Alternative Treatment for Psoriasis
Indigo ointment appears to be safe and effective for treating the common skin disease psoriasis, according to a small new study.
An estimated 7.5 million Americans suffer from psoriasis, a chronic condition that causes red scaly patches of skin, often on the elbows, knees, scalp and lower back. The cause is unclear and there is no cure, though the condition can sometimes be controlled with various treatments, including exposure to ultraviolet light and steroid creams. But the treatments often don't work or stop working, and the steroid creams can produce side effects.
The ointment is made using indigo naturalis, a dark blue powder from a plant long used in Chinese medicine. Yin-Ku Lin of the Chang Gun Memorial Hospital in Taiwan and colleagues said they had successfully treated thousands of patients with the ointment but wanted to subject the approach to a more convincing test after a pilot study proved promising.
So, in a study published this week in the Archives of Dermatology, the researchers asked 42 people with the most common form of psoriasis, known as plaque psoriasis, who had had no luck with standard treatments to apply the indigo cream to plaques on one side of their body and a useless cream to a parallel spot on the other side.
After 12 weeks of treatment, the areas treated with the indigo ointment showed much less scaling and redness than the areas that had gotten the phony ointment; there was an 81 percent improvement in the areas that had gotten the indigo compared with a 26 percent improvement on the other side, the researchers reported. Of the 34 patients who completed all 12 weeks of the study, none experienced a worsening of psoriasis in the areas treated with indigo and 25 of them experienced a complete or nearly complete clearing up of the psoriasis. No one experienced any serious adverse effects, though the ointment did slighly stain their skin and clothing until they thoroughly washed it off.
The researchers say the study is the first attempt to put the approach to a rigorous scientific test and, while more research is needed to figure out how it might work, the results indicate it could offer an alternative to patients.
Do you have psoriasis? Have you had any luck treating it?
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