Cannabinoids like CBD, THC and CBG have shown an array of promising properties for skin afflictions like eczema, atopic dermatitis, acne, itch and rosacea, as well as for psoriasis.
CBD (Cannabidiol) is a promising cannabinoid with, to name a few, regulating, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antipruritic and antioxidant properties.
Though CBD research is still very young, many researchers are excited about it’s myriad of properties, internally and externally used, to treat pathologies from anxiety to cutaneous conditions like psoriasis.
In this article we will briefly explain the findings on CBD & psoriasis and how this hemp-derived cannabinoid could be used as a treatment to regulate and relieve symptoms of this skin affliction, which to this day still has no known cure.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic, genetically predisposed, but environmentally triggered auto-immune disease which affects our skin. It is characterized by inflammation caused by an erroneous response by our immune system. The inflammation commonly appears as red and scaly plaques. According to the World Psoriasis Day consortium, psoriasis affects almost 2-3% of the world population. Psoriasis is a severe skin disease which, according to statistics collected by the World Psoriasis Consortium, negatively affects the quality of life of 60% of those with this disease .
Why does this happen?
Psoriasis is caused by an overactive immune system which speeds our skin cell growth (or turnover), also known as a dysregulation of keratinocyte differentiation or hyperkeratinization disorder. Healthy skin cells usually grow and shed throughout a month’s time, giving space for new skin cells. However psoriasis speeds skin cell differentiation to up to 3-4 days not giving the skin cells enough time to shed. Skin cells thus accumulate and create plaques which are not supple like healthy skin but instead crack and break open leading to irritation, itching, stinging, and burning. The most common spots for psoriasis are the elbows, knees and scalp, however psoriasis can appear in any part of the body. According to the National Psoriasis Institute, psoriasis can manifest itself in two peaks, the first being between the ages 15-25 and the second between the ages of 50-60. These two age groups happen to be prominent hormonal/endocrine shifts as well…food for thought. There are a variety of different kinds of psoriasis:
- Plaque (Most common)
Currently the most common treatments for psoriasis
- Topical therapies (including Corticosteroids, Calcineurin inhibitors, Coal tar treatment)
- Light Therapy (UVB, Laser therapy)
- Oral or Injected therapies* (Retinoids, Steroids, Biologics which alter our immune system).
*Systemic therapies can have very severe side effects.
So how come cannabinoids can help our skin?
In the last 50 years scientific research on Cannabis has grown quickly, starting from CBD & THC to the discovery of our Endocannabinoid System in the endocannabinoids in the 1990’s. CBD’s anti-inflammatory, antipruritic(anti-itch), antioxidant, antitumoral and analgesic properties have sparked interest in researchers’ as an alternative or complement to traditional treatments. Offering fewer side effects, helping prevent flare ups and managing pain and discomfort. As usual, the best explanation will start with our Endocannabinoid System. The skin is an extremely important and overlooked organ, it’s crucial in protecting ourselves from external factors. It also is a part of our neuro-endocrine immune network (a network connecting our nervous, endocrine and immune systems), which, surprise surprise, our Endocannabinoid System (ECS) regulates. This means that stimuli received by our skin can influence our endocrine, immune and nervous systems, which can all be regulated by our ECS. New data shows that most cells in the skin highly express cannabinoid receptors and suppression of skin inflammation is considered a leading function of dermal ECS. Cannabinoids may be involved in the modulation of our skin’s functions through our neuro-endocrine immune network, however their role in dermatological conditions is still unclear. What many studies have pointed to is that the Endocannabinoid Systems’ unbalance or dysregulation could be a key factor in dermatological afflictions. Raphael Mechoulam, the father of cannabis research, said it as well, “The endocannabinoid system is very important. Almost all illnesses we have are linked to it in some way or another. And that is very strange.” In 2019, a study confirmed that more research was necessary but that the anti-inflammatory, antipruritic, anti-aging, and anti-malignancy properties of cannabinoids and their interaction with the Endocannabinoid System in our skin was likely to signal that cannabinoids could be “promising alternatives to traditional treatments.” This has led researchers to investigate the possible use of cannabinoids for relieving serious cutaneous conditions including; Atopic Dermatitis, Eczema, Acne Vulgaris and Psoriasis.
According to the conclusions of a study from the Alborg University in Denmark, one could start with 10 mg a day and raise the dose, from once a day to twice a day after 2 weeks.
Topical application will not reach the bloodstream but can offer much needed relief. CBD enriched ointments, balm / and oils can help.
Great way to start implementing habits which could help relieve psoriasis symptoms:
- Take daily baths (Epsom Salts, Bath oils and colloidal oatmeal can help)
- Use moisturizer, always + Oils to trap in moisture
- Cover the affected areas overnight
- Expose your skin to small amounts of sunlight, a tiny bit of Vitamin D can help!
- Apply medicated ointments
- Avoid psoriasis triggers (Infections, injuries to your skin, stress, smoking and intense sun exposure)
- Avoid drinking alcohol
- Strive to maintain a healthy lifestyle. In addition to quitting smoking and drinking moderately, if at all, you can manage your psoriasis by being active, eating well and maintaining a healthy weight
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