Many people with rosacea will try an alternative therapy to bring their rosacea under control. This is understandable given the chronic nature of the skin condition and the weeks or months it can take prescription medications to lead to significant improvement.
When asked why they tried an alternative therapy, most people with rosacea said they “liked the idea of a natural treatment.” The alternative treatments most often used were naturopathic therapies and herbal remedies.
It is important to tell your doctor if you are using an alternative therapy. Even “all natural” therapies can have side effects and interact with other medications that you may be prescribed. For instance, St. John’s Wort can cause photosensitivity and Echinacea can result in hives (urticaria).
A number of clinical studies have demonstrated the negative role of stress on the human immune system, skin barrier function. In a survey of more than 700 rosacea patients published by the National Rosacea Society, 91 percent reported that emotional stress caused or sometimes caused their rosacea to flare up. The vast majority of those patients who work to avoid stress found it helps control their rosacea. Nearly 83 percent reported that it reduced or sometimes reduced their rosacea flare-ups, and only 13 percent said it had no effect.
Some techniques for managing stress include the following:
- During times of stress, it is particularly important to eat right, exercise moderately and maintain normal sleep patterns.
- Deep Breathing. Inhale to the count of 10 and exhale to the count of 10. Repeat this exercise several times.
- Visualization. Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes for several minutes and visualize a favorite vacation spot or pleasurable activity.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation. Relax muscles slowly, starting at the top of the head and working down to the toes.
- Positive Action. To minimize anxiety and worry, identify the things outside your control, and focus on taking positive action on things you can do something about.
- Additional approaches include yoga, Tai Chi or biofeedback.
Herbal Remedies and Supplements
The positive news of various herbal remedies, supplements or vitamins can sound promising. However, the long-term effects of these treatments are not known, proper doses have not been determined, and the concentration of active ingredients are not well regulated. This means that the concentration of the active ingredient can vary from being too high or too low from brand to or even batch to batch. Also some products can actually make rosacea worsen or lead to unwanted side effects.
Because some prescription treatments for rosacea have anti-inflammatory effects, it seems to makes sense that herbal remedies or supplements with anti-inflammatory effects may help reduce rosacea symptoms. These include gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) an omega-6 fatty acid found in the oils of some plant seeds, such as evening primrose (Oenothera biennis), borage (Borago officinalis), and black currant (Ribes nigrum), or fish oil that contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids
However, the specific role these compounds have on the immune system and other biologic functions is still being investigated. In addition, these products can have unwanted side effects and may interact poorly with certain medicines, including blood thinners and drugs used for high blood pressure.
In a survey of rosacea patients trying alternative therapies, none reported that they were aware that alternative and complementary therapies have potential side effects. However, 8% reported that they had a “bad reaction.” Most patients said they stopped using the alternative therapy because they found it to be ineffective.
Be sure to talk to your doctor before adding an herbal remedy or other “all natural” product.
Avoid Your Personal Rosacea Triggers
Learn what causes your rosacea to flare, and avoid these triggers as much as possible. Common rosacea triggers include unprotected sun exposure, stress, drinking alcoholic beverages, and eating spicy foods. If you are not sure what causes your rosacea to flare, keeping a rosacea diary can help you identify your triggers.
It is important to know that there is currently no cure for rosacea and any product or treatment that promises to eliminate rosacea in a few days or weeks is just too good to be true.