Natural Anti-inflammatory Therapies for Rosacea

Dr. Wu published a paper in 2006 on treating rosacea with herbs. This paper highlighted the properties and potential rosacea treatment modalities of licorice, feverfew, green tea, oatmeal, lavender, chamomile, tea tree oil and camphor oil.

This just published paper concentrates more on the anti-inflammatory properties of several natural products and reviews the evidence supporting their use in inflammatory skin conditions.


Many rosacea sufferers want to treat their symptoms with natural therapies. This pursuit can be tricky as many natural ingredients are not easily obtained in a useable form.

In the end it is sometimes just down to using commercial preparations that contain the active ingredient – and hopefully at the same time no other potentially irritating components. Another option is to try natural ingredients using a homemade mix.

Colloidal Oatmeal

We know from a recent rosacea news article that colloidal oatmeal (Avena sativa) has interesting cleansing, moisturizing, buffering, soothing, protecting and anti-inflammatory properties.

This paper especially highlights one of the active phytochemicals found in colloidal oatmeal – avenanthramides. These have been shown to have strong anti-inflammatory effects. At a concentration of 3%, avanthramides have a similar effect to hydrocortisone 1%.

suggested products: Linda Sy Mild Oatmeal Facial Cleanser, aveeno anti-itch.


Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) has a long history as a natural medicine and has potent anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-irritant properties.

One point that I didn’t pick up on when previously writing about aveeno ultra calming with feverfew is that feverfew contains parthenolides which are highly irritating. Thus if you are interested in trying feverfew topically, be sure to look for products that contain Feverfew PFE (Parthenolide-free extract) – such as Aveeno for eg..

Studies show that Feverfew PFE is able to reduce UV induced redness and is beneficial for individuals with sensitive skin; offering improvement in facial redness, blotchiness, overall irritation and the feeling of rough skin and shaving irritation.

The paper cites a 2005 AAD Poster session that states that feverfew has greater inhibitory effect compared to other botanical compounds including green, black and white tea, echinacea, licorice, chamomile and aloe vera by factors of 35 to 1000-fold.

I had missed noting the (7!) posters sessions in 2005 that dealt with Feverfew PFE, but did highlight a more recent session from the 2008 AAD meeting that targeted rosacea more directly ; see Facial tolerance of a feverfew-PFE containing daily moisturizer regimen in mild to moderate rosacea patient.

suggested products: aveeno ultra calming with feverfew


The active ingredients in licorice are well known to rosacea sufferers, epescially since the Eucerin Redness Relief range was introduced by Beiersdorf.  The two main actives from licorice are glabridin and licochalcone A which both have anti-irritant and anti-inflammatory properties. The paper cites studies that show that a lotion containing licochalcone A showed improvements in facial redness for those with and without rosacea, shaving induced irritation and UV induced redness.

From Anti-inflammatory Herbs

The dose of licorice is 5 to 15 g daily of cut or powdered roots and should contain 200 to 600 mg of glycyrrhizin. Licorice use is contraindicated in patients with high blood pressure, cardiac diseases, or liver cirrhosis.

suggested products: eucerin redness relief.

Aloe Vera

The active ingredients of interest in Aloe Vera are salicyclic acid, magnesium lactate and gel polysaccharides. Typical properties include aloe vera’s anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipruritic (see AAD: pruritus), wound healing and anti-oxidant effects.

In clinical trials a 0.5% aloe vera cream was found to statistically improve psoriatic plaques (a symptom of psoriasis) and in other case reports is was found to be effective in reducing burning itching, and scarring that resulted from radiation dermatitis.

suggested products: pure aloe vera gel kept in the refrigerator.


Chamomile is a member of the daisy family – Matricaria recutita. The paper mentions properties of the volatile oil of chamomile as being able to inhibit cyclooxygenase and lipoxeygenase as well as the flavonoids pigenin, luteolin and quercetin which inhibit histamine release.

