EducationDoes hemp cream bring relief for eczema?

Does hemp cream bring relief for eczema?

7 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Does hemp cream bring relief for eczema?

Eczema is a common skin condition which can bring misery to sufferers’ lives. The unbearable itch can keep them awake at night, while inflamed red patches of skin can make them self-conscious, affecting socialising and damaging mental health.

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According to the National Eczema Society, it impacts one in five children and one in 10 adults. It is characterised by incredibly itchy skin which is almost impossible to resist scratching. Aside from the unbearable itch, skin can become red, inflamed, cracked and bleed. It can also cause anxiety, sleeplessness, and depression. There are several subtypes of eczema, but the most common one is atopic dermatitis.

Eczema is a lifelong condition and people experience periodic flare-ups. There is no known cure, and the causes are complex, but symptoms are usually managed with a combination of treatments. These can include eliminating triggers such as certain foods, the use of moisturising creams, mild hydrocortisone creams, and topical corticosteroids. Antihistamines may also help alleviate symptoms, with more powerful treatments being prescribed by a dermatologist – but these can come with heavy side effects. And so, eczema sufferers are always on the lookout for new, complementary treatment options.

Hemp cream, which contains the medical cannabis cannabinoid CBD, is now being considered as a potential alternative or complementary treatment. It is a natural product derived from the hemp plant which is part of the cannabis family but, unlike cannabis, it’s legal in the UK and has no psychoactive effects.

Eczema and hemp – what does the science say?

People have been cultivating the cannabis sativa L plant for millennia. Hemp, one offshoot of the cannabis family, is not only extremely hardy and very versatile, but it is also one of the fastest-growing plants in the world alongside bamboo, and was one of the first to be spun into usable fibres. Indeed, it is used to make clothes, shoes, textiles, rope, paper, and biofuels among other things. In more recent times, scientists have looked at the therapeutic benefits, and it’s potential roles as a wellness supplement.

Unlike cannabis, hemp cultivars contain little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) so they offer no intoxicating effects. However, they are rich in compounds known to be beneficial to the skin – Omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, proteins, vitamin E and minerals and are believed to have antioxidant properties.

Hemp also contains high levels of cannabidiol (CBD), the second most active phytocannabinoid found in cannabis. While CBD has the same chemical makeup as THC, it is arranged differently and has no intoxicating effect, while still providing a range of potential therapeutic benefits.

While most hemp creams on the market in this day and age contain CBD, some don’t. Hemp creams containing zero CBD may be beneficial for eczema sufferers, but according to the most up-to-date research, CBD has several properties which could help eczema sufferers. It is anti-itch, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant.

It’s believed that the CBD in s hemp creams reacts favourably with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), a vast network of signaller chemicals (endocannabinoids) and receptors which are responsible for regulating an array of essential bodily functions, including mood, appetite, sleep, memory, and reproduction and fertility. Many researchers now believe the ECS to be the body's “master regulator”, responsible for maintaining homeostasis, or balance. 

It is also responsible for skin regulation, with one study suggesting that if CBD binds with its receptors, it can reduce itching. Participants in another 2019 small-scale study all reported improvements in their condition after applying a CBD-enriched ointment twice a day for three months. A 2020 small study appeared to confirm previous findings, with 50% of people who used a topical CBD cream reporting their eczema had improved by 60%.

Even if hemp cream contains no CBD, its other properties can help people with eczema. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce inflammation, while vitamin E is a known antioxidant with strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Using hemp cream for eczema

While the science is promising, there is an obvious need for larger clinical studies to confirm the effectiveness of hemp cream before any conclusive claims can, or should, be made. So, when choosing a hemp cream to use, sufferers should proceed with caution and always seek the guidance of a doctor that is experienced in, and registered to, prescribe medicinal cannabis for skin issues.

Quality and Safety

You should look at the quality, transparency, and safety of the product and consider the following before you buy:

  • Does the company have proof of third-party testing that meets international standard ISO/IEC 17025?
  • Does the product contain less than 0.2% THC? Anything over this amount will render it illegal in the UK unless prescribed by a physician.
  • Has it passed other tests of pesticides, moulds and heavy metals? A good manufacturing process requires all cosmetic products to undergo such tests to ensure safety and quality.
  • Does the company which produces it disclose the source of the hemp?

Potency

Potency is the next major consideration when deciding upon the right cream for you. CBD-based products will have different strengths depending on the amount used in a cream, how it has been extracted from the cannabis or hemp plant, and how strong the original plant it was extracted from is. As a rule, anything under 10% is low, 10-15% is moderate and over 20% is considered high.

There are no specific dosages currently for eczema sufferers, so hemp cream users will need to start with a low dose and monitor its effects before increasing the dosage. Again, reach out to a doctor for the best advice in terms of potency and specific dosage requirements for your eczema issues. 

Other ingredients

While CBD, if your product contains it, is important, it’s equally important to look at the other ingredients as some can do more harm than good. A lot of creams contain mostly water, but this evaporates quickly and causes a drying effect on the skin. They may also contain preservatives, which can burn or irritate the skin. In general, creams containing the following can also be beneficial:

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

Hemp creams may also contain terpenes – these are compounds which give different cannabis strains their smell, but it’s also believed to improve the effectiveness of the CBD. However, for eczema sufferers, they may exacerbate symptoms. Always perform a small patch test first on unaffected skin to make sure you are not allergic.

Do hemp cream come with any side effects?

While topical hemp creams are generally safe to use and well tolerated, any product containing CBD carries the risk of unwanted side effects which can include a dry mouth, anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, and drowsiness.

How to apply hemp cream for eczema?

Before you start using hemp cream for eczema, you should consult your doctor or a dermatologist for advice.

Hemp cream is usually applied to the surface of the skin. Start with a small dose initially to see how it affects you. Once you have performed the patch test, and waited at least 6 hours to make sure you are not allergic to any of the contained ingredients, take a small amount on your fingertips and gently rub it into the affected area two to three times a day. If you find it’s well tolerated with no side effects, increase the dosage until you find a point at which it is effective.

Hemp cream – A potential new treatment for eczema

To date, research has shown that hemp cream has potential as an alternative eczema treatment. It possesses many properties which could reduce inflammation and promote healing. It also has the advantage of not inducing any psychotropic effects. However, further large-scale research needs to be carried out to confirm its safety, efficacy, and the conditions it works well for.

Don't let the stigma surrounding medical cannabis prevent you from getting a suitable treatment. Releaf provides tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your medical cannabis prescription.

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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