Psoriasis is estimated to affect about a million people in the UK. Aromatherapists, by the very nature of their profession, encounter skin issues on a daily basis. Like most skin conditions, there tends to be no quick easy cure, as the skin condition is a reflection of deeper internal issues that need to be addressed. Long term recovery to psoriasis requires improving digestion, absorption, metabolism and respiration, through changes to diet and nutrition, and how one deals with and reacts to stress then dealing with the underlying emotional aspects that accompany skin disorders. It is often a case of trial and error to figure out what needs to be changed in one’s life to be free from psoriasis, so start with small steps that do not involve considerable financial outlay , as what works for others may not work for some.
What exactly is psoriasis? Psoriasis is a common skin condition where the turnover of epidermal cells proceeds very rapidly. Instead of taking the normal 28 days between new cell and desquamation, in psoriasis this happens within 4 days. A build up of skin cells that divided too quickly creates itchy red patches covered in silvery scales . It is not infectious .It first appears small dry red patches on bony areas such as the elbows, knees, lower back, eyebrows and scalp and may well be itchy. If a scale is removed, for instance through scratching, the tell-tale sign of bleeding is seen. Psoriasis is unsightly but is not infectious or contagious. Switch to a skin-friendly and gentle creamy cleanser like Jardin de Fleurs or a gel-to milk cleanser like Tuscan Sunrise
Aromatherapy is able to assist on many levels with a long term treatment of psoriasis. According to aromatherapy expert and author Salvatore Battaglia: Cases generally are regarded as metabolic disturbances, linoleneic acid deficiency, disrupted protein digestion and absorption, lack of dietary fibre and an overwhelmed liver. Outbreaks can be fuelled by a variety of factors including stress, anxiety, illness, cuts, several viral and bacterial infections, sunburn or drugs such as lithium, chloroquine and beta blockers.
Psoriasis requires patience, diligence and long term treatment with detoxifiers to observe lasting benefits. Results will appear over months not days, so it is important to encourage the sufferer to continue the treatment even if results are not seen immediately.
Essential Oils for Psoriasis
Aromatherapy can assist with many facets of psoriasis including stress reduction, liver detoxification, and nutritional input . Essential oils that relieve stress and anxiety such as lavender and sandalwood and bergamot can be used as an inhalation or room fragrance at times of stress, or added to the bath or shampoo. Consider using evening primrose oil as your base oil for a massage or body treatment. Add essential oils at a dilution of 1%.
To reduce the inflammation, use cooling oils such as German chamomile, lavender yarrow or everlasting in your blend. Tea tree provides an antiseptic to treat infection. Carrot seed and everlasting assist the liver in detoxification of the blood.
Essential oils such as German chamomile and yarrow help reduce the itchy feeling that precedes the scratching. Again, one can prepare a small travel size bottle with evening primrose and few drops of these essential oils and carry them in your handbag or satchel to apply during the day as needed.
As evening primrose oxidises rapidly, buy small amounts of therapeutic grade. and store in a cool dry place away from sunlight. You will find that evening primrose is rapidly absorbed into the skin, and can be used as an emergency moisturiser.
Children can benefit from a loving massage after their bath times which further helps them relax for bedtime. Think of lavender, sandalwood, bergamot and German chamomile for sweet dreams.
Other vegetable oils to consider include, Borage, Argan, Calendula, Sea Buckthorn, Rosehip oil which are all soothing and provide valuable nutrition.
Shea Butter can be used to create an ointment.
Hydrosols can be used to spray the skin and relieve itching: think of lavender and chamomile.
Foods that affect Psoriasis
Dietary considerations include increasing intake of fish oils, fruit and vegetables, and avoiding pork, saturated fats, sugar, processed foods, white flour and citrus. Any vitamin, mineral or essential fatty acid deficiency is likely to manifest itself in the skin before any internal organ as the body prioritizes which organs are essential for life.
To assist digestion of proteins, one could try taking Swedish bitters and digestive enzymes at mealtimes . Essential Fatty acids are needed to replace moisture in the skin so supplementing with evening primrose, borage or flaxseed oils. These can be rubbed directly into the skin of children. Eating oily fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna and mackerel and pumpkin sunflower sesame and hemp seeds. A good multi vitamin and mineral to ensure sufficient zinc, magnesium, B3, B6 vitamin C, biotin. Vitamin A and E can help dry skin. A face cream made with niacinamide, or jojoba can help.
