Cannabinoids show therapeutic potential for treating skin diseases like psoriasis, eczema and dermatitis, according to a new research review.
Cannabinoids are beneficial for soothing several skin conditions, suggests findings in a new research review. The new study, conducted recently by researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, concluded that the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids appear to make them useful for treating psoriasis, eczema, atopic and contact dermatitis, and even some skin melanomas.
The review, headed by Dr. Robert Dellavalle, MD, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, investigated the available literature examining cannabinoids on skin conditions. In one study, cannabinoids injected into skin tumors of mice was shown to be effective at preventing the tumors’ growth. In another, eight of 21 patients who applied a cannabinoid topical twice a day for three weeks completely eliminated severe itching.
“Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch,” said Dellavalle.
Most of the studies included in the research review focused on topical cannabinoid products, which are applied directly to the skin. The active compounds penetrate and are absorbed through the skin, where they interact with receptors on nearby cells.
“There are topical cannabinoid drugs with little or no psychotropic effect that can be used for skin disease,” said Dellavalle.
Dellavalle believes it’s the cannabinoids’ anti-inflammatory properties that are primarily responsible for their potential skin health benefits. He made note of one study that found the cannabinoid tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) effectively reduced swelling and inflammation in mice. Previous studies have also linked the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids to their application for skin treatment.
Skin conditions affect a significant portion of the U.S. population. According to the National Eczema Association, about 31.6 million people in the U.S. have eczema, and at least 17.8 million have moderate to severe eczema or atopic dermatitis. Between 40 and 50 percent of Americans who live to age 65 will at some point in their life have some type of skin carcinoma.
“These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life,” Dellavalle said. “The treatments are currently being bought over the internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them.”
Dellavalle did note that most of the literature he and his team investigated in the review was laboratory models and he called for more large-scale clinical trials. Last summer, a clinical trial testing the effects of a topical containing the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) found that it improved overall skin appearance in 100 percent of participants after two weeks.
Medical Marijuana, Inc.’s investment company AXIM Biotechnologies, Inc., is currently conducting a human clinical trial to examine the effects of cannabinoid-based topicals on psoriasis and eczema.
You can access Dellavalle’s entire study, “The role of cannabinoids in dermatology,” via the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.