Eczema is a common skin condition that causes the skin to itch, flake off, crack, or produce blisters. These skin lesions can be overwhelmingly uncomfortable if not treated. Treatments range from proper skin care to medication for severe cases. Now that cannabis is legal in 33 states and Washington, D.C., many people wonder if medical marijuana could alleviate eczema.
Atopic dermatitis is the most common form of eczema and can cause itchiness in the face, hands, feet, inner elbows, and back of the knees. The National Eczema Association has stated that cannabis topicals like CBD creams, THC salves, and more can reduce the symptoms associated with many types of eczema.
For one, chemical compounds in cannabis contain potent anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anxiolytic, anti-itch, and antimicrobial characteristics that can tackle eczema symptoms on multiple fronts. Dr. Henry Granger Piffard, MD, the founding editor of the Journal of Cutaneous and Venereal Diseases, was one of the first medical professionals to document the effectiveness of cannabinoids on eczema-ridden skin.
In the textbook, he writes, “a pill of cannabis indica at bedtime has at my hands sometimes afforded relief to the intolerable itching of eczema.” Dr. Piffard’s mention of cannabis sparked a multitude of studies on the effects of cannabinoids and skin conditions.
Eczema is characterized by an unbearable itch, made worse by dry skin, sweating, and other environmental triggers like perfumes and other synthetic, chemical substances. Cannabinoids compounds in cannabis can reduce the immune response that causes the itchiness, inflammation, and flare-ups.
Cannabinoids also have significant antimicrobial properties which can help reduce infection when skin is the most vulnerable. People with eczema are particularly prone to complications like colonization by the Staphylococcus aureus pathogen. One recent study showed that more than a few cannabinoids can slow down the proliferation of S. aureus strains.
Cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory characteristics may reduce the severity of redness and inflammation from eczema. Researchers evaluated the effects of topical THC on mice with allergic contact dermatitis. In the study, they found that topical THC could “effectively attenuate contact allergic inflammation.”
Another breakthrough study showed that naturally-produced endocannabinoids (closely related to cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant) can inhibit mast cell activation. When mast cells are triggered, they release histamines which cause extreme itching. That means that cannabinoids could potentially reduce immune cells that cause itching.
In one human trial on atopic dermatitis for pediatric and adult patients, researchers found that endocannabinoid cream (Palmitoylethanolamide cream or PEA-cream) greatly improved itch and sleep loss by an average of 60% among patients. 20% stopped taking their topical immunomodulators and 38% ceased using their oral antihistamines. Another 33.6% stopped their topical steroid regimen altogether.
Before you buy any topical weed cream, be sure to avoid certain known irritants which can make eczema symptoms worse. For example, some terpenes included in skin topicals can increase itchiness and inflammation. When buying cannabis topicals for eczema, ensure that the formula contains ingredients to relieve pain, inflammation, and irritation to the skin.
Cannabinoid-infused topicals are an effective addition to anyone who has eczema and hasn’t found relief elsewhere. Cannabis has shown to have anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-pain characteristic which can go a long way in making living with eczema easier.