A black ginger extract may stop psoriasis flares in their tracks, according to research funded in part by the National Psoriasis Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.

The extract, known as methoxyluteolin, can block mast cells from kickstarting the inflammatory cascade.

Researcher Theoharis Theoharides, MD, PhD, of Tufts University in Boston and colleagues first identified another natural molecule called luteolin, found in chamomile and artichokes, that could block mast cells, but then they discovered that methoxyluteolin, a different version of luteolin found in Thai black ginger, was even more potent.

Both luteolin and methoxyluteolin inhibited the ability of mast cells to start inflammation, and could even block inflammation when given before a trigger. Methoxyluteolin, however, holds other advantages as well. It could be easily absorbed by the skin, and it has no color—two attributes that are important for a topical psoriasis treatment.

Although methoxyluteolin and luteolin can both be found in foods, it is impossible to eat enough to get a therapeutic effect.

Theoharides developed a topical containing purified methoxyluteolin extract. A small group of people with psoriasis and other skin disorders have already tried the lotion, trademarked as Gentle Derm, which also contains aloe vera, olive fruit extract, honey, and oregano oil.

Gentle Derm has not been formally studied yet, but many of the people who tried the lotion saw improvement in their psoriasis or other skin issues after 1 to 2 weeks of daily use, according to Theoharides. He hopes to get enough funding to launch a clinical trial soon.