There is a rate of at least 28 million people in the United States suffering from eczema (chronic, long-lasting) and other skin conditions with almost the same symptoms like an inflamed, painful and itchy rash. Large varieties of treatments are available, and medical cannabis seems to be creeping its way into the list. And believe it or not, it has potential as a cure for eczema.
Eczema (dermatitis) is a skin condition characterized by painful, dry, cracked, red, and itchy rashes on the skin. The level of the disease varies; for some people, there are only patches of inflamed skin, but on others, it’s widespread all over the body. It can appear on where your skin flexes; on the wrists, hands, inside of the elbows, neck, and back of the knees. Atopic eczema is considered the most common type of eczema that usually begins during infancy. There are periods in where symptoms become less evident and also periods where there are flare-ups (when it becomes more severe).
The real causes of eczema remain unknown, but there are logical assumptions about it. For instance, atopic dermatitis can be because of allergens and irritants in the air you inhale and on the food you eat. These things are what cause the reaction. These irritants include pollen, soap, detergents, dust, pet fur, and moulds. Also, it can come from genetics, (running in the family). Another is hormonal changes and other medical conditions.
Most cases of eczema include dry skin, and so moisturizing the skin is a crucial factor in treating such skin condition. Treatments for eczema include:
Cannabis, or marijuana, belongs to the flowering plants of the family cannabaceae. There are three strains mostly explored of this plant including sativa, indica, and ruderalis. Arguably, it has become a potential medicine to treat various diseases like insomnia, diabetes, anxiety, depression, skin conditions, heart ailments, mental conditions, and even cancer.
There are more than 80 identified chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant including tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which offers the mind-altering experience, and cannabidiol (CBD) which has a growing reputation in the medical field. The former is the one causing the “high” feeling and most likely the reason people are sceptical about the whole plant.
It’s worth noting, however, that the majority of cannabinoids are being investigated for their uses as treatments, and even THC has proven its value so far. Both THC and CBD have anti-inflammatory properties and other health benefits including containing some vitamins and minerals. It is essentially herbal medicine, after all.
A system called the endocannabinoid system (ECS) localized in various parts of the body. It consists of G-proteins receptors such as CB1 (in regions of the brain and the spinal cord), and CB2 (immune cells and other neurons). A study has even claimed that an imbalance in the endocannabinoid system could cause eczema. THC interacts with the CB1, CBD, however, binds to both of the receptors, and can have an indirect impact on the brain. It also affects the immune system.
CBD has risen in popularity as a treatment due to it being more readily available. THC also tends to be illegal as it can be used as a recreational drug. The anti-inflammatory properties serve in counteracting the immune response (inflammation in this case) to irritants.
Eczema can also be an autoimmune response (when the immune system attacks its own tissues by mistaking it as foreign). CBD can also help with the treatment of these immune responses. According to Dr. Henry Granger Piffard (one of the founders of American dermatology) in the Journal of Cutaneous and Venereal Diseases (JAMA Derm), cannabinoids have also some antimicrobial effects. The claim of Dr. Piffard needed more studies to verify though.
In 2003 a study, some cannabinoid receptor agonists (a chemical that binds and activates the biological response) were found to effectively reducing skin itching by regulating the release of neuropeptide (used by neurons to interact with one another) and activate antidromic nerve fibres (travelling on the opposite direction).
A 2005 study showed a 52.4% of its patients who suffer from itching because of uremic pruritus (a kidney associated disease) significantly lessen the potency of their itching by a twice-daily application of topical creams (with cannabinoids) for three weeks.
In 2008 another paper stated a rate of 58.6% (in 2,500 patients) observed to have a reduction in their skin redness, itching, scaling, thickening, and chafing of their skin by using a standard topical cannabinoid cream. The 38.3% of them encountered a complete relief from itching.
Research from 2013 identified cannabinoid application as being beneficial for treating inflammation as investigated using an animal trial. More recently, in 2017, a wide variety of skin conditions were suggested as being potential targets for cannabinoid therapies.
However, evidence needs validation and verification by further tests to ensure it’s true and reliable. Preliminary studies have started to know the extent of CBD’s effectiveness, and they are still ongoing. So we can not yet guarantee it can entirely treat eczema until all there’s concrete proof, but it’s undoubtedly a highly potential cure because of its beneficial qualities.