With increasingly relaxed restrictions on cannabis, research is being conducted into using cannabinoids for skin conditions with some promising successes. Medical marijuana is currently being used internally to manage nausea, inflammation and pain, but the chemical compounds in the cannabis plant are showing promise for eczema, dermatitis, psoriasis, and severe itching, applied topically. An interesting development is that THC – the part of marijuana that gets people high – has reduced tumour growth in mice with melanomas.
The exact mode of action hasn’t been properly discovered, however it is known that cannabinoids can stop itching in its tracks, which is incredibly helpful in eczema, dermatitis and psoriasis. Dry skin causes the itch-scratch cycle, which results in further itching and scratching, which results in even more itching and scratching. Severe itching is a problem in several skin conditions, but can affect anyone with dry skin. This treatment doesn’t work for everyone all the time, but it has completely resolved the itching enough times for it to be considered as a possible treatment strategy for some people.
The itchiest of us all
In one study on people with end-stage kidney failure, suffering the characteristic severe itching (uremic pruritus) that comes with this stage of disease, 21 study participants used a cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks. Eight of the 21 patients had complete resolution of their itching, and all participants saw a significant reduction in itching and dry skin. The product was very well tolerated by everyone in the study. This type of itching doesn’t ever get better and there are no real solutions for it, making it a hard condition to treat effectively.
This study is a great example of the potential of topical cannabinoids for dry skin conditions, since uremic pruritus is believed to be the result of a combination of factors affecting the skin in end-stage kidney disease. Because kidneys dictate water balance in the body, dry skin can easily and quickly become a problem when fluid balance is off. A reduction in sweating, and increase in inflammation, coexisting medical conditions and other factors are thought to contribute to this severe itch.
Got an unbearable itch?