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Cannabis-Based Treatments May Be Beneficial for Skin Diseases

Cannabinoids observed to reduce inflammation in various skin conditions.
Published Online: Apr 26,2017
Laurie Toich, Assistant Editor
Cannabinoids, a component of cannabis, contain anti-inflammatory properties that could be harnessed to treat a variety of inflammatory skin conditions, including eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.
 
While many studies have suggested that cannabis can be used to treat multiple disorders, federal regulations have made the approval of these products difficult. Only 28 states have authorized medical cannabis programs, but researchers have explored the drug’s use in conditions such as multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, nausea, pain, and anorexia.
 
In a new study published by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, the authors conducted an analysis of current research on medical marijuana. Increasingly, dermatologists have been looking to cannabinoids to determine its efficacy in treating skin diseases.
 
"Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch," said senior study author Robert Dellavalle, MD.
 
The authors discovered that 8 out of 21 patients who used a topical cannabinoid cream twice per day experienced a completely diminished itch. This finding suggests that the treatment effectively eliminated the dry skin that caused the itch.
 
In the reviewed research, the authors found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) reduced inflammation and swelling in mice. The authors hypothesized that the treatment’s success was the result of cannabinoid’s anti-inflammatory properties.
 
Additionally, the findings showed that THC injections stopped tumor growth in mice with melanoma, according to the study.
 
The authors believe that since the cannabinoid-based drugs are free from side effects associated with marijuana, they make an excellent candidate for skin disorders.
 
"These are topical cannabinoid drugs with little or no psychotropic effect that can be used for skin disease," Dr Dellavalle said.
 
Despite the positive results, the authors caution that a large portion of studies include animal models. Since no large-scale human clinical trials have been conducted, definite conclusions cannot be made, according to the study.
 
However, there may be an uptake in clinical trials as more states move towards legalizing medical cannabis.
 
Current treatments for skin conditions may not work for all patients or they may develop resistance. Topical corticosteroids (TCS) can be used for a variety of skin conditions, including eczema, by reducing inflammation. While the treatment can clear skin, it can also cause topical steroid addiction. Patients typically experience redness, burning, and stinging within days or weeks of discontinuation, making it a risky, long-term treatment.
 
For these patients, and those without adequate disease control on current drugs, the authors recommend cannabinoid-based treatments. However, there may not be enough evidence to recommend them to patients with cancer, according to the study.
 
"These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life," Dr Dellavalle concluded. "The treatments are currently being bought over the internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them."