Topical uses for marijuana: Study finds it effective at soothing skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis
05/24/2019 // Janine Acero // Views

Skin diseases like eczema and psoriasis can potentially be treated with marijuana, a recent study suggests. Robert Dellavalle from the University of Colorado School of Medicine explains how some compounds found in marijuana might relieve itching and pain in people suffering from these skin diseases.

The skin is the body's largest organ. It serves as a protective layer and barrier that shields the body from harmful external factors, such as viruses and bacteria. These pathogens cause a variety of health problems, including chronic skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis.

Eczema causes a red, itchy, painful rash that affects millions of people. There are over-the-counter and prescription medications available to treat eczema, but they don't always work for patients. Researchers are now investigating the compounds found in marijuana to see how they can relieve skin conditions.

There are more than 100 chemical compounds called cannabinoids that are found in the marijuana plant (Cannabis sativa). One of the most widely known and studied cannabinoids is cannabidiol (CBD). It is a nonpsychoactive compound with anti-inflammatory properties that may help with conditions like eczema.

“There’s a large segment of the population that doesn’t like using steroids, even if they are topical steroids on their skin. This would be an alternative, natural product for them to try,” says Dellavalle.

“So, when we have somebody who has tried topical steroids or topical immuno-modulators that suppress the immune system for psoriasis or eczema and they haven't gotten completely better, there’s a potential of using this new therapy that might work in a different way and help them,” he adds.


Dellavalle also reveals that dispensary products containing cannabinoids haven't been controlled or tested, but there are companies that already sell topicals containing these compounds, and they are widely available and used for pain, itch, and other indications.

“And the data of how it’s working is not being collected systematically yet, and we’d like to do that. I believe it’s a wide-open horizon with tremendous potential that needs to be investigated, but there are a number of regulatory hurdles that need to be overcome and that’s where we are,” he explained.

Researchers have already started a clinical study investigating the use of an oral drug containing CBD to treat a certain skin disease related to Parkinson's. The disease, called seborrheic dermatitis, is like dandruff of the face near the nose. According to Dellavalle, about half of patients with Parkinson's have this skin rash.

A total of 40 patients are currently enrolled in phase one and phase two clinical trials sponsored by the Colorado Department of Public Health. But getting the research up and running hasn't been easy.

“The fact that it’s illegal at the federal level, but legal at the state level — it leads to a lot of complications in trying to do research on marijuana and its derivatives, all of the cannabinoids," admitted Dellavalle. "They’ve overcome many years of regulatory hurdles in order to come into works, like that Parkinson’s trial that I mentioned.”

The Parkinson's trials are not yet complete, but previous research has already established that compounds in cannabis can relieve pain related to eczema and psoriasis. Still, health care professionals caution that further study is needed before any reliable recommendations can be made.

Other uses for CBD

CBD oil extracted from the cannabis plant is a widely used natural remedy for common health problems. It is usually diluted in a carrier oil, like coconut or hemp seed oil, prior to use. CBD oil not only relieves skin itching, it also offers the following benefits:

Though more studies are needed, CBD is increasingly becoming a recognized natural remedy. Learn more at

Sources include: 1 2 3 4

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