Using Garra Rufa to Treat Skin Diseases

For those suffering from skin ailments such as psoriasis, even a new form of treatment may be something to try to relieve the symptoms. Some alternative treatments can seem like the sufferer is grasping at straws, but viable treatments aren’t only the ones that come with a scientific seal of approval. The fact that many people have used these natural methods to deal with disease and have found them to be useful in their treatment means there is at least some evidence for their effectiveness.

One such treatment being used today for skin diseases comes through the appetite of a fish called the Garra Rufa that loves to feed on dead skin. Today almost sixty thousand people a year from places all over the world visit the hot springs in Turkey where these fish can be found in order to treat their skin diseases.

What is the Garra Rufa?

The Garra Rufa, also known as the doctor fish and the nibble fish, is a species that lives in the hot springs and river systems of certain areas of Turkey. This fish has been used by people all over the world because of its ability to remove dead flesh without harming the living cells. This trait has made many people seek the fish in order to rid themselves of skin disorders such as psoriasis. Whether or not the Garra Rufa can actually heal these diseases has never been proven scientifically. But many people have found relief through the helpful attention of the fish and that has made their popularity spread.

How Do These Fish Help With Skin Disorders?

The Garra Rufa nibble at the dead skin found on those suffering from skin diseases. Apparently the nibbling is not so painful as to make those seeking this treatment uncomfortable. Initially the sensation appears to be like a pleasant micro-massage which leads to the skin beginning to tingle.

The fish lick the skin, which can cause some slight bleeding but also exposes the skin to sunlight and the water in the pool. The licking can also drain pus from those whose skin has abscesses, thereby helping them heal the sores on their skin. There are some who believe that these fish carry an enzyme in their mouths that is similar to the enzyme Dithranol that is used to treat psoriasis. Dithranol comes from the Araroba tree, which is found in rainforests around the Amazon. For some reason the enzyme in the mouths of the Garra Rufa appears to be very like the Dithranol from the Araroba tree. It is this similarity that they believe allows the fish’s nibbles to help with the skin disorder.

The success of the Garra Rufa’s ability to treat psoriasis may be part the fish’s own natural abilities and part the environment that the treatments take place in. The warm healing waters of the hot springs and the relaxing feel of the micro-massage from the fish’s mouth could aid in the healing process. There could also be a psychological component to the overall feeling of well-being that comes from partaking of these treatments.

There is likely some benefit even for those who do not suffer from any skin disorders. Healthy people do visit the hot springs and the nibbling of the fish helps to slough off the roughened parts of their skin. This would help them maintain the overall health of their skin and likely allow them to ward off potential skin disorders.

Are There Problems From The Garra Rufa Treatments?

Even those who don’t see the Garra Rufa treatments as having any real value do not seem to feel that the treatments represent a high potential for risk in and of themselves. The problem that has occurred comes with the growing popularity of these treatments as ways to revitalize the skin. This has made them popular in hair and nail salons. It is in these types of establishments that some issues with infection have arisen.

Because the treatments are not taking place in the natural pools as in Turkey, the salons must be very diligent in cleaning the facilities they use for the treatments. The lack of adequate cleaning of the instruments used has caused some people to get infections from the treatments. This type of treatment has been banned in the United States because it does not meet the regulations for cosmetology practitioners. These regulations require that tools must either be sanitized or discarded after each use. But the fish cannot be sanitized and they are too expensive to be discarded after one use. So the practice is not allowed in salons in the US.

In spite of its lack of scientific proof, many still believe that the Garra Rufa can provide effective treatment for those suffering from skin diseases.