Eczema is a term that describes a group of medical conditions that cause the skin to become inflamed and irritated. Studies have shown that topical cannabis alleviates the itching, swelling and redness associated caused by eczema and other inflammatory skin disorders.
Atopic eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is the most commonly-occurring type of eczema. The condition results in dry, itchy, red, and cracked skin. These symptoms can lead to incredibly irritating and unpleasant patches of skin that cause sensations ranging from the merely annoying to the absolutely unbearable. Atopic eczema is very common in young children and the condition is usually long-term, persisting throughout an individual’s life. With that said, it is known that atopic eczema can massively improve and even disappear completely.
The cause of eczema is unknown, but it is likely due to a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Stress, sweat, heat and humidity changes, certain soaps and detergents, particular fabrics, air pollution and the consumption of eggs, milk, peanuts, soybeans, fish and wheat have been shown to make symptoms worsen. The condition is not contagious.
As such, atopic eczema frequently occurs in those who have allergies. It can develop alongside other allergic conditions, such as hay fever and asthma. Other triggers may involve contact and exposure to substances such as soaps and detergents. Even stress and weather conditions can intensify the symptoms of atopic eczema. Food allergies may also play a role.
TYPES OF ECZEMA
There are various different types of eczema, which is an umbrella name for a group of skin conditions. Contact dermatitis is a type of eczema that flares up when the skin comes into contact with specific substances that trigger an irritation.
Varicose eczema is known to affect the lower legs and can cause issues with blood flow in this region of the body. Discoid eczema can occur all over the skin and manifests as circular patches on the epidermis. Seborrhoeic eczema manifests as red and scaly patches of skin on regions such as the nose, ears, scalp, and eyebrows. Lastly, dyshidrotic eczema is a type that causes small blisters to form on the fingers, toes, palms, and soles of the feet.
EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON ECZEMA
Research has repeatedly shown that cannabis is effective at alleviating symptoms of several skin conditions, including eczema. Cannabinoids have immunosuppressive properties, in turn making them potential therapeutic agents for treating inflammatory skin diseases7.
When eczema is triggered from an outside source making contact, the skin becomes irritated and inflamed, giving rise to numerous unpleasant sensations and an equally unpleasant appearance. It seems that cannabis, when applied topically, can help to quench the inflammation that occurs by initiating an immunosuppressive effect. The flare-ups and inflammation on the skin are due to immune cells responding to the trigger. Applying a cannabis preparation appears to help put out this inflammatory fire and ease the symptoms.
A scientific review published in the journal Experimental Dermatology explores the possible therapeutic effects of cannabis on the skin, especially in regard to the endocannabinoid system. The authors of the review state that the alteration of this system could be important for the development of certain skin diseases.
They note that “Current evidence about the role of cannabinoids in the regulation of immune system is unquestionable, and even a term ‘immunocannabinoid system’ has been introduced.” This statement is particularly interesting when taking into account the immune response that occurs on the skin when it is exposed to certain irritants.
The authors address this exact point and state that cannabis may have a place in the future of skin therapy medicine, “…cannabinoids seem to have immunosuppressive properties and could be considered as potential anti-inflammatory drugs.” They also add that the endocannabinoid system could be involved in the reduction of the allergic response triggered by allergens.
The authors of the review conclude that, “On the basis of the current knowledge, therapeutic possibilities of cannabinoid usage in skin disease seem to be unquestionable. Possibly, in the future, cannabinoids will be widely applied to treat pruritus, inflammatory skin diseases and even skin cancers.”
Many products exist that have been designed for topical use. Because eczema occurs on the outside of the body, it only makes sense to apply cannabinoids directly on the skin in order to quell inflammation and potentially tackle the underlying causes of the condition. Using a cannabis soap is an easy and practical option, especially for those who experience allergic reactions when using the wrong kinds. This guide to making hemp soap can also be applied with more potent concentrations of cannabinoids to boost effectiveness.
Balms and lotions rich in cannabinoids can also be applied to irritated patches of skin. As well as providing relief, they can also be made using a base of hemp oil, which contains essential fatty acids that are vital for skin health.
Even oils and pastes can be directly applied to the skin when an eczema flare-up occurs, if the patient has nothing else to hand. Water soluble products and cannabis bath bombs can also be useful for full-body care.
The functions of cannabinoids in regard to eczema care and overall skin treatment seem to run quite a bit deeper than using the herb as a bandage type of remedy. Disruptions in the health of the skin may very well boil down to imbalances within the endocannabinoid system, a system highly responsive to the input of cannabinoids once ingested or applied. Dysfunctions and imbalances within the endocannabinoid system could be a cause of skin conditions such as eczema, and cannabinoids may be an answer to healing such imbalances.
A scientific paper published within the journal Trends in Pharmacological Sciences points out that the endocannabinoid system found within the skin plays a large physiological role in the health of skin cells. The authors comment that the disruption of this system may lead to the development of eczema, along with many other skin conditions. They point out that manipulating the endocannabinoid system with the intent of normalising symptoms might be beneficial for numerous skin diseases.
To manipulate the endocannabinoid system, cannabis can be used and numerous studies demonstrate the effectiveness of cannabinoids for the treatment of eczema. A paper published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology states that, “Cannabinoids may also have anti-inflammatory properties useful for the treatment of both allergic contact dermatitis and atopic dermatitis.”
The authors highlight a selection of studies that identify the relationship between cannabinoids and the immune system. The role of cannabinoids in eczema treatment looks particularly optimistic. The authors explain that “A promising role for cannabinoids in several eczematous dermatoses and pruritus exists, and dermatologists are already implementing cannabinoid therapy into their practices.”
However, in Washington D.C., any condition recommended by DC-licensed physician can be approved for medical marijuana. California allows medical marijuana for “any debilitating illness where the medical use of marijuana has been deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician.’” Psoriasis patients in Massachusetts may be able to get legal access, as the state approves “other conditions as determined in writing by a qualifying patient’s physician.” In Oregon and Rhode Island, “other conditions are subject to approval.”