The skin is our largest organ and one that is taken for granted when functioning properly. But anyone who has experienced severe sunburn or allergic reactions knows how unpleasant life can be when the skin is damaged, itching or swollen. For over 30 million Americans living with eczema, this challenge is all too familiar.
Itching is a primary symptom of eczema. For many it is mild and can be treated with over the counter lotions and topicals to reduce the discomfort. Others can have a more severe reaction, sometimes leading them to scratch so much they bleed, causing further aggravation and pain.
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In addition to itching, people may experience dry, sensitive and even inflamed skin, dark, leathery or scaly patches of skin and even oozing and crusting for some. The pain and visible symptoms can impact the quality of a person’s life and cause them embarrassment.
Although many children with food allergies also have eczema, doctors do not believe it is caused by an allergic reaction. Rather, it is suspected to be a combination of factors including genetics, irregular response from the immune system, moisture control problems in the skin and certain triggers like stress, detergents and hot water.
Typical treatments include hydrocortisone lotions, salves and shampoos, antihistamines, prescription corticosteroids and ultraviolet light therapy for more severe cases. But, what about cannabis? Can it help?
The endocannabinoid system produces naturally occurring cannabinoids in the bodies of all vertebrate animals. They are closely related to the phytocannabinoids produced by marijuana and hemp plants. These compounds are known to help moderate bodily systems such as appetite, sleep, pain, auto-immune response and others.
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It is the immune system that is of particular interest to some scientists. Researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany conducted a study with mice and found that “mice lacking both known cannabinoid receptors display exacerbated allergic inflammation.” While eczema may not be an allergic reaction, being able to calm the immune response from the body could possibly bring many sufferers relief they are seeking.
That makes sense to Ah Warner, owner of Cannabis Basics, that produces a full line of CHABA, cannabis health and beauty aids. These are topicals with less than .3 percent THC and are non-psychoactive. They are currently only allowed in Washington State, but patients are swearing by them. Says Warner:
“There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people using CHABA for skins conditions including eczema. Unfortunately as a manufacturer I am prohibited by the FDA to make any curative or treatment claims. However, Cannabis Basics now has Washington State MD’s, ND’s, LMP’s, Herbalists and Estheticians recommending our products. Almost every inquiry I get from a medical practitioner was prompted because their patients have turned them onto these types of products.”
Lisa Buchanan is a cannabis nurse (RN and OCN) and the owner of Paisley Nursing Group. She has seen great interest in this option. Her patients have reported positive feedback and believes cannabis or products containing it could be an “important addition to a patient’s toolkit for managing their eczema, along with avoiding triggers, reducing stress, and ongoing medical management provided by their healthcare team.”
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For the patient new to the idea of cannabis therapy, Buchanan suggests:
“Topicals are a great starting point for new users. Start using a single isolated area to check for reaction. If no problems, continue to use on affected areas. Many people don’t realize the value of a topical until they have discontinued it. Be patient and evaluate over time.”
In addition to the Cannabis Nurses Magazine, which she writes for, Buchanon also suggests ProjectCBD.org and PatientsOutOfTime.org for people seeking more guidance on the potential of cannabis use for this purpose.
As always, we recommend working with a professional healthcare provider familiar with cannabis. While it may not be an herbal cure all, it certainly holds promise in the area of eczema and related skin conditions. That alone is enough to make millions of Americans take notice.