Psoriasis is a common and chronic condition that usually causes patches of itchy, scaly and sometimes inflamed skin. There is usually a whitish, flaky layer of dead skin cells on top. These patches, which are called plaques, are - are most likely to appear up on your knees, elbows, hands, feet, scalp or back. In about 50% of cases, the fingernails and toenails are also affected. The symptoms of psoriasis can vary a great deal depending on its severity, ranging from mildly annoying to truly debilitating.
While the itchiness and pain can be unpleasant to say the least, some of the worst effects of psoriasis can be emotional. People with severe psoriasis sometimes are so overwhelmed by their condition and self-conscious of their appearance that they feel isolated and depressed.
Normally, skin cells are being constantly formed, and then pushed up to the surface where they eventually die and flake off, revealing new skin cells. With psoriasis, the skin cells grow too quickly, causing layers of skin to build up, forming a whitish, flaky crust. When blood vessels increase flow in an attempt to nourish this skin, it causes reddish inflammation.
Psoriasis usually appears as a skin condition, but recent discoveries show that its real cause is a problem with the immune system. The body naturally fights infections and heals injuries with special cells (white blood cells) that are designed to battle viruses and bacteria. Normally, these cells go to the site of infection or injury and release antibodies and other chemicals to repair wounds, clot blood, and prevent infection. A byproduct of this normal process is inflammation (redness and swelling). Doctors do not understand why the immune systems of people with psoriasis malfunction. One type of white blood cell (the B-cell) begins creating antibodies that destroy normal skin cells. Another type of white blood cell (the T-cell) begins overproducing a substance called cytokines. This overproduction shuts down a signal that regulates skin cell growth. That's why psoriasis is considered an autoimmune disease - the immune system malfunctions and turns on normal body tissues.
Psoriasis of the skin or nails may look like a rash or fungus, but you can't catch psoriasis from another person and you can't give it to anyone else. You also can't spread it from one part of your body to another by touch. A susceptibility to getting psoriasis can be inherited. If it runs in your family, your chances of developing psoriasis are higher.
While the underlying cause of psoriasis stems from your body's immune system, certain triggers can make it worse or cause flare-ups. These include:
Cold and dry weather. Such weather can dry out your skin, which makes the chances of having a flare-up worse. In contrast, hot, sunny weather appears to help control the symptoms of psoriasis in most people.
Stress. Having psoriasis can cause stress itself and patients often report that outbreaks of symptoms come during particularly stressful times.
Some medications. Certain drugs, such as lithium (a common treatment for bipolar disorder) and some beta-blockers (used to treat high blood pressure, heart disease and some heart arrhythmias), can cause flare-ups of psoriasis.
Infections or disease. Certain infections, such as strep throat, can result in guttate psoriasis.
Trauma to the skin. In about 50% of people with psoriasis, trauma to the skin -- including cuts, bruises, burns, bumps, vaccinations, tattoos and other skin conditions -- can cause a flare-up of psoriasis symptoms either at the site of the injury or elsewhere. This condition is called "Koebner's phenomenon."
Alcohol. Using alcohol may increase the chances of flare-ups, at least in men.
Allopathic treatments for psoriasis generally follow a 3 step approach.
The first step is topical treatments, such as creams or ointments. The most commonly used medicines are steroid creams and ointments. Others include Dovonex, retinoids such as Tazorac and more traditional remedies such as coal tar. For psoriasis that covers more than 10% to 20% of the skin, topical treatment usually won't work, at least not on its own.
The second step is phototherapy. Psoriasis responds to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and regular exposure to the sun or artificial ultraviolet lights can cause the symptoms to subside. Approaches include UVB (exposure to ultraviolet B light) and PUVA (exposure to ultraviolet rays combined with the drug psoralen, which increases the light sensitivity of the skin). Newer techniques include lasers, which can focus the beneficial effects of light specifically on psoriatic lesions.
