More than 14 million people in North America have the chronic skin condition known as rosacea. Women, fair-skinned people between the ages of 30 and 60 are more likely to be affected. I see this a lot in women who have a long history of adrenal overload and gut flora imbalances.
Many patients use topical over-the-counter (OTC) agents to treat the symptoms of rosacea, either as an alternative to traditional prescriptions or to complement their prescription regimen. Increasingly, many of these OTC preparations contain herbs. Current estimates report that consumers in the US spend more than 21 billion dollars on alternative medicine and the use of herbal remedies saw an unprecedented 380% increase between 1990 and 1997.
The signs and symptoms of rosacea include:
- Areas of redness on your face
- Small red bumps or pustules on your nose, cheeks, forehead, and/or chin
- Small blood vessels on your nose and/or cheeks (called telangiectasia)
- Tendency to flush or blush
Rosacea may also result in a red, bulbous nose, called rhinophyma, or a burning or gritty sensation in your eyes, called ocular rosacea.
Treatment of Rosacea
Rosacea cannot be treated with one intervention alone because it is caused by several issues. In ayurvedic terminology rosacea is a pitta imbalance, which means an inflammatory disorder that is residing in the skin layer of the body. If the root problems are not addressed, this imbalance travels to other parts of the body, causing inflammation on a deeper level.
Conventional treatments for rosacea include avoiding triggers that worsen rosacea symptoms and medications (that pack a side effect profile that livers don’t like). Laser therapy may be suggested to reduce flushing and the appearance of blood vessels. The following are some of the most frequently used natural treatments for rosacea.
- Food allergies or sensitivities are ALWAYS a problem for patients with rosacea. Doing the ALCAT food allergy test is a fast way of determining what those sensitivities are. ($475 out of pocket if your insurance won’t cover it)
- Gut microflora imbalance is another issue that is always present. A comprehensive stool analysis is a quick way of finding out just what bugs are living in your intestinal tract.($285 out of pocket if your insurance won’t cover it)
- Inflammation can be checked using standard insurance covered blood tests like a sed rate, HS CRP, and autoimmune markers.
- Any skin cream prescribed or sold to you must be made only from ingredients you can eat! Remember anything put on the skin will absorb into the body.
- Ayurvedic facials use only all natural ingredients and are designed to bring pitta down.
- An Ayurvedic consultation for pitta reduction.
- Chrysanthellum Indicum Cream: A cream containing an extract of the herb Chrysanthellum indicum has been explored for the treatment of rosacea. Compounds in the extract appear to strengthen capillaries. A large study involving 246 people with rosacea examined the safety and effectiveness of a cream containing one percent Chrysanthellum indicum extract (applied twice a day) or placebo. After 12 weeks, the Chrysanthellum indicum cream significantly improved rosacea symptoms, including facial redness, compared to placebo. Adverse reactions were mild and did not differ compared with the placebo group.
- Green Tea Cream: One small study, presented as an abstract at the 2005 American Academy of Dermatology annual meeting, found evidence that a green tea cream may help people with rosacea. The study involved 60 women aged 25 to 50 years. All had red bumps and pustules, 20 had redness, and 17 had visible blood vessels. Half of the women applied the green tea cream containing 2% polyphenone twice a day and the other half applied the placebo cream.
- Green tea is a known anti-inflammatory. Using it internally is going to enhance any of the effects of external use. Make sure the green tea you choose is organic and non-caffeine. Herbasway makes a green tea extract with stevia in it that is quite delicious.
- Niacinamide Cream: Niacinamide, a form of vitamin B3, has been used topically for rosacea. It is thought to improve the skin barrier, improve the skin’s moisture level, and reduce inflammation. One study looked at a niacinamide-containing facial moisturizer (applied twice daily) or a placebo moisturizer in 50 people with rosacea. After four weeks, the niacinamide-containing moisturizer was found to improve the skin barrier. Niacinamide taken orally has also been explored for rosacea.
- Licorice: Another topical treatment used for rosacea is the herb licorice. One study examined the effect of a topical licorice skin regimen in 62 people with mild to moderate facial redness. There was significant improvement in redness at the four and eight week assessments.
- Digestive Enzymes: Some people with rosacea have indigestion, especially after eating fatty foods. One study found a deficiency of the pancreatic enzyme lipase, an enzyme that helps to digest fat. When the rosacea patients in the study were given pancreatic enzyme supplements with meals, their symptoms of indigestion and rosacea both improved.
- Colon Hydrotherapy: A healthy digestive tract will reduce rosacea. CHT is one of the fastest ways of reorganizing your gut microflora. Weekly sessions for a month will get you on your way to clear skin.
- B Vitamins: Inadequate riboflavin, caused by insufficient dietary intake or poor absorption in the digestive tract, may be associated with rosacea. One study found that Demodex folliculorum mites, which are normally found on the skin but more in larger numbers on the skin of rosacea patients, are more likely to affect the skin of animals in riboflavin deficiency. An increased number of mites may cause blockage of the pores from inflammation or may allow for the growth of bacteria on the skin.
