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Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies for PsoriasisA Systematic Review

Educational Objective
To understand the complementary and alternative medications that are effective in treating psoriasis.
1 Credit CME
Key Points

Question  Which complementary and alternative medicine therapies are effective in treating psoriasis?

Findings  This systematic review of 57 trials and 3 meta-analyses found that indigo naturalis, curcumin, dietary modification, fish oil, meditation, and acupuncture had the most robust evidence of efficacy in the treatment of plaque psoriasis.

Meaning  Complementary and alternative medicine treatments are gaining popularity, and this review will serve as a comprehensive resource for practitioners treating patients with psoriasis.


Importance  Up to 51% of patients with psoriasis report the use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in their treatment regimen, although it is unclear which CAM therapies are effective for treatment of psoriasis.

Objective  This review compiles the evidence on the efficacy of the most studied CAM modalities for treatment of patients with plaque psoriasis and discusses those therapies with the most robust available evidence.

Evidence Review  PubMed, Embase, and searches (1950-2017) were used to identify all documented CAM psoriasis interventions in the literature. The criteria were further refined to focus on those treatments identified in the first step that had the highest level of evidence for plaque psoriasis with more than 1 randomized clinical trial supporting their use. This excluded therapies lacking randomized clinical trial (RCT) data or showing consistent inefficacy.

Findings  Primary CAM therapy searches identified 457 articles, of which 107 articles were retrieved for closer examination. Of those articles, 54 were excluded because the CAM therapy did not have more than 1 RCT on the subject or showed consistent lack of efficacy. An additional 7 articles were found using references of the included studies, resulting in a total of 44 RCTs (17 double-blind, 13 single-blind, and 14 nonblind), 10 uncontrolled trials, 2 open-label nonrandomized controlled trials, 1 prospective controlled trial, and 3 meta-analyses. Compared with placebo, application of topical indigo naturalis, studied in 5 RCTs with 215 participants, showed significant improvements in the treatment of psoriasis. Treatment with curcumin, examined in 3 RCTs (with a total of 118 participants), 1 nonrandomized controlled study, and 1 uncontrolled study, conferred statistically and clinically significant improvements in psoriasis plaques. Fish oil treatment was evaluated in 20 studies (12 RCTs, 1 open-label nonrandomized controlled trial, and 7 uncontrolled studies); most of the RCTs showed no significant improvement in psoriasis, whereas most of the uncontrolled studies showed benefit when fish oil was used daily. Meditation and guided imagery therapies were studied in 3 single-blind RCTs (with a total of 112 patients) and showed modest efficacy in treatment of psoriasis. One meta-analysis of 13 RCTs examined the association of acupuncture with improvement in psoriasis and showed significant improvement with acupuncture compared with placebo.

Conclusions and Relevance  The CAM therapies with the most robust evidence of efficacy for treatment of psoriasis are indigo naturalis, curcumin, dietary modification, fish oil, meditation, and acupuncture. This review will aid practitioners in advising patients seeking unconventional approaches for treatment of psoriasis.

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Article Information

Accepted for Publication: July 10, 2018.

Corresponding Author: Ms A. Caresse Gamret, BS, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, 1475 NW 12th Ave, Second Floor, Miami, FL 33136 (

Published Online: September 5, 2018. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2018.2972

Author Contributions: Ms Gamret and Dr Fertig had full access to all of the data in the study and take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Concept and design: All authors.

Acquisition, analysis, or interpretation of data: Gamret, Price, Fertig, Nichols.

Drafting of the manuscript: Gamret, Price, Fertig, Lev-Tov.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content: Gamret, Price, Lev-Tov, Nichols.

Statistical analysis: Gamret.

Administrative, technical, or material support: Fertig, Nichols.

Supervision: Gamret, Price, Lev-Tov, Nichols.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Additional Contributions: John E. Lewis, PhD, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, provided input on the figure but was not financially compensated for his contribution.

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