Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that affects about one in 40 people, making it “one of the most frequent chronic skin diseases worldwide.” There are a lot of different drugs for it, some of which cost more than $100,000 a year to get a response. There are cheaper ones, like cyclosporine, but they carry long-term risks of kidney damage, hypertension, and malignancies. In fact, cyclosporine can cause cancer and kidney toxicity in more than 50 percent of the patients treated long-term, and, in terms of risk of malignancies, it carries up to 42 times the rate of cancer. And it doesn’t even work that well: It only keeps the disease at bay in a little more than half of the patients over a four-month period. There’s got to be a better way.
What about plants? “Topical botanical agents for the treatment of psoriasis?” As I discuss in my video Aloe Vera for Psoriasis, aloe vera gel is said to possess “anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic [anti-itching], and wound-healing properties.” You may recall that it actually made things worse when it was put to the test for healing wounds. (See my earlier video Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?.) “The exploitation of aloe preparations has been accompanied too often by misinformation and exaggerated claims in advertising literature and commercially-inspired articles in the press and popular periodicals.” There is some impressive evidence, though. For example, to test its anti-inflammatory properties, it was tested head-to-head against steroids for exposure to mustard gas.
Mustard gas is probably the most widely used chemical warfare agent. It was first used in World War I, and the last widespread military use was in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, with more than 100,000 military veterans and civilians exposed, “and many of them are still suffering from long-term complications,” predominantly itching. Even decades after surviving a gas attack, 70 to 90 percent of victims are still suffering.
Topical steroids, the most frequently administered medications, do help, but long-term use is associated with a variety of side effects and is not recommended. How about safer agents, like aloe vera?
Sixty-seven veterans injured by chemical warfare were randomized to apply either steroids or an aloe vera and olive oil cream, and the aloe vera mixture appeared to work as well as the drug, as you can see in the graph below and at 2:27 in my video.
So, researchers decided to give it a try for the management of psoriasis. By the end of a month-long study, the aloe vera-based cream had cured 83 percent of the patients, compared to the placebo’s cure rate of less than 10 percent, and resulted in “significant clearing of the psoriatic plaques,” the skin lesions.
That’s compared to an inactive placebo, though. How about compared to steroids? Aloe was found to be “more effective…in reducing the clinical symptoms of psoriasis,” as you can see in before-and-after photos below and at 3:02 in my video.
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of a commercial aloe vera gel for the treatment of slight to moderate psoriasis, conditions improved in 70 percent of the sites treated with aloe, compared with 80 percent of the placebo-treated areas improving. The placebo beat out the aloe. Indeed, “the high response rate of placebo indicated a possible effect…in its own right, which would make the Aloe vera gel treatment appear less effective.” The placebo was essentially xanthan gum and water, and the researchers figured that, instead of aloe failing, maybe xanthan gum works, too!
All in all, for psoriasis, the “results on the effectiveness of Aloe vera are contradictory,” but applying it on the skin appears safe, so why not give it a try?
You may be interested in my video Is Aloe Effective for Blood Pressure, Inflammatory Bowel, Wound Healing, and Burns?. I have many others in my extended series on aloe, and the most amazing one is probably Can Aloe Cure Cancer?.
PS: If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my free videos here and watch my live, year-in-review presentations—2015: Food as Medicine: Preventing and Treating the Most Dreaded Diseases with Diet, and my latest, 2016: How Not to Die: The Role of Diet in Preventing, Arresting, and Reversing Our Top 15 Killers.