Three Natural Oils Used for Psoriasis That Need More Research

Three household oils that are commonly used on the skin

Credits: Sebastien Marchand at
Edited By:
Raja Sivamani , MD, MS, AP

Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory and scaling skin condition that can be difficult to treat. There are multiple natural and pharmaceutical topical treatments for psoriasis, and those who suffer from the condition find that certain treatments may work for a while and then stop working after a time, requiring a different treatment to be used. In addition, some of the long-term treatments may have more side effects associated with them. These concerns have led to the pursuit of new types of treatment and research from various integrative disciplines of the medical field. Moisturizers are used frequently, and many people are turning to household oils to provide an additional source of relief. Here are three oils that are commonly used for the management of psoriasis, and a look at the research behind them. These oils may not have the scientific support for their use and may need more research to determine the efficacy of their use. 


Castor Oil

Castor oil seeds with one cracked open

Castor oil is produced by pressing the seeds of the castor (Ricinus communis) plant. It has a variety of uses and has been known anecdotally to treat a number of conditions. Castor oil has also been used as a vehicle for medication delivery[1,2] and has also been used in a combination spray for chronic wound treatment.[3] A safety evaluation published in the Journal of Toxicology Research showed that castor oil is considered safe for cosmetic use.[4] In 2011, a study was published by the Journal of Nanobiotechnology that showed that castor oil mixed in water had low irritation potential, improved the skin moisture, and maintained normal skin pH values.[5] A moisturizer that contained castor oil was evaluated for photoprotective effects and was shown to reduce damage caused by radiation.[6] Despite several studies evaluating the safety of castor oil, there are no studies looking at the effects it may have for skin conditions like psoriasis. Castor oil should not be taken internally due to potential toxicity and may cause gastrointestinal distress.


Avocado Oil

Sliced avocado on plate closeup

Avocado (Persea Americana) oil has also been regularly used for skin conditions but has not been evaluated scientifically. Among other natural oils, avocado can help improve how medications can penetrate into the skin,[7] but there has been little research evaluating the benefits of avocado oil for specific skin conditions. One study compared a combination of vitamin B12 and avocado oil to using a topical vitamin D3 molecule known as calcipotriol for chronic plaque psoriasis. The results showed that calcipotriol had the greatest effect in the first 4 weeks then subsided over time, while the benefits of the B12/avocado oil preparation remained constant throughout the entire observation period.[8]   


Coconut Oil

Coconut oil on wooden spoon on glass jar

Coconut (Cocos nucifera) oil has been used frequently as an emollient and has recently gained popularity. A study in the Journal of Tropical Pediatrics showed that coconut oil can significantly reduce trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL) without increasing skin colonization of bacteria in very low birth weight neonates.[9] Because improvement of the skin barrier and control of TEWL may be important in the management of psoriasis, coconut oil could possibly be an additional tool to be used by those who suffer from the condition. However, there are no studies that have specifically investigated how coconut oil can affect psoriasis.

With a growing popularity for natural treatments, the range of possibilities is ever expanding to include the use of natural oils. While castor oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil have become more widely used with some early studies on safety, studies on their use in treating psoriasis are still needed. As with any therapies, these oils should be discussed with a trained medical professional prior to use, and samples should be tested on small areas before using large amounts on the skin in order to asses for possible irritation and adverse reactions.


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