How to manage Psoriasis with Ayurveda
By Dr Sajimon George BAMS, AAA, ATMS
Shed your worries, not the skin.
Psoriasis is a non-infectious, inflammatory chronic skin disease.
It is characterized by well-defined erythematosus (reddish) plaques with large adherent silvery scales. The main abnormality in psoriasis is an increased proliferation of the skin layers due to excessive division of the cell in the basal layers of the skin. Severe itching may associate with the plaques.
Dryness of the skin and silvery scaling are characteristics of this condition. 1% to 3% of the most population has psoriasis. It is often seen between 15 to 40 yrs of age.
The lesions usually occur at first on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower limbs and later spread all over the body. Psoriasis patients are likely to develop psoriatic arthritis which gives joint discomfort, swelling, stiffness or throbbing. Psoriasis usually goes through cycles of relapses and remission.
Causes of Psoriasis
The etiology of psoriasis is unknown There is frequently a genetic predisposition. A child with one affected parent has a 15% chance of developing the disease and this rises to 50% if both the parents are affected.
Ayurvedic texts have explained skin diseases, which resemble psoriasis. According to these references, psoriasis can be considered as the vitiation of Vata and Kapha. (Two of the basic energies/humors, which maintains our body equilibrium).
Accumulation of low potency poisons (Dooshi vishas), are the basic pathological changes taking place in the system. Irregular food habits, consumption of food stuffs that should not be eaten together – Viruddha Ahara /Uneasy combinations (e.g. dairy products with fish), black gram, seafood, sour and salted items etc can activate the pathogenesis.
Alcohol and tobacco consumption will act as a catalyst here. Ayurveda do emphasize on the effect of stress in the pathogenesis of psoriasis.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
The eruption consists of a chronic inflammatory process in the true skin, the papillae of which become considerably lengthened and more vascular than usual. Changes in the cuticle also affect the epidermis. The condition generally appears for the first time around adolescence or in early adult life.
It is often a family disease occurring in different generations of one stock, and is often associated with gout or rheumatism. In some people, psoriasis appears repeatedly at a particular season, especially in the spring and autumn, but it is not infectious.
The eruption almost always appears first around the back of the elbow and the front of the knees. It begins as small pimples, each covered with a white cap of scales, which enlarge in breadth till they form patches two or three inches wide. At the same time, patches appear on other parts of the body, especially the scalp and the face. Deprivation of sunlight influences this condition and mental stress plays an important role in aggravating the condition.
The peculiar lesions will be raised and red with dry, silvery-white scaling which usually itch and burn. Size may vary from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. Common sites are scalp elbows, knees, lower back and sometimes the palm of the hand.
Many people with psoriasis may develop inflammatory arthritis, which is characterized by multiple involvements of joints and pitting on nails. Affected persons suffer from restricted movement in their joints and emotional distress and cracked skin. The disease may also affect the fingernails, the toenails, and the soft tissues inside the mouth and genitalia.
Scaling occurs when cells in the outer layer of the skin reproduce faster than normal and pile up on the skin’s surface. Different types of psoriasis display characteristics such as pus-like blisters, severe sloughing of the skin, drop-like dots and smooth-inflamed lesions.
How to treat Psoriasis with Ayurveda
Psoriasis is a sannipathika condition ie, all three humors Vata, Pitta and Kapha are actively involved in the etiology and manifestation of the disease.
Based on the type of Psoriasis and manifestation of symptoms, dosha predominance will vary.
Treatment will be decided only after considering exact dosha vitiation.
- The treatment aspects of Psoriasis according to Ayurveda, aim at the detoxification of the body orthe elimination of toxins from the body fluids. It is achieved by “Classical Ayurvedic Panchakarma” treatments.
Vata predominant condition
In this condition there will be more dryness, plaques, pain and roughness. Vata predominance is found in psoriatic arthritis. Vata and Kapha are aggravated in plaque psoriasis.
Oral administration of medicated oil
It is specifically useful in deep rooted skin diseases since it spreads all along srotas or channels. Oil is medicated using herbal decoction and powder of suitable herbs. This is useful in dissolving accumulated subcutaneous toxins.
Steaming and other heating procedures
Generally in skin diseases sweating or any heating procedures are contra indicated but in Vata and Vata Kapha predominant conditions steaming can be mildly done. It is useful in removal of blockage of subtle channels or srotas.
Vamana – medicated vomiting and Virechana – medicated purgation
It is a cleansing method, performed by giving medicated Hydnocarpus laurifolia oil which cause both vomiting and purgation. Usage of this particular oil is strongly suggested by Ayurvedic classics in this disease.
Designed to clean the lower alimentary canal and most effective in Ayurvedic treatment bringing cleansing of subtle channels or srotas spread all over the body. This is very effective in aggravated vata principle through removal of blockage in pathways of vata humor thus enable us to calm vata aggravation.
Pitta predominant condition:
Where the patient complains of pustules, smooth inflamed lesions and suppuration.
Oral administration of medicated ghee
Internal administration of medicated ghee is done after healing inflamed skin by oral administration of decoctions, dhara etc.
Selected herbs in powder form are orally given.
Dhara (pouring) of medicated butter milk or decoction
This is very effective in calming down brain activities and thus helps to manage the burning sensation, ulcerations, pustules and other pitta predominant symptoms. The above conditions affect the physiological homeostasis (balance of functions of the internal organs) and upset one’s temperature regulatory mechanisms. An area of the brain called Hypothalamus controls a person’s body temperature.
In psoriasis patients, it has been observed that the temperature regulatory mechanism of the Hypothalamus is getting upset. Studies show that a psoriatic patient will have a higher body temperature at the time of admission for treatment. Mentally stressful conditions of the patient contribute very largely to this higher body temperature and the mental trauma experienced by him/her due to the disease aggravates it further. After treatment the body temperature has been observed to revert back to normalcy.
The higher body temperature cause lesions on the skin to appear and when the scaly epidermis is peeled off and discarded, the underlying dermis and its complex systems of blood vessels, nerve endings etc are also affected adversely.
Kapha predominant condition
This condition will present more itching and oozing from lesions.
- Generally oil administration is not indicated.
- Other procedures above mentioned such as medicated vomiting, purgation, dhara with suitable herbs are indicated.
Rasayana (Rejuvenative) formulations
Psoriasis is a chronic disease and hence vitiated doshas or humors might have affected deeper dhatus or channels called srotas. Thus nourishing and revitalising the skin after successful treatment is very important. For this purpose formulations with rejuvenation effect are given.
Ayurvedic diet and activities
A strict diet regime has to be followed during the entire treatment period and it is better to continue until advised by the physician.
- Black gram, sour items, chilly and salted things have to be avoided.
- It is better to avoid refrigerated/chilled foods.
- A Psoriatic person must keep a state of mental calmness.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Have normal sleep.
- Avoid freshly harvested grains and sesame seeds in particular.
- Avoid milk and milk products, particularly yogurt and buttermilk.
- Avoid fish, honey and jaggery.
Therapeutic Yoga, Meditation, Reiki and Pranic Healing session
Ayurveda being a holistic healthcare system emphasizes the effect of stress in the pathogenesis of Psoriasis. Hence to achieve a psychological state of mental well being, practice of Yoga, meditation, Reiki and Pranic healing are useful.
A proper yoga program after medical opinion can improve flexibility and mobility of the joints especially in psoriatic arthritis.
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