Psoriasis is a common skin condition where cells build up too quickly creating thick "plaques" on the elbows and other parts of the body. Very often, the plaques are coated with silvery scales. As a holistic practitioner specializing in dermatology, I believe that Chinese herbs offer the best overall treatment for psoriasis. I'll admit I'm biased - I've been an herbalist and acupuncturist for over 14 years. But here's why Chinese herbs are my number one choice:
1. Herbs are used both internally and topically.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, a problem within the body that manifests on the skin. Herbs taken internally get to the root of the problem. Herbal creams, salves or oils applied topically directly target the affected area of skin. Combining internal and topical treatment together is the most effective way to activate healing and achieve complete, long-term results.
2. Treatment is individualized.
In western medicine, treatment is generally based on the severity of the psoriasis. The worse the psoriasis, the stronger the drug. In herbal medicine, the severity is one factor, but broader details about each individual are far more important. Herbalists look at the whole health picture. What do the lesions look like? What areas of the body are affected? Do they itch? How's the digestion? Is the patient young and vibrant or older and tired? Are there other factors involved — like drinking, smoking, diet or stress?
The whole health picture helps determine what Chinese medicine calls "patterns of imbalance." Treatment specifically targets each of these patterns and, as they change and evolve, herbal treatment evolves, too.
3. Chinese herbs are safe.
Have you ever actually listened to the ads on TV for psoriasis medications where they list all the possible side effects? It can be scary, to say the least. Many of my patients have experienced these side effects, sometimes severely.
Chinese herbal treatments, on the other hand, have little to no side effects. There may be digestive discomfort or loose stools, but even these mild symptoms don't usually last too long.
That said, "herbal" and "natural" doesn't always make a treatment safe. Anything strong enough to heal you can also harm you if taken incorrectly. Make sure your herbalist has experience treating psoriasis, and that they're committed to using Chinese herbs from a reputable pharmacy. Ask about whether the herbs have been tested not only for quality, but also for pesticide or fungicide residues. Herb quality is a big concern in the Chinese medicine community and is something worth paying close attention to.
4. A specialist sees your areas of imbalance.
The look of your skin reveals a lot of information about what is going on internally. For example - lesions that look purplish require different herbs than those that are scarlet red. White flaky scaling requires different herbs than thick yellow-brown scale. Plaques on the elbows and knees require different herbs than plaques in the armpits or on the scalp. By looking at the skin alone, an herbal dermatology specialist will be able to pinpoint your precise areas of imbalance based on the appearance of your skin.
Keep in mind, many herbalists (as well as naturopaths, homeopaths, and even western doctors) are not experienced in treating the skin. Most holistic practitioners have never even taken a dermatology course! So however you choose to treat psoriasis, make sure you see a specialist. They will see the unique distinctions on your skin and know what to do about them.
Of course, there's no "cure" for psoriasis. And Chinese herbs can't help everyone. But with diligent treatment, the vast majority of my clients report dramatic improvement. For many, the skin completely clears with no further relapse. So there is a real opportunity to effectively treat your psoriasis with great results and without the use of potentially harmful drugs.