By definition, psoriasis is a skin disease that causes skin cells to hyper-produce, building red and dry patches on the surface. The cause is thought to be a combination of genetic variants in the body and lifestyle triggers, like stress and skin injury. But as Scandal star Katie Lowes publically shared, sufferers don’t just battle physical symptoms, but also a strong social stigma that comes with scaly skin.
And she’s right: As a 2016 Novartis global survey showed, 84% of people with the autoimmune disease face discrimination and humiliation because of their skin. Combined, the effects are enough to drive a patients like Kim Kardashian to try anything for relief.
So far, treatments include biologic injections (which are expensive and invasive) and topical creams (which don’t always work). Still missing from the equation: a cure. As New York City-based dermatologist and Skin Rules author Dr. Debra Jaliman points out, “Psoriasis is difficult to treat because it is genetic and worsened by stress, as well as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption.” Now, sufferers may have another option — and it can be found in your kitchen pantry.
We’re talking about vanillin — the stuff found in baked goods galore and one of the most widely used flavoring products in the world. As Allure reported, preliminary research shows that taking vanillin orally may help provide real relief for suffers. The discovery comes courtesy of a new Taiwanese-based study printed in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in which mice were given up to 100 mg of vanillin for seven consecutive days. Those who received the maximum daily dose saw an 11% decrease in thickness and number of cell layers in the epidermis, leading researchers to conclude that the household flavoring is “an effective bioactive compound against psoriatic skin inflammation.” What’s more, the treatment helped regulate a few of the variant genes that contribute to flare ups.
Jaliman sees the appeal, noting that the research shows vanillin as “anti-inflammatory, helping the immune system, working against the inflammation — and is therefore a novel new approach to psoriasis.” What’s more, she adds, “It certainly couldn’t hurt and tastes delicious.”
It’s does sound like a nice excuse to add vanilla shots to lattes, smoothies, hot toddies — anything. Still, more research is needed before vanillin can be claimed the chief botanical remedy for this complicated disease. In the meantime, Jaliman suggests checking in with your dermatologist for other helpful options. “Curcumin is effective for psoriasis — this is safe and certainly worth a try,” she says. “Fish oil capsules and even fatty fish can be helpful when added to the diet.”
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