Is Turmeric an Effective Natural Treatment for Psoriasis?

Many people with psoriasis are turning to the anti-inflammatory spice and its active ingredient, curcumin — in cooking, supplements, creams, oils, and more. Does this home remedy work?

Medically Reviewed
a woman with a turmeric face mask
DIY face masks may combine turmeric with ingredients like yogurt and honey.Shutterstock

Turmeric, the bright golden spice used in ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, has become known around the world for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.

Research suggests that the active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, can have a positive impact on diseases such as type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, and cancer.

Can this superfood also reduce the chronic inflammation associated with psoriasis, improving symptoms? Many psoriasis patients hope that it can, but what do scientists and dermatologists say?

Research Findings on Turmeric and Psoriasis Have Been Mixed

In a review published in 2022 in Frontiers in Pharmacology that analyzed 26 prior studies on curcumin and psoriasis, scientists determined that the compound helps subdue inflammatory factors, improving psoriatic skin lesions with few negative side effects.

“Our findings suggest that CUR [curcumin] alone or in combination with other conventional treatments can effectively treat psoriasis,” concluded the study authors.

Another research review, published in the journal Practical Dermatology in 2020, determined that both topical and oral curcumin treatments may reduce the severity of psoriasis.

Still, the U.S. government’s National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) says that any claims about curcumin’s anti-inflammatory effects are not supported by strong evidence.

According to the NCCIH, turmeric has low bioavailability when taken orally, meaning not much of it reaches the bloodstream. The organization adds that curcumin products may differ in composition or contain more substances than expected, which can make research on these products difficult to analyze.

“Because the actions of turmeric and its components in people are complex and not well understood, no clear conclusions have been reached about whether these substances have benefits for health conditions,” the NCCIH concludes.

Similarly, the American Academy of Dermatology and the National Psoriasis Foundation updated their joint guidelines in 2021 recognizing turmeric as a relatively safe supplement but finding insufficient evidence to confirm its ability to ease psoriasis symptoms.

Talk to Your Doctor About Turmeric Supplements for Psoriasis

While more scientific investigation is needed to better determine turmeric’s curative powers, some dermatologists are still comfortable supporting the use of curcumin as a psoriasis treatment.

“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 who want to try it. It’s easy to recommend because of the safety profile.”

According to Dr. Lewis, some of his patients credit improvements in their skin to curcumin supplements. The National Psoriasis Foundation does list turmeric as a natural remedy that may minimize flare-ups.

Lewis believes turmeric must be taken in relatively high doses to have any significant impact. “You can’t just sprinkle it on your soup and expect it to have an effect,” he says.

Turmeric and curcumin don’t usually have side effects when taken by mouth, but high doses could cause gastrointestinal problems and possibly not mix well with other medication, so talk to your doctor before using.

Supplements often combine turmeric with black pepper, with some evidence indicating that an ingredient in pepper called piperine helps boost the absorption of curcumin in the bloodstream. The UMass Chan Medical School Center for Applied Nutrition says that piperine greatly improves the bioavailability of curcumin.

Could a Turmeric Face Mask or Other Skin Treatment Help Psoriasis?

Some patients apply turmeric creams, oils, and ointments directly to the skin to treat psoriasis or other skin ailments such as acne and rosacea. These topical products may not only reduce inflammation but also help fight bacteria and infection. The antioxidants in turmeric might also help keep skin cells healthy.

Some people with psoriasis on their face apply turmeric face masks to calm inflammation and heal skin, a beauty treatment long used in Indian and Chinese cultures. These are often do-it-yourself concoctions that you keep on for about 10 to 15 minutes — any longer can give skin a yellow tinge — then wash off with warm water.

The internet is full of homemade recipes, including a cream made from about a teaspoon each of turmeric, honey, and yogurt. Users are cautioned not to get it in their eyes.

But Lewis questions how effective this form of turmeric may be.

“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.”

Turmeric Should Not Replace Psoriasis Medications or Healthy Habits

Lewis warns against relying on turmeric over proven psoriasis medications or lifestyle interventions that can improve symptoms.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that for people who are overweight, losing excess pounds can help decrease psoriasis severity and make psoriasis medication more effective. Regular exercise can also help with weight loss as well as reduce the risk of developing diseases linked to psoriasis, including fatty liver disease and heart disease.

The AAD provides information on oral and topical medications that have track records for easing psoriasis symptoms.

If you do want to try turmeric or any other home remedy for psoriasis, always talk to your doctor first.