• What are the three most common skin diseases cannabis can help with?

    Eczema, psoriasis, and acne are the three most common skin diseases that cannabis seems to reduce symptoms for.

  • How does cannabis help with skin diseases?

    Cannabis is altogether anti-inflammatory and antiproliferative, helping in cases of eczema and psoriasis. It may also reduce sebum production, helping with acne. Finally, cannabis is antimicrobial which helps to reduce complications.

  • Is using cannabis topically enough?

    No. Certain skin diseases are caused by internal health issues such as gut dysbiosis, and therefore, internal treatments are also necessary to reduce symptoms. However, topical cannabis is a great skincare routine for everyday.

Even though cannabis has only just made its way into skincare, it’s likely that our ancestors were using topical forms of cannabis long ago. But more than just making your skin glow, cannabinoids may also help with skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema. There is a robust body of evidence to suggest that cannabis can reduce skin inflammation and pain associated with these diseases.

Given how rampant eczema and psoriasis are across the Western world, cannabis as a dermatological treatment is a massively untapped market. Though cannabis and cannabinoids are now commercially available in skincare, it’s less used in dermatology.

Above and beyond factors of beautiful skin, failure to manage psoriasis or eczema have complications. And so treatment is essential, sometimes taking the form of topical treatments and depending on the severity, internal treatments too. In this article, we delve deep into cannabis and dermatology and how cannabinoids can help with skin diseases.

What are some common skin diseases and their causes?

A painting of a woman with psoriasis and eczema on her elbows, a concept of skin disease.
@pia_teglgaard

Dermatology is its own science because skin is extremely complex — and there are a lot of different ways it can dysfunction or be affected by ill health. In fact, when you think about it, the skin is an organ. In traditional medicine, the skin is an organ of protection and elimination. By virtue of that, diseases of the skin often have to do with underlying, internal health problems.

Let’s check out a few of the most common skin diseases and what causes them.

Eczema.

Eczema is a term often used interchangeably with dermatitis and refers to an itchy, bumpy, inflammatory rash that appears on the skin. Eczema is thought to be caused by a dysfunction of the skin barrier, causing the skin to become exposed to irritants. It’s also believed that this dysfunction is caused by a gene alteration.

There is an entire school of thought that eczema is related to immune dysregulation, as many eczema sufferers also experience greater susceptibility to infections, asthma and allergies. It’s also been suggested that eczema can be a result of gastrointestinal problems.

The final result is an itchy rash that is sometimes dry and flaky, and sometimes seeping and wet. It is sometimes triggered by certain irritants such as pollen, and in others flares up during stressful periods. 

Psoriasis. 

Psoriasis is interestingly different from eczema. For starters, rather than appearing as a rash, it appears as a raised plaque of skin that’s flakey, itchy, inflamed and painful. For the most part, psoriasis is considered a chronic inflammatory condition and a disease of the immune system. 

A major complication of psoriasis is that up to 30% of those who are unable to manage the condition will advance to psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is an autoimmune disease characterised by chronic psoriasis and painful arthritis in an asymmetrical pattern.

There are multiple forms of psoriasis, all of which present with a slightly different skin disease pattern. Erythrodermic psoriasis is even life threatening, and causes the skin to peel off the body. It can cause hypothermia and can be fatal if it isn’t managed properly.

Overall, psoriasis is considered a more visceral condition than a disease strictly related to dermatology. There are more internal forces at play than the simple dysfunction of the skin barrier as we saw in eczema.

Acne.

Acne is the result of the hair follicles on the skin becoming clogged with debris, dead skin cells, and skin oils. Depending on whether the pores are open or closed, this can cause blackheads or whiteheads. 

Acne is most commonly associated with teenagers because hormonal changes can affect the amount of sebum (or oil) produced by glands in the skin. Excess production of sebum can cause the blockage of pores and hair follicles and lead to acne. However, the gut microbiome has also been implicated in acne. The microbiota of the skin on those with acne is different to the microbiota on those with healthy skin and imbalances in gut microbiota are thought to be at play.

