Many years ago, I took my daughter to a naturopathic doctor for a mysterious skin condition. This particular daughter had just moved back in with myself and her sisters, and the rest of us had just beaten an outbreak of scabies that the girls had picked up during a teaching assignment on an Indian Reservation.
Naturally, when I saw the itchy redness, I thought my oldest had picked up scabies, which we had cured with a mixture of oil of thyme and hand-and-body lotion. I took her to the naturopath mostly to humor her, because of her teenage impatience with Mom’s remedies—and discovered that I am not much of a diagnostician.
Our local naturopath diagnosed psoriasis. I told him about our scabies experience and asked him if he was sure it was psoriasis.
He replied, “I know what psoriasis looks like. I used to have psoriasis myself.” I couldn’t help but notice that the doctor’s complexion was uncommonly dewy and youthful.
He wrote my daughter a prescription for three natural products, which cleared up her psoriasis in a matter of a few days: salmon oil capsules, slippery elm capsules, and Carthamus tinctorius capsules. Carthamus tinctorius is the flower of the American saffron, also called safflower. Slippery elm is the inner bark of the slippery elm tree, or Ulmus rubra.
CONVENTIONAL MEDICINE’S VIEW OF PSORIASIS
The conventional medical view of the cause of psoriasis is that it results from an interaction between the immune system and certain environmental triggers, and that some 10% of the population has a genetic predisposition to develop this condition. Conventional treatments include topical treatments, light therapy (exposure to natural or artificial ultraviolet light), or oral or injected drugs, which often have severe side-effects.
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE’S VIEW OF PSORIASIS
The view of the alternative medical community about the underlying cause of psoriasis is much different—and is primarily derived from Edgar Cayce’s views and treatments.
Cayce’s view was that psoriasis was most often caused by a thinning of the intestinal walls—particularly in the area of the upper small intestine between the duodenum and the jejunum. As a result of this thinning, toxic substances are able to leak through the intestinal walls and into the blood and lymph systems. Hence, toxins that would normally have been eliminated from the body through the colon must be excreted using one or more of the body’s other organs of excretion—these other organs of excretion being the kidneys, lungs, and skin.
The presence of psoriasis is an indication that the body is relying heavily on the skin as an organ of excretion to remove these wastes and toxins, which in turn creates irritation of the skin.
This thinned condition of the intestinal walls has been christened “leaky gut syndrome,” and is now a suspected cause or factor in several “autoimmune” diseases.
Our naturopathic doctor’s prescription for psoriasis was for herbs aimed at healing and soothing the digestive tract, and salmon oil—an especially rich source of omega-3 fatty acids—which helps many skin conditions.
Our naturopathic doctor was Dr. Lawrence Dorman, who was a medical doctor practicing natural healing who was renowned in our area. I had taken my children to Dr. Dorman for various ailments over the years, and (like everyone else in my area) I’d found him to be infallible. So I feel fairly confident about recommending his approach to psoriasis.
SLIPPERY ELM AND AMERICAN SAFFRON
While Dr. Dorman simply prescribed capsules containing American saffron and slippery elm, Edgar Cayce suggested that all drinking water should include either slippery elm or American saffron. Both of these herbs are believed to assist in the healing of the tissues of the gut.
Other sources suggest that slippery elm should be taken in the morning or around mid-day or early afternoon, and that American saffron tea should be taken in the evening.
American saffron is dried flowers of Carthamus tinctorius, or safflower and is in no way related to the saffron of cookery, which are the stigmas of the saffron crocus. Be sure to get the right thing.
Slippery elm is one of the most amazing of herbal treatments for both internal and external healing. It is taken internally to soothe and heal irritation and inflammation of the tissues of the digestive system, lungs, and kidneys and urinary tract. Taken internally, it seems to find its way throughout the body to heal tissues. Slipper elm is applied externally as a poultice to heal wounds and burns and draw out toxins.
