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EMBER / Health
May 02, 2019
Can CBD Help With Eczema?


As evidenced by the veritable explosion of CBD offerings in the skin care market over the past couple of years, more and more people are becoming familiar with the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) for the skin. This non-psychoactive cannabis component is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective, meaning it may be able to help with various skin-related issues, including acne, psoriasis, and eczema, as well as age damage caused by free radicals and oxidative stress. While it’s important to remember that research is still in the very preliminary stages, cannabis is a potential jack-of-all-trades when it comes to skin issues.

What is eczema?
Eczema is a general term for irritated and itchy skin, and very common. According to the National Eczema Association, over 30 million people in the United States alone have some form of the condition. “Eczema is a condition where the skin barrier is not working as well as it should be working, leading to loss of hydration and inflammation,” Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and Director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research in Dermatology at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, explains. “The skin often looks red and dry, and may feel itchy. It is caused by your genetics, but can be made worse by environmental exposures like irritating or allergy-causing ingredients in the environment.” And while it tends to manifest as a few annoying itchy areas that crop up from time to time or in certain seasons in more mild cases, it can be truly debilitating for those with severe eczema, including everything from serious infections to immune system issues to mental health struggles like depression and anxiety.

How is eczema typically treated?
“We treat eczema in two main ways,” Dr. Zeichner says. “First, we want to repair the skin barrier and improve skin hydration. Second, we want to reduce inflammation in areas where there is an active rash.” Typical treatments include everything from gentle skin cleansers and moisturizers, to over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams to stronger prescription topical steroid ointments, oral immunosuppressants, and UV or LED light therapy.

How CBD Became an Option for Eczema
“CBD has skin calming and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in treating conditions like eczema,” Dr. Zeichner says. But how, exactly, does it work to quell the chronic skin condition? It all boils down to our endocannabinoid system and the receptors in our skin. “Ultimately, your endocannabinoid system is forming part of your immune system control—so, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues can be a sign of the immune system faltering,” Dr. Andrew Kerklaan of Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics explains. “Technically, your skin is part of your immune system; it's the largest organ. So, it's kind of a perfect marriage to have your endocannabinoid system in your skin to have your issues potentially relating to immune response, and to have cannabinoids, and CBD in particular, be able to influence your endocannabinoid system.” Dr. Kerklaan says CBD is a “perfect molecule” for skin issues, since it’s also plant-based and natural: “I kind of describe it as a mirror-image of a molecule you already have in your own body that you produce anyway,” he explains. “Toxicity is extremely low, and tolerance is high, and potential effect is great.”

How to use CBD for eczema
“There's this concept that your endocannabinoid system acts as a regulator, so it'll speed things up or slow things down when it needs to be,” Dr. Kerklaan says. “So, you can use CBD as a preventative measure, or use it if you start to sense you’re getting a flare-up.” As to whether to use solely topicals, or a combination of topicals and ingestibles, Dr. Kerklaan says it depends on the severity of the situation. “For a mild to moderate skin issue, then topical makes 100% sense,” he explains. “If you have really irritated skin with lots of eczema [flare-ups]—a really chronic condition—then it's likely that an ingestible will give you a kind of extra power,” he says. "The reports and photos that we're getting from people with really mild to moderate situations [who’ve used only topicals] are clearing up nicely."

Hemp-derived CBD versus Full Spectrum CBD
When it comes to the optimal type of CBD for soothing eczema, Dr. Kerklaan says to go for full spectrum so you can experience the cannabis plant’s complete benefits. “Between hemp and cannabis, the big thing is if it is an isolate or not,” he explains. “So, if you're dealing with a CBD isolate that doesn't have any other trace cannabinoids or any other terpenes, then you don't get the Entourage Effect,” he says, adding, “there's information coming out showing that the Entourage [Effect] is real, and there's this kind of compounding effect from using the more full spectrum product.”

The future of CBD and eczema
Dr. Zeichner believes medically prescribed CBD will become a reality for eczema patients. “There is some data showing that systemic CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects and be beneficial in treating eczema, and, likely, there will be prescription medications available in the future,” he says.

Interested in trying out a CBD topical as an eczema treatment? Find Dr. Kerklaan Therapeutics Natural Skin Cream at your local MedMen cannabis retailer.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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