- Azelaic Acid Cream: Azelaic acid cream is derived from wheat, rye and barley. It appears to have antimicrobial action that slows the growth of skin bacteria and appears to be effective at reducing skin redness and papules and pustules associated with rosacea. One study conducted by the University of British Columbia found that azelaic acid 20 percent cream was as effective as topical metronidazole 0.75 percent cream in reducing the number of papules and pustules on the skin. Azelaic acid also appeared to be slightly more effective at reducing redness. In addition, overall improvement was rated by physicians as higher with azelaic acid. Both creams, however, showed equal improvement in the symptoms of dryness, burning, telangiectasia and itching. The most common side effect of the azelaic acid cream was stinging on application, but the patients still had a better overall impression of azelaic acid than the metronidazole cream. Besides stinging, side effects of azelaic acid may include lightening of darkened areas of skin, although the skin does not appear to lighten beyond its normal color.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: Apple cider vinegar taken orally is used as a home remedy for rosacea. It is thought to stimulate the release of digestive enzymes and help normalize the bacterial balance in the intestines. Consult a health practitioner before trying apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is available in liquid and tablet form.
- Other Natural Treatments for Rosacea
- Aloe, Burdock, Chamomile, Betaine hydrochoride, Red clover, Rose hips, Selenium, Zinc
- Feverfew: One of the primary active components of feverfew, parthenolide, inhibits serotonin release from platelets. Feverfew inhibits 5-lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, resulting in a reduction in human blood platelet aggregation. In a recent study by Martin and associates, 45 days of treatment with 1% feverfew PFE (parthenolide-free extract) – Aveeno Daily Moisturizer Ultracalming, improved mild inflammatory acne by inhibiting the release of inflammatory markers from activated lymphocytes and reducing neutrophil chemotaxis. It is these immunomodulating properties that suggest feverfew PFE[TM] may be a useful treatment for rosacea.
- Green Tea: The green tea derivatives epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin-3-gallate, and epigallocatechin-3-gallate possess well-documented anticarcinogenic properties and anti-inflammatory and antioxidant capabilities. (15) These properties are especially useful for patients with rosacea as inherent sun sensitivity is a hallmark of the disease. The photoprotective properties of green tea may lessen reactivity to ultraviolet light, thereby reducing the signs and symptoms of rosacea. Moreover, green tea extract has been shown to reduce the disruption of the skin barrier often seen in patients with the disease.
- Oatmeal: First, oatmeal is a potent antipruritic. The moisturizing properties of colloidal oatmeal alleviate itch due to dry skin. These properties, in turn, promote protection of barrier function, which is often impaired in rosacea patients. Oatmeal also works as a skin protectant and enhancer of barrier function as the proteins and polysaccharides bind to skin to provide a protective barrier, while proteins buffer both acids and bases.
- Lavender: studies in animal models confirm the traditional use of Lavandula angustifolia for the treatment of painful and inflammatory conditions (including gastrointestinal disorders, migraines, and generalized pain).
- Chamomile: The active constituents of chamomile include the terpenoids (bisoprolol, matricin, chamazulene) and flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin). Studies have documented the anti-inflammatory and soothing effects of creams containing chamomile in patients with various inflammatory dermatoses. Chamomile is used in a variety of cosmetic products and as soothing compresses.
- Tea Tree Oil: In recent years it has become increasingly popular as an antimicrobial agent and has also been demonstrated to possess anti-inflammatory properties. Tea tree oil should be used with caution, however, as it has been associated with a wide variety of side effects including allergic contact dermatitis, systemic contact dermatitis, erythema, and systemic hypersensitivity reactions as well as conditions such as linear immunoglobulin A disease.
- Camphor Oil: Recently, camphor oil has been evaluated for its efficacy in treating the demodicoses that are frequently comorbid with rosacea. In a study by Morsy, marked reduction in the infestation density were noted following application of diluted camphor oil at concentrations of 20% to 25%. Caution is warranted with the use of camphor oil, however, as it is a known skin irritant.
- Vitamin C raises immunity, promotes healing, and strengthens connective tissue. Bioflavonoids are anti-inflammatory and help to strengthen blood vessels, and work with vitamin C. Take 500 milligrams of vitamin C with bioflavonoids three times a day.
- Zinc also helps to heal the skin. Take 25 milligrams twice a day, with meals and with 1 milligram of copper.
- Flaxseed oil supplies essential fatty acids that help to reduce inflamma tion. Take 1,000 milligrams or 1 teaspoon three times a day
- Acidophilus and bifidus help to restore "friendly" bacteria. If you are taking antibiotics, take either of these supplements as directed by the manufacturer.
- Cat's-claw extract helps to reduce food sensitivities by reestablishing a healthy intestinal environment. Take 500 milligrams three times a day.
Caution: Do not take this herb if you are pregnant, nursing, or on blood thinners, or if you are an organ transplant recipients.
- Gotu kola extract promotes healing of the skin. Take 100 milligrams three times a day.
- Grapeseed extract is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, and helps in collagen formation. Take 50 milligrams three times a day.
Here’s to your health and healthy skin!