Rosacea is a chronic inflammatory skin condition that primarily flares on the face. Those of us who struggle with rosacea will typically experience facial redness caused by superficially dilated blood vessels. If left untreated, inflammatory lesions can form on the face that can be embarrassing and uncomfortable. Although the root cause of rosacea is unknown, some research suggests it is due to an abnormal immune system response to various (normally benign) triggers such as sun, bacteria and mites.
The good news is there may be a natural remedy for this affliction! Kanuka honey is produced by bees that collect nectar from the Kunzea ericoides tree. It has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties, and has been proposed as a potential natural treatment for rosacea.
To investigate its effects, kanuka honey was tested on 138 people with rosacea. In the study, participants were randomly separated into two groups, a treatment group and a control group. The treatment group received topical kanuka honey with 10% glycerin and the control group received a paraffin-based cream. The patients were asked to apply the cream twice a day and leave it on for 30-60 minutes before washing it off with water. The participants were also asked not to use any other treatments during this 8-week trial period. The severity of the participants’ rosacea was measured before and after the study, and the end results showed that 34% of participants in the honey group showed a reduction in rosacea compared to 17% in the control group.
One of the limitations of this study was the potential for bias: because of the natural scent of the kanuka honey, individuals in the treatment group likely knew they were receiving the treatment. In addition, the choice of the paraffin cream used in the control group may not have been an appropriate control to compare to the topical honey. The kanuka honey treatment also included glycerin, so it was not an entirely pure sample. Finally, it is unclear if the patients were educated about avoiding their specific rosacea triggers, such as sun light, alcoholic beverages, heat, or spicy foods. These triggers are important, as they may skew the results of the study. For example, if a participant in the treatment group had sun exposure prior to the study and then avoided the sun during the study, his or her rosacea may have been improved by staying out of the sun, not because of the kanuka honey.
The Verdict: While this study is promising for the use of kanuka honey for rosacea, more research that controls for other substances (like glycerin) and additional rosacea triggers is needed.