Topical chamomile is mostly used for the treatment of atopic dermatitis and skin irritation. One study found that the anti-inflammatory effect of topical chamomile was approximately 60% as effective as 0.25% hydrocortisone.

From Anti-inflammatory Herbs

The recommended dose of Matricaria recutita flowers is 3 g three times daily; Matricaria is available as an infusion, a fluid extract, and a tincture (1:5). Allergic hypersensitivity to this herb may occur in rare cases, and the herb can irritate the eyes if applied near them


Circumin is the active compound in Turmeric, and is responsible for the yellow pigment. Circumin has anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and chemoprotective properties that means it is is suitable for topcial inflammatory conditions and wound healing. Sadly, even though circumin improves epithelialization and wound contraction, the colour and odour limits its applicability to topicals, especially those applied to the face.

From Anti-inflammatory Herbs

According to Commission E in Germany (the German authority on evaluating herbal preparations), the recommended dose is 1.5 to 3 g of cut root daily; preparations of Curcuma longa are infusion powders, tinctures (1:5), and fluid extracts. The use of curcumin is contraindicated in bile duct obstruction because it enhances the secretion of bile.

Finally, here is the abstract of the paper that inspired this article.

Anti-inflammatory ingredients, Wu J., J Drugs Dermatol. 2008 Jul;7(7 Suppl):s13-6., University of Southern California-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA, USA.

There is a growing public awareness and concern among individuals regarding the condition of their skin, with a concomitant desire to use natural products to treat skin conditions. The increased interest in these products has spurred scientific and clinical studies evaluating the composition and clinical usefulness of natural products in the treatment of inflammatory skin dermatoses.

There are numerous natural ingredients that have been demonstrated to possess anti-inflammatory properties that make formulations containing these ingredients attractive treatment options.

This article summarizes the active ingredients, anti-inflammatory properties, clinical effects, and therapeutic potential of colloidal oatmeal, feverfew, licorice, aloe vera, chamomile, and turmeric. Potential therapeutic indications include erythema induced by ultraviolet light, rosacea, atopic dermatitis, sensitive and irritated skin, drug-induced skin eruptions, and psoriasis. These products may be particularly well suited as alternatives to pharmacologic therapies in chronic conditions for which long-term use is required.

Over to you: what related products have you tried ? please leave us all a comment below.

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About the Author: David Pascoe started the Rosacea Support Group in October 1998. .

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16 Reader Comments

  1. mauismom says:

    I have tried Aveeno Ultra Calming Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 with feverfew. The product feels nice and smells good but something in it is very irritating to my eyes. I have ocular rosacea and most sunscreens are irritating. I have had more success with the Aloemaxx aloe vera gel. It’s soothing and redness on my nose and cheeks has decreased noticably. My skin feels a little tight after I put it on, so I use a moisturizer at the same time. I also take Aloemaxx capsules which I believe have contributed to the reduction in redness.

    • Parsi says:

      most sunscreens are irritating/ same here. Aveeno with sunscreens cause me irritating, any other cream with sunscreens too.

  2. Kornelia says:

    I am a 54 year old female and have been diagnosed with rosacea 3 years ago. Hydrocortisone does nothing for me, it makes everything worse.
    If I need a calming mask, I use ricotta cheese, let it dry and rinse off with lukewarm water.
    For an astrigent I use green tea. 1 cup in the fridge lasts about a week.
    I also discovered that castor oil is helpful over night (use on moist face); it also grows lashes. For the day I use Dermarest which I order thru the internet since our local drug stores do not carry it. If I stay away from spicy food and red wine I do quite well.

