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Marijuana may help cure eczema, according to researchers

The anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties found in the marijuana plant could help sufferers of skin conditions

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Marijuana may be useful in treating symptoms related to skin diseases including eczema and psoriasis, according to research.

The plant Cannabis sativa is known for the psychoactive THC agent found in it – which causes an intoxicating effect.

However, as states across America legalise or decriminalise marijuana, doctors and patients are showing an increased interest in the health benefits of the plant which stem from the parts of the plant that don’t cause intoxicating effects.

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For marijuana to be used topically and as a potential treatment for health-related issues, researchers are focusing on the four other agents, or cannabinoids, found in the plant – cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), and cannabinol (CBN).

These agents don’t make the user “high,” but they can cause relief from various medical conditions, including atopic dermatitis or eczema.

Eczema is a condition that causes the skin to become itchy, red, dry, and cracked. In the UK, it affects an estimated 15 million people, according to AllergyUK.

There are numerous treatments for eczema, however, there is currently no cure.

But, according to the National Eczema Association (NEA): “It has long been observed that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-itch qualities” with research dating back to the first textbook of dermatology referencing a use for cannabis in treating skin conditions.

In this first text, Dr Henry Granger Piffard, one of the founders of American dermatology, noted: “A pill of cannabis indica at bedtime has at my hands sometimes afforded relief to the intolerable itching of eczema.”

This relief is partly due to the powerful anti-itch effect of cannabinoids, which interact with receptors in the skin – minimising the common attributes of eczema, most notably itch caused by dry skin, histamine release, and sensory nerve fibres.

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

1 /26 In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

A man wears a marijuana leaf mask during the annual 4/20 cannabis culture celebration at Sunset Beach in Vancouver, British Columbia

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

A lady smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill on 4/20 in Ottawa, Ontario

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

James Reed smokes a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

People sign a 4/20 sign on Parliament Hill on in Ottawa, Ontario

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

A woman smokes marijuana on Parliament Hill on 4/20 in Ottawa, Ontario. Polling released showed strong support in Canada for a government drive to legalise recreational use of marijuana, but many would like the proposed minimum age for consumption to be raised. Sixty-three percent of respondents told the Angus Reid Institute they support legalisation

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

A man smokes marijuana during the annual 4/20 marijuana rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Demonstrators smoke marijuana during the ‘4/20 Santiago’ rally in favour of legalisation in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago, as part of the Global Marijuana March which is being held in hundreds of cities worldwide

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

People play with a mock marijuana joint during a 4/20 party to demand legalisation and to celebrate marijuana culture outside the Senate building in Mexico City, Mexico

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Adam Eidinger, co-founder of DCMJ, hands out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Police arrest Rachel Ramone Donlan after she handed out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Police arrest Rachel Ramone Donlan after she handed out free marijuana joints to DC residents who worked on Capitol Hill as part of the 1st Annual Joint Session to mark ‘4/20’ day and promote legalising marijuana on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Thousands of people gather to smoke marijuana during the ‘420 Santiago’rally in front of the La Moneda presidential palace in Santiago

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

People attend the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Kevin Barron and Lasean Moore of Raleigh, North Carolina, share a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Nic Ruhl takes a pull on a giant hand rolled joint at precisely 4:20pm MDT during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Various cannabis paraphernalia on display at a vendor’s stall during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Mo Banez, of Austin, Texas, lights a joint during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

A man displays a large container of cannabis during the Denver 420 Rally at Civic Center Park in Denver, Colorado. The rally, held annually, is a celebration of both the legalisation of cannabis and cannabis culture. Colorado is one of twenty-six U.S. states along with the District of Columbia that has legalised the use of cannabis either recreationally or medically

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Sitting in small groups on mats shaded by trees in the Rose Garden just across from the Knesset, participants lit up as the clock struck 4:20 for the local version of the traditional worldwide April 20 pro-marijuana events, known as ‘420’ rallies

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

Sitting in small groups on mats shaded by trees in the Rose Garden just across from the Knesset, participants lit up as the clock struck 4:20 for the local version of the traditional worldwide April 20 pro-marijuana events, known as ‘420’ rallies

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

An Israeli girl poses with a mock marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

aelis pass around a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current laws

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem during a rally at the Rose garden, to celebrate 420 and to express their defiance of current law

In pictures: 4/20 Marijuana world rallies

An Israeli smokes a marijuana joint in Jerusalem on April 20, 2017 during a rally opposite the Knesset to celebrate 420 and express defiance of current laws

The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids applied topically may also improve eczema, as can their anti-microbial effects.

