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The Treatment of Psoriasis With Traditional Chinese Medicine

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By Dr. Jeannette “Jett” Kerns, AP, DOM, L.Ac., Owner of East Lake Acupuncture, St. Cloud

Many patients come to my clinic for acupuncture to help manage their psoriasis; however, in my clinical experience, I have found herbal treatment to be far superior to acupuncture in the management of psoriasis and many find it more effective than Western medications.

Psoriasis is characterized by hyperproliferation (rapid turnover) of skin cells creating scaly lesions and is often referred to as “The Living Cancer.” It may surprise you to learn that the skin under these lesions has a cell turnover rate seven times faster than normal skin cells. Normal, healthy skin turnover takes 28 days, whereas in psoriasis, this process takes only four days, causing cells to rapidly build up on the surface of the skin, forming scaly plaques.

Western medicine has very few helpful solutions to offer psoriasis patients beyond immunosuppressant drugs. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), however, has a number of powerful, highly effective formulas that have been known to have a profound impact on psoriasis.

However, it requires a careful evaluation and pattern differential by a skilled Chinese herbalist, such as those at East Lake Acupuncture in St. Cloud. There are numerous TCM patterns associated with the various forms of psoriasis and proper pattern diagnosis is the key to a successful treatment. When formulating herbal prescriptions, the main focus of treatment should be based on the proper TCM pattern differentiation. I do not recommend trying various supplements in hopes of finding one that works or accepting herbal recommendations from an unqualified practitioner unwilling to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour performing a detailed evaluation.

In TCM we recommend the following:

Avoid Prednisone use: Common psoriasis can transform into the erythrodermic type (potentially life-threatening form) if triggered by certain factors. Use of internal (systemic) corticosteroids has been identified as one possible trigger. Other possible triggers can include sunburn, strongly irritant topical medications, or allergic skin reactions to medications (including drugs not used in the treatment of psoriasis). Certain medications can also trigger a form of psoriasis called guttate psoriasis.

Be cautious with topical cortisone cream: Sudden withdrawal of internal or topical steroids (including cortisone creams) can exacerbate common psoriasis or trigger it to transform into another life-threatening form of psoriasis known as Von Zumbusch (a pustular type of psoriasis). Other triggers of Von Zumbusch psoriasis may include pregnancy, blood pressure medications, iodides and Indomethacin (an NSAID).

Avoid injury/trauma to skin. This includes sunburns as well as surgical scars, abrasions, cuts, and other wounds.

Avoid alcohol, spicy or greasy foods, sugary foods, and shellfish. Stop smoking if you’re a smoker.

References and credits: Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology