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Save Your Skin, Soothe Your Psoriasis

Hands-on Builder Gets Back to Work—Homeopathy Gets a Thumbs Up!

ContractorHomeopaths often find themselves in the position of “physician of last resort.” People come to see us only when all else has failed. Such was the case with Ron, age 46, who came seeking help for his severe and longstanding psoriasis.

Ron was an imposing figure—tall, broad, and physically fit—but his condition had brought him to his knees. A builder by trade, Ron was fortunate to now run his own business, but he was utterly unable to work with his hands in a physical capacity because of severe psoriasis. Conventional medicine, including oral steroids and steroid creams, had provided some symptomatic relief in the past but had never solved his problem. Having given up on that approach, Ron had recently run a gamut of non-conventional treatments such as herbal therapies, fasting, and acupuncture—all to no avail. He came to me in desperation, referred by another patient of mine.

A tenacious skin problem

Psoriasis is a chronic condition in which skin cells grow more rapidly than normal, building up and creating raised, red, scaly patches. It is usually found on the scalp, elbows, and knees, but it can appear anywhere. Severity varies widely; for most people it’s more of a nuisance, but for some it’s

Hand Washing

“By the end of the workday, all I can do is take ibuprofen, soak my hands in hot water, and go to bed.”

debilitating. Serious cases may include severe pain, cracks and bleeding, itching, blisters oozing with pus, and even arthritic pain.

A person with psoriasis usually goes through periods of improvement and flare-up, and the affected locations may change, but psoriasis doesn’t typically go away. Some “triggers” that can make a person’s psoriasis worse may include stress, smoking, alcohol, strep infections, skin irritations, cold and dry air, and certain drugs. Conventional medicine is aimed at managing the symptoms, using topical medicines (e.g., corticosteroids, retinols, salicylic acid), ultraviolet light therapy, or systemic drugs that slow skin cell growth or reduce inflammation (e.g., immunosuppressants, immunomodulators).

Psoriasis seems to run in families, and it’s believed to be an autoimmune overreaction in which the body’s T-cells mistakenly attack normal skin cells as if to fight infection or heal a wound. It can start at any age, but it most commonly develops in a person’s teens or twenties. An estimated five to six million Americans suffer with psoriasis.

Homeopathy and skin problems

In my experience, homeopathic treatment can be very effective for people with stubborn skin conditions like psoriasis or eczema and, even better, it’s safe and nontoxic—something we can’t say about most conventional

Girl with Veggie

Skin Saving Self-Care for Psoriasis

Here are some self-help tips for soothing your psoriasis:

Visit a trained homeopathic professional and stick with the treatment for at least a year before evaluating results. Although you may get lucky and find relief with homeopathic self-care, chronic skin conditions are often very ­difficult to treat, so professional homeopathic treatment is your best bet.

Eat fatty fish and/or supplement with fish oil for natural anti-inflammatory effects.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially orange and yellow ­vegetables rich in Vitamin A/carotenoids (research has found that people with a diet high in carrots, tomatoes, and fresh fruit have less psoriasis).

Expose psoriasis outbreaks to the sun for short periods (e.g., 15 minutes)
3 or more days a week, but avoid sunburn!

Consider supplementing with borage oil or evening primrose oil; their gamma-linolenic acid content works to keep skin healthy.

Consider taking herbal milk thistle extract (Silybum marianum) which ­supports the liver and may help slow skin cell proliferation.

De-stress daily! Stress has been found to trigger psoriasis, so develop a ­regular relaxation practice (e.g., exercise, deep-breathing, yoga, self-hypnosis, qigong.)

treatments. Even so, patients should not expect a quick cure with homeopathy. Although I have seen some miraculously fast resolutions (especially in children with eczema), for most chronic skin conditions homeopathic healing will occur over a long period of time, with careful prescribing by a trained, observant homeopathic professional. I try hard to let patients know this at the outset.

Ron’s torment

For as long as he could remember, Ron had suffered with psoriasis—usually pink, red, and/or scaly white outbreaks on his arms, elbows, tailbone, and ankles. The psoriasis was always troubling, but sometimes it flared up more severely, greatly affecting his quality of life and limiting his everyday activities. At the time of our visit, Ron’s palms and fingers were affected and extremely sore. “By the end of the workday, all I can do is take ibuprofen, soak my hands in hot water, and go to bed,” Ron said. “They’ve been miserably cracked and painful like this for the past year or so.” When he showed me his hands I could see that the palms were deeply cracked all the way to the fingertips; the skin was slightly red, except around the cracks where it was thick and pale.

Ah-ha! Cracked fingertips...

Redness, white scales, and thickened skin are common manifestations of psoriasis, but severe cracks are a bit more unusual. As soon as I heard that Ron’s fingertips were cracked, I guessed that he needed the homeopathic remedy Petroleum because this is a keynote symptom for that remedy, and because Petroleum is a remedy that is often indicated for people with skin conditions. My hunch was strengthened by his assertion that “the one thing that ever really helped was coal tar that a pharmacist once gave me.” Ron said it worked well, but he had never attempted to get it and use it again. Petroleum is, of course, homeopathically prepared coal tar. I almost called an end to the visit right then, but I contained my excitement and took his entire health history.

First, of course, I examined the specifics of the symptoms of his hands. The pain was of a burning character. It was better in the morning and got worse as the day went on. It was better from running his hands under hot water.

Sunset

Research: Homeopathy Helps ­Psoriasis

A 2009 multicenter study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology gathered data on 82 patients with psoriasis who were treated with classical homeopathy for two years.

The study found a marked reduction in psoriasis symptoms and significant improvement in quality of life. Many of the patients had suffered psoriasis for as long as 15 years and had unsuccessfully tried conventional treatments.

—”Homeopathic treatment of patients with psoriasis—a prospective observational study with 2 years follow-up,” Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 2009;23(5):538–543).”

A striking symptom

Ron also complained of occasional moderate chest pain, which had been thoroughly checked out by a cardiologist, with no significant findings. His sleep was disturbed by the discomfort in his hands. On further questioning, I also elicited a striking general characteristic symptom: Ron would sweat profusely about the head while eating or sleeping, especially on his face and scalp. This had been going on for about a year—just about as long as he’d had the severe psoriasis on his palms.

Ron’s medical history included bad headaches as a child and moderate asthma as a younger adult. The actual symptoms of each were unremarkable, but they did share a common and characteristic modality: both were markedly improved in hot, humid weather. He breathed much better and suffered much less from headaches when the weather was hot and humid. Over the years, Ron grew out of the headaches and asthma, but that characteristic modality still applied to his psoriasis: it tended to be better when the weather was hot and humid.

Rethinking Ron’s remedy

While Petroleum fit the cracked fingertip symptom, it did not cover well the other characteristic symptoms in Ron’s case. I needed to find the remedy that covered cracks in the skin of the palms and fingertips, profuse perspiration about the head while eating and sleeping, and general improvement from hot, humid weather because these were the most characteristic symptoms of the case.*

Hands

Is it Psoriasis or Eczema?

Both psoriasis and eczema are chronic skin conditions that can cause red, scaly skin rashes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell one from the other, although there are clear differences. Eczema is more common than psoriasis (an estimated 30 million vs. 6 million people in the U.S.) and often occurs in the first month or years of life (vs. psoriasis which ­typically appears in the teens or ­twenties). Eczema usually manifests on the face, skin folds, and inside of joints, whereas psoriasis is commonly seen on the outside of joints—knees, elbows. Eczema is typically very itchy and accompanied by weeping ­blisters; neither is common with ­psoriasis. A person with eczema often has allergic tendencies and may suffer with ­seasonal allergies or asthma. With eczema, the body’s immune system over-reacts to outside influences (allergens) setting up an inflam­matory response; with ­psoriasis, the immune system over-reacts to its own skin cells, setting up an inflammatory response.

Close study of materia medica (Hering, Boericke, Allen, etc.) determined that Silica covered the entire case better than any other remedy, as the following quotes affirm:

• “A small crack in the index finger begins to burn and pain.”
• “Silicea patient is cold…worse in ­winter.”
• “Better, warmth…summer; in wet or humid weather.”
• “Profuse perspiration on head in evening, on going to sleep.”
• “Sweat…when eating.”