  3. Mary says:

    Kornelia: What kind of Dermarest do you use? Thanks. Mary

  4. Mary says:

    I have mild rosacea – primarily on one side of my face – and ocular rosacea on that side. My dermatologist has had me on all the usual drug therapies. One day my sister called from her work in S. Carolina. She had been diagnosed with eczema. She happened to mention this when chatting with the women who work in her factory. They told her to try “Grandma’s Lye Soap” which had been used for years by their families for a variety of skin conditions with good results. She got a bar at “Cracker Barrel” restaurant, used it for a week, and her eczema disappeared. I thought, why not try it for my rosacea? Off to Cracker Barrel I went and began using it to wash my face night and morning. I rubbed it in well around my eyes, eyebrows, and hairline especially. Within a few days I noticed a lessening of redness and no more scratchy feeling in my affected eye. I have been using it for over six months and will never use another soap. My rosacea is 90% gone. Don’t be afraid that it will sting your skin – it contains more glycerin that regular soaps and is mild and lathers well. I’m thrilled with the results. No idea how it works but it does. You can order it on Amazon too. Hint: It’s a big bar. I cut mine in half.

    • Debbie says:

      Mary, I too have a case of mild rosacea as well as ocular rosacea in both eyes. I went to my local health food store and was given Grandma’s normal soap (for acne) to try as well as a Mychelle moisturizer (pumpkin renew cream for sensitive skin). One of these two seems to be causing some irritation. I was curious to know what moisturizer you use. I was also recommended to try essential rose oil as my moisturizer but am a little skepical as I’m not sure if it will aggregavate either condition. Any thoughts/sigguestions are welcome. Thanks!

      • Mary says:

        Debbie, I was – and still am – using coconut oil or almond oil as a moisturizer. However, I’ve moved on since that last post. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and my doctor did a blood test that revealed I have the celiac gene and am gluten sensitive. He said the gluten was knocking out my thyroid so I gave it up and my thyroid returned to (almost) normal within three months (TSH went from 12 to 4). A wonderful side effect of giving up gluten, however, was no more rosacea, either facial skin or ocular. What a relief, and it was a total surprise.

        • Lea Ann says:

          Crest Complete Whitening Toothpaste has put my rosacea and acne in remission!!! TRY IT!! I don’t need any other meds for my face now! I put a little on at night all over my face- avoiding my eyes and for months now my acne and redness are gone! I am no longer food or wine sensitive! Such a simple fix for such a dramatic problem- zits and blisters at 40 feel like a dramatic problem…

  5. Teresa says:

    I have a mild case of rosacea and had been given a prescription for Metrogel. Which actually got my face to start peeling. I have been looking for something to help me, but no luck. My big problem, I can’t wear makeup (allergic even to Almay). I’ve even tried the powder mineral makeup but it makes my face itch, and I like feeling as if I’m not wearing makeup. Anyone have any ideas for me?

    Thank you

    • redhed35 says:

      Sounds like Bismuth is your problem. Try Alima Pure, or my personal favorite, Meow Cosmetics, these are the holy grail for my super sensitive skin. And straight up, Meow will have a shade to match your skin, and is the BEST makeup value around. One full sized jar of foundation lasts me a whole YEAR, and I use that stuff every day! Most ‘powder’ or mineral make ups contain bismuth, which is known to irritate sensitive skin. I have super sensitive rosacea prone skin, and bismuth eats me alive! Once I got bismuth off my face and out of my makeup brushes, I’ve been irritation-free ever since!

  6. Teresa says:

    To add to my previous comment. I flush very easily and my face is blotchy all except around my mouth that stays white, which is why I’m on here.

  7. Mary says:

    My recommendation would be to find out what your rosacea triggers are. For instance, alcohol, especially red wine, and hot foods are my primary flushing triggers. Cheese makes me break out and I watch my intake of all fatty foods. I take a large capsule of Carlson fish oil every day as well as 500 mg Sam’s Club (Maker’s Mark) vitamin C (for some reason this brand is most effective) which have helped my skin. Also, I use Grandma’s Lye Soap (see previous posting) which has been the most effective treatment so far. I am not completely cured but pretty close. Keep trying things that people recommend and find out what works for you. Eventually you’ll be able to control it but you need to be curious and persistent. Good luck!

