action.
When combined with standard topical and internal medications, some alternative remedies can provide symptom relief.
More research is needed on using essential oils specifically as a treatment for psoriasis, but here’s a look at what you can expect from some popular essential oils when used with traditional medicine.
Just promise us that before you go experimenting on yourself, you’ll consult your doctor.
Set your out-of-office status to ‘frolicking in a lavender field.’ Lavender essential oil, perhaps the most studied of all oils, has been shown to fight certain bacteria, aid relaxation, and soothe inflammation.
All of this is promising for psoriasis relief, though more research is needed to determine if there’s a specific effect on psoriasis.
Lavender’s crowning achievement? Helping people chill — even in a lab setting. When people smell it, their heart rate, blood pressure, and skin temperature goes down.
Since psoriasis flare-ups can be triggered or exacerbated by stress, it makes sense that getting a whiff of these purple blooms could be beneficial.
How to use it:
If you know lavender doesn’t irritate your skin, you can try adding a few drops to coconut oil and massaging the mixture on your psoriasis patches to help relieve the itching.
There are multiple ways to relieve stress with the scent of lavender.
- Use an essential oil diffuser.
- Add a few drops of lavender oil to your bath or shower.
- Put a fresh lavender plant, or sprig of lavender, next to your bed or on your desk.
Shop for lavender essential oil.
The ultimate multitasker, peppermint can soothe an upset stomach, freshen your breath, and soothe psoriasis. The secret sauce? Menthol — the ingredient behind the cooling effect that can soothe inflamed, burning skin.
How to use it
DIY Peppermint oil itch relief:
- Mix 2–3 drops of peppermint oil with a spoonful of carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba. Apply to the affected area.
- You can also add a few drops of the essential oil to your bath.
- For quicker absorption, add 5–7 drops of peppermint oil to one cup of distilled water. Using a spray bottle, spritz your skin with the soothing blend.
As always, patch test your skin to see if you’re allergic, and don’t apply it directly to children, or infants. Don’t apply directly to skin without diluting.
Shop for peppermint essential oil.
How do you take your tea tree oil? We take it extracted from the Australian melaleuca tree and diluted with a carrier oil like coconut or castor oil — this stuff is powerful!
This popular cosmetic and skin care ingredient has well-researched antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, but it lacks clinical research to confirm its effectiveness for psoriasis.
Approach tea tree oil with extra caution if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding
- Are taking the antibiotic vancomycin
- Have IgA disease, an autoimmune disorder
- Have a known allergy to tea tree oil
How to use it
Tea tree salve:
- Clean and dry the affected area.
- Dilute a couple of drops in a spoonful of carrier oil like coconut, castor, or argan oil.
- Gently massage the blend into the skin.
- Leave on for several hours.
- Wash off to avoid irritation.
Shop for tea tree essential oil.
Geranium is killing it — bacteria and fungi, that is! This essential oil from this cute flower, commonly found in grandma’s garden, is used to treat acne and is commonly found in facial cleansers and toners.
Geranium oil is also thought to have anti-inflammatory benefits, showing significant potential for new drugs.
Like any other substance, geranium oil can cause allergic reactions in some people, so perform a small patch test once you’ve diluted it, and before using. Otherwise, it’s considered safe for most people. Avoid while pregnant.
How to use it
Geranium oil scalp treatment:
- Dilute the geranium oil by adding a few drops to a tablespoon of carrier oil.
- Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.
- Lather the mixture and gently massage into the scalp.
- Let it set for 5 minutes and then rinse.
Shop for geranium essential oil.
We know, the following are not actually essential oils — these are less concentrated, more viscous than EOs, and extracted via different methods.
But these are soothing to the symptoms of psoriasis and can also be used as carrier oils in combination with the EOs. Experiment to see which you love best and then stock in your at-home kit!
Lizzo was onto something with this boss oil. Coconut oil is a favorite for soothing psoriasis and treating a number of other ailments, inside and out. It’s also a great carrier oil for the EOs listed above.
Virgin coconut oil (which is cold-pressed, not heated) is packed with antioxidants and has been shown to have antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties.
Its composition allows the skin to absorb it easily, making it a great moisturizer that also prevents skin infections. People with psoriasis swear by its ability to soften skin plaques and ease the itching caused by scalp psoriasis.
Take note: coconut oil might worsen skin if you happen to be allergic to it, so start slowly and pay attention to the way your healthy skin reacts to it.
How to use it:
Coconut oil deep conditioner
- Scoop a few tablespoons of coconut oil into the palm of your hand and smooth it over your scalp, focusing on scaly areas. Sectioning your hair with a comb helps to distribute it evenly over the scalp.
