TURMERIC FOR PSORIASIS: EFFECTIVENESS AND HOW IT WORKS
An autoimmune, inflammatory condition, psoriasis affects up to 3% of the population (statistics from Europe and north America). It is characterised by skin lesions that looks like flaky red/dark brown patches that produce scales, usually around elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. This condition is not only affecting the skin, but sometimes even joints, bones and more.
In psoriasis, we have an overproduction of skin cells that accumulate on specific areas of the body, and decreased cells death that promote the formation of plaques. In addition, there is also an impaired production of lipids (fats) that normally would keep the skin moist and soft, but that in psoriasis results in dry and flaky skin.
CAUSES OF PSORIASIS
The exact cause is unknown, however there are few pieces of the puzzle to take into consideration. Firstly, it seems that individuals with psoriasis have a greater load of free radicals and fewer antioxidants, creating higher oxidative stress. Another piece of the puzzle is the increased activity of the protein phosphorylase kinases, which is involved in the overproduction of skin cells that typically appear in psoriasis. Lastly, scientific research also confirms the link between inflammation and chronic conditions like psoriasis, obesity, autoimmune and cardiovascular disease.
Psoriasis treatment depends on how severe the condition is, and which areas are affected. It usually starts with topical creams and ointments that can be applied directly on the areas affected. Phototherapy (light therapy) can also be added along/instead oral medication.
Although nowadays have been developed a variety of medications to treat psoriasis, none of them provide great results without side effects (like long-term corticosteroids use). There are now a few nutritional interventions that can support the body healing process during psoriasis, turmeric is one of the most popular. Research is still limited, but it shows promising results on the many studies done so far. Some of them had used a gel application on the skin, while others had used turmeric/curcumin supplements alone or in conjunction with conventional treatment.
Turmeric has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine and as culinary spice. In the last decade an increasing number of scientific research is exploring the use of curcumin (the best known chemical compound found in turmeric) for the treatment of psoriasis.
The first mechanism behind its efficacy, is that curcumin fights the free radicals that accumulate around psoriatic lesions.
The second mechanism is that curcumin blocks the protein phosphorylase kinases, slowing down the over production of skin cells. A 2011 study on 647 individuals showed that the application of curcumin gel, along with allergy-free diet and topical steroids, completely cleared psoriatic lesions in 70% of individuals after 16 weeks.
The third mechanism is that curcumin appears to lower inflammation by reducing specific substances in the body (cytokines such as TNF, interleukin 6 and interleukin 17) that are known to promote inflammation.
The fourth mechanism is that curcumin helps to improve the skin barrier by increasing 2 specific proteins, filaggrin and involucrin (also involved in eczema).
Limited research has been done in humans. The majority of the information that we have is due to research done in animals and in vitro, hence more studies are needed to confirm the positive finding in humans.
So far, research have used up to 4.5gr curcumin supplement with little side effects, or curcumin gel applied to the lesions, confirming its efficacy in improving Psoriasis. The caveat of using oral curcumin is the poor absorption, so the use of high bioavailable supplements is very important.
Usually turmeric is regarded as safe, however the consumption of high amounts (over 4 grams) long term can potentially lead to nausea, diarrhoea and indigestion, as the most common side effects. Turmeric in high dose can also act as blood thinner, so it shouldn’t be used along anticoagulant drugs.
Although not a cure, turmeric can be an inexpensive nutritional intervention that can be implemented by adding the fresh root or the dry powder to dishes like stews and soups. Before taking a supplement, consult your healthcare practitioner or Nutritionist for advice on dosage and timing, also checking for interactions with prescription drugs and possible side effects.
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