Mezereum, arsenicum album, calcarea carbonica… Homeopathic remedies look like ingredients for Hermione’s potions homework at Hogwarts. But if you’re in the muggle world and dealing with psoriasis, you’ve probably seen homeopathy pop up as one of many remedies to treat your skin sitch.
Homeopathy isn’t just another word for “natural”. Homeopathic remedies are typically tinctures, pills, or topicals created from plants, chemicals, minerals, or human and animal secretions and excretions (snake venom, anyone?).
Unfortunately, with a lack of scientific evidence, using homeopathic remedies to treat psoriasis seems to mostly be magical thinking. It can also be extremely dangerous and even life threatening.
Here’s what we know about using homeopathy for psoriasis, and why it’s most likely a bad idea.
Again, there’s basically no research to support the use of homeopathic medicine at all, let alone for psoriasis. But for the about 7.5 million people in the United States living with psoriasis, we get why you’d try anything to make the itchy, painful skin condition go away.
Homeopathy is based on two principles:
- “Like cures like.” Homeopathic remedies tend to be based on substances that would cause the patient’s symptoms in a healthy person. Visit your homeopath with a headache? They may give you a remedy that (in effective doses) would cause a headache.
- “Law of minimum dose.” Homeopaths believe that lower doses have more efficacy at treating ailments. This doesn’t mean you’re given a tiny crumb of the active ingredient rather than a whole pill. It means your remedy is likely just inactive ingredients (water, alcohol) that came into contact with the active ingredient at some point in the manufacturing process (before it was greatly diluted).
A bit hard to wrap your head around, isn’t it? Another principle of homeopathy is even more baffling: “homeopathic aggravation.” That is, a remedy may temporarily cause your condition to worsen.
In other words, using homeopathic remedies may improve the condition or it may make the condition worse. So, the premise that any outcome is possible means homeopathy is both always effective and never effective.
Still curious about homeopathic remedies for psoriasis? Most evidence is anecdotal and based on the observations and assumptions from homeopathic practitioners, not actual medicinal findings. It can also be pretty risky.
Many homeopathic practitioners use William Boericke’s 1901 “Homeopathic Materia Medica” (or a similar compilation) as a reference for treating patients. Again, there’s no scientific evidence any of these actually work, but here’s what a homeopathic practitioner might suggest for psoriasis and what it *might* do.
Reportedly used to treat psoriasis on your palms and fingernails, arsenicum album is made with arsenic. The theory is it can treat itchy, dry and scaly skin — especially when you apply heat. However, it may contain unknown dangerous amounts of arsenic and none of these claims are proven.
High amounts of arsenic can act as a poison that causes abdominal pain, vomiting, and bloody diarrhea. Long-term exposure can also cause thickened skin and death.
Homeopathic preparations of graphites may be used to treat rough, dry, cracked skin, or raw skin on joints, your groin, neck, and ears. There is no evidence that a homeopathic remedy made from graphites can help psoriasis.
Indicated in homeopathy for dry, scaly, itchy, burning skin. There is no scientific research to support the use of homeopathic remedies using sulfur.
However, a research review showed that there have been studies on the role of sulfur-based compounds in psoriasis and other skin conditions. Some proven psoriasis treatments include mixing sulfur with coal tar or salicylic acid.
Petroleum may be recommended by homeopaths for psoriasis on hands, itchy skin, and rough cracked, leathery skin.
The problem is, petroleum is dangerous if taken internally, like most homeopathic treatments require. You’re more likely to soothe inflamed skin by applying an external layer of petroleum jelly (think Vaseline), which can help moisturize flaky skin.
Made from oyster shells, calcarea carbonica may be recommended for small wounds that don’t heal (via psoriasis or something else). But again, these recommendations are based on anecdotal evidence and not scientific research.
This remedy is made with mercury and is therefore unsafe to ingest or apply to your skin, assuming it contains any mercury at all. Mercurius solubilis is traditionally recommended for skin conditions like excessively moist skin, extra smelly sweat, ulcers, pimples, itching, and crusty skin. But again, there is no research to indicate it is safe or effective for psoriasis.
This preparation is made from poison ivy, a real head-scratcher of a remedy for skin conditions. It may be recommended by homeopaths to treat red, inflamed, itchy skin that is prone to scaling, like psoriasis (remember, the “like cures like” theory?). It might also just give you a nasty poison ivy rash.
A research review with a few old studies seemed to indicate that taking oral rhus toxicodendron can prevent reactions to poison ivy, but there’s no research on its use for psoriasis.
