Cannabis may offer an alternative treatment for incurable skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis due to the plant’s innate ability to interact with receptors located in the human skin.
The epidermis is covered in CB1 and CB2 receptors which, when activated by cannabinoids present in cannabis, demonstrate both an agonist and antagonist effect, resulting in an inhibition of keratinocyte proliferation and inflammation, both heavily responsible for these skin conditions.
These same receptors are located throughout our body and form part of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) – a molecular signalling system that regulates a variety of functions including memory, thermoregulation, and healing.
For this reason, a major study was undertaken in 2019 where researchers looked at all the existing research involving cannabis and dermatology over the last 15 years to investigate the plants potential in treating eczema and psoriasis and the results were promising.
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Cannabis and eczema
Eczema is an irritating skin condition that causes the skin to become inflamed, resulting in itching and pain. The researchers noted an abundance of literature highlighting the role of cannabis as a powerful anti-inflammatory as well as having antipruritic (anti-itching) properties.
Both the intoxicating compound THC, as well as the non-intoxicating CBD, have the ability to reduce inflammation, with the former also shown to reduce skinfold thickness as well as enhance the skin's permeability barrier function which is needed to maintain moisture in the skin.
Both cannabinoids are also believed to be heavily involved in the perception of pain through a variety of means such as a reduction in inflammation, the release of endorphins, and the reduction of pain receptors.
Cannabis and psoriasis
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease characterized by the body producing an excess of skin cells resulting in red, patchy, scaly skin formations which can be itchy and painful. Scientists believe this is as a result of keratinocyte proliferation and immune cell infiltration.
The researchers noted how THC ointment inhibited keratinocyte proliferation and prevented the release of inflammatory cytokines, suggesting that it may be a suitable treatment for psoriasis.
AXIM Biotechnologies began human clinical trials in March 2016 on a cannabinoid topical ointment that, if successful, may become a treatment for psoriasis.
The constant itching from these skin conditions can result in openings that can lead to infection and further complications. Both THC and CBD have been shown to have antibacterial properties and last year Irish based company Integumen showed how CBD can reduce skin bacteria by 99%.
Low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression are also common amongst people living with either disease and CBD’s well-documented anti-anxiety effects may help relieve some of this.
Further research is needed to fully determine if cannabis cannabinoids can be an effective treatment for psoriasis and eczema as opposed to current medications such as steroid creams, Antihistamines and painkillers which can have awful side effects.
The emerging trend of skincare products infused with cannabinoids is not surprising considering this influential research as well as the results of a poll of dermatologists. The Orlando study found that 86% of respondents believed cannabinoids to have wider medical benefits and 68% saw cannabinoids having a role in dermatology.