If you are looking at this page, you probably are considering the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to treat psoriasis.
Traditional Chinese medicine is under-rated as a treatment for common skin conditions like acne, eczema and psoriasis, so this article should shed further light on how Chinese medicine is very helpful for treating diseases in dermatology, especially as it relates to a condition like psoriasis.
Psoriasis according to Western Medicine
Psoriasis is a systemic skin disease characterized by chronic inflammation of the skin. There is an abnormality in the rate of maturation of keratinocytes, resulting in dry, thickened and silver-scaled plaques.
Up to 50% of psoriasis start on the scalp, with most people seeing it as dandruff and an inconvenience, rather than a medical condition that can flare up if not monitored and managed.
Modern medicine will almost always include the use of steroids in the treatment of skin conditions; psoriasis is, after all, a disease of inflammation.
In addition, there are vitamin D derivatives (like calcitriol) as well as vitamin A acid derivatives (retinoids) that come in handy. Immunosuppressive agents like cyclosporine and methotrexate (MTX) are also commonly prescribed.
Psoriasis as a skin disease is largely linked to the vagaries of one’s immune system, and conventional therapy clearly DOES address the mechanisms that create the immune imbalance in the first place.
Support for TCM treatment of Psoriasis
Still, it is worth exploring approaches to dermatology from the traditional Chinese medicine perspective.
Browsing through a systematic review (SR) or meta-analysis (MA) will show that treatment with Chinese herbal medicine can
- Ameliorate clinical symptoms
- Decrease the psoriasis area and severity index (PASI) score
- Delay recurrence
- Reduce the side effects of Western medicine; as well as
- Enhance one’s quality of life.
Is Psoriasis a Yin Yang imbalance?
Psoriasis often presents as excessive Yang Heat crowding out insufficient Yin Fluids; this is so because of internal health conditions that are built into one’s body constitution.
From an immunological perspective, the Yin Yang imbalance in the psoriatic body is a condition of excess levels of Th1 and Th17 (yang) relative to Th2 (yin) that causes abnormal growth of skin cells.
That said, psoriasis is certainly more complex than Yin and Yang. The more fitting way to view it is in terms of the pathogens like wind-heat, blood-heat, damp-heat, heat-toxins and etc.
Each of these pathogen has a different presentation of signs and symptoms. Because of this, there are an exclusive range of herbal ingredients that are always appropriate to use depending on how the psoriatic flare is presenting.
Therefore, while psoriasis is a condition of systemic inflammation, the choice of herbs for each individual patient is going to be different depending on the individual’s signs and symptoms.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Perspective on Psoriasis Treatment
In Chinese Medicine, internal health conditions are often mapped to external representations like the state of the pulse and tongue. The converse is true, that one’s skin condition has an underlying cause.
In psoriasis, this ‘underlying cause’ actually differs depending on which phase of the skin disease you are in, or where your lesions are showing up.
Some patients may come in in the early stage of mild psoriasis, often without too much accumulation of heat or toxins; others may come in with harden plaques, usually representative of a blood stasis pattern.
Some patients may present only with reddened lesions with silver flakes around the hairline; others present with stubborn inverse psoriasis around the armpits and genitalia.
The TCM treatment plan focuses on how the patient’s symptoms show up, and not on the disease labelled ‘Psoriasis.’
Psoriasis TCM Singapore
The traditional Chinese medicine perspective is that Psoriasis is made up of different pathogenic elements, for example, wind, dryness, heat, toxin, etc.
Chinese medicine TCM Doctors assess the relative weight of these ‘pathogenic elements’ by looking at signs (like the level of redness) as well as symptoms (like how hot the patients feels or how itchy the lesions are).
The practitioner then proceeds to decide on customized oral medicine aimed to reduce the intensity of these pathogenic elements.
For example, for a person with a heavy weight on toxin accumulation, a comprehensive skin treatment plan will involve heavy focus on clearing out heat-toxin and its accompanying symptoms.
A person who is exhibiting Blood dryness at the end stage of a flare will be treated in a manner that support the Spleen and Stomach, so that new Blood can be generated that lubricates the body’s surface, taking away symptoms like dry-heat or dry-itch.
In Singapore, while the preponderance of psoriasis is nowhere near that of eczema, it is widespread enough to have many local Singaporean seeking TCM treatment for psoriasis.