Over the past several years, turmeric has gone from being a golden spice commonly found in Indian food to a superfood hailed for its anti-inflammatory qualities. But how much is known about its health benefits, and can it help people with conditions like psoriasis?
People use it as an alternative therapy to fight a range of health problems, including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and depression.
Medicinal applications for turmeric go back thousands of years, but research is still conflicting about its actual effectiveness.
On the other hand, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says that claims that curcumin can reduce inflammation are not supported by strong research.
Balancing Safety and Effectiveness
While more scientific investigation is needed to better determine turmeric’s curative powers, some dermatologists have been recommending curcumin as a treatment for symptoms of psoriasis and rosacea.
“There’s a whole push for natural and safe therapies in general among the U.S. patient population,” says Matthew Lewis, MD, a dermatologist with Stanford Health Care. “Oral curcumin seems to be safe and effective as an anti- inflammatory for psoriasis, so I actually do recommend that to people.”
Lewis advises that turmeric be mixed with black pepper if taken orally. Some evidence indicates that an ingredient in pepper called piperine helps boost the absorption of curcumin in the blood stream.
Concentrated turmeric is available in pill or supplement form at pharmacies and at vitamin and supplement stores under brand names such Pure Encapsulations and Doctor’s Best.
Oral turmeric and curcumin do not usually produce any side effects, but high doses could cause gastrointestinal problems and possibly not mix well with other medication.
A Topical Solution for Psoriasis and Rosacea?
Some patients apply creams, ointments, and oils containing turmeric directly to the skin to treat psoriasis as well as acne, rosacea, and other skin ailments. These topical solutions may not only reduce inflammation but also help fight bacteria and infection. In addition, the antioxidants in turmeric may preserve healthy cells.
To promote skin healing on the face, some people apply turmeric masks. The masks have been used as a beauty treatment in Indian and Chinese cultures for centuries. They are often do-it-yourself concoctions that individuals keep on their face for about 10 to 15 minutes — longer stretches can discolor the skin and give it a yellow tinge. Then the cream should be washed off with warm water.
The Internet is full of homemade recipes, including one that consists of about a teaspoon each of turmeric, honey, and yogurt. The mixture creates a cream that gently adheres to the face. Users are warned not to get the cream in their eyes because it can cause irritation.
But Lewis questions how effective turmeric may be when applied in this way.
“I wonder how much absorption is really happening when remedies are prepared topically,” he says. “And you have to be careful whenever you try topicals. The vehicle used has the potential to irritate the skin.”
Always talk to your doctor before trying turmeric or any other natural, alternative, or complementary treatment.
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