EducationIs hemp oil good for eczema?

Is hemp oil good for eczema?

7 min read

Lucy MacKinnon

Is hemp oil good for eczema?

Eczema is a common skin condition, but it blights thousands of people’s lives around the world. Characterised by chronically itchy skin which looks red, dry, and inflamed, it can drive people to distraction and keep them up at night.

While it’s not life-threatening, it can certainly be life-interrupting and as well as the physical symptoms it can impact mental health. A 2017 report by Allergy UK found 86% felt depressed at times because of their eczema, 82% said it affected their daily activities, and 73% revealed their social life was affected.

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Around one in five children and one in 10 adults in the UK suffer from eczema, having to put up with this lifelong condition and suffering periodic flare-ups. During an episode, sufferers will experience rough, red, dry patches of skin on their body which itches unbearably. Sometimes, it can be impossible to ignore and inevitably they scratch, sometimes causing damage to the skin and infections.

The exact cause of eczema is unknown but it is thought a number of things can trigger it such as certain foods or food groups, chemical irritants, pollutants, genetics, immune dysfunction, stress, hot and cold temperatures, low humidity or dry weather and allergic reactions. There is no cure, and treatments usually involve a combination of moisturisers, hydrocortisone creams, corticosteroids, and antihistamines.

However, some people suffer side effects from traditional treatments or prefer to try to treat their condition naturally. Hemp oil is gaining momentum as a potential, and natural, alternative that can alleviate symptoms and give sufferers their lives back, as is medical cannabis.

Understanding hemp oil

Hemp oil, also known as hemp seed oil, is known to help skin conditions. Packed full of essential fatty acids, including Omega-3 and -6, and vitamins, it has been administered for some time to help reduce inflammation and improve the symptoms of people suffering from atopic dermatitis. One 2005 study revealed patients saw significant improvements and concluded this was likely due to the high presence of polyunsaturated fatty acids like Omega-3 and -6.

Hemp comes from the cannabis sativa L. plant, and has been cultivated by humankind for thousands of years. It is an extremely versatile and fast-growing plant that was originally farmed for its fibres. Today, hemp is still widely used across many different industries, though the focus has shifted to its reported therapeutic benefits.

Despite being part of the Cannabis sativa plant, hemp is different to cannabis and does not contain any psychoactive ingredients. It contains little to no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the most intoxicating compound in cannabis, and therefore does not cause the characteristic high. Hemp can, however, contain cannabidiol (CBD). CBD confers many potential healing benefits and a sense of well-being but without any kind of ‘high’.

Hemp oil may also contain terpenes, another group of compounds found in cannabis sativa L. They are responsible for the flavour and aroma of the plant and are thought to increase the effectiveness of CBD if present. Studies have found terpenes to be beneficial with anti-inflammatory properties, however, there is also evidence that they can exacerbate eczema in some people.

Hemp oils on the market usually don’t contain any CBD at all, although confusingly, some CBD oil is sometimes referred to as hemp oil or hemp seed oil. Even without CBD present, it still contains many nutrients that are beneficial to skin healing, such as vitamin E which is known to have strong anti-inflammatory properties and other proteins. It is also known to contain calcium, iron, gamma-linolenic acid, arginine, magnesium and B vitamins.

Hemp oil is extracted from the seeds of the hemp plant, which contain no CBD, through a cold-pressed process. Manufacturers use hydraulic presses to grind the seeds – the resulting oil is harvested and applied for a variety of purposes, from therapeutic in skin and hair care to cooking and food. 

Cold-pressed oils are considered superior to traditional heat extraction methods because they retain purity, flavour, fragrance and nutritional profile. Heat to remove hemp oil yields a larger amount but destroys many of the antioxidants and minerals which make it beneficial to eczema sufferers.

Tips on applying hemp oil for eczema

One 2014 study found that hemp seed oil could be beneficial in treating eczema, while another trial revealed that consuming it could help people with the most common type, atopic dermatitis.

To start with, you need to choose the product you want to take carefully. As we mentioned, hemp oil doesn’t usually contain CBD, but some CBD oils are also referred to as hemp oil or hemp seed oil. Additionally, some hemp oils could have CBD added to them. CBD has lots of potential benefits for eczema sufferers in its own right – it is antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, can help reduce the itch and is antibacterial – but you need to decide whether you want a product which does or doesn’t contain cannabinoids.

Hemp oil is legal in the UK as is CBD oil and you can find it online or in health food shops and pharmacies. Products containing THC are not legal and anything with a concentration of more than 0.2% THC in its ingredients is illegal, so check the ingredients first.

If your prescribing doctor does recommend a CBD-containing oil, then consider the amount of CBD present. CBD-based oils will have different strengths. Generally, anything under 10% is low, 10-15% is moderate and over 20% is considered high. The prescribing doctor will also be able to offer the best advice regarding dosage.

Hemp oil can be pure or have other ingredients added to it. They could either help your eczema or make it worse. Some perfumes can irritate, while certain preservatives may burn the skin.

Are there any side effects relating to hemp oil administration?

While hemp oil is safe and legal to take, some people might experience skin irritation when applied topically. If ingested, patients may experience stomach upset and diarrhoea. CBD-containing hemp oils can also lead to side effects including a dry mouth, anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, and drowsiness.

How to apply or take hemp oil

Before using hemp oil, it’s prudent to consult with your doctor, especially if it contains CBD and you’re using other medications, to ensure there won’t be any adverse interactions.

There are several ways you can take it:

  1. As a daily supplement
  2. Massaged directly onto the skin
  3. As a supplement before bedtime
  4. As part of your diet in food

Can hemp oil really help eczema?

The jury is still out, but the evidence so far points to many benefits for eczema patients. While further research is required, people looking to alleviate the itch and pain of this skin condition naturally should try hemp oil and see if it provides relief. The sheer amount of anecdotal evidence from sufferers points to its therapeutic potential.

It is also thought that hemp oil may help reduce inflammation and restore the skin’s natural moisture barrier, which can be damaged when eczema flares up. Whatever you decide, please make sure to talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement or making changes to your diet. 

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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Editorial Team