Psoriasis is more than a skin condition. It can affect one’s confidence in social situations, causes stress, anxiety, and great physical discomfort.
After trying medications with harsh side effects and therapies that don’t work, many people turn to Chinese medicine, which has been helping people with psoriasis and other skin conditions for thousands of years. Traditional Chinese Medicine is a holistic medicine that understands a skin condition is not only what it looks like on the skin but how it effects the whole person.
Chinese medicine therapies work by addressing the underlying imbalance causing the psoriasis. For autoimmune conditions like psoriasis, the concept of imbalances makes perfect sense. The imbalance leads to an autoimmune reaction causing red, raised skin (plaque) and flaky white scales. (1)
Once the imbalances are corrected, your body can work to heal itself and stay healthy. I like to say this is like hitting the reset switch. In this case, resetting the immune system. One of the phenomenal aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that it can lead to long-term reduction in psoriasis.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment for Psoriasis
In my 15 years as a Chinese medicine practitioner, I have helped many people with psoriasis. When you start treatment, our first consultation will review your complete medical history and the development of the psoriasis. This, along with looking at your skin, will provide the information needed to identify the nature of the psoriasis.
We will then use acupuncture, string herbal teas called decoctions, and topical herbal medicine to treat your psoriasis. The therapies are customized to address the specific type of psoriasis you are experiencing.
Chinese Medicine Psoriasis Types
In Chinese medicine, not all psoriasis is the same. The goal of treatment is to determine the specific imbalance underlying your condition. This is based upon the appearance of the psoriasis and presence of any other symptoms, such as itch, pain, or irritation. Whole body symptoms such as digestion, chronic sore throats, allergies, and colds are also considered.
The most common imbalances causing psoriasis are blood heat, dryness, and blood stagnation. Damp heat and qi stagnation can also be a factor, particularly in pustular psoriasis.
If you have hot type psoriasis, your herbal formula would consist of cold herbs that reduce the heat. If your psoriasis is from dryness, then herbs that moisten the skin will be used.
Blood Heat: Skin diseases caused by heat are reflected in redness on the skin. The size, shape, and shade of the red patches 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 the number, and the larger the lesions, the greater the degree 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 is often characterized by cycles of remission and relapses. The plaques are irregular, hard, thick and may be purplish in color.
Acupuncture for Psoriasis
Acupuncture is very helpful in treating psoriasis as it can reduce inflammation, itch, and pain as well as improve overall health. (5) Studies have shown that acupuncture can help In addition, it can be very effective for relieving pain from psoriatic arthritis. Many patients use acupuncture along with Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Chinese Herbal Medicine Treatment of Psoriasis
Chinese herbal medicine is most often given in multiherb formulas which are drank as a tea. The herbs are personalized for each patient based upon their specific symptoms and work synergistically with other herbs in the formula to target the imbalances underlying the psoriasis.
TCM herbal medicine is a standard therapy for psoriasis throughout China. Herbs are given in formulas that contain a combination of many herbs, each one having a healing function geared toward resolving the underlying disharmony. Herbs are often given in teas or pills as well as external soaks and creams, which are very important for psoriasis treatment.
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. (7)
This article is for educational purposes only does not serve as medical advice. Please consult a Chinese Medicine Practitioner before taking Chinese herbal medicine.
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 been shown to reduce the inflammatory cytokine TNF-α,which is active in psoriasis.(3,8)
For addressing blood stagnation, the herbal formula will include herbs that nourish and stimulate the movement of blood. Dan shen (Salvia miltiorriza) is also 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 not only reduce inflammation, but also enhance the immune system. Studies show that it can also help to repair damaged liver cells.