Carthamus tinctorius, or American saffron, is listed in traditional pharmacopeias for the treatment of wounds and sores. It has quite a few other traditional uses, including treatment of fevers, diarrhea, bronchitis, boils, hemorrhoids, and respiratory tract infections, and has been shown in animal studies to reduce inflammation, ease pain and fever, and to have anti-microbial activity.
SLIPPERY ELM (HOT TEA)
To make a hot drink of slippery elm bark, mix a teaspoon of the powdered bark with a little cold water to make a paste and then mix with a pint of boiling water.
Since this tea has little flavor, you can add cinnamon or nutmeg to it, or prepare a favorite herbal tea and add the slippery elm paste to this.
SLIPPERY ELM WATER (COLD BEVERAGE)
Mix about a teaspoon of powdered slippery elm bark in a cup of cold water and let stand for about five minutes. Stir again to dissolve. Or make a paste as above, and add cold water instead of hot.
AMERICAN SAFFRON TEA
Directions for the American saffron tea are somewhat variable—some suggesting as little as ¼ teaspoon of the herb steeped in one cup of hot water for 20 minutes. Other people use up to a tablespoonful per cup of water. Since American saffron is completely harmless and non-toxic, there need be no concern about exceeding the dose.
Some sources I have read express some concern about taking the slippery elm and American saffron at the same time, and indicate that you should not mix the two together in the same tea, and even suggest that the American saffron tea be taken in the evening, and the slippery elm be taken earlier in the day. I would go with this latter suggestion—or perhaps with Cayce’s suggestion to include one or the other in all drinking water.
Psoriasis is less common among populations whose diet includes cold-water fish containing omega-3 fatty acids. My daughter’s naturopathic physician prescribed salmon oil capsules, along with slippery elm and American saffron.
Many sources indicate that other sources of omega-3 fatty acids don’t seem to do the job—that salmon oil capsules are the best approach. The suggested dose is 1,000 mg, taken three times a day.
It’s probably a reasonable assumption that a diet that is nutrient-poor and/or irritating to the digestive tract would be a likely factor in the thinning of the thinning of the intestinal walls.
While my daughter’s psoriasis was quickly cured without changing her diet, I suspect that dietary adjustments may be necessary where the psoriasis is severe and longstanding.
There is evidence indicating that one of the underlying causes of psoriasis is insufficient omega 3 fats in the diet, especially vis-a-vis an overbalance of omega 6 fats in the diet. This is why salmon oil is often helpful for psoriasis. The typical American diet contains an omega 6:omega 3 ratio of around 16:1. Ideally this ratio should be 2:1, or even 1:1. To load up on omega 3's, eat fish and seafood, take 2 tablespoons of chia seed daily, and take 2-3 teaspoons of flaxseed oil daily. For more detailed information on this, read Evelyn Tribole's book, The Ultimate Omega 3 Diet.
Another suggestion is to be sure to drink plenty of water: six to eight glasses a day. This too will help cleanse the system of toxins.
AVOID SKIN IRRITANTS
Psoriasis can often be greatly helped by avoiding many commercial body care products, such as soaps and shampoos. Most such commercial products are composed of detergents, and are not "soap" at all. Most also contain sodium lauryl sulfate, to which many people are allergic. These substances, along with other chemical components of commercial soaps and shampoos, can be drying and irritating to already dry and irritated skin, and can strip the skin of natural oils. Instead, purchase real all-natural soaps, shampoos, and conditioners--or make your own. Real Castile soap made with 100% olive oil (not all soaps labeled Castile are made with 100% olive oil, so read the label) are especially gentle for skin. Natural soap-based shampoos are also available.
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Peter Geekie from Sittingbourne on September 13, 2013:
Thank you Blueheron, for a well written and researched article on a sometimes tricky condition.
Psoriasis often responds better to natural remedies than ethical pharmaceuticals.
Voted up, useful and interesting.
Kind regards Peter