Psoriasis is more than a skin condition affecting social situations, emotions, and causing great discomfort. In Chinese medicine, psoriasis comes from an imbalance leading to the autoimmune reaction. Once the imbalances are corrected, your body can work to heal itself and stay healthy.
Psoriasis in Chinese Medicine
For autoimmune conditions like psoriasis, the concept of imbalances makes sense. The immune system is overactive and the body attacks itself.
The diagnosis of the specific imbalance is based upon the appearance of the psoriasis and other symptoms, such as itch, pain, or irritation. The most common imbalances are blood heat, dryness, and blood stagnation.(1) Damp heat and qi stagnation can also be a factor, particularly in pustular psoriasis.(2)
Removing these imbalances is like hitting the reset switch. In this case, resetting the immune system. One of the phenomenal aspects of Chinese herbal therapy is that it can lead to long term reduction in psoriasis. We describe this as correcting the imbalances in the body rather than masking the psoriasis symptoms.
Chinese Medicine Psoriasis Types
Blood Heat- Skin diseases caused by heat are reflected in redness on the skin. The size, shape, and shade of the red will indicate the level of heat. Blood heat is characterized by acute onset of psoriasis with possible severe itching. In blood level heat, dark red plaques will cover a great amount of skin. The size and extent of the lesions suggest the amount of heat. The greater number and larger the lesions, the greater amount of heat.
Blood Dryness- Blood dryness occurs with chronic cases of psoriasis. Itching may or may not be present. The lesions can appear pale or dull red in color. The scales may appear to be dryer with blood dryness.
Blood Stagnation– Blood stagnation also occurs when there is long-term chronic psoriasis. It often is characterized by remission and relapses. The plaques are irregular, hard, and thick and may be purplish in color.
I had been experiencing a recurring bout of psoriasis for year, and nothing offered much relief. I decided to try herbs. Joe is a great practitioner, listening to my symptoms to find the best treatment. My psoriasis is now in remission (finally!), and I’m grateful that I have a practitioner that I can see for any other problems that may come up. I very highly recommend Alban Acupuncture, and have and will continue to guide my friends to his practice.
Chinese Herbal Medicine
TCM herbal medicine is the main therapy for psoriasis and is a standard therapy throughout China. (3) My therapy focuses on herbal formulas, which contains multiple herbs, that focus on resolving the underlying disharmony. Herbs may be in external or internal preparations.
There are hundreds of herbs used in Chinese medicine for treating psoriasis. Here is a profile of just a few common herbs used for different types of psoriasis. Many of the herbs for clearing heat have been shown to reduce inflammation.(4)
For treating heat, the herbal formula will focus on herbs that are cooling. Sheng di huang (Rehmania glutinosa) and Zi cao (lithospermum erythrohizon) are both cooling herbs that are central in the treatment of heat. These herbs have shown to reduce the inflammatory cytokine TNF-α which is active in psoriasis.
For addressing blood stagnation, the herbal formula will include herbs that stimulate the movement of blood and nourish the blood. Dan shen (Salvia miltiorriza) is known for moving and nourishing the blood. Dan shen has been shown to inhibit the secretion of inflammatory cytokines IFN-γ and IL-12 active in psoriasis.
Licorice root, or gan cao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), is widely used in Chinese medicine for all types of psoriasis, as it boosts qi and harmonizes the effects of other herbs. It has long been known to reduce inflammation but also enhance the immune system. Studies show that it can also help to repair damaged liver cells.
Diet can influence the development of psoriasis. Chinese medicine recommends staying away from rich fatty foods and especially sea food because it causing the accumulation of heat in the body. Instead, eat fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids such as salmon and sardines. Focusing on a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids has been suggested to help psoriasis.(5)BOOK AN APPOINTMENT
- Tse, T. W. Use of common Chinese herbs in the treatment of psoriasis. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 28: 5. 469-475. 2003.
- Yang X, Chongsuvivatwong V, McNeil E, et al. Developing a diagnostic checklist of traditional Chinese medicine symptoms and signs for psoriasis: a Delphi study. Chin Med. 2013; 8: 10. Published online 2013.
- Ping S, Lysvand H, Yuhe Y, Wali L, Iversen OJ. Expression of the psoriasis-associated antigen, Pso p27, is inhibited by Traditional Chinese Medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 127 (2010) 171-174.
- Muluye RA, Bian Y, Alemu PN. Anti-inflammatory and Antimicrobial Effects of Heat-Clearing Chinese Herbs: A Current Review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014 Apr;4(2):93-8.
- Millsop JW, Bhatia BK, Debbaneh M, Koo J, Liao W. Diet and psoriasis, part III: role of nutritional supplements.J Am Acad Dermatol. 2014 Sep;71(3):561-9. DOI