According to researchers at the University of Colorado, the agent CBD is particularly helpful in curing eczema or the symptoms associated with the skin condition – and can be used as a natural alternative to commonly-used steroids.

Dr Robert Dellavalle, one of the leading researchers said: “There’s a large segment of the population that doesn’t like using steroids, even if they are topical steroids on their skin. CBD could be an alternative, natural product for them to try.

“So, when we have somebody who has tried topical steroids or topical immuno-modulators that suppress the immune system for psoriasis or eczema and they haven’t gotten completely better, there’s a potential of using this new therapy that might work in a different way and help them,” Dellavalle said.

And the new topically-applied treatment of CBD has already been cleared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as having no potential for abuse or harm, as multiple clinical trials have seen positive outcomes on the symptoms and appearance of skin conditions.

However, the lasting stigmas surrounding the plant and the remaining laws make it difficult for researchers to fully study the effects of the cannabinoids in marijuana.

“The fact that it’s illegal at the federal level, but legal at the state level – it leads to a lot of complications in trying to do research on marijuana and its derivatives, all of the cannabinoids,” Dellavalle said.

1 /2 Marijuana may help cure eczema, according to researchers

Marijuana may help cure eczema, according to researchers

The anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties found in the marijuana plant could help sufferers of skin conditions

Marijuana may help cure eczema, according to researchers

Doctors and researchers are eager to study the health benefits of marijuana (Stock)

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The anti-itch, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties found in the marijuana plant could help sufferers of skin conditions

Can marijuana help eczema?

Published On: Dec 18, 2017

Last Updated On: Oct 21, 2020

Weed cream. THC lotion. CBD salve. They go by many names, and there is a lot of interest and hope in the dermatological community that marijuana—or cannabis—may provide an alternate treatment pathway for a variety of skin diseases, especially atopic dermatitis (AD).

As of 2020, 33 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized some type of marijuana programs. These programs range from full legalization for recreational use, to medical use only, or decriminalization.

Dermatologists across the country, particularly in states where cannabis has been made legal, are inundated with questions such as, “Will tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) topicals work for my skin condition?”

Unfortunately, the fractured regulatory market of cannabis topicals makes it challenging for doctors, consumers and even regulators to understand the benefits and risks. In this article, we’ll take a look at the science and potential benefit behind the molecules found in marijuana for dermatological conditions.

The science behind medical marijuana

Marijuana, derived from the plant Cannabis sativa, is one of the oldest and most widely used drugs worldwide. Of the more than 60 agents in marijuana, only THC has intoxicating effects. This has not only contributed to its illicit status in the medical field, but has also hindered research on its health benefits.

Cannabis, marijuana and hemp are often lumped together as a single plant. Cannabis or marijuana, and other related colloquialisms such as weed, pot and ganja, are used to describe THC-rich cannabis varieties that, when used, make people feel intoxicated.

Hemp is legally defined as a cannabis plant having less than 0.3 percent THC, so it is often termed a “low THC variety.” Marijuana is legally defined as cannabis having greater than 0.3 percent THC. If that wasn’t complicated enough, marijuana and hemp are regulated separately, with less regulatory oversight for hemp.

Aside from the array of major cannabinoids, a variety of other molecules are produced by both hemp and marijuana, including terpenes, which create the unique scent from one strain of plant to another, and flavonoids, which contribute to the pigment of the plant.

Marijuana has relatively higher concentrations of cannabinoids, terpenes and other molecules leading to its intense scent and coloring, and these constituents interact with the human body through the endocannabinoid system, which then interacts with other physiological systems.

The relatively recent discovery of cannabinoid receptors throughout the human body has led to more open discussion on their role as a viable treatment for diseases.

Not all cannabinoids make people feel “high”

Best known as the main chemical agent in marijuana, THC is responsible for its psychoactive properties, which has stigmatized the plant in the minds of many people. However, cannabinoids are a diverse group of compounds that have great potential to treat many medical conditions without making the patient feel intoxicated.

There are five major cannabinoids found in marijuana:

  1. cannabidiol (CBD)
  2. cannabichromene (CBC)
  3. cannabigerol (CBG)
  4. delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  5. cannabinol (CBN)

Since the first human cannabinoid receptors were discovered in the late 20th century, many applications for these extracts of the cannabis plant have been found.