- Gently massage the oil into the affected areas.
- Wrap your head in a plastic shower cap to contain the moisture.
- Leave it on for an hour, or overnight for maximum moisturizing.
- Rinse and wash your hair with an anti-dandruff or tar shampoo.
Shop for coconut oil.
The OG of medicinal oils, castor bean seeds have been around for 4,000 years and were used by the Aztecs and ancient Egyptians to treat skin and gut issues.
It’s taken some time for modern science to catch up with that wisdom, but research supports its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Great qualities, since psoriasis flare-ups are particularly susceptible to infection.
As with any other product you apply to your skin, you should test a small amount to make sure you’re not allergic. Check with your doctor first and avoid using it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, as it may induce labor.
How to use it:
Castor oil topical treatment
- Pick up some pure, organic, cold-pressed castor oil. Read the label to be sure the product isn’t sourced from seeds treated with pesticides, as that can lead to skin irritation.
- Using an organic cotton ball (cotton is often treated with pesticides, too!), rub the oil directly onto the psoriasis patches. If that’s a little too oily for you, you can mix it into coconut or olive oil.
- The best time to apply castor oil is in the evening, since it doesn’t absorb like lotion and needs time to sit on the surface of the skin.
Shop for castor oil.
Black seed oil, also known as black cumin oil, was thought to be so beneficial in ancient times that King Tut was buried with some, and it even got a shout-out in the Bible.
The seeds and oil from this flowering plant found in Southwest Asia have anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and pain-relieving properties.
Black seed oil is also very moisturizing and can help reduce psoriasis scale thickness. Research is ongoing to determine whether or not black seed oil is beneficial for treating cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and more.
Don’t try it if you have low blood pressure, diabetes, a bleeding disorder (it slows clotting), or are pregnant or breastfeeding.
How to use it
Black seed oil anti-itch solution:
- Apply black seed oil directly to your skin, or dilute it in coconut oil.
- Massage gently on the affected areas of your skin.
- Black seed oil can also be massaged directly onto your hair or scalp for an intensive moisturizing treatment.
Shop for black seed oil.
The cold-pressed oil from argan fruit contains vitamin E, a powerful antioxidant that protects the body from heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.
In its pure state, argan oil can be eaten or used topically. But while it may be okay to put culinary oil on your skin, it’s not a great idea to eat something that’s marketed as a cosmetic (the safety standards are not the same).
Argan oil is pretty safe for everyone and mild enough to be applied directly onto the skin undiluted. There’s always the chance you could be allergic though, so perform a patch test it before adding other ingredients.
How to use it
Rockin’ Moroccan scalp treatment:
- Apply 2–3 drops of argan oil directly onto the scalp, or enough to cover the affected area.
- Gently massage in a circular motion.
- Wrap your hair in a shower cap.
- Leave it on for an hour or even overnight for extra moisture.
- Rinse the oil out with a gentle shampoo.
Shop for pure argan oil.
Some other complementary treatment options to discuss with your doctor include:
- Fish oil supplements: People with psoriasis have a higher risk of developing heart disease, so adding some omega-3s to your diet is a heart-healthy idea. The recommended daily intake of omega-3s for women is 1.1 g, and for men it’s 1.6 g.
- Vitamin D3 supplements: A routine blood test can determine if you have low levels of vitamin D. Significant associations between low levels of vitamin D and psoriasis have been observed.
- Probiotics: People with psoriasis have less gut bacteria diversity than those without the condition. Growing evidence suggests that an imbalance in gut bacteria may cause inflammatory disorders like psoriasis and IBD. Balancing your gut bacteria can better support your immune system and reduce inflammation in your body.
What about diet?
The National Psoriasis Foundation’s medical board regularly publishes dietary recommendations for people with psoriasis. Some dietary recommendations include consuming:
- Probiotic-rich food. Such as fermented foods and kefir.
- High-fiber foods. To feed the good bacteria in your gut that support your immune system.
- Foods high in antioxidants. Like nuts, colorful fruits, and vegetables, which help protect your skin cells and heart.
- Meat, carrots, and squash. These are packed with vitamin A to aid cell growth.
- Fish, flax, and soy. These have omega-3s to protect the heart and brain.
- Anti-inflammatory spices. Like turmeric and ginger
- Antimicrobial foods. Like garlic and oregano.
Also, avoid eating foods that might trigger an immune response, such as wheat products or processed foods.
Relax, and your psoriasis might too
Stress can cause psoriasis to flare up, so finding ways to unwind will be most beneficial. Try meditation or acupuncture, which has helped some, or take a relaxing bath with Epsom salt or colloidal oatmeal.
These and other acts of self-care can both soothe existing symptoms and prevent them from worsening.