CBD for eczema

by Apoorva Shivankar, M.D

eczema treatment with CBD

CBD is the latest sensation in the health-care industry. The speed with which it is invading the market is astonishing. Cannabidiol is a self-made herb which proves its mettle in dealing with almost every sickness a human can suffer in some way or the other. Skin-care is not an exception. There are many studies suggesting CBDs potential in aesthetically managing the dreaded skin issues. Yes, dreaded as most of the skin conditions being stubborn in nature do not leave you easily taking a great toll on your confidence.

Here we shall be discussing how CBD influences skin-care especially eczema a very common skin condition.

A brief introduction of our hero CBD

CBD (cannabidiol) is one of the powerful cannabinoids extracted from hemp variety of cannabis plant. It’s a close cousin of the delta9 tetrahydro-cannabinoid (THC) which is quite popular for ‘get you HIGH’ effect. Though both share a lot of similarities in physical appearances and medicinal benefits, the major distinguishing point is the psycho-activity possessed by THC alone.

This THC is present in higher concentration in marijuana type of cannabis plant and is illegal by law. Hemp cannabis is rich in CBD and contains <0.3% of THC, making it legal for consumption. Along with CBD and THC, more than 100 cannabinoids, several terpenes and flavonoids are also present in the cannabis plants:

  • Pure CBD mined from hemp plant forms CBD isolate.
  • CBD extracted along with all terpenes, flavonoids and other cannabinoids (except THC), are termed as broad-spectrum CBD.
  • CBD along with all cannabinoids (THC>0.3%), terpenes and flavonoids are the full-spectrum CBD. They are the most effective ones owing to the complementary actions of all components (The Entourage Effect).

CBD acts by interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and manifests anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, hydrating, mood-elevating, appetite-regulating, memory enhancing and many other medically influential properties.

Understanding ECZEMA

Itching is a natural response, but when it goes out of hand, results ECZEMA - a chronic relapsing inflammatory skin condition affecting 30% of younger age group (children) and 15% of adults, and unfortunately lacks a definitive cure. The national eczema association report states that over 30 million Americans struggle with this skin condition.

Eczema can be of multiple types but the most commonly encountered one is ‘atopic dermatitis’.

It is characterized by a never-ending ‘itch-scratch-repeat’ cycle which can be quite uncomfortable, embarrassing and extremely cumbersome.

Coming to the classical eczema symptoms:

  • Atopy means allergy/ increased immune response

Dermatitis means inflammation of skin.

Thus, inflammation caused due to hypersensitivity of human skin to allergens is the basis of eczema. This inflammation presents as:

  • red, inflamed skin.
  • rough and dry skin.
  • intense itching with an irresistible urge to scratch.
  • may present with oozing, blisters and swelling.
  • Skin thickening and scaling develops over time.
  • Alternating flare-ups and symptom-free periods.

Does eczema show any preferences for site?

Yes, it mostly involves face, hands, wrists, back of knees and/or feet but can extend to other sites as well.

What causes Eczema?

Exact cause is not known but as eczema runs in families, genetics must play a predominent role in its development. Other major risk factors include food intolerance, asthma, environmental factors, hay fever, stress and allergies.

Science behind Eczema Cycle

Human skin is the major defence organ of our body. It provides an efficient skin barrier to keep bad stuff like irritants or infections away and also prevent evaporation of moisture. Excessive scratching breaches this skin barrier and exposes the immune system underneath to the external tough environment triggering inflammation. Also, the loss of moisture from the leaky skin renders the skin dry making it susceptible to cracking and the cycle continues.

Eczema Treatment

As there is no cure available, currently used strategies for treating eczema target the eczema symptoms itself to offer some relief. These include:

  • Avoiding triggering factors like allergens, stress, etc.
  • Oral and topical steroids to suppress the immune system and thus, the resulting inflammation.
  • Antihistamines to diminish the hypersensitivity to allergens.
  • Wet wrap therapy or moisturizing creams to keep the skin hydrated, remove roughness and prevent scales/patches formation in eczema patients.

Then do we really need CBD to treat eczema?

It is true that the above-mentioned therapies deliver promising results in people suffering from eczema, but they have their own share of lacunae too.

  • Steroids when used for a long-term lead to thinning of skin and weakened immunity predisposing injuries, infections and even sun damage. To add to this, the effects of steroids and antihistamines are temporary and the symptoms bounce back once the eczema treatment is stopped, demanding continuous long-term use.

  • Almost 50% cases fail to identify the allergens to be avoided.

Currently there are no other options available to treat eczema for long-term justifying the entry of CBD here too.

