Cannabinoids and Your Skin
The cannabis plant produces a lot of compounds that are beneficial to topical application, such as omega fatty acids, vitamins and antioxidants. Perhaps the most talked about compounds that cannabis produces are cannabinoids. The most famous cannabinoids are THC, the molecule in marijuana that gets people stoned, and CBD, which does not produce a psychoactive effect. While CBD can be found in both marijuana and hemp, hemp contains less than .3% THC.
While many people associate cannabis with recreational activity, it also gaining popularity for its therapeutic benefits. Numerous studies have investigated the use of cannabinoids in treating a vast array of conditions including epilepsy, chronic pain, anorexia, nausea, cancer, etc. In recent years, researchers have also investigated the use of cannabinoids in topical application. In 2016, the University of Kentucky studied the effects of CBD to treat arthritis in rats, measuring mobility and pain levels. The study concluded that “topical CBD application has therapeutic potential for relief of arthritis pain-related behaviours and inflammation without evident side-effects.”
Cannabinoids produced by the cannabis plant are known as phytocannabinoids. Endocannabinoids refer to cannabinoids naturally produced by the human body. The endocannabinoid system helps to regulate our body’s natural conditions, including appetite, mood, memory, immune system functions, inflammation and pain sensation.
Cannabinoids bind to cannabinoid receptors, signaling cells to regulate a wide variety of functions from metabolism of fats to inflammation to pain response.
The top layer of skin is called the epidermis. This thin sheet of flesh makes the body waterproof. It provides protection against UV rays. And, of course, it keeps blood in and nasty microbes out.
Just under the top layer of skin are a complex array of micro-organs such as hair follicles, and sebaceous glands which supply oils to the skin’s surface to keep it soft and repel moisture. There are also sweat glands to help regulate the body’s temperature. Every inch of your skin is supplied by a network of nerve fibers which sense heat, cold, pressure, vibration, pain and itch, and produces cannabinoids to respond to these conditions. Phytocannabinoids such as CBD can mimic the body’s natural cannabinoids and may inhibit the sense of pain, suppress itching and more.
In a study of patients with severe itching, application of a cream containing cannabinoids applied twice daily for 3 weeks completely eliminated the itch in some patients.
The anti-inflammatory properties of CBD make it a promising candidate for the treatment of dry, itchy skin, skin allergies, dermatitis, and psoriasis. Cannabinoids also play a role in regulating hair growth disorder which can cause baldness.
Studies on CBD for Skincare
In a 2009 study funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers concluded that “the main physiological function of the cutaneous [skin] ECS [receptors] is to constitutively control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation and survival, as well as immune competence and/or tolerance, of skin cells. The disruption of this delicate balance might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin (e.g. acne, seborrhea, allergic dermatitis, itch and pain, psoriasis, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis, and cancer).
Another study done in 2005 by the Department of Dermatology, University Hospital Münster, Germany determined that “the abundant distribution of cannabinoid receptors on skin nerve fibers and mast cells provides implications for an anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive action of cannabinoid receptor agonists and suggests their putatively broad therapeutic potential.”
In 2014, a study funded by the NIH concluded that “cannabinoids can engage numerous targets within the skin,” and “participate in functions related to pain and itch perception, epidermal homeostasis, and the promotion and suppression of dermatitis in both animal models and humans.”
All of these studies also confirmed that endocannabinoid deficiencies in the skin can result in the conditions listed above. Supplementing your skin with CBD can provide the cannabinoids your skin may be missing due to imbalances, damage, allergies, etc.