CBD oil for eczema explained

CBD oil for eczema explained


With 5 years of cannabis journalism behind her after graduating from De Montfort University and writing for cannabis publications such as The Cannavist, Lucy is a dedicated journalist passionate about cannabis education and culture.

Eczema is a common but chronic skin condition that causes suffering to millions of people around the world. It ranges in severity, but at its worst, it is characterised by its maddening and relentless itching of the skin.

Around one in five children in the UK suffers from eczema, with the number dropping to one in ten adults. When a flare up occurs, sufferers will experience angry, red patches of inflamed skin which itches constantly. These patches can also become cracked to the point of bleeding. Not only is eczema physically irritating, but it can affect a sufferer’s mental health, curtailing social interactions and causing sleeplessness, anxiety, and even bouts of depression.

The causes of the condition are not fully understood and there is no known cure, but periodic flare-ups can be managed with topical creams and ointments, mild hydrocortisone options, corticosteroids, and moisturisers. Antihistamines may also be of benefit.

CBD is one of the most prevalent cannabinoids found in the cannabis sativa L plant, and emerging medical cannabis research is pointing towards the fact that CBD oil (and products containing CBD) could help relieve the symptoms of eczema.

Understanding CBD oil

CBD is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the hemp subspecies of the cannabis sativa L plant, a hardy and versatile plant that has been cultivated for generations for a variety of uses. 

Hemp and cannabis were both well-known among the ancient Greeks and Romans, with evidence of cannabis and hemp usage stretching back some 5000-odd years. On top of the therapeutic benefits the plant may possess, hemp can also historically be used to make clothes, shoes, textiles, fishing nets and ropes. At one point in our history here in the UK, it was a crime for farmers to not grow hemp, as its importance as a textile was just too high.

As the study of medicinal cannabis has advanced, scientists have been able to isolate the psychoactive and non-psychoactive compounds. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the most active compound and the one responsible for the associated ‘high’, as well as offering a range of potential therapeutic benefits. Cannabidiol (CBD), the plant’s second most abundant cannabinoid, may offer many benefits too, but with no intoxicating effect. It is this compound we will take a deep look into today. 

Eczema and CBD oil – What does the scientific evidence say?

As we’ve mentioned, there are two main cannabinoids – THC and CBD – produced by both cannabis and hemp plants. Hemp produces minimal quantities of THC, but still high levels of CBD. The vast majority of CBD products now available in the UK are sourced from hemp extraction. At the time of writing, there have been over 110 cannabinoids isolated from cannabis varieties. 

Terpenes are naturally-occurring compounds responsible for the aroma and flavour of the plant. Research is continuing into the role terpenes play in the therapeutic advantages of medicinal cannabis, but terpenes are also showing great potential in medical settings. A leading theory into the efficacy of medicinal cannabis is known as the ‘entourage effect’, which states that the cannabinoids and terpenes combine to produce an overall effect that is more potent than the sum of their separate parts. 

Both THC and CBD (and all cannabinoids) react with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), causing a range of potentially positive outcomes. The ECS is a vast and complex network of receptors and signalling molecules (endocannabinoids) spread throughout the body. It is responsible for many key functions including sleep, mood, reproduction and fertility, memory and appetite. Our bodies also produce our own endogenous cannabinoids, which is why cannabinoids sourced from plants also have the ability to also interact with the ECS, and to modulate certain physiological functions.

Research has linked ECS receptors to a huge range of functions, particularly inflammation and other immune responses, chronic pain, stress, and skin and nerve function. The most recent research is pointing towards the ECS being the ‘master regulator’, responsible for maintaining homeostasis throughout the entire body. 

While THC has the potential to offer many beneficial effects, it can also cause paranoia and anxiety. CBD, on the other hand, offers zero chance of intoxication. 

Specifically for eczema, one small study showed that CBD could potentially reduce itching while another 2019 paper revealed patients saw improvements in their skin after applying a CBD-enriched ointment twice a day for three months. CBD has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antibiotic and antioxidant properties too.

Another paper, titled “Topical cannabidiol (CBD) in skin pathology – A comprehensive review and prospects for new therapeutic opportunities” looked more generally at the currently available research into the effectiveness of CBD in treating a range of skin issues. The review found that topical CBD application has been found to have anti-inflammatory, anti-itching, analgesic, wound healing, and anti-proliferative effects on the skin. The paper also highlights the potential of CBD in treating various skin conditions, eczema included.

How to use CBD oil for eczema

CBD oil is generally considered a safe complementary treatment option for eczema sufferers but, as with any treatment, it’s important to take a cautious approach:

  • What type of CBD is best for eczema?

There are two main options here. CBD oil, or CBD oil containing creams and ointments. Both options can be applied directly to the eczema-affected areas, but you can also ingest CBD oil, either by placing a few drops under the tongue or including it in food or drink.

While over-the-counter CBD options are legal and available throughout the UK, this sector has much less regulatory oversight than medicinal CBD products.

  • Quality and safety

Has the product passed rigorous tests for pesticides, mould, and heavy metals, and does the manufacturer have proof of third-party testing? If you can find definitive answers to these questions for over-the-counter options then you are on the right path, but for the best possible health outcomes, you should always seek the guidance of a doctor that is registered to prescribe medicinal cannabis. 

  • Potency

The amount of CBD in different products varies enormously, so you need to look at the % content to give you an idea of strength. Generally speaking, anything under 10% is low, 10-15% is moderate and over 20% is considered high.

There are no specific dosages for people with eczema so, if this is your first time using CBD oil, start with a lower concentration and see how it affects you. If you find it’s well-tolerated, increase the dosage until it has a beneficial effect. Again, a doctor that has experience with medicinal cannabis and skin issues will be able to guide you towards the best possible outcomes.

  • Other ingredients

Products will contain other ingredients which may help your eczema, but they could also aggravate the itch, so it’s important to understand the entire product. CBD oil will contain CBD isolated from hemp, along with a carrier oil. This is most often MCT (medium-chain triglycerides) coconut oil. Creams and ointments may also contain the following:

  • Hyaluronic acid
  • Aloe
  • Niacinamide
  • Shea or oat butter
  • Vitamin E
  • Humectants
  • Glycerin

Are there any negative side effects from CBD application for eczema?

CBD oil is well-tolerated topically and orally, but side effects are possible. These include dry mouth, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, and drowsiness. If you experience any side effects, discontinue the treatment and speak to your doctor.

It’s important to speak to your doctor before using CBD oil for eczema, as CBD can interact with other medications; it can increase the effect of blood thinning drugs and raise the level of certain enzymes in the liver.

CBD oil, or a topical CBD oil-based cream, can be applied directly to the surface of the skin. It is best to try a small patch test on an unaffected area of skin first. If you see no reaction after an hour or so,, you can try it on a small patch of affected skin. If after another few hours there is no adverse reaction, you can apply it to the rest of the eczema-affected skin.

The wrap-up

Research suggests that CBD could be extremely beneficial for eczema sufferers but, to date, studies have been small-scale and wider clinical studies need to be undertaken before definitive claims can or should be made. However, people looking for a natural addition to current treatments can now look at CBD and its potential benefits. Thanks to the changes in cannabis legality in November 2018, CBD and THC-based therapeutic products are now available to patients suffering from a wide range of health issues. 

If you need an alternative approach to managing your health condition, Releaf is here to help. Our monthly packages are based on 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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