EducationWhy you should use CBD for skin inflammation

Why you should use CBD for skin inflammation

10 min read

Editorial Team

Why you should use CBD for skin inflammation


Most people will experience skin inflammation at some point in their lives, whether it’s from an insect bite, a rash, a skin disorder such as eczema or dermatitis or an infection. Skin inflammation can cause redness, swelling, dryness, itching and pain, which is irritating at best but can affect a person’s quality of life at its worst.

There are many topical treatments on the market to treat skin inflammation, with varying degrees of success and differing side effects. Now, CBD derived from medical cannabis is increasingly seen as a potential alternative.

However, the idea of taking cannabis sativa L. for different health conditions and diseases is not new – people have been relying on its medicinal properties for thousands of years. In fact, the first documented use of cannabis for medical reasons dates back to 2800 BC, when it was listed in Emperor Shen Nung’s pharmacopoeia.

Cannabis is an extremely versatile and hardy plant which is thought to have originated in Central Asia or Western China. Many texts, from the Greeks and Romans to ancient Hindus, suggest using it to treat a vast array of health conditions including depression, arthritis, pain, lack of appetite and inflammation. It also has many other uses including in the production of textiles and clothing, food, bioplastics, shoes and insulation.

In recent times, scientists have studied cannabis for its pharmacological uses, discovering it could play a beneficial role in the treatment of skin conditions, gastrointestinal inflammation and pain relief. Studies have shown it could also have a positive impact on skin inflammation because of its interaction with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) which is responsible for many important bodily functions, including skin homeostasis.

What are the causes of skin inflammation?

Skin inflammation occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a foreign invader or irritant and sets out to eliminate it.

Some common causes of skin inflammation are:

  • Allergic reaction – When the immune system detects something it perceives to be a foreign invader, it overreacts, which can result in skin inflammation. People can develop skin inflammation after encountering certain foods, medications, irritants, perfumes, and cosmetics.
  • Eczema – This condition causes the skin to become dry, itchy, inflamed and cracked
  • Acne – Acne is caused when tiny holes known as hair follicles become blocked. This can lead to inflammation, particularly if these blocked holes become infected with bacteria.
  • Immune system dysfunction – For some people, their immune system doesn’t work properly and will attack otherwise healthy tissues. An example of this is psoriasis where the skin replacement speeds up, taking just a few days instead of the usual 21-28. This can cause raised, flaky, red skin.
  • Exposure to chemicals – Certain chemicals can cause irritation and lead to contact dermatitis.
  • Wounds, burns, or cuts – Redness and swelling will occur around an injury, which is a sign of the immune system mounting an inflammatory response to heal the damaged area.
  • Bacterial, viral and fungal infections – Common examples are ringworm, impetigo, and cellulitis.
  • Heat – Heat rash where sweat becomes trapped in the pores can lead to inflammation.
  • Photosensitivity – Some people are more sensitive to light, particularly those suffering from autoimmune conditions like lupus.
  • Genetics – If close family members have problems with skin inflammation, there’s an increased likelihood you will suffer from it, too.

What are the symptoms of skin inflammation?

Signs of skin inflammation can include:

  • Itchy or red rash
  • Smooth or scaly appearance
  • Burning or stinging
  • Raised or bumpy appearance
  • Redness and heat
  • Warmth in the affected area
  • Cracked or blistering skin
  • Thickening of the skin

Treatment options for skin inflammation

The treatment usually depends on first identifying the cause. For example, if it’s an allergy, people should avoid the substance they’re allergic to.

There are many topical creams available which can reduce skin inflammation, such as corticosteroid creams and antibacterial or antifungal preparations. Immunomodulators will work directly on the immune system to reduce inflammation. Some oral tablets such as antihistamines can also be used, while over-the-counter medications such as calamine lotion or hydrocortisone can relieve immediate symptoms.

Skin inflammation is quite common and often easily treated. It will often resolve itself in a few weeks or with the help of different creams. However, for some people, skin inflammation can become chronic. This is inflammation lasting six weeks or longer. In these cases, patients may suffer periodic flare-ups which need regular treatment.

