Non-toxic psoriasis medicine?
April 23, 2007 6:30 AM   Subscribe

I have the psoriasis and I am looking for non-toxic palliatives.

It's a mild plaque psoriasis, with some spots on my scalp, elbows, inside of the earlobe, and inside the ears. So far it hasn't attacked any "normal skin." I've had it under the earlobes for about 4 years, on the scalp for 2, and on the elbows/inside the ears for maybe 9 months, so it is slowly getting worse. The only real problem is the scalp - I can't shave my hair short as is my desire.

I haven't been to a doctor for this since it started. (Several years before the rash even started I was diagnosed with the psoriatic arthritis - it was painful then, but doesn't bother me much now.) "Traditional" treatments would involve UV lights and immunosuppressants, which I definitely don't want. Basically at this point the psoriasis is minor enough that my main concerns for a treatment are non-toxicity, cost, and convenience rather than something that's going to brute force my immune system into cutting it out.

What level of non-toxicity? To give examples, if the cure was to drink a beer every day, I'd do that, but if the cure was to drink six beers every day or take Tylenol (liver rot) or Aleve (heart attack) every day, no.

To give ideas on how my personal psoriasis works, in case anyone's personal experience is similar:

Coal tar shampoo doesn't seem to do much.
Marijuana reduces it some, but the efficacy is low enough that any hope of getting rid of it would involve baking all day every day.
Relevant lifestyle changes that happened before I started getting the rash: I moved to the big city and started eating meat.
The only time I saw a real significant dent in the rash was a week-long ski trip, which involved more exercise than I normally get, a cold climate, and massive marijuana and alcohol use.
I've never noticed any effects from OTC NSAIDs etc., but have never made a regimen of them either.

I don't find trustworthy information online about supplements, vitamins, unregulated pharmaceuticals, and so on that are purported to help.

I'm not going to a doctor - as before I don't want the toxic treatments, and I figure I can try some non-toxic pills and snake oils just fine on my own without a doctor telling me whether my rash is smaller or not. I'm also the type to slice up my own ingrown toenails and dress my own wounds...
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I use salicylic acid gel (Dermarest, which works pretty well. It's topical and you put it on twice a day. I've found it's much better than coal tar, which is absolutely useless for me.
posted by GuyZero at 6:35 AM on April 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

When I was younger I had psoriasis similar to what you describe. I found that reducing my cheese consumption made it get better.

I still have a little around my ears and eyebrows and have found that jojoba oil applied topically helps keep it under control.
posted by alms at 6:38 AM on April 23, 2007

My friend uses Dead Sea Mud, from a company called "Solis" which is made on the Jordanian side of the lake. But now she has basically guilted her doctor into getting the insurance to pay for tanning treatments at low UV levels, which is just like going to the Dead Sea. Have you tried a tanning bed?
posted by parmanparman at 6:39 AM on April 23, 2007

Try rosemary oil applied to the red, itchy area.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:44 AM on April 23, 2007

I find that avoiding coffee, orange and tomato juice helps tremendously (tea is OK). As far as the scalp goes, avoid any shampoo with strong scent (hard to find!). While I lived in Germany, I used Urtekram's Nettle shampoo. Haven't been able to find it in North America.
posted by bluefrog at 7:55 AM on April 23, 2007

Seconding Dermarest, use the 3 percent salycidic acid shampoo. It's actually a great shampoo -- my hair guy's always asking me what I use, and I mutter something "oh I don't know what's on sale." I use the coal tar shampoo not as shampoo but as soap for the parts of my bod with a rash. Also, not so relevant for your scalp, lotion lotion lotion.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:07 AM on April 23, 2007

I don't quite understand your including UV light therapy in the "toxic" category. My husband had such plaque psorias as you describe, but in greater amounts and severity, for years and using topical ointments seemed to have little or no effect. Since discovering light therapy, though, the difference is (pardon the pun) night and day. And as parmanparman commented, many insurance companies cover the cost not only of doctor's office visits for therapy but even for the cost of an in-home light unit.
I hope that you may reconsider the UV treatment; I heartily recommend its efficacy (in at least one specific case).
posted by crepeMyrtle at 8:23 AM on April 23, 2007

Huh, no one has mentioned sunlight. Sunlight exposure - exposure to UV rays from the sun, if you want to be specific - is an excellent cure for psoriasis for many people. UV light treatment is just sunlight-in-a-can. It's neither more nor less toxic than going out in the sun. (Well, actually, UV light treatment is probably less toxic than sun exposure, because the wavelengths are limited and the exposure is controlled.)

