Chronic skin irritations like eczema can be infuriating. Not only does the condition visibly alter your appearance, but it creates a constant itchy and painful rash. Fortunately, cannabis may provide a safe and effective natural treatment. This next segment of our Skin Deep series goes over just how our favorite herb helps reduce inflammation and re-hydrate the skin. Here’s how cannabis treats eczema.
What is eczema?
The term “eczema” actually refers to several different types of skin irritations. All of which are characterized by dry, itchy skin. Rashes may occur in particular areas. Specifically, on the face, in the creases of elbows and knees, and on the hands and feet. In severe eczema, the dry, rashy patches can crack, blister, and bleed. This is quite painful.
Eczema is also known as atopic dermatitis. This chronic skin condition affects about 10% of American adults. Both genetic and environmental factors are thought to play a role. The most commonly treated with steroids and light therapy, but many patients fail to find relief. If used for a long period of time, topical steroids can also have side effects such as:
- Skin atrophy
The skin is one of the primary forms of communication with the world around us. It tells us when we’re too hot or cold, when we’re being touched, and helps us understand our environment through sensation. It’s also one of our first lines of defense from harmful pathogens and substances. So, it’s no surprise that the skin actually contains a wealth of specialized immune cells to help us quickly heal wounds and protect us from harm.
So, it’s no surprise that the skin actually contains a wealth of specialized immune cells to help us quickly heal wounds and protect us from harm.
Cannabis interacts with these immune cells. When applied topically, compounds in the herb bind to cell receptors in the skin’s immune cells. This is super handy when you have some type of allergic rash. Cannabinoids, the active compounds in cannabis, are immuno-suppressant. That is, they dampen the immune system. When you get a rash and your skin flares up, the immune cells in your skin trigger an inflammatory response.
When you get a rash and your skin flares up, the immune cells in your skin trigger an inflammatory response.
In those with eczema, this inflammatory response is a bit out of control. Your skin may be especially sensitive to different things like soaps, pollen, or cat and dog dander. Exposure to irritants or stress can cause a flare-up, and it can be difficult to calm your immune system down once a flare-up has started. Your immune system reacts more intensely to stimuli than it should.
Applying topical cannabis creams or oils to the agitated area reduces the inflammatory response. This cuts down on the irritation and allows your skin to heal and return to normal. As a bonus, cannabis cream is not associated with the negative side effects of steroids.
Cannabis balms and salves not only drastically reduce inflammation, but they also contain hydrating oils. Different canna-friendly states stock different local products in their dispensaries. Yet, because cannabis topicals are often made in smaller-scale, local batches, it’s fairly easy to find products that do not contain many of the harsh additives you would find in a traditional store.
If possible, aim for products that contain hemp seed oil along with activated cannabis.
Hempseed oil contains a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for our bodies. Omega fatty acids are vital for cell production and are great for overall skin health. Some skin care businesses are using this knowledge to their advantage. One such business is Washington State’s Cannabis Basics. Cannabis Basics has a couple wonderful skin care lines. The Hemp Body Care line contains nourishing organic hemp seed oil, and Cannabis Health and Beauty Aids contains both or hempseed oil and cannabis flower.
But, if you can’t access cannabis topicals in your region, don’t worry! Applying hempseed oil topically isn’t the only way to find eczema relief. A study conducted back in 2005 found that dietary hempseed oil effectively reduced the inflammation, dryness, and itchiness in a 20-week randomized and double-blind trial of eczema patients.
Patients who consumed dietary hempseed oil also decreased their use of other topical medications.
DIY Skin Care
Fortunately, cannabis topicals are also easy to make at home. Here are a few natural recipes to get you started:
Cannabis skin care products are powerful medicines. Spread on a salve or rub in some hempseed oil at the beginning signs of a flare-up. In severe cases, you might want to make sure you have some activated cannabis in your balm.
Activated cannabis is plant material that has been heated and transformed to an acid form to its psychoactive form. Topicals containing the raw form of THC and CBD, the two most common compounds in cannabis, also work well. Those compounds are known as THCa and CBDa. Of course, topicals won’t get you high. They’ll just provide much need inflammation, pain, and itch relief.
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