The Science behind CBD

14 Oct 2021
Dermatologists across countries, particularly in states where cannabis has been made legal, are inundated with questions such as, “Will cannabidiol (CBD) topicals work for my skin condition?” Unfortunately, the fractured regulatory market of cannabis topicals makes it challenging for doctors, consumers, and even regulators to understand the benefits and risks. In this article, we’ll look at the science and potential benefit behind the molecules found in CBD for dermatological conditions.

The Facts

Hemp is legally defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3 percent THC, and as such, it is classed as a “low THC variety.” There are more than 60 agents in cannabis called cannabinoids, a diverse group of compounds, and various other molecules and terpenes that have great potential to many conditions, without the intoxicating effects of 0.03 percent or less of THC. Only THC of over 0.3 percent is responsible for psychoactive properties, which stigmatized the plant in many people’s minds. The stigma contributed to the ‘illicit’ status in the wellness field and has also hindered research on its health benefits. There are five significant cannabinoids found in cannabis:
  • cannabidiol (CBD)
  • cannabichromene (CBC)
  • cannabigerol (CBG)
  • delta (9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)
  • cannabinol (CBN)

Is CBD different from Hemp seed oil?

Hemp seed oil is derived from the seed of the cannabis plant and has numerous nutritional benefits. However, it is quite different from CBD oil, a whole cannabis plant extract, also called Hemp fiber oil. Consumers should read the ingredients shown on the label carefully to ascertain that the product they require and are purchasing is CBD and not just Hemp Seed oil purported as CBD and much cheaper.  

Can CBD assist with skin and muscle ailments?

It has long been observed that cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and anti-itch qualities, but not until recently has high-quality research been published to understand the physiological effects underlying these anecdotal reports. Dr. Henry Granger Piffard, MD (1842-1910), was one of the founders of American dermatology. He was the founding editor of the Journal of Cutaneous and Venereal Diseases, known by its current name, JAMA Dermatology. Many features of atopic dermatitis (AD) contribute to itch, dehydrated skin, histamine release, and sensory nerve fibers. Cannabinoids, however, have a powerful anti-itch effect. There are receptors in the skin that interact with cannabinoids that could reduce the symptoms and appearance of AD. These effects happen through a constellation of interactions between Phytocannabinoids and our endogenous cannabinoid system. A recent study demonstrated that a molecule interacting with the endocannabinoid system inhibited mast cell activation. Mast cells are immune cells that release histamine when activated, which leads to intense itching and inflammation. There are reports of direct improvement of AD with topical cannabinoids. The antimicrobial characteristics of cannabinoids have been referenced since the 1980s. Still, a more detailed analysis of individual cannabinoids found that all five significant cannabinoids showed potent activity against a variety of S. aureus strains.  

What does this mean?

Cannabinoids have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties and are being extensively tested. Researchers demonstrated that CBD cannabinoids suppress allergic contact dermatitis in mice by activating CB1 receptors. Similar to those present in cannabis, other molecules have also shown significant anti-pain properties in rat models. In a human trial for patients with atopic dermatitis (AD), an endocannabinoid cream improved the severity of itch and loss of sleep by an average of 60 percent among subjects. Twenty percent of subjects were able to stop their topical immunomodulators, 38 percent ceased using their oral antihistamines, and 33.6 percent no longer felt the need to maintain their topical steroid regimen by the end of the study.  

Particular attention

Particular attention should be given to choosing a product to ensure that only non-irritating terpenes are included in the formula. Topicals should be selected based on the profile of ingredients known to reduce pain, inflammation, and irritation for the skin. Additionally, indiscriminate addition of irritants, terpenes, synthetics, and excess solvents from the manufacturing process could also be present. Cannabinoids represent an exciting prospect for the future of atopic dermatitis (AD) therapy. With measurable anti-itch, anti-pain, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, the best advice may be to pay special attention to the ingredient lists and ensure that a third-party laboratory tests products.
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