Made from the spurge olive bush, mezereum is sometimes used to treat sores with thick scabs and plaques. Bad news is mezereum is poisonous and should not be used internally or on skin.
Thuja occidentalis was found to be anti-inflammatory in a study of mice with colitis, but a homeopathic preparation was not used in that study.
This concoction is considered a homeopathic remedy for eczema, dry skin, itching, warts, and hard, thick scabs.
A recent case report showed the beneficial effects of antimonium crudum on a few cases of pediatric skin ailments, but they did not include a case of psoriasis. And, as part of a homeopathic remedy in a 1992 study, antimonium crudum was found to be no more effective than the placebo in treating plantar warts.
Made from club moss, lycopodium clavatum is used in homeopathy to treat a variety of skin conditions including violent itching, thick skin, and psoriasis. But again, there’s no research to back any of these claims.
Some homeopathic remedies also make specific mention of treating scalp psoriasis conditions.
Often used for scalp psoriasis, staphysagria does have some animal research behind it when it comes to reducing inflammation.
A 2015 animal study found staphysagria was among the homeopathic treatments that helped reduce some swelling in rat paws compared to Ibuprofen.
Psoriasis is an inflammatory condition so there might be a link for treatment, but we need human studies to know for sure.
Phosphorus may be used as a homeopathic treatment for itchy, flaky scalp, and dandruff. But no studies have been done on the effectiveness of homeopathic phosphorus as a treatment for psoriasis.
Made from scabies sores (yes, the ones caused by the mite on skin 🤮), psorinum is used for dry hair, itchy rash on scalp, oily skin, crusty skin, and eczema on ears. There’s no evidence that it’s effective for psoriasis and TBH what it’s made of is just plain gross.
Derived from cuttlefish ink, sepia is traditionally used in homeopathy for itching and skin problems. There are anecdotal reports of helping with scalp psoriasis, but no quality studies are available.
As we mentioned before, homeopathic remedies are not tested for safety by the FDA. There are also few to no studies on the safety and effectiveness of these treatments. That being said, homeopathic remedies can be very dangerous.
The principles and process of creating a homeopathic medicine means the active ingredient is diluted to such a degree that it may not even be detectable. But there’s no fail-safe to prove this. A homeopathic remedy could still contain high amounts of a toxic or poisonous substance. Or even a small enough amount to cause a reaction.
Using homeopathic remedies can lead to mild allergic reactions and warrant contacting your doctor. Symptoms include:
- hives or rash
- runny nose
- scratchy throat
- itchy or watery eyes
Homeopathic remedies can also cause severe allergic reactions or poisoning that could lead to death. Symptoms can include:
- nausea or vomiting
- abdominal pain
- swelling of your face, eyes, or tongue
- difficulty swallowing
- difficulty breathing
- pain or tightness in your chest
- heart palpitations
🚨 Call 911 or go to the emergency room ASAP if you or a loved one have any symptoms that align with a poisoning or severe allergic reaction. 🚨
- Acupuncture. Acupuncture for psoriasis research is limited, but getting poked with super tiny needles may help reduce psoriasis symptoms associated with stress and pain.
- Aloe. Research indicates aloe can help reduce redness or discoloration and scaliness.
- Bee propolis. A study found that an ointment made of 50 percent bee propolis and 3 percent aloe vera helped treat participants’ mild-to-moderate psoriasis.
- Apple cider vinegar. Using apple cider vinegar on your hair may help with scalp itch and flakes (just make sure you dilute it).
- Epsom salts. It’s not 10/10 proven, but taking an Epsom salt bath might help inflammation and your skin. It may also just help you relax.
- Oats. Oatmeal baths are a traditional (and harmless) treatment for itchiness.
- Turmeric. By reducing inflammatory reaction, turmeric may be effective at relieving psoriasis.
- Tar soap. Tar soap for psoriasis may help ease itching and inflammation.
- Tea tree oil. This essential oil may help relieve inflammation and treat skin infections. Just make sure you dilute tea tree oil right and perform a patch test.
- Fish oil. A 2014 research review showed that taking omega-3 supplements (aka fish oil) may help psoriasis symptoms.
- Indigo naturalis. This Chinese herb also called Qing Dai is often used to treat inflammatory conditions. In a super small study, indigo naturalis ointment did improve psoriasis compared to the placebo.
If you live with psoriasis, you may be willing to try anything to get relief. The problem with homeopathic remedies is they are unproven and possibly dangerous ☠️. There’s also no real evidence to back up their effectiveness.
You’re better off trying safer, more effective natural remedies to help treat psoriasis. Contacting your dermatologist can also help you come up with a treatment plan.