Skin disease is complex, and it should be obvious now why in certain cases, topical treatment isn’t sufficient. As we demonstrated with acne, sometimes probiotics are used to restore the gut microbiota. The treatment for skin conditions is often just as complex to match the skin disease itself. Let’s check out what cannabis has to say about skin diseases.

Cannabis and dermatology.

A collage art of a woman whose head has been replaced by a cannabis bud, and she is floating in the galaxy with a globe.
@callmefelicia

As we mentioned, there is a growing body of evidence supporting the use of cannabis for different skin diseases. The primary qualities that make cannabis so therapeutic for skin are its antiproliferative and anti-inflammatory qualities. It’s also a pain reliever which is an important factor for those with skin disease, and finally, it is also thought to have some anti-itch properties!

Interestingly, the endocannabinoid system has been implicated in various functions of the skin, and the skin itself actually has its own little endocannabinoid system. That’s to say that the skin actually produces endocannabinoids and receptors. Because endocannabinoids act on so many different cell types, changes in the skin’s endocannabinoid system can affect the whole skin. 

The endocannabinoid system of the skin governs proliferation, differentiation, and hormone production from certain cell types such as sebaceous glands. It also governs cytokine production which may be beneficial for those with eczema or allergic skin reactions.

So far as research goes into cannabis and how it helps skin diseases, most studies are in vitro, meaning they were performed in a petri dish. We don’t know yet to what degree this research translates into clinical evidence, and we won’t know until large scale clinical trials take place. Let’s poke our heads into some of the scientific research and how this can be applied to different dermatological problems.

The research that supports cannabis for skin diseases.

In 2007, researchers at Nottingham University put cannabinoids to the test to see if they could stop skin cells proliferating. They tested THC, CBD, CBN and CBG. The researchers found that cannabinoids inhibited skin cell proliferation and concluded that this would be a useful quality in the treatment of psoriasis. 

Another study was published in 2014 that found CBD in particular to have sebostatic and anti-inflammatory actions on human sebocytes. Sebocytes are the cells in the skin that produce sebum, the oily substance that is responsible for blocking pores and causing acne. In exerting a sebostatic quality, it can help to reduce acne formation and therefore, poses a potential avenue of treatment for acne. 

Interestingly, it seems that cannabinoids might not be the only potential therapy for skin diseases when it comes to cannabis. In 2005, researchers investigated the effects of internally consumed hempseed oil on patients with atopic dermatitis/eczema. They found that the daily consumption of hempseed oil changes plasma lipid profiles and that this reduces the symptoms of eczema. 

On top of all of this, cannabinoids have been shown to have antimicrobial activity. This is important for those with autoimmune diseases or skin diseases because infection is a complication. 

There seems to be a high affinity for cannabinoids and the skin, making cannabis especially useful in skin diseases where inflammation or proliferation or itching are major factors. So while cannabis and cannabinoids might not be useful on all skin diseases, it does seem like cannabis can provide symptomatic relief, and in some circumstances, curative results in certain skin conditions. 

Differentiating between dermatology and skincare.

A collage art of a woman putting lipstick on in the mirror with cannabis in the background.
@bethhoeckel

There is a whole world of cannabis skincare out there. Cannabis loves skin, it beautifies it, and it keeps the balance of fats on the skin’s surface balanced. This isn’t quite the same as dermatology which is about curing skin diseases and dysfunctions. What does make them alike is the fact that what goes in your body shows on your body. And so taking care of your skin, whether it’s sick or healthy, always involves a dietary or internal medicine aspect.

Taking care of your skin on a daily basis might include eating healthy, drinking lots of water, and using cannabis skincare products. But dermatological treatment might include a specialised diet (some foods are allergens), internal treatment to manage hormones or gut issues, and topical cannabis treatment.

Cannabis is good for virtually any skin, but it could be especially useful when treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, eczema, or acne. But this is always coupled with a healthy or specialised diet and necessary internal treatment, depending on the cause and the severity.

Have you ever used cannabis to treat a skin disease? How did you use it and was it effective? Let us know in the comments!

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