Milk thistle supports liver detox as does the mineral sulphur found naturally in eggs onions garlic. Sulphur rich MSM can be purchased at a health food store as a supplement. Psoriasis suffers tend to have faulty digestion of protein which creates toxicity the bowels so it is often recommended to increase intake of fresh pineapple, as it contains an enzyme that digests protein. In addition try taking Swedish bitters at meal times.
Nutritional therapists often recommend taking 1-2 tablespoons of flax oil daily. This can be taken by the spoon (not a very pleasant taste) or blended into a healthy and delicious pineapple and banana smoothie. An alternative is to rub the flax oil into the skin, a few drops of essential oil can be added to provide additional support as well as disguise the smell of the flax oil which is not to everybody’s taste.
Herbal Suggestions for Psoriasis
Herbalists often use herbs such as burdock, red clover, yellow dock, chickweed, sarsaparilla to name a few, in the long term treatment of psoriasis. These are available as herbal teas or tinctures.
Psoriasis on the scalp tends to be very itchy so one could prepare a final hair rinse of chickweed, marigold and nettles, which can often assist reducing flakiness and itching.
Author and healer Louise Hay, who looks at the underlying emotional and mental beliefs associated with various illnesses, links psoriasis to the fear of being hurt or refusing to accept responsibility for one’s own feelings.
As psoriasis can be triggered off by a shock or a trauma, and often flares up during stressful periods, it is vital to look at the emotional factors in your life. Managing the way you react to difficult or irritating situations is a key factor in recovery. This may involve dealing directly with the issue, avoiding stressful situations or talking through with an impartial therapist. Some people do a course in stress management or enrol in a class to practice Yoga or Tai Chi. Reflexology and aromatherapy treatment play an important role addressing the emotional and spiritual aspects of health and well being.
It is believed by many natural healers that skin problems are the soul’s way of alerting others that we have a problem. Healers Chris Thomas and Diane Baker explain in their book that skin problems are a subtle way of the soul saying that I find myself in an uncomfortable situation and am feeling insecure and cannot deal with on my own.. They write that many skin conditions are brought about by the way in which we deal with other people, the old saying ‘ somebody has got under your skin’, in situations where the other people in question have failed to carry out their anticipated actions or not fulfilled their promise to you, causing you frustration or anger with yet another problem to have to deal with. They suggest that in finding the root causes behind a skin condition one has to think back to when the condition first arose.
- Where were you?
- Who were you talking to?
- Did they do something which you were temporarily unhappy with?
- Is there an ongoing situation which is making you feel irritated and vaguely uneasy?
Whatever the cause, you need to deal with it as it can grow into greater feelings of anger and insecurity.
The Bach Flower Remedies address the emotional aspect of skincare issues: Rescue Remedy is useful to relieve the itching, Walnut when one has to adjust to transition or change, Pine for somebody with a guilt complex who is always apologising, Mimulus for shyness, timidity and fear of known things, Larch for lack of self-confidence and inferiority and feelings of failure, Elm when overwhelmed by inadequacy and responsibility, Crab Apple the cleanser when there is self disgust and shame, Cerato for those doubting themselves and always seeking confirmation of others, Centuary for those weak willed, exploited or imposed upon, Agrimony for those who hide their worries behind a brave face. Flower remedies work well in conjunction with aromatherapy and other natural remedies.
Psoriasis – Other considerations
Natural sunlight and bathing in the sea can help. Replicate a trip to the Dead Sea with your own salt bath at home. Put a kilo of Epsom salts and 500g sea salt in the bath and add warm water. If available from your local health food store, try a bag of Dead Sea salts .
I wrote an article that helps those with dry skin navigate their skin care.
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy by Salvatore Battaglia
Solve Your Skin Problems by Natalie Savona and Patrick Holford
Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Your Body But So Far Nobody’s Been Able To Tell You by Chris Thomas and Diane Baker
A Guide To the Bach Flower Remedies by Julian Barnard
Heal Your Life by Louise Hay