The third step is generally systemic or biologic mediations. Systemic oral medications such as methotrexate (Rheumatrex and Amethopterin) and cyclosporine (Neoral or Sandimmune) are often prescribed. Many of these drugs have potentially severe side effects and require close monitoring while using them. Some of these drugs have been known to harm the liver. Biologic treatments for psoriasis specifically target the immunological response that causes the symptoms. Early evidence indicates that these new drugs have significantly fewer side effects than traditional systemic therapy.
A Vitalistic approach to treating psoriasis would be to follow the Incurables program and the Mucusless Diet. Many patients with psoriasis find the symptoms to be relieved by sunbathing. Dr. Christopher was inspired with the Complete Tissue & Bone formula when dealing with a chronic skin condition of a girl who was covered with thick, heavy scales that covered her face and neck, her arms and hands, and her legs and feet. Within four days of starting Complete Tissue & Bone, the scabs and scales were gone. Many people have successfully used Complete Tissue & Bone to treat psoriasis. Patients who have used drugs to treat this condition should not use comfrey internally until they have cleansed their liver, but can still use the external Complete Tissue & Bone ointment or massage oil.
Comfrey Paste: See formula using comfrey leaves, lobelia, honey and wheat germ oil. [SNH p.313]
Comfrey: Apply a comfrey poultice of the fresh, bruised leaves. It relieves pain in an hour. [SNH p.310]
Complete Tissue & Bone:
1. Complete Tissue & Bone Ointment. Applied topically, this has been used to reduce inflammation and psoriasis patches.
2. Complete Tissue & Bone Capsules or tea may also be taken daily: either two or three capsules three times daily or three cups of the tea.
3. Complete Tissue & Bone Fomentation: Another method. To make and use a fomentation: This is applying herbs to convey heat, moisture, and medicinal aid in order to relieve pain, to reduce inflammation, and to relax affected areas. Soak a Turkish towel or gauze or similar material in hot tea, lightly wring (just enough that the liquid will not run off the body), and place as hot as possible without causing blistering. Generally keep the fomentation moist and warm by placing plastics, oilcloth, etc., over fomentation. Dosage: Wet enough that the moisture will not run off the body, cover entire malfunction area, keep damp and change periodically.
4. Tea for Severe Cases: Drink 1/4 Cup of finished concentrated tea with 3/4 cup of distilled water three times in a day.
Marshmallow & Astragalus. Used to tame the malfunctioning immune system.
Immucalm. Calms down the immune system.
1. A number of people, including Dr. Christopher himself, who have tried the formula on more serious conditions have found it remarkably effective against problems that traditionally resist treatment. It removes calcium deposits from around joints, relieving arthritis. A nurse in California used it to dissolve a bone spur on her heel, avoiding surgery. It heals skin cancers. It heals eczema, psoriasis, and other chronic skin conditions. It was such a case that led Dr. Christopher to initially create the formula.
Ray spoke of it often: a woman seized with panic came to his office early one morning. Hours earlier, she had thwarted her fourteen-year-old daughter's suicide attempt. In desperation, she had left the girl at home under the supervision of several neighbors while she came to Dr. Christopher for help.
The case she described was baffling. Almost three years earlier, the girl had developed a severe dermatitis characterized by thick, heavy scales that covered her face and neck, her arms and hands, and her legs and feet. The battalion of physicians, dermatologists, and allergy specialists who had reviewed her case were stumped-none had been able to even find a name for the condition, let alone a treatment. In her despair, the young girl began gorging herself with food. Her weight skyrocketed, and she believed that her only option was to end her own life.
Ray listened intently to the mother's story. As happened so often in his service to others, he found himself faced with an emergency. This mother, and her distraught child, did not have weeks to spare while he experimented on herbal combinations in a laboratory. He offered a quick, silent prayer for help, and, as he related it, "a formula came immediately to my mind." He hastily penned out the ingredients and sent the mother to an herb shop with instructions to combine them into both fomentations and a tea. As she left, clutching the written formula in her hand, he felt confident enough to promise good results.
Those results came. Four days after the frantic mother first came to his office, Ray received the first report- the scabs and scales were gone, and the girl's skin had what the mother described as a "healing glow." Six months later, she was a cheerleader at school and was enjoying all the social activities typical of girls her age. [An Herbal Legacy of Courage, Chapter 2)