Acupuncture for Psoriasis

Psoriasis is a non-infectious skin disease that affects about 2 in every 100 people in the UK. For some people it is just a minor inconvenience, but for others in whom the condition is more severe, it can have a major impact on quality of life. There are several different types of psoriasis, of which the most common is Plaque Psoriasis, which manifests as red, flaky and crusty patches of skin covered in silvery scales; these may feel itchy, sore or hot. The disease most commonly affects the elbows, knees, lower back and the scalp. Other forms of psoriasis include guttate, flexural, and pustular psoriasis.

Conventional Medicine has no cure for psoriasis, but aims to control it using topical creams and ointments, phototherapy (where the skin is exposed to certain frequencies of ultra-violet light) and oral or injected medication.

Psoriasis and TCM

The Chinese have been using herbal medicine and acupuncture to treat psoriasis for thousands of years—descriptions of the disease are found in the earliest Chinese medical texts. Treatment begins with a careful examination of the affected parts of the body and a detailed consultation in which we discuss not only how you experience the psoriasis (Does it itch? Does it feel hot? Does it get worse if you are stressed?….) but other aspects of your health as well. This is because our treatment is holistic and what is happening on the surface of the body in some way reflects various imbalances deeper within.

Generalising somewhat, we can say that in TCM psoriasis indicates that the skin is not getting the nourishment it needs. This can be because of a deficiency in the blood, which brings nourishment to the skin; other signs of blood deficiency might include difficulty getting off to sleep, vivid dreams, tiredness, dry eyes and weak nails. In this case TCM treatment would be aimed at nourishing the blood, using acupuncture and perhaps herbal blood tonics, and a blood nourishing diet would be important. We would also need to identify and if possible treat the underlying cause of the blood deficiency—this might be  an impaired digestive function or, in women, heavy periods.

However, other factors can also prevent the skin being well nourished;  sometimes the flow of Qi through the skin is blocked by the presence of such things as  excessive heat or moisture in the skin. If the Qi cannot circulate the skin will again be undernourished. In this case we need to invigorate the Qi and expel the obstruction, again using acupuncture and maybe herbal therapy. In all cases we might also prescribe a topical herbal cream suited to the particular kind of psoriasis present.

Is acupuncture helpful in treating Psoriasis

Whilst Chinese Medicine has been treating psoriasis for thousands of years, there has yet to be very much scientific research done on its effectiveness for this condition. One large scale Chinese study of 600 psoriasis patients treated with TCM found substantial improvement, with at least 60% of the skin rash disappearing, in over 500 of the patients, with 370 of these classified as ‘cured’. 1


1 Zhao FY (1991) Observation on the therapeutical effect of cupping combined with electric acupuncture in treating 600 cases of psoriasis Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion (Zhongguo Zhenjiu). 1991 April; 11(2): 3-4


The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states. Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia. A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis. Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner. The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.

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