  8. Greg says:

    I discovered that glycerin is a natural humectants- (holds moisture in the skin). I use it after I shower, just don’t get it in your eyes, it can irritate. You can mix it with water to get the viscosity- (thickness) you like, it works wonders for my skin.

    This is just a warning and based on my personal experience, I’ve battled with skin problems most of my life. I have rosacea, psoriasis and eczema, one or all of these (in my case) can be linked to a mild autoimmune condition.
    I’m telling people this because years ago I had a dermatologist recommend hydrocortisone, I was not warned about the long-term effects, so I used it too often. Hydrocortisone will thin out your skin, and cause UV sensitivity, making solar exposure even more dangerous than normal and our skin is not normal.

    Good luck to everyone trying to tame their own skin problems.

  9. Lea Ann Thompson says:

    I was in Santa Rosa with my family staying with my aunt & uncle there- he is an awesome neuroscientist and had a fellow neuro nerd staying with him from New Zealand. They are working on therapies for curing Huntington’s. I was complaining about my always broken out swollen rosacea face and the wonderful New Zealand gal said plainly that she just uses tooth paste and the zits are gone over night. I thought she was kidding- but she insisted I try. Sure enough one night of washing my face with Cetaphil- followed by putting a light layer of tooth paste (Crest or Colgate Whitening) and the next day my skin had very little swelling and I did not have any new breakouts.
    I was waiting to make sure this wasn’t a fluke. Two months later my skin is glowing- pretty- zit and rash and redness free from tooth paste- not my $200 dollar ointments or years of antibiotics- just a small mask of tooth paste. My husband has learned to love my new nightly minty fresh mime look- and I am back to eating spicy foods and can even drink red wine again- man did I miss that stuff! I have had rosacea from age 30 to now 41 and it took this long to just use the same thing to brush my teeth to wash my face! I use a grittier Crest to do weekly exfoliation with- but I don’t recommend using tooth paste to wash your face with daily- it really burns to get in your eyes. It’s funny- it took two months to get in to our towns best Dermatology person and in that amount of time I found tooth paste to be my hero- and I think I am going to cancel starting Accutane- there just does not seem to be a point- my skin is so clear now!
    So try it! Every day- just a pencil eraser size dab lightly all over your face. I asked the dermatologist why tooth paste is working so well and she said it just dries out your skin- but it is so much more than that- it takes away the swelling- itchy- painfulness of it- and stops breakouts. I really hope it works for anyone else who reads this too- just keep it out of your eyes and use a whitening brand. Who would have thought a neuroscientist would have a cure for rosacea- I hope they have as good of luck with the much more important battle of Huntington’s!
    Lea Ann in Salem, Oregon

  10. Some more comments from the facebook post.

    “I’ve been using the Aveeno Ultra calming line with feverfew for a few months now and I’ve really noticed an improvement with my redness. Specifically I think the face wash and the night cream help the most.”

    “I’m allergic to a lot of fragrant oils/botanicals etc. The good things for rosacea are green tea extract, licorice extract, feverfew extract, niacinamide, aloe vera, chamomile << all calming agents. Lavender no good as it's fragrant...I used to use aveeno positively radiant spf 30 until my face rejected it due to fragrance and parabens. Nia 24 is supposed to be good as it has niacinamide, however, their general moisturizer contains fragrance. But Nia sunscreens do not - they have a physical one and a chemical one." "I have reactions to fragrance and the newer version of Aveeno Ultra Calming has too much fragrance. No more for me." "If you have ragweed allergies, avoid chamomile. These “natural” products can be as toxic to you as the ones they claim are full of chemicals. Do your research. All these natural ingredients listed above are cousins to thinks that you could be allergic to."

  11. olga casiano says:

    I have redness on my face right now and dry spots from my roscea don’t know what to use for my face anymore

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