EducationFive useful tips when applying CBD for skin infections

Five useful tips when applying CBD for skin infections

8 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Five useful tips when applying CBD for skin infections

The skin is the largest organ in the human body with several essential roles to play. It acts as a barrier to stop germs from getting in and protects internal muscles, bones, and organs. It also has a major role to play in temperature control, and is one of our main sensory organs, allowing us to touch and feel.

In short, skin is pretty amazing and keeping it in tip-top condition is important. But sometimes skin can become damaged or succumb to an infection. Skin infections are actually extremely common in the UK and are one of the most cited reasons people give for visiting their GP.

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Often a skin infection will clear up on its own after a few days, but sometimes it requires further over-the-counter remedies such as a topical cream. More serious infections might require medical attention and antibiotics or steroid-based medicines. In severe cases, a skin infection can be a sign of systemic infection in the body.

As with many medicines, there can be unpleasant and unwanted side effects, which is why medical research scientists are looking to medicinal cannabis, and specifically cannabidiol (CBD) – derived from cannabis sativa L – as a potential alternative.

The cannabis sativa plant has been grown by humans for millennia, and offers a plethora of health benefits. It has found fame for its psychotropic effects, but its beneficial characteristics go far beyond the ‘high’ often associated with it. Cultivars of cannabis (and hemp) have been used for everything from textiles, clothes, and shoe manufacturers to biofuels, ropes, and paper. Medicinally, it has a number of potential therapeutic applications including pain relief, symptom management, healthy skin regulation, mood regulation, and reduction of inflammation.

For anyone experiencing a skin infection, it is a potential alternative to traditional treatments in providing long-lasting relief and wound healing.

What is a skin infection?

As we’ve said, skin infections are really common and most of us will experience one at some point in our lives. In most cases, it will probably go away just as quickly as it comes, but for others, they can be more tenacious. There are several types of skin infections:

  • Bacterial – Examples include cellulitis, impetigo, staphylococcus, boils, and Hansen’s disease. Some will clear up with topical creams, others may require a course of oral antibiotics.
  • Fungal – These infections are caused by a fungus. They’re most likely to develop in damp areas of the body such as skin folds, armpits and in between the toes. Examples include athlete’s foot, thrush, ringworm, and yeast infections.
  • Viral – Viruses like shingles, chickenpox, warts, and measles can cause skin infections.
  • Parasites – Parasitic skin infections are caused by animals like lice, scabies, and bed bugs. These infections can spread beyond the skin and into the bloodstream.

Symptoms of a skin infection can include pus, skin sloughing, spots and blisters, black necrotic patches, sores, localised warmth at the site of the infection, pain, and itching. A skin infection which spreads beyond the skin may result in a temperature or flu-like symptoms and can become life-threatening.

How CBD can help with skin infections

Research suggests the potential antimicrobial, antibacterial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties of CBD may be a suitable treatment for a range of skin conditions. This is because CBD interacts with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a complex network of transmitter and receptor cells which run throughout the brain and body, including under the skin. The ECS is involved in many critical functions including skin regulation, mood, sleep, immune system function and cardiovascular function inside cells.

It’s believed that CBD reacts with ECS (as well as a variety of other regulatory systems), prompting a range of effects, including pain and muscle relief. Researchers also think it may play a beneficial role in wound healing and antimicrobial resistance.

Research on CBD for skin infections is ongoing, but one study published in the Journal of Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology appeared to show CBD also reacts potently against certain antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including MRSA.

Research on CBD for skin infections

The surge in interest in CBD as a potential treatment for skin infections has led to a number of studies being carried out. Research into the therapeutic effects of CBD is in its infancy, but the signs are promising.

A 2022 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences suggested that when applied to the skin, CBD oil could reduce inflammation and pain thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. It’s believed to reduce cytokine release, which can reduce the pain that a patient feels.

