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Psoriasis is a chronic condition characterised by red, scaly plaques on the skin, which may or may not be itchy.


  • Deep pink to red, raised patches of skin with a sharp border, and covered with silvery-white scales, which are shed from the skin.
  • Some people also experience itchiness, but this does not always occur.
  • The most common locations are the scalp, elbows, knees, wrists, buttocks and ankles. 
  • Pitting of the fingernails and toenails may occur, giving the nails the appearance of a thimble.
  • Some people develop an associated arthritis, which is characterised by joint pain, tenderness and swelling that may affect a single or multiple joints, especially those of the fingers, toes, lower back, knees, ankles and wrists.


In psoriasis the skin cells multiply at a rate approximately 1000 times faster than normal, healthy cells.

There is no corresponding increase in the rate at which cells are shed, causing a build-up which appears silvery and raised. The underlying issue may be related to an imbalance in two compounds that governs the rate at which cells multiply and are sloughed off, called cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and cyclic guanidine monophosphate (cGMP).

Hereditary factors are known to be involved in psoriasis, and there is a strong tendency for the condition to run in families. It is not contagious.

Possible triggers for psoriasis attacks include stress, shock, infection, and excessive alcohol intake.

From a naturopathic perspective, other factors that may contribute include immune dysfunction, poor bowel function, sluggish liver function, and an inability to completely digest proteins.

An imbalance of essential fatty acids (for example, high consumption of saturated animal fats ) has also been implicated.

Natural therapies

  • Fish oil capsules provide essential fatty acids, deficiency of which has been associated with psoriasis; the recommended dose is 1000 mg taken three times daily, although in severe cases your healthcare professional may recommend a higher dose 
  • Improving liver and bowel function helps to treat and prevent psoriasis; use the herb milk thistle to support your liver, and a probiotic supplement containing acidophilus and bifidus to improve bowel regularity 
  • Digestive enzymes may help to resolve problems with protein digestion, which have been associated with psoriasis 
  • Creams containing chickweed, pine coal tar or paw paw may also help reduce the symptoms.

Diet and lifestyle

  • Keeping your skin well moisturised can reduce the tendency to scratch the dry patches of psoriasis.
  • Soap has drying properties and is best avoided. Use an unscented soap substitute instead. 
  • Wear protective gloves when your skin is in contact with chemicals (for example dishwashing detergent), or if you are prone to scratching in your sleep.
  • Keeping your fingernails short can also reduce potential damage from scratching.
  • Ultraviolet light therapy may be recommended by your healthcare professional.
  • Natural therapists advise people with psoriasis to follow a diet that helps keep the digestive system healthy. A high fibre intake is particularly important, and promotes detoxification.
  • At the same time, avoid alcohol (which can trigger psoriasis attacks) and fried foods and saturated animal fats (which may contribute to essential fatty acid imbalance).  Try to include plenty of fish in your diet to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats they contain.

Important notes

  • Severe cases of psoriasis require medical management. Talk to your doctor for more information, especially if your symptoms are accompanied by joint pain.