Probably your ski trip remission was at least partially due to lots of sun exposure.

You should also consider hydrocortisone ointment. I have no idea if you count that as "toxic" or not (it isn't, but neither are moderate amounts of Tylenol or UV treatment). Essentially, the NSAID drugs you were recommended before are for ARTHRITIS, while treating the SKIN PLAQUES should be done with sunlight and steroid creams such as hydrocortisone (which is over-the-counter).
posted by jellicle at 8:34 AM on April 23, 2007

I'd suggest cutting out all eggs and dairy for a few weeks and see what happens. The proteins in these foods are known to act as allergens in a number of cases and could be exacerbating the psoriasis. I know it's difficult to make that big of a dietary change but you really only have to try it for a few weeks.
posted by Durin's Bane at 8:36 AM on April 23, 2007

I have psoriasis on my fingers, and I use a transparent band-aid. It won't work on your scalp unless you are very bald, but it should work on elbows. I put it on for 2-3 days, and the remove it for 2-3 days. I get it from a medical supply store, not a drugstore.
posted by mediaddict at 10:05 AM on April 23, 2007

seconding jellicle's hydrocortisone ointment suggestion. It really reduces my psoriasis break outs. Also, strangely, reducing stress seems to help as well.
posted by b33j at 1:52 PM on April 23, 2007

Nizoral (Ketoconazole) is an over-the-counter shampoo (also available in prescription strength) that works pretty well. It helps reduce the fungus that is believed to be the main irritant of the scalp for scalp psoriasis.

If you go to a dermatologist, they may prescribe Clobetasol. This stuff works great - I went from using n different over-the-counter meds with limited success to being a happy camper. I've had no weird side effects (when used as directed, YMMV).
posted by zippy at 3:09 PM on April 23, 2007

Yours sounds like mine. I shave my head when my scalp gets bad and, after a few days of looking ridiculous, everything seems to get much better. I think the sunglight gets a chance to get a the plaques and do its thing. Just my 2¢.
posted by unclejeffy at 3:19 PM on April 23, 2007

As a person with psoriasis (ranging from 0-50% body coverage) and psoriatic arthritis who also used to work for the National Psoriasis Foundation, I would recommend checking out their forums. They can be very dysfunctional at times (typical forum behavior of us v them stuff) but they have a strong alternative therapy crowd which can offer a lot of good advice. Take it with a grain of salt though, the "information online about supplements, vitamins, unregulated pharmaceuticals" can be pretty untrustworthy there. But for persnal experience and "it works for me", there is not a better place.

The general foundation website has a lot of good info too.

Me, I literally could not move without the biologic injections, but I fully appreciate that is not something most people would prefer.

Feel free to email if you have other questions.
posted by karmaville at 4:55 PM on April 23, 2007

Here’s a genuine Snake-Oil I’ve had good results with: Tedco’s controversial Miracle II Neutralizer. My ears have plagued me for years with flaking and itching within the outer canals, and the best solution I’ve found so far is to suds them up with Neutragena T/Gel Extra Strength Shampoo (1% coal tar) while washing my hair with it, then re-rinse them with a few drops of this Neutralizer stuff squirted onto a couple of Q-Tips after drying off. Neither preparation helped my ears much at all by itself, nor has any other shampoo, oil or other nostrum I’ve explored over the years. I repeat the application every 2-3 days. Haven’t yet been brave enough to ingest the stuff, but my ears haven’t fallen off yet...
posted by dpcoffin at 6:10 PM on April 23, 2007

my skin has been very happy since i started using aveda's hand relief lotion. my doctor had prescribed me the clobetasol, which didn't work as well. and she also warned me against using any steroid long term, as i can cause thinning of the skin. whatever that means. i've tried a lot of different home-remedy type things (zinc cream, hydrogen peroxide, cutting out wheat, cortisone, coal tar) and the aveda works the best. for me.
posted by apostrophe at 7:26 AM on April 24, 2007

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