  • Research shows that CBD products are safe in long run with no lingering addictive side-effects.

  • Research also suggests that CBD may help skin conditions like eczema by virtue of its diversified properties.

  • Eczema is basically an inflammatory disease and CBD being a well-known anti-inflammatory agent can easily soothe inflammation and reduce redness to treat eczema. CBD exerts this effect by controlling the immune response through the endocannabinoid system.

  • The ECS-CB2 receptor-mediated action of CBD relieves the eczematic patients of their pains.

  • CBD exerts a durable hydrating effect restoring the moisture and tenacity of skin and thus prevents rashes, dry skin and promote healing by breaking the cycle. It also prolongs the gap between two flair-ups.

  • On stimulation by CBD products, the cannabinoid receptors in cutaneous nerve fibers can decrease the histamine-mediated hypersensitivity and thus cool down the itch. The moisturizing and emollient-like actions of CBD add to the anti-itch effect.

  • The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of CBD protect the otherwise susceptible eczematic skin from infections.

  • The stress-busting effect of CBD removes the most common cause of eczema flair-ups.

  • Hempseed oil used as a CBD carrier in CBD oil is rich in omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids which can nurture and endorse rapid healing effects. Other essential oils like olive oil and coconut oil serving as carriers also have a skin-soothing effect of themselves.

Digging the scientific evidence:

  • study published in 2019 in Clinical Therapeutics demonstrated the therapeutic effects of CBD-enriched ointments on atopic dermatitis and scars. It also potentiates the anti-itch effect of cannabis topicals.

  • Another study published in the journal Molecules in the same year stressed on the potential role of cannabinoidal signalling in the management of cutaneous inflammation, dryness, pruritis and alopecia.

What will you prefer - oral CBD oil or topical CBD ointment/cream?

  • Both are safe.

  • Topical lotion/ cream/ ointment show quicker absorption and targeted action whereas

Oral forms like CBD oil can treat inflammation inside-out.

  • Thus, severe irritation and widespread patches respond well to oral solution whereas a localized lesion may settle with topical application.

  • Currently combination approach is gaining more popularity in treating eczema.

Does CBD help with skin problems other than eczema?

Yes, it does:

  • Strong antidote for acne and acne scars:

Research has shown that adding CBD can actually block some of the oil-producing abilities of sebocytes and thus prevent acne formation. The combination of lipostatic, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effects make CBD a strong remedy for acne. Even topical use of CBD oil has proved beneficial in acne prevention.

  • Potent anti-ageing drug:
  • As an antioxidant, CBD creams or oils fight free radical damage preventing wrinkles, fine lines and saggy skin.

  • Encourage collagen synthesis which promotes skin elasticity making it look younger and fresher.

  • Its hydrating effect makes skin supple and thus flattens the wrinkles if any.

  • Has a calming effect on exhausted skin.
  • Fights psoriasis:

An autoimmune disease in which skin cells mature and multiply super-duper fast to pile up  forming scales. CBD creams have shown the potential to decelerate skin cell division and even soothe the agitated skin by its anti-inflammatory action.

  • Protection against UV damage and hyperpigmentation:

α-linolenic acid and linoleic acid in hemp-derived cannabis products can repair sun damage and minimize hyperpigmentation by altering melanin levels.

Other health benefits of CBD products:

CBD is a magical drug with innumerable health benefits. It is an

  • Anti-anxiety, anti-depressant drug
  • Stress-buster and strong relaxant- relaxes both brain and body.
  • Mood-enhancer.
  • Brain-tonic.
  • Pain reliever - Relieves body-ache, migraine headaches, etc.
  • Anticonvulsant, anti-epileptic.
  • Neuroprotector (Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease).
  • Sleep disorder remedy.

Though considered safe and legal, most of the CBD products (except Epidiolex) are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration and have their rights reserved with the respective state federal law.

FAQs

Q. Is CBD Safe for Children with Eczema?

Though considered safe, always consult a paediatrician before use and check for THC levels as it is strictly no for kids.

Q. What are the alternatives for treating eczema?

Ceramides are the natural lipids which can retain and replenish skin moisture and maintain the barrier defence system.

Q. What are the other forms of eczema?

  • Atopic dermatitis.
  • Contact dermatitis.
  • Dyshidrotic eczema.
  • Hand eczema.
  • Neurodermatitis.
  • Nummular eczema.
  • Stasis dermatitis.

Q. What are the general precautions to be taken to prevent eczema?

  • Moisturize often.
  • Avoid harsh soaps or frequent washings.
  • Control stress.
  • Avoid triggering factors.
  • Avoid scratching.