Can CBD Oil Help Address Eczema?
Eczema, like other skin conditions, can become chronic and pervasive. While eczema is often tied to an underlying bacterial colonization of the skin, it also has roots in autoimmunity, much like psoriasis. That’s why people are wondering if CBD might help.
Also known as atopic dermatitis, eczema is common in both children and adults, appearing as early as infancy. Eczema produces red, dry skin that is itchy, and sometimes seeps or produces a crusted-over appearance.
Eczema flares can happen for many reasons, including stress, weather conditions, food allergy reactions, and more. Often times steroid creams are prescribed to address eczema flares, but over time these can thin the skin and cause other side effects, and they’re not suitable for use on the face.
Natural care for eczema turns to CBD oil, or cannabidiol, as a point of relief, thanks to its ability to rapidly and dramatically soothe skin irritation and inflammation. Cannabidiol can also help inhibit the bacterial colonization of the skin.
Patients who have tried nearly everything for their eczema are now turning to CBD oil for relief, not only for reducing the itch, but for improving the appearance of the skin.
Best CBD Cream for Eczema
“I personally struggle with dyshidrotic eczema, and few topical creams provide relief. But when I tried Naternal’s CBD lotion, my hands stayed soft for hours and I started using it more regularly. I noticed that I got less eczema patches, and the mix of CBD, argan oil, and lavender helps nourish my skin without leaving behind greasy texture.” – Melena, Associate Editor
How CBD Can Reduce Eczema
Eczema affects nearly 30 percent of Americans, and while many develop it in infancy or childhood, it is not always grown out of. Eczema is an inflamed condition of the skin that can occur from one or more triggers that lead to flares. The word eczema comes from a Greek word literally meaning “to boil over,” an accurate description of the bright red, scaly, bubbly appearance of a severe eczema flare up.
Eczema can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly found on the faces of children, as well as the elbows, behind the ears, backs, behind the knees, hands, wrists, feet, and ankles. People typically have several common flare spots where their eczema will appear, and in some cases, where it almost never seems to go away.
Eczema is often driven by excess histamine release in the body, which can be triggered in response to anything from stress, to seasonal allergens, to food allergens, to pet dander, and beyond. When something triggers a cascade of histamines, the nearly immediate response is a flaring of skin that is often itchy, red, and appears like a rash. It can seemingly come out of nowhere, and is sometimes not directly tied to a known trigger.
Antihistamines alone don’t solve eczema flares since the mechanism is more complex than a simple histamine overload. Until every potential cause of a flare is understood, it’s impossible to avoid or prevent eczema. However, while steroids can’t treat the underlying cause, CBD oil may reduce topical inflammatory levels and lead to fewer outbreaks or flares.
Does CBD Oil for Eczema Really Work?
While a large body of research has not been done specifically investigating cannabidiol and eczema, it has been shown to support and protect the skin’s barrier function as well as the delicate balance of bacteria that exist on the surface. The driving belief is that eczema is caused by a stubborn bacteria that colonize the skin (Staphylococcus aureus) and causes regular flares of eczema rashes. Some allergists and doctors even recommend bathing in watered down bleach to attempt to kill this bacteria. However, the bacteria alone is not the single cause of eczema.
Cannabis, the parent plant of cannabidiol, has been studied for skin benefits, showing that the anti-inflammatory properties of this plant can influence skin health on all levels.
CBD oil may be used topically or internally to address eczema, which while a topical condition, has roots on the inside in histamines, inflammation, and allergies.
Some are concerned about using CBD oil because of stigmas associated with cannabis. But CBD derived from hemp is broadly legal. Also, hemp products do not get you high, as they only contain trace amounts of THC. These low levels of THC should not be enough fail a drug test, as long as products are labeled correctly.
How to Use CBD Oil for Eczema
Finding the right CBD oil or cream for topical use isn’t always simple for eczema patients. This is primarily because dosages can vary wildly, but also because the other ingredients in creams can irritate, not help, eczema rashes. It’s important to read the labels and select a product that has soothing and not irritating ingredients.
First, do not choose a CBD cream that has been formulated for muscle pain, as these often are paired with menthol for a numbing effect. This could have a burning, painful, or irritating reaction for eczema.
