Olive Oil & The Mediterranean Diet: Best Natural Remedy For Psoriasis

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that impacts the quality of life of 125 million people worldwide (1). Psoriasis can occur anywhere on your skin, but the most common areas are the scalp, knees, and elbows. Doctor’s prescription of topical medication for psoriasis may be effective, but many people look for alternative natural remedies such as oils and herbs. Today we’ll discuss how extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) and the Mediterranean Diet Snacks may help ease and manage psoriasis.

What is Psoriasis?

“Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory and proliferative disorder of the skin that results in a rapid turnover of the skin cells that move rapidly up to the surface in 3–5 days” (2). This chronic skin disease causes inflammation where the skin cells work faster than usual. As a result, the skin surface accumulates and causes an elevated plaque formation and scaled skin. In normal skin cells, the skin is able to grow and shed within a month, but in psoriasis patients, their skin cells rapidly grow within 3 to 5 days. The accelerated activity in the skin cells causes inflammation from the over-accumulation of skin cells on the skin’s surface.
Currently, the exact cause of psoriasis is unknown but researchers believe that the immune system, genetics, and environment contribute to the development. The quality of life in patients with psoriasis is impacted by relapses, where the skin’s surface will temporarily clear up and eventually develop a recurrence of elevated plaques, scaled skin, and redness. Although there is no cure for psoriasis, the treatment to manage psoriasis includes topical application of creams and ointment, ultraviolet light therapy, and systemic therapy.

Topical Application of Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Psoriasis

The components of Extra Virgin Olive Oil Have Major Skin Benefits. A patient-blinded controlled study was conducted on psoriasis and atopic dermatitis patients to determine the effects of topical application of organic cold-pressed olive oil, honey, and beeswax mixture. The researchers recruited 21 patients with atopic dermatitis and 18 patients with psoriasis. Participants were divided into two groups, which are group 1 used corticosteroid treatment, and group 2 used no treatment within the last 3 months. The research was conducted using 3 different ratios of olive oil mixture to corticosteroid, which were 1:1, 2:1, and 3:1 ratios. Treatments and control were gently rubbed on the left and right side of the body 3 times a day for 3 weeks along with follow-up assessments. The participants were assessed on a scale of 0 to 4 for redness, thickening, scaling, and itching. The researcher found that amongst psoriasis patients “there were marked improvements in 50% of patients with honey, and a great reduction in dose of corticosteroid in those who were under corticosteroid therapy” (2). The research finding suggests that the olive oil, honey, and beeswax mixture is helpful for psoriasis and atopic dermatitis management, but it is not recommended to completely withdraw corticosteroid treatment. When corticosteroid treatment was removed, only one participant resulted in significant improvement in psoriasis symptoms. Thus, topical application of EVOO with honey and beeswax can be used as a supplementary or complementary treatment along with topical prescription ointments and creams.

Olive oil, honey, and beeswax are natural ingredients that provide skin benefits because of the antioxidants, antibacterial, and flavonoids properties. Choosing the correct type of olive oil for psoriasis is important, for optimal results it is best to opt for extra virgin Olive Oil because it retains its natural antioxidants and vitamin components during processing. Prior to using EVOO with your prescription, it is best to advise your doctor whether it is safe to use the mixture with your treatment.

Mediterranean Diet Association with Psoriasis

The staple ingredients in the Mediterranean diet are olive oil, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, legumes, and limits the consumption of fish and poultry. You might be wondering whether dietary changes can help prevent psoriasis flare-ups and triggers. In fact, it does! An observational study was conducted to determine the correlation between adherence to a Mediterranean diet and the severity of psoriasis. The study found that patients with severe psoriasis resulted in lowered levels of adherence to the Mediterranean diet (3). The findings from the study indicate that if an increased number of moderate to severe psoriasis patients adhered to the Mediterranean Diet may reduce the body’s inflammation and improve psoriasis management. The anti-inflammatory properties of the Mediterranean diet are beneficial towards psoriasis management because the diet is rich in vitamin A, D, E, K, and omega 3 fatty acids. This provides benefits to your body with anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, and polyphenols properties. In recent decades, the western diet includes highly processed foods with low micronutrient intake that can contribute to the increased prevalence of inflammatory and autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis. Making dietary changes may help you improve lifestyle choice and psoriasis management.

Ready to make dietary changes with the Mediterranean diet? Check out this Grocery Shopping Guide For Mediterranean Diet and 5 healthy Mediterranean Diet snack recipes!

Key Takeaway

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes the build-up of skin cells on the skin’s surface. As a result, the skin becomes inflamed and causes an elevated plaque, redness, and scaled skin. The study has demonstrated that supplementary treatment such as extra virgin olive oil, honey, and beeswax mixture can improve psoriasis management. Dietary changes such as trying the Mediterranean diet are recommended for psoriasis patients to increase anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and polyphenol availability within the body to prevent psoriasis flare-ups and triggers.

Written by Joanna Chen
Reviewed by Kelly Powers, MA, RDN, a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who takes a holistic approach to nutrition and health. Kelly is a recipe developer with a food blog highlighting whole foods, simple recipes, and her life in San Francisco. She’s the creator of 52 Weeks, a weekly meal plan program that helps users get back in the kitchen and feed themselves well. Kelly is also a co-founder of Olivaio.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there any negative side effects with using olive oil on the skin?
A: Olive oil can be used safely for most people but some people may experience allergic reactions and/or acne and blackheads. Before using olive oil onto your skin regularly, make sure to try a patch test on a small part of your skin anywhere on your body to see if you react badly to olive oil. 

Q: How fast can I expect results to be seen after incorporating olive oil into my skincare?
A: Based on the study conducted, results could be seen around 3 weeks of continuous use and application of olive oil, honey, and beeswax mixture 3 times a day. However, it is important to remember that your skin profile is unique to yourself and that results may differ with different skin types.

Q: Is extra virgin olive oil or olive oil better for the skin?
A: Extra virgin olive oil is better for the skin than just olive oil because it is produced without the use of heat or chemical refining, and contains the highest concentration of olive oil's beneficial compounds with no preservatives or additives that could be harmful to the body.