More than three million Canadians are afflicted with rosacea, a chronic skin condition that causes redness in the face. This facial flushing can morph into enlarged blood vessels as well as small, red bumps that can become inflamed and pus-filled. Rosacea is most common in folks with fair skin, though it can affect people of all skin types.
The onset of rosacea typically occurs in adults between 30 and 50 years of age, affecting more women than men—though severe cases are more typical among men. Rosacea can also cause red, watery eyes; dry, swollen skin; and a burning or itchy feeling. This very visible affliction is often the source of low self-esteem and social anxiety.
Experts suspect the immune system is involved in rosacea. Meanwhile, almost one-third of sufferers have a family history of rosacea. Environment and other external factors such as sun exposure, extreme weather, stress, alcohol and caffeine are all believed to trigger and/or exacerbate the condition.
Traditional Treatments for Rosacea
Rosacea has no known cure, so treatments are prescribed to help bring the condition under control. Oral or topical antibiotics are the most common course of treatment for rosacea. The antibiotic metronidazole is typically applied as a cream or gel. That said, topical antibiotics have been linked to skin problems such as hives, inflammation and itchiness—while oral antibiotic can cause certain stomach conditions such as nausea.
Steroid creams are also often used to treat rosacea, though long-term use can and does worsen symptoms. Meanwhile, laser and intense pulsed light treatments are sometimes used to shrink blood vessels and help decrease the redness that rosacea causes.
Cannabis Can Help Rosacea Sufferers
Because cannabis is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, it can help reduce the redness and inflammation caused by rosacea. Marijuana consumption can also help bring down anxiety levels that often result due to rosacea. And it can help manage stress, which is often what triggers flare-ups.
A 2013 study by the University of Bonn in Germany found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), when applied topically, helped decrease allergy-related inflammation in the skin of mice. The study concluded that cannabis has “important implications for the future development of strategies to harness cannabinoids for the treatment of inflammatory skin diseases.”
Though cannabis’s effects on rosacea sufferers hasn’t yet been studied, anecdotal evidence exists to support the effective use of cannabis for rosacea. A California-based cannabis topical company, Sweet ReLeaf, can attest to the success its clients have had when applying cannabis to the afflicted areas.
According to Didi, Sweet ReLeaf’s founder, "We have patients who’ve reported that Sweet Releaf helps their rosacea. They’ve chosen the unscented version. I'm told this is because the unscented version doesn’t have essential oils (for fragrance), which can tend to be too much for folks with sensitive skin."