Eczema is not just dry skin; it’s a painful, restrictive and hard to treat condition that we’d all want to be without. People with eczema experience dry, flaky skin, redness, itching and painful skin areas.
Corticosteroids are typically used to treat eczema, but the results are often short-lasting, are not totally effective and can come with some serious side effects. Long-term use of topical steroids can actually leave you with more skin problems, like acne, dermatitis, thin skin or discolouration.
A natural alternative could offer some help in relieving the frustrating symptoms of eczema. CBD has shown a lot of promise as a treatment for skin disorders and may be able to combat some of the underlying reasons behind eczema. We’ve done the reading to find out all you need to know about what the research says about CBD for eczema.
What is CBD?
Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a naturally occurring chemical that belongs to the cannabinoid family. This natural compound is gaining a reputation for its possible health benefits, and many are turning to it as an alternative treatment option. CBD is produced from cannabis plants but can also be purchased as an extract to be used topically, swallowed or vaped.
There are many reasons why people are turning to CBD. Research tells us that CBD may be able to improve a range of conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative conditions and pain (1, 2, 3, 4).
How can CBD help eczema?
The main way that CBD may be able to help you manage eczema is by reducing inflammation.
There are many different types of eczema, with the most common being atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory immune condition, meaning that your immune system misfires, overreacting to certain substances and sending out an immune response. Immune responses are typically good; they protect you from harmful invaders. But in the case of atopic eczema, the immune response results in inflammation in the skin, leaving you with itchy, red and painful skin lesions.
Research on CBD and eczema
- One study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine investigated whether cannabinoids like CBD have any effect on certain receptors that result in an inflammatory effect when activated. The study found that CBD significantly suppressed the activation of these receptors, resulting in a reduction of chronic inflammation. The study also found that CBD showed promise in reducing chronic pain, which would also be useful for patients with serious, painful eczema symptoms (5).
- Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapies in 2018 also investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, this time directly to skin cells. The study added CBD to human skin cells that had a stimulated inflammatory skin disorder and measured the inflammatory response these cells exhibited. What the researchers found was that CBD blocked the release of various inflammatory factors, indicating that CBD could be useful in reducing inflammation in inflammatory skin disorders like eczema (6).
- CBD may also be able to help the general skin condition of patients with eczema by improving hydration and skin elasticity. A 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics tested the effects of CBD ointment on severe skin diseases. Patients with psoriasis and atopic eczema administered CBD ointment to their problem skin areas twice daily for three months. The results found that CBD significantly improved the symptoms of these inflammatory skin disorders, with no irritant or allergic reactions reported (7). This study tells us the CBD could be able to safely and effectively improve the condition of inflammatory skin disorders like eczema.
Does CBD work as a topical?
When using CBD for eczema, most people will probably prefer to use it as an ointment, cream or topical oil, but topical CBD products may not be the most effective.
Bioavailability refers to the amount of a substance that reaches the bloodstream. When it comes to using CBD on the skin, the bioavailability is likely to be low. This is because the skin contains a lot of water, and cannabinoids can’t dissolve in water, so CBD is unlikely to be able to cross the skin barrier to take effect.
One way that you may be able to improve the effectiveness of topical CBD products is by ensuring they contain carrier oils. Since cannabinoids can dissolve in oil, a carrier oil could help to improve the transport of CBD through the skin. Oils you should look out for in CBD products include argan oil and olive oil, as these are thought to potentially work as carriers for cannabinoids like CBD (8).
Side effects of CBD
While CBD does show a lot of promise as a possible treatment for eczema, it’s important to keep in mind any possible side effects from this cannabinoid. Common side effects from CBD include reduced appetite, sleepiness, lethargy and diarrhoea (9). But the good news is that these side effects tend to be mild, and CBD is largely thought to have a high safety profile.
One misconception around CBD is that it can induce a high. While CBD is derived from cannabis, a high is not one of its side effects. Another cannabinoid compound called THC is the reason for the infamous effects of cannabis. As long as your CBD extract contains no THC, you don’t have to worry about experiencing any psychotropic effects.
The bottom line
Those with eczema know that it can be especially hard to live with. This skin disorder can make it difficult to move and can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and, in serious cases, painful.
CBD has shown great potential as a treatment for eczema, thanks to its anti-inflammatory powers and ability to improve skin elasticity and hydration. It is important to keep in mind that more research is needed into CBD as a treatment for eczema before we can properly understand just how effective it is. However, early research is promising, and with a high safety profile, it shows exciting potential.