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Phytotherapy in the management of psoriasis: a review of the efficacy and safety of oral interventions and the pharmacological actions of the main plants


This review provides assessments of the efficacy and safety of oral forms of phytotherapy in psoriasis management and discusses the pharmacological actions of the plants that have been frequently used in clinical trials. It employed the methods described in the Cochrane Handbook. Ten randomized controlled trials that compared a plant-based intervention with placebo or a pharmacotherapy in the treatment of psoriasis vulgaris and used Psoriasis Area Severity Index (PASI) as an outcome measure were included. Superiority to placebo was found in two out of three studies. In six out of seven studies, the effect of the phytotherapy was reported as comparable to the pharmacotherapy in the short term when assessed as PASI 50. The safety of the phytotherapies was discussed. The most commonly used plants were Oldenlandia diffusa, Rehmannia glutinosa and Salvia miltiorrhiza. Experimental studies on extracts and compounds derived from these plants have reported anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and other actions of relevance to psoriasis management. These properties may account for the apparent actions of some of the phytotherapies used in these clinical studies. These plants and their active constituents appear to warrant further research attention in the search for future medications for psoriasis.

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Fig. 1



α-Smooth muscle actin


Adverse events


Activating protein-1


Anti-psoriatic pharmacotherapy


Bcl-2-associated X protein

Bcl-2 family proteins:

B cell lymphoma 2 family of apoptosis regulator proteins


Blood urea nitrogen




Circular dichroism


Cornified envelope

CD4+ T cells:

T-cell surface glycoprotein CD4


Cultured human keratinocytes


Confidence interval




Cytochrome P450


Dermatology Life Quality Index


Extracellular signal-regulated protein/ribosomal S6 kinase 2 kinase


Fos-like immunoreactive neurons


Glutathione peroxidase

GSK 3β:

Glycogen synthase kinase 3 beta


Immortalized human keratinocytes cells

HeLa cells:

A cell from a sample taken from a woman called Henrietta Lacks and was named using the two initials of her first (He) and last (La) names


Intercellular adhesion molecule 1




Immunoglobulin E


IkappaB kinase


IκBα kinase




Inducible nitric oxide synthase


c-Jun N-terminal kinase


Monocyte chemotactic protein-1


Messenger RNA


Mean difference


Nitric oxide


Not stated


Monocyte chemotactic protein


Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells


NF-κB-inducing kinase


Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase


Psoriasis Area Severity Index


Psoriasis Disability Index


Physician’s Global Assessment

PGE2 :

Prostaglandin E2


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor




Human hepatoma cell line


Receptor for advanced glycation end products


Review Manager Software


Randomized controlled trial


Reactive oxygen species


Relative risk


Human monocytic cell line


Tumour necrosis factor-alpha


White blood cell


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We acknowledge funding support provided by Guangdong Provincial Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, China, Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Australian Government for the Australian Postgraduate Award (APA), the International Science and Technology Cooperation Program of China; and The Financial Industry Technology Research and Development Program of Guangdong Province, China that made this research possible.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest. This article is not under submission to another journal. All authors have contributed to the paper.

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Correspondence to Chuanjian Lu or Charlie C. L. Xue.

Additional information

S. Deng and B. H. May made equal contributions to the study.

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Deng, S., May, B.H., Zhang, A.L. et al. Phytotherapy in the management of psoriasis: a review of the efficacy and safety of oral interventions and the pharmacological actions of the main plants. Arch Dermatol Res 306, 211–229 (2014).

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  • Psoriasis
  • Phytotherapy
  • Herbal medicine
  • Review
  • Safety
  • Adverse events
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-proliferative
  • Oldenlandia diffusa
  • Rehmannia glutinosa
  • Salvia miltiorrhiza