Second, choose a cream that is unscented and free from unnecessary ingredients. Oils that tend to be soothing for eczema include jojoba, shea butter, coconut oil, cocoa butter, emu oil, argan oil, olive oil, and other fat-based creams, like tallow.
When starting with CBD oil products for eczema, you may want to consult a dermatologist to ensure you’re picking a product that’s compatible with your health needs. Pay close attention to see if symptoms improve or worsen. Sometimes inflammation isn’t noticeably improved immediately but may take a few days or a few weeks, depending on the severity of the condition.
Keep in mind that CBD oil can interact with other prescriptions, so if you use a prescription cream topically, or take oral prescriptions for eczema or any other conditions, check with your doctor to ensure that there is no interaction or overlap.
CBD oil has few side effects and an extremely high potential for reducing itching, inflammation, and even bacterial roots of eczema on the skin.
Get the Facts: CBD
From creams to body oils to facial serums and more, there’s a good chance you can find a CBD-containing topical at a grocery store, pharmacy or specialty shop near you. Many of these products promise to clear, heal and otherwise soothe symptoms of eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions.
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a cannabinoid, a chemically active molecule found in plants in the cannabis sativa family, which includes both marijuana and hemp. Unlike the best-known cannabinoid, THC (delta -tetrahydrocannabinol), CBD isn’t “psychoactive.” In other words, it won’t get you high. Like THC, however, CBD has some potentially potent health effects.
“I think topical CBD is a very promising treatment for eczema; in theory, it could decrease itch, pain and inflammation. In the correct vehicle, it could also help heal the skin barrier,” said Peter Lio, MD, who is clinical assistant professor of dermatology and pediatrics at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the founding director of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Center.
How can CBD help the skin?
Since the 1990s, scientists have known that humans (and many other animals) have a complex system of cannabinoid receptors running throughout the body, including in the skin. This endocannabinoid system helps regulate and normalize many physiological processes, including pain, mood, stress, sleep and immune system function.
The body makes its own cannabinoids that activate the system, and CBD and other plant-based cannabinoids also stimulate its healing effects. “Specifically, CBD has anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and anti-pain properties that make it extremely attractive as a medicinal compound, particularly in dermatology,” said Lio.
Is there any scientific evidence that CBD topicals improve eczema symptoms?
There are very few studies of topical CBD in people with eczema. A small study published in 2019 in Clinical Therapeutics that included a few people with atopic dermatitis found that a CBD ointment helped clear skin and reduced itch and the sleep loss it caused.
Research also suggests CBD is anti-microbial, with some data showing it works about as well as antibiotics to kill Staphylococcus aureus. Staph can infect the skin of people with atopic dermatitis, triggering flares and other complications.
“Evidence in humans is still pretty limited, which means it’s hard to know how well CBD works for eczema, or the key components necessary for success,” Lio said. Clearer answers about CBD and eczema may be available soon. The results from a trial of a CBD gel in about 200 people with moderate atopic dermatitis are due this year.
So, are CBD topicals safe—and worth a try—for people with eczema?
Research to date shows topical CBD is safe.
“I think that for adults who want to try a CBD topical, there’s little to lose,” said Lio, who noted he has many patients who said they benefit from the products. Like anything else applied to skin, CBD products can cause reactions, so test a small area over a few days before applying widely.
What else do I need to know before buying a CBD cream or oil?
Some CBD products are labeled “isolate,” which means CBD is the only cannabinoid they contain. Broad- and full-spectrum CBD products are made with multiple cannabinoids, sometimes including THC.
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration doesn’t verify how well specific CBD products work, whether they’re safe or if they contain the labeled compounds. Lio suggests asking your dermatologist to vet specific products.
Reputable manufacturers may also offer a certificate of analysis (COA). Often found on company websites, COAs are compiled by an independent, accredited laboratory and detail the quantities of a product’s various cannabinoids.
Are CBD products legal?
Usually, but state laws vary. CBD is legal on the federal level and in most states. THC is legal in some states but still illegal under federal law. Check the laws in the state you’re living or traveling in if you’re unsure.