This disfiguring and distressing skin disorder is, unfortunately, one of the most intractable. Neither orthodox nor complementary medicine has had much success in doing more than alleviating symptoms temporarily and cases treated by aromatherapists have seldom shown more than slight improvement. However, there have been some successful outcomes, so it is worth discussing what can be done to help.

The outer layer of the skin is made up of dead cells, and as these are shed in the normal wear and tear of daily living, they are replaced by cells from the layer beneath. These in turn are replaced by new cells growing in the third layer. In people with psoriasis, the new cells grow faster than the dead cells can be sloughed off, the skin appears red and thickened with a scaly appearance. The affected areas may be large or small: in the people worst affected the scaly skin may cover almost the whole body. It is not usually itchy or painful, and the distress caused to the sufferer is due to a feeling of being unclean, different or unattractive.

Psoriasis does not seem to be connected with allergies, and is not contagious. There is a hereditary factor predisposing certain people to this disorder. Stress certainly pays a very important part in the onset of psoriasis, and symptoms may come and go as the individual is more or less relaxed. For example, people who experience a great deal of stress connected with their work will improve noticeably on holiday. Sunlight has a beneficial effect on psoriasis, but improvement on holiday is not connected only to this fact, as improvement has been noted after holidays in rainy or cloudy weather.

Aromatherapy is a very valuable de-stressing technique, so in this area at least can be a great help. All the sedative and antidepressant oils are suitable, though Bergamot has been reported by several therapists as being most beneficial. Emolient creams help to reduce scaliness and improve the appearance of the skin and rubbing the skin with a gentle exfoliant such as fine oatmeal, slightly moistened, increases the shedding of dead cells from the surface.

Naturopathic techniques for cleansing the whole body of toxins have been successfully combined with aromatherapy, usually beginning with a fast on fruit juices and water and following this with a period of eating nothing but fresh, raw fruits and vegetables. Lightly cooked vegetables are introduced later and eventually a simple, wholefood eating pattern. The exclusion of alcohol, coffee, red meat and all food additives has produced very real improvement in psoriasis sufferers who have tried this. A good level of vitamin and mineral intake, with emphasis on Vitamin C, B complex and Vitamin E, together with Zinc is also important, and another valuable supplement is Evening Primrose Oil. This can be taken in capsules or as the pure oil, also applied to the skin in the form of a cream or lotion.

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