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Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Psoriasis: What the Dermatologist Needs to Know

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Abstract

Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use is common among patients with psoriasis. CAM modalities include traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), herbal therapies, dietary supplements, climatotherapy, and mind/body interventions. In this review, evidence from clinical trials investigating the efficacy of CAM for psoriasis is reviewed. There is a large amount of evidence from controlled trials that have shown that the combination of TCM with traditional therapies for psoriasis is more efficacious than traditional therapies alone. Herbal therapies that have the most evidence for efficacy are Mahonia aquifolium and indigo naturalis, while there is a smaller amount of evidence for aloe vera, neem, and extracts of sweet whey. Dietary supplementation in patients with psoriasis demonstrates consistent evidence supporting the efficacy of fish oil supplements. Zinc supplementation has not been shown to be effective; however, some evidence is available (albeit conflicting) for vitamin D, vitamin B12, and selenium supplementation. Overwhelming evidence supports the effectiveness of Dead Sea climatotherapy. Finally, mindfulness-based stress reduction can be helpful as adjuvant treatment of psoriasis. There are potential benefits to these modalities, but also potential side issues. Concerns with CAM include, but are not limited to, contamination of TCM products with heavy metals or corticosteroids, systemic toxicity or contact dermatitis from herbal supplements, and ultraviolet light-induced carcinomas from climatotherapy. Dermatologists should be aware of these benefits and side effects to allow for informed discussions with their patients.

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Whitney Talbott and Nana Duffy have no conflicts of interest to declare.

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Helpful Resources for Information Regarding Complementary and Alternative Medicine Modalities, Side Effects, and Drug Interactions

Helpful Resources for Information Regarding Complementary and Alternative Medicine Modalities, Side Effects, and Drug Interactions

About Herbs (Memorial Sloan Kettering’s application for iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch or other mobile devices)

Naturalstandard.com

Naturaldatabase.com and associated application NaturalData

Lexi.com and associated application Lexicomp

MicroMedex.com

nccih.nih.gov

Physician’s Desk Reference (PDR) for Herbal Medicines, 4th edition

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Talbott, W., Duffy, N. Complementary and Alternative Medicine for Psoriasis: What the Dermatologist Needs to Know. Am J Clin Dermatol 16, 147–165 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40257-015-0128-6

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