Research has also shown that CBD reacts with the ECS to produce favourable outcomes, although the mechanism for this is not yet fully understood. As the ECS is now known to be involved in skin regulation, studies have indicated CBD could promote skin and wound healing, reduce the formation of scar tissue and regulate the inflammatory response when skin is damaged. One review revealed that CBD had strong potential for blocking pain receptors but cautioned that its use for pain management needs to be backed up by more robust scientific and clinical studies.

Antibiotic and antimicrobial resistance is a potentially catastrophic development for mankind. Increasing numbers of bacteria are becoming resistant to all known antibiotics, and so the race is on to find new treatments. A 2018 study found that as well as acting as an organic antibiotic, CBD was also antimicrobial and could potentially be an effective treatment against inflammation caused by cellulitis. Another study found that it might be beneficial as a combined treatment for gram-positive bacterial infections such as staphylococcus aureus when used with the antibiotic bacitracin.

Furthermore, according to a 2011 study, CBD is believed to have antifungal properties. Aside from CBD, other compounds in the cannabis plant act as antifungals – cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabichromene (CBC). These two compounds, alongside CBD, appeared to tear down the fungal cell membrane, preventing ergosterol production and effectively cutting off the cells’ food supply, causing them to die.

How to use CBD for skin infections

People can either take CBD oil in food, apply it directly to their skin, or use topical creams and ointments which contain CBD extract. CBD can also be applied through a skin patch, by inhaling dried cannabis flowers containing high levels of CBD through a vaporiser. Most commonly, with skin infections, a cream, or ointment will be prescribed.

When patients begin administering CBD for skin infections, they should follow these five useful tips:

Identify the cause

It’s important to find out exactly what is causing the skin infection because this will have a bearing on the most suitable treatment. If you are looking to add medicinal cannabis to your treatment plan, it’s always best to find a doctor that has experience in prescribing medicinal cannabis for skin infections before starting out.

Pick the right strain or product

Thoroughly consider the strain or product you intend to use first. Different strains have different chemical compositions, and what works for one person may have a more limited effect in another. You should also mention you intend to take CBD to your GP, as it can interact with other drugs and increase blood thinning.

Check the dosage

The potency of CBD products can vary due to different manufacturing methods, so make sure to only buy from a reputable supplier – that way you can be more confident you’re receiving the same dosage every time and that the product won’t be contaminated with other potentially toxic substances.

Again, reaching out to a physician that has experience prescribing CBD for skin infections is the best way forward, as they will be able to guide through the dosage process.

Monitor progress

Start conservatively and keep track of the effect it has on you. If you find it’s having no effect, you may need to increase the dosage until you reach the right amount for your condition.

Reassess if treatment needs adjusting

As we said, you may need to alter the dosage to experience the correct effect, or you may find that the product you have doesn’t work in your circumstances, or you experience some kind of allergic reaction. If in doubt, talk to your doctor.

Precautions and considerations

Though generally well-tolerated and safe to use, particularly for topical applications, there is some risk of unwanted side effects when applying CBD for skin infections.

Side effects can include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Anxiety
  • Diarrhoea
  • Reduced appetite

CBD is legal to buy and sell in the UK. Some CBD products also contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, but this must be less than 0.2% for the product to be considered legal.

CBD – A potential new treatment for skin infections

The research is promising and indicates that CBD may play a multi-functional role in the treatment of skin infections, from reducing inflammation and having an antibiotic effect, to offering pain relief and soothing some symptoms. However, further research needs to be carried out to confirm the efficacy and properties before it moves from the realms of supplements to universally accepted medical treatments.

Releaf is committed to helping you access the benefits of a medical cannabis service. Our monthly packages are tailored to your cannabis prescription, and we offer specialist consultations for medical cannabis and a unique medical cannabis card for protection.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Authors

With five years of journalism and healthcare content creation under her belt, Lucy strives to improve medical cannabis awareness and access in the UK by producing high quality, credible content.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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