As we can see, the causes of skin inflammation are multi-faceted, and so the treatment options need to be varied. Many sufferers are looking for natural treatments to reduce the severity of their skin inflammation, and this is where CBD could be a viable alternative.

The potential benefits of using CBD for skin inflammation

CBD has become increasingly popular as an effective treatment for many different ailments including anxiety, insomnia and chronic pain. However, recent scientific studies are also exploring its use in the treatment of skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, and inflammatory skin diseases.

What is CBD?

There are more than 100 cannabinoids which have been identified in the Cannabis Sativa plant. CBD (Cannabidiol) is the second most active compound although unlike THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), the most active compound that causes the typical marijuana ‘high’, it has no known psychoactive effects. It has the same chemical formula as THC, but it is arranged differently, so the effect it has on the body is different. 

While THC targets neurotransmitters in the brain which affect mood and pain, CBD creates feelings of well-being and health without any kind of intoxicating effect.

How CBD reacts with the body to improve skin inflammation

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a vast network of cells and receptors spread throughout the human body that controls many of our most critical functions. It is linked to memory, learning, sleep, emotional processing, pain and temperature control, and inflammatory responses. There is also evidence to suggest it is involved in skin homeostasis, regeneration, and barrier functions. Dysfunction of the ECS is also linked to many different skin disorders.

CBD will interact with the ECS and, while exactly how this occurs is still up for scientific debate, studies suggest it plays a role in reducing skin inflammation and promoting skin healing.

Research from The American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics showed CBD exhibited anti-inflammatory responses in the treatment of allergic contact dermatitis without damaging cells. A 12-week clinical trial by Botanix Pharmaceuticals involving 368 participants showed a 40% reduction in acne skin lesions when using a daily topical solution with 5% CBD.

How to take CBD to treat skin inflammation

With its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, CBD may be beneficial in the treatment of skin inflammation. There are a number of different suitable CBD products available for sufferers.

  • CBD oil - CBD oil is made by extracting CBD from cannabis and mixing it in a carrier oil like coconut or hemp seed. It can be ingested by using a dropper to take it sublingually. The area under the tongue is capillary-rich, so this method enables CBD to enter the bloodstream quickly. CBD oil can also be rubbed directly on the skin.
  • Capsules – CBD can be ingested via a capsule, which is a good option for patients who wish to maintain a regular dose and know exactly each time how much they’re ingesting. Because it needs to pass through the digestive tract, it can take 30 minutes or longer to experience any effect.
  • Topical cream or balm – CBD can be blended with other ingredients such as beeswax or coconut oil to create a cream which can be applied directly to the affected skin. This method may take longer to take effect than ingestion.

Each patient is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all dosage for CBD. It’s recommended that people start with just a few drops each day to monitor its effect, see what,   and adjust the dosage up or down accordingly. If in doubt, patients should consult their doctor.

Risks and side effects of CBD for skin inflammation

CBD is found to be well-tolerated and is generally considered safe to use. However, it can increase the level of blood thinning and the effects of other medicines. Users who regularly take a high dose of CBD have been found to have abnormal levels in liver tests, though some non-prescription drugs such as paracetamol can have the same effect. If patients are regular CBD users, they need to make their physicians aware of this fact.

While it is well-tolerated, there are some potential side effects associated with CBD administration, which include:

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

The concentration of CBD in different products is also something to be aware of. Because of a lack of quality control and differing manufacturing processes, the amount advertised on a product may not be what is actually in it. 

Other biological compounds or toxins may also be introduced during manufacture where it is not rigorously controlled, which is why it’s important to only buy from a reputable source.

Discovering new ways to effectively treat skin inflammation

We’ve seen that, based on current research, there is evidence for the use of CBD to treat skin inflammation and various skin disorders. It may work alongside existing treatments, or it may be suitable as standalone medication. However, everyone is different, and people require an individualised plan to make sure they receive the most effective treatment for their condition.

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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Editorial Team

Article written by the Releaf Editorial Team, a group of seasoned experts in cannabis healthcare, dedicated to enhancing awareness and accessibility in the field through their wealth of knowledge and experience.

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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