Is CBD good for itchy skin?

Is CBD good for itchy skin?


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.

For thousands of years, people around the world have used cannabis sativa to treat a plethora of different health conditions. The chemical complexity and versatility of this hardy plant, which originated from Central Asia but is now cultivated globally, has huge potential medical benefits for those suffering the misery of itchy skin.

Cannabis is one of the most studied plants in the world because of its rich abundance of phytochemicals and its pharmaceutical effects on humans. In particular, cannabinoids are one of the most studied compounds within the plant. More than 100 cannabinoids and their associated terpenes (compounds responsible for the way plants smell) are known to science, and have been linked to everything from pain relief and relaxation to opioid detoxification and treatment for anxiety. 

Research suggests that one of the most studied medical cannabis cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD), may also prove effective in relieving chronic itchy skin because of its role in skin homeostasis, or balance. 

Common causes of itchy skin

Itchy skin, also called pruritus, is a common condition with several causes that can make sufferers’ lives miserable. It’s often found in older people, as the skin becomes drier as we age, but it can affect people of all ages. Itchy skin can appear in small patches on the scalp, legs, or arms, or it can spread over the entire body. Skin may be red and inflamed, or it can become lumpy and rough. If people repeatedly scratch the area, the skin can be damaged, bleed, and become infected.

Sometimes, it’s almost impossible to pinpoint the cause of the itchiness but, as well as dry skin, other causes of itchy skin include:

  • Allergic reactions – prickly heat, hives, skin reactions to something you’re allergic to, e.g. washing powder, make up
  • Long-term skin conditions e.g. eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, dandruff
  • Parasites and insects e.g. lice, scabies
  • Fungal infections – athlete’s foot, thrush, ringworm
  • Hormonal changes – pregnancy and menopause

Itchy skin will typically resolve by itself after a few weeks, and many people gain short-term relief from moisturisers, warm baths and gentle cleansers. When longer-term conditions are identified, they’re usually treated with medicated creams or oral medication.

What is CBD?

Cannabidiol, or CBD, is the second most prevalent cannabinoid found in cannabis after THC (tetrahydrocannabinol, the psychoactive ingredient of marijuana). CBD and THC have the exact same molecular formula, but the way these molecules are arranged is different, which means they interact with the body in different ways.

CBD and THC both work with the brain’s neurotransmitters affecting memory, sleep mood and pain. But while THC delivers the ‘high’ commonly associated with cannabis by binding with receptors that control pain and mood, CBD reacts differently. It is believed to work on other areas associated with well-being, delivering positive benefits but without causing any kind of high or psychotropic effect.

How can CBD help itchy skin?

Studies have shown CBD has potential anti-inflammatory properties, which may benefit those suffering from itchy skin. When used in creams and topical treatments, CBD may reduce pain, and itching, and provide moisture while reducing oil production, providing relief to sufferers. CBD has also been shown to have an antioxidant effect comparable to that of vitamins E and C, which means it may also help with skin repair and the smoothing out of wrinkles.

CBD works by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, a vast network of chemical signals and cell receptors spread throughout our bodies. According to studies, it’s responsible for regulating many of our most important bodily functions.

There is a high concentration of cannabinoid receptors (CB1) in the brain which control the levels and activity of many other neurotransmitters. To stimulate these cannabinoid receptors, our bodies produce endocannabinoids, which are very similar to the molecules found in the cannabis plant. There is also a second type of receptor called CB2 found mainly in our immune tissues which plays a role in immune function.

Specifically for sufferers of itchy skin, CBD will bind with ECS receptors to affect the nerve fibres in the skin, potentially calming down the nerve reaction and relieving a person’s itching.

Benefits and risks of using CBD to treat itchy skin

Topical steroids are often used to treat eczema, for example, but prolonged use can lead to unwanted side effects. While the cause of eczema is still unknown, CBD, with its anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and anti-microbial properties, may be applied as a natural alternative to alleviate symptoms.

It’s also been shown to have a potentially beneficial effect on rosacea (redness and skin bumps). Traditional treatment involves topical steroid creams or antibiotics, but again there can be side effects with long-term use, and some can even worsen symptoms. But CBD, because of its anti-inflammatory properties, can potentially reduce redness and inflammation.

Side effects from traditional treatment include a greater risk of bruising, contact dermatitis, acne or worsening of acne, changes in skin colour and excessive hair growth in the area being treated. Less common side effects include reduced growth in children and Cushing’s Syndrome.

CBD, on the other hand, has been found to be well-tolerated and is generally considered to be safe to apply or administer for patients of all ages. CBD also has its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory qualities, which confer a range of benefits. However, as with all medications, there is some risk of side effects:

  • Diarrhoea
  • Appetite changes
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Anxiety
  • Mood changes

Another concern is the unreliability of dosage in CBD products, which is why it’s important to only buy from reputable suppliers. It can also interact with blood-thinning drugs and affect the breakdown of other medications in the liver, so it’s essential that you consult your doctor before you begin taking it.

While regulations were tightened on the consumer CBD market here in the UK in 2019, leading to better oversight, it is still not subject to nearly the same oversight as the medicinal sector. If you are interested in applying or administering CBD for itchy skin, we recommended seeking the advice of a qualified and experienced medicinal cannabis doctor. They will be able to provide the best quality advice and medicinal CBD options.

How to use CBD products for itchy skin relief

CBD comes in many forms – oil, creams, tablets, extracts, patches, capsules, and vapes. For relief from itchy skin, topical cream or lotion is likely to be the best option. However, it is essential that you check the dosage and frequency and follow the instructions exactly.

It’s also important to speak with your doctor first, so you know exactly what the benefits and risks are and can make sure it won’t interfere with any other medications you’re taking.

The potential for a new kind of itchy skin treatment

There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests topical application of CBD can help many common itchy skin conditions, but it’s early days and research is still ongoing. Nevertheless, cannabinoid studies promise to be a key feature of medical research in the future, which may well lead to breakthroughs and new methods of topical skin treatments.

While these are all strains with qualities that are conducive to aiding digestive health, this list is by no means definitive. 

Here at Releaf, we provide personalised relief for symptoms of gastrointestinal conditions, adjusting your subscription as your needs change. So you’ll never need to worry about whether you’re getting the right medical cannabis product for you and your specific health concerns.

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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