Cannabinoids, a compound of marijuana, is known to contain anti-inflammatory properties that could be harnessed to treat a variety of inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne and dermatitis. While several researches have suggested that marijuana can be used to treat multiple disorders, United States federal regulations have made the approval and legalization of these marijuana products difficult. It should be noted that only 28 states have legalized medical cannabis programs, but clinical studies have explored the use of marijuana in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, nausea, pain, and anorexia just to name a few. However the fractured regulatory market of marijuana topicals is a big challenge for doctors, consumers and even the regulators to understand the benefits and risks of this drug. This article therefore takes a look at the science and potential benefit behind the molecules found in marijuana for dermatological (skin) conditions
The science behind medical marijuana
Medical Marijuana derived from the plants Cannabis sativa, indica and of recent hybrid, is one of the oldest and most widely used drugs worldwide in all it forms. Of the more than 60 chemicals in cannabis, only THC has intoxicating effects and is responsible for producing euphoria or what is commonly known as the high. This compound has contributed to the illicit status given to marijuana in the medical field and has also hindered research on its health benefits.
Marijuana is composed of five major cannabinoids : cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene (CBC), cannabigerol (CBG), delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and cannabinol (CBN)
How does cannabis help in the treatment of skin diseases?
Marijuana creams like THC lotion, CBD salve provide alternate treatment pathway for a variety of skin diseases, especially atopic dermatitis (AD). Clinical studies have long observed that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-itch qualities and high-quality researches have been published to understand the physiological effects underlying these anecdotal reports about marijuana.
Marijuana is promising as a treatment for skin diseases via the management of Staphylococcus aureus colonization, which is both a complication and a driving factor of atopic dermatitis.The antimicrobial characteristics of cannabinoids have been researched since the 1980s, but a more detailed analysis of individual marijuana compounds found that all five major cannabinoids imbedded in marijuana showed potent activity against a variety of skin diseases implying that cannabinoids have an anti-microbial thus exhibiting a lot of benefits in dermatology.
Cannabinoids in marijuana also exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Clinical studies have proven that topical THC, a compound in marijuana suppresses allergic contact dermatitis in mice by activating CB1 receptors. Other molecules in marijuana have also demonstrated significant anti-pain properties in researches carried out in rats.
Other researchers have reported direct improvement of atopic dermatitis with topical cannabinoids. A recent clinical study proved that a molecule interacting with the endocannabinoid system inhibited mast cell activation which consists of immune cells that release histamine when activated resulting to intense itching and inflammation.
In a clinical trial carried out on patients with AD, an endocannabinoid cream extracted from marijuana improved severity of itch and loss of sleep by an average of 60 percent among patients. Twenty percent of the patients examined 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 clinical trial.
A research paper published in Skin Therapy Letter in 2018 suggested that CBD oil extracted from marijuana possesses strong anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressant qualities, making it a beneficial ingredient for a number of inflammatory skin problems, including acne and eczema. It equally proved that CBD not only helps in reducing erythema (redness) associated with acne due to its anti-inflammatory properties it has proven to decrease the skin’s production of sebum, or oil.
Another recent study also revealed that a 3 percent cannabis seed extract cream effectively reduced both redness and sebum production patient suffering with acne. Several skin care products have equally been manufactured out that contain CBD.
Cannabis and Eczema
Researchers have found that a different endocannabinoid called palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) in marijuana exhibits therapeutic qualities that cure skin itching and dryness. A clinical trial composed of 25 children and 18 adults with atopic dermatitis (eczema) treated the skin with a combination of a palmitoylethanolamide cream and a topical corticosteroid all extracted from marijuana. Participants who were treated with the PEA/corticosteroid combination extracted from marijuana witnessed a faster reduction of itching, dryness and redness, as well as a longer period of time before their next flare-up, compared with a control group treated with a regular moisturizer, corticosteroids and other conventional medications.
Marijuana and Rosacea
Few clinical researched have investigated the the effects of CBD on rosacea, but common knowledge holds that CBD can effectively reduce redness triggered by inflammation. Current research has also suggested promising evidence that marijuana, in combination with the latest prescription treatments, could be the best treatment for reduction of rosacea flare-ups, an effect similar to its positive effects on eczema flares.
The future of cannabis creams for skin diseases
For patients with skin diseases such as acne, eczema, extra caution should be taken and a doctor should be consulted because a variety of known irritants are very prevalent in many “cannabis creams”. The indiscriminate additions of terpenes that can be irritating are often included in these compositions. However marijuana represents an exciting prospect for the future of atopic dermatitis and treated of other skin infections. With measurable and revealed anti-itch, anti-pain, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana, the effect of cannabinoids in patients with atopic dermatitis has already been demonstrated. Who knows, Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids could be the treatment of itches and other skin infections.