Eczema is an extremely common skin condition that causes symptoms such as dry skin, irritation, itching, and inflammation. There are many different varieties of eczema, but the most prevalent by far is atopic eczema. This skin condition may affect as many as 30% of Americans and is most common in children or adolescents.
Many young children grow out of eczema, but for some people, it can develop later in life and last for many years. Although the symptoms of eczema are relatively easy to treat, the underlying causes often remain. This means that flare-ups are a genuine problem for people with eczema, who usually just accept them as an inevitable aspect of the disease.
But what if there was a therapy that could treat eczema from the inside out? And could that therapy already be right under our noses, just waiting to be discovered? Let’s take a closer look.
What is Eczema?
Eczema, very simply put, is an inflammation of the skin. Inflammation is a healthy and natural response by your immune system when it is exposed to injury or infection. It occurs when your body is working hard to expel a foreign substance or pathogen and offers a certain level of protection throughout the healing process.
However, sometimes your immune system overreacts and creates inflammation when it is not really necessary. This inflammation can happen in any part of the body, but when it affects the skin, eczema is one of the possible results.
There are many different varieties of eczema, each of which has slightly different triggers and symptoms. However, the thing that all of them have in common is they all have inflammation as their root cause. This inflammation causes the skin to become itchy, red, and sore. It is also common for people with eczema to have very dry skin which can lead to cracking, bleeding, and the risk of infection.
Many people with eczema also suffer from sleep problems as intense itching may keep them awake at night. Otherwise, they may have low self-confidence due to the cosmetic appearance of the condition.
Atopic eczema often occurs in combination with other inflammatory or allergic conditions such as asthma or rhinitis. It is unclear exactly what causes eczema, but it appears to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Many people find that their eczema gets worse when they eat certain foods, come into contact with chemicals, or are under a lot of stress.
Treatments for Eczema
If you have eczema, the most important thing you can do on a daily basis is to keep your skin well moisturized. This extra moisture will help to soothe symptoms such as itching and reduce the likelihood of flare-ups occurring. Choose a high-quality, unscented emollient and frequently apply throughout the day. You could also consider adding moisturizing oils to your bathwater.
Doctors most often treat eczema flare-ups with corticosteroid creams. Corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone and betamethasone are powerful anti-inflammatory drugs, and when you apply them directly to the skin, they offer fast and effective relief from eczema symptoms.
However, they can also cause some serious side effects. The most common of these is thinning of the skin, which leaves it more vulnerable to injury and infection. They can also cause the skin to change color, or cause other skin problems such as acne.
Because of these side effects, patients should only use corticosteroids for short periods at a time. And many people with eczema find that as soon as they stop using their steroid cream, their symptoms quickly return.
There are currently not many other options available to eczema sufferers, especially when it comes to long-term management of their disease. However, cannabidiol (CBD) has now become well-known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Could this novel treatment offer some relief from the symptoms of eczema? Initial research suggests that it may well help.
CBD for Skin Health
There is not much research out there specifically regarding CBD for eczema, but there is plenty of research that documents the beneficial effects of CBD on the skin.
The skin is the largest organ in the body and forms a protective barrier between your vital organs and the outside world. It is continuously exposed to environmental irritants and toxins, not to mention ever-changing weather conditions. This means that it can be very prone to inflammation, especially in individuals with a genetic tendency towards eczema.
Your skin also helps to regulate your body temperature. It does this by raising or lowering your body hair, and allowing you to sweat.
Scientists have recently discovered that skin contains cannabinoid receptors. These are receptors that bind with endogenous cannabinoids that your body produces as well as phytocannabinoids which come from the cannabis plant.
These receptors are an essential element of the endocannabinoid system, a system that we now know is directly involved in allergic inflammation. Studies on mice have shown that animals lacking these cannabinoid receptors have a greater allergic response compared to controls. This finding is supported by a further study which found that dogs with atopic dermatitis had greater immune reactivity at cannabinoid receptors compared to their healthy counterparts.
Experts have suggested that treating the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoids such as CBD could help skin conditions like eczema by reducing inflammation and relieving dry skin. Because cannabinoid receptors are also present in the nervous system, CBD can also help to soothe eczema symptoms such as itching and pain.
Cannabinoids such as CBD also have antimicrobial properties, which could help prevent secondary infections.
How to Use CBD for Eczema
CBD is naturally found in cannabis plants, but it is often used medicinally in the form of extracts, oils, or topical creams.
Taking CBD oil by mouth is one of the best ways to maximize its effects. CBD oil can be taken as it is, or mixed into food or beverages. CBD capsules and gummies are also available and offer a more convenient way of dosing.
When you take CBD oil for the first time, it is always advisable to start off with the lowest dose possible and gradually increase it over time. CBD is unlikely to cause any side effects, but it is best to err on the side of caution and take it slow. Building up your dosage in this way also means that you can find the lowest dose that works for you, so it could save you money in the long run.
Topical CBD creams are another great way to relieve inflammation and discomfort and you can apply them directly to where you need them most. Look for products with natural ingredients to avoid causing further irritation. Some products also contain other skin-soothing ingredients such as coconut or lavender oil. Test on a small patch of skin first, and avoid using these products on broken skin.
Is CBD Safe for Children with Eczema?
If your child has eczema and you are wondering whether CBD oil is safe for your child, it’s best to consult your pediatrician. If you are using CBD for children, make sure to avoid any products that contain the psychoactive compound in cannabis, THC.
THC can be harmful to children as their brains and nervous systems are still developing. The good news is that most high-quality CBD products contain negligible amounts of THC.
Some marijuana breeders have even developed low THC strains such as Charlotte’s Web, named after the famous case of Charlotte Figi. Charlotte Figi suffered from a rare type of epilepsy and was having multiple seizures every day. CBD oil helped to reduce her symptoms dramatically, and many similar cases have now been reported around the world.
These low THC products do appear to be safe for children, although the long-term effects are still unknown. Talk to your physician to learn more.
CBD for Eczema: Final Thoughts
Eczema is an extremely common and distressing skin condition. It can be challenging to treat effectively, as conventional therapies may cause side effects and only offer short-term relief.
Although there is no doubt that more research is required, it seems that CBD could provide a natural solution for eczema by reducing inflammation, itching, and pain.
Have you tried using CBD for eczema? Help others with this irritating condition by sharing your experiences in the comments below!