Psoriasis is difficult to treat. Affecting about 2% of the population, the condition is an overproduction of new skin cells. It shows up on people as thick, red patches covered with silvery, scaly skin. The affected skin tends to flake off, leaving little pieces of skin on the sufferer’s clothing and bedding. Psoriasis is uncomfortable because the skin itches and feels tight. Even though the condition is not contagious, it is unsightly and often makes those who have it embarrassed by their skin. Few people realize that psoriasis is in part a genetic condition. However, it may never show up…or a variety of factors—such as hormone changes, poor diet, a hectic lifestyle or medications, including some antibiotics—can stress the body and trigger its onset.

Conventional medicine relies on steroids and immune-suppressive medications to treat psoriasis. These drugs don’t cure psoriasis and can have a variety of side effects, including high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol and a weakened immune system. While these drugs are sometimes necessary, nondrug approaches can be used by themselves or in conjunction with pharmaceutical treatment. What I recommend…*

• Watch your diet. Since inflammation fuels psoriasis, people with the condition should eat an anti-inflammatory diet. This means avoiding any food to which you are allergic, which triggers inflammation, as well as sugar, alcohol, processed foods, fast foods and fried foods. Eat a diet rich in vegetables, whole grains, fruits and legumes. Eat no more than six ounces of meat each day, and drink lots of water so waste can be eliminated via the kidneys and stool instead of the skin. When waste is eliminated via the skin, it worsens psoriasis. To boost immune health, consume at least 2,000 mg of flax oil daily—use it in food or take in capsule form. Flax is very high in omega-3 fatty acids, the best type of fatty acid for reducing inflammation. If flax bothers your stomach, try fish oil. Important: Never cook with flax oil, and do not use it to bake—when heated, flax oil releases harmful free radicals.

• Try herbs. Certain herbs have anti-inflammatory properties and promote skin health—both important for psoriasis treatment. I recommend a combination of burdock, cleavers, sarsaparilla and yellow dock. If possible, purchase tinctures of each one of these herbs. Combine equal parts of each in one bottle and take one-quarter teaspoon of the combination, in two ounces of water, twice daily at least 15 minutes before meals.

• Don’t forget topical therapies. Herbal medicines used topically won’t cure psoriasis, but they can ease symptoms. I recommend salves made from calendula, which promotes new skin growth, and comfrey to moisten flaky skin. Look for a product in a base of olive oil and beeswax. Some of these salves, such as All Purpose Salve available from Wise Woman Herbals, also contain vitamin E oil, which has its own healing properties for the skin. Apply several times a day as needed.

My natural medicine protocol can take a couple months to work well. But it’s definitely worth trying before resorting to risky drug therapy.

*If you use any prescription medication, have a chronic medical condition or are pregnant or nursing, consult your doctor before using flax oil and/or any herbs. Avoid yellow dock and sarsaparilla if you take digoxin (Lanoxin) or diuretics. Calendula and comfrey ointments should not be used on open wounds.

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