Indian spice turmeric is not as effective a treatment for psoriasis as earlier thought, according to a study.
Previous studies have shown curmumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, as a potential treatment for psoriasis.
However, the latest study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, the much-touted treatment received a low response rate of patients who in took the active ingredient of turmeric and the researchers said that the improvement was probably because of the placebo effect.
The research team found that despite strong scientific evidence in the laboratory demonstrating the ability of curcumin to inhibit a critical pathway of psoriasis, the positive response in patients was so low that scientists suggest the placebo effect or the disease's natural remission might be the reason.
"Alternative and complementary websites and newspapers publish anecdotal reports that the Indian spice has been successfully used to treat psoriasis," said Joel M. Gelfand, MD, MSCE, of The University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.
"However, spontaneous improvements in psoriasis are common, and based on our study, until larger, placebo-controlled trials are conducted, oral curcumin should not be recommended for the treatment of psoriasis given lack of proven efficacy," Gelfand added.
But the scientists do not discount entirely the potential of curmumin as a treatment for psoriasis.
They recognize that current traditional pharmacologic approaches in the treatment of psoriasis are costly and have their limitations, including the risk of infections and possibly malignancies with long-term use resulting in many patients with the disease unable to achieve effective long-term control.
Turning to complementary and alternative therapies is understandable, they say.
The excellent responses that were observed in two of the 12 patients in the study suggest that curcumin may have promise for a small subset of patients with psoriasis.
Large, placebo-controlled trials are necessary to definitively prove or disprove oral curcumin as a potential therapeutic agent for psoriasis.
"What is needed is scientific data to assess the safety and efficacy of these treatments so that we may more rationally inform patients of their treatment options," said Gelfand.
The study is published in Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.