Of particular interest in AD are these respective cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory and anti-itch properties. Additionally, the high safety profile and relatively low levels of cannabinoids needed to have an effect on the skin result in low systemic absorption into the bloodstream, which eliminates the risk of potential intoxication from THC.

How does cannabis help eczema?

It has long been observed that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-itch qualities, but not until recently has high-quality research been published to understand the physiological effects underlying these anecdotal reports.

Dr. Henry Granger Piffard, MD (1842-1910), was one of the founders of American dermatology. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Cutaneous and Venereal Diseases, known by its current name, JAMA Dermatology.

The first textbook of dermatologic therapeutics was also written by Piffard. In it he notes, “a pill of cannabis indica at bedtime has at my hands sometimes afforded relief to the intolerable itching of eczema.” Since then, there have been myriad studies published on the potential benefits of cannabinoids in skin conditions.

Many features of AD contribute to itch, particularly dry skin, histamine release and sensory nerve fibers. Cannabinoids, however, have a powerful anti-itch effect. There are receptors in the skin that interact with cannabinoids that could reduce the symptoms and appearance of AD. These effects happen through a constellation of interactions between phytocannabinoids and our endogenous cannabinoid system.

Another way cannabinoids hold promise as a treatment are through management of Staphylococcus aureus colonization, which is both a complication and a driving factor of AD.

The antimicrobial characteristics of cannabinoids have been referenced since the 1980s, but a more detailed analysis of individual cannabinoids found that all five major cannabinoids showed potent activity against a variety of S. aureus strains.

What does this mean? Cannabinoids have an anti-microbial effect, but more testing is needed to understand the risks and benefits of cannabinoids in dermatology.

Cannabinoids also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers demonstrated that topical THC suppresses allergic contact dermatitis in mice by activating CB1 receptors. Other molecules, similar to those present in cannabis, have also demonstrated significant anti-pain properties in rat models.

There are reports of direct improvement of AD with topical cannabinoids. A recent study demonstrated that a molecule interacting with the endocannabinoid system inhibited mast cell activation. Mast cells are immune cells that release histamine when activated, which leads to intense itching and inflammation.

In a human trial for patients with AD, an endocannabinoid cream improved severity of itch and loss of sleep by an average of 60 percent among subjects. Twenty percent of subjects were able to stop their topical immunomodulators, 38 percent ceased using their oral antihistamines, and 33.6 percent no longer felt the need to maintain their topical steroid regimen by the end of the study.

The future of cannabis creams for eczema

For eczema patients, extra caution should be taken because a variety of known irritants are very prevalent in many “weed creams”. The indiscriminate addition of terpenes that can be irritating are often included in these formulations.

Special attention should be given to choosing a product to ensure that only non-irritating terpenes are included in the formula. Topicals should be chosen based on the profile of ingredients that are known to reduce pain, inflammation and irritation for the skin, not formulations that may have been developed for muscle and joint pain. Additionally, excess solvents from the manufacturing process could also be present.

With 29 states and counting having some form of legalization of medical marijuana, this means that there are at least 29 state regulatory schemes.

To further complicate things, hemp-based products (low THC varieties) can be purchased online and have virtually no regulatory oversight for potency, consistency or contaminants including pesticides and metals.

Incorrect dosing and inaccurate labeling has plagued the industry since inception. A recent study by Penn State University determined that up to 70 percent of online CBD products are inaccurately labeled.

Until clinical data is created for specific products, the best advice may be to pay special attention to the ingredient lists and make sure that products are tested by a third-party laboratory instead of the manufacturer themselves. State markets with dispensaries typically regulate testing, which is an added consumer protection compared to purchasing a product on the internet.

Cannabinoids represent an exciting prospect for the future of AD therapy. With measurable anti-itch, anti-pain, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, the effect of cannabinoids in patients with AD has already begun to be demonstrated.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article has not been evaluated or approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is not medical advice. If you are considering making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or nutrition, you should consult with your doctor or other health care provider. Conflicts of interest statement: Helena Yardley, Ph.D. and Jon Fernandez, SVP are employees of CQ Science. Peter Lio, M.D. is on the advisory board of CQ Science.

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Can marijuana help eczema? Published On: Dec 18, 2017 Last Updated On: Oct 21, 2020 Weed cream. THC lotion. CBD salve. They go by many names, and there is a lot of interest and hope in the