Give the remedy that fits

Even so, I hesitated to give Silica because Ron was a big, assertive kind of guy whose personality might lead a homeopath to think of remedies like Sulphur or Lachesis or Nux vomica; we tend to think of Silica more often for people who are timid, mild, yielding, and physically delicate. But Silica clearly best fit the characteristic symptoms of Ron’s case, so I prescribed one dose of Silica 200c. While I fully expected to help Ron with homeopathic treatment, I told him that, in my experience, longstanding skin disease like his could take at least a year to go away. I expected him to improve in small steps over a long period of time.

I asked Ron to check in with me in one week. In cases as acute as Ron’s, I typically follow up with the patient more frequently than in less acute cases. While I don’t expect a cure in such a short time, I do hope to see at least some small shift in the patient’s condition that tells me if I am on the right track in my remedy selection.

Contractor build houseRapid, remarkable results

At this follow-up appointment, Ron reported that the pain in his hands had decreased substantially in one week’s time—from a “7” on a scale of 1 to 10 to about a “2.” His other, older psoriasis lesions were also improving to a lesser extent. His chest pain and sleep were better too. His sweating was unchanged. Overall, I was ecstatic, and so was he! The day before our follow-up visit, he had taken a second dose of Silica 200c on his own, thinking that the symptoms were worsening. I asked him to wait two weeks and follow up with me again.

Two weeks later at our next visit, Ron’s hand pain and cracks were 80% better, the psoriasis on his tailbone was 90% better, and the outbreaks on his ankles were 50% better. Ron was finally sleeping well, now that his hand pain had dwindled. And the chest pains—along with his sweating about the head when eating or sleeping—were completely gone! He had taken only two doses of Silica 200c in the three weeks since our first visit.

Ron’s quick resolution of a rather serious condition exceeded both of our expectations. When someone responds so strongly and universally to a homeopathic remedy, their prognosis is generally

Red Pills

Dangerous Psoriasis Drug Withdrawn

Linked to Deaths

In June 2009, Genentech, Inc. ­withdrew the psoriasis drug Raptiva from the ­market after it was linked to deaths of at least three patients from a rare but often fatal brain ­disease, progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). Although 80% of people are said to harbor the virus that causes PML, the disease occurs almost exclusively in people with severely ­weakened immune systems. ­Raptiva is an immunosuppressant,
as are many conventional drugs aimed at treating psoriaisis.

One more reason to try homeopathy first!

excellent. I told Ron that since he seemed to be healing so well, he could follow up with me as needed.

“A real miracle”

A couple months later, I had yet to hear from Ron so I checked in with him by e-mail. He replied with a single paragraph:

“Hi doc. Sorry I am just responding now. I think it’s important to note that when I first came to you I could barely feed myself—my hands were in such a deplorable condition. I am happy to report to you that although I still have some symptoms in my knuckles and one ankle, the palms of my hands are absolutely clear—a real miracle and absolutely life changing for me. And believe me, prior to seeking your help I tried everything (sorry you were the last resort) from a series of colonics to every herbal/vitamin remedy under the sun… from strict diets eliminating certain foods to absolute fasting… NOTHING WORKED!”

Ron has remained very well and about 90% free of psoriasis symptoms for more than two years since our initial visit. Why don’t people try homeopathy first?

*In homeopathic parlance, a characteristic symptom is a symptom of a disease that is unique to the individual case being treated, as opposed to a symptom that is common to the disease being treated. For example, many people who have psoriasis have eruptions on their elbows, so that’s common; very few people with psoriasis have outbreaks on their palms, as Ron did, so that’s characteristic. Although we pay attention to all the symptoms of a case, it’s the characteristic symptoms that play the greatest role in our choice of a remedy.

About The Author

Steven Coward, ND

Steven Coward, ND, is a naturopathic doctor specializing in classical homeopathy. He runs a private practice in Asheville, North Carolina, where he treats people from infancy through old age for both acute and chronic conditions. He can be reached by telephone at 828-254-3004 or via his website, www.AshevilleNaturalHealth.com.