There are several treatment options available for people living with eczema. Some people with the condition are turning to cannabidiol (CBD) for relief. Scientists are still studying how CBD oil may help treat eczema symptoms.
People with eczema — also called atopic dermatitis — sometimes look to alternative treatments such as CBD oil when prescribed topical or systemic treatments don’t do enough to address symptoms, including cracked or flaking skin, dry skin, and itchiness.
Although there’s no conclusive evidence about CBD oil’s effects on eczema, a few limited studies have shown some promise. Additionally, some members of MyEczemaTeam have reported positive results when using CBD oil. “My eczema is now all gone on my hand. I am avoiding a relapse by staying away from what I am allergic to and using a little CBD oil when my hands look/feel dry,” wrote one member.
Before trying CBD oil or making other changes to your treatments, you should consult with your health care provider — as noted by another MyEczemaTeam member: “You may want to try CBD oil to reduce stress and pain. If you are on any other prescriptions, you should ask your doctor. It is helping me with my eczema.”
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) regulates integral processes in the body that involve the central nervous system, immune system, and skin health and function. This system relies on the cooperation of different components of the body, including endocannabinoids, cannabinoids that are naturally produced in the body. The nervous system, including skin, is full of endocannabinoid receptors. These receptors are large molecules that recognize endocannabinoids, which help maintain skin health by:
If a person’s ECS is not working properly, they may develop skin disorders such as eczema. Skin acts as a first defense against disease-causing microbes in the environment. A disruption to the skin’s barrier function can increase your chance of dangerous infections.
Many scientists believe the receptors could respond similarly to other cannabinoids, such as CBD.
Though the body produces its own cannabinoids, other types can be synthetically produced or found in plants, called phytocannabinoids. The cannabis plant, Cannabis sativa, is one source of phytocannabinoids. “Cannabis” generally refers to all of the products that can be made from the Cannabis sativa plant. This plant is made of different parts, which are regulated by the U.S. government:
CBD can be extracted from the cannabis plant and incorporated into many different CBD products, such as beverages, edibles, and oil. Unlike THC, CBD is not considered a drug. The health benefits of CBD are still being studied, but this cannabinoid has become a popular supplement touted for its health benefits.
Scientists are still exploring the interaction between CBD and the ECS and how CBD may help to treat skin disorders like eczema and psoriasis. Though research is limited, there is some evidence that CBD can be helpful in treating such skin conditions. Topical steroids are commonly used to treat eczema, but long-term steroid use can have negative health effects, such as the discoloration or thinning of the skin and the systemic absorption of steroids. Alternative therapies, such as topical CBD oil, might provide relief from eczema without these unwanted side effects.
CBD has well-established anti-inflammatory properties, which could help limit inflammation in people with eczema. CBD has also been shown to relieve chronic pain, especially when used with a similar compound found in the cannabis plant, called terpenes.
One small study surveyed 16 people with sensitive, dry skin, who used a topical CBD cream. The study found that 67 percent reported decreased itching and 50 percent felt that their eczema had improved by more than half. Another study found that the topical use of CBD ointment (without any THC) safely and effectively relieved skin disorders, especially those with skin inflammation. A separate study of a novel formulation of topical CBS with aspartame showed improvement in participants after 14 days of application.
Besides relieving skin disorder symptoms, CBD has antimicrobial effects and can help kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria in combination with other treatments.
Some CBD products contain a very small amount of THC. Full-spectrum CBD contains all of the cannabinoids and compounds from the cannabis plant — including up to 0.03 percent THC. Broad-spectrum CBD contains all of the same cannabinoids and compounds but does not contain THC.
CBD oil is available in various topical forms, including lotions, oils, and creams. One MyEczemaTeam member provided updates on how a balm containing full-spectrum CBD was helping with their symptoms. In their first report, they wrote, “My first week with CBD, no sign of any results, yet having big flare-ups. Will give the CBD a few weeks.” A week later, they posted an update: “Second week on CBD. My flare-up’s almost gone, still itching.”
CBD oil can be consumed orally as a pill or capsule, as a liquid, or as a gummy or other candy. A MyEczemaTeam member shared how she uses CBD orally in combination with cream. “I apply my … skin cream twice a day, and when I do it at night, I wear socks to bed on my arms so the cream absorbs and stays on my skin. ... Oh, and 3-4 drops of CBD oil under the tongue, helping my body from the inside out!”
CBD oil hasn’t worked for every member of MyEczemaTeam, however. “CBD oil made my situation worse,” noted one member. Another cited cost as a deterrent: “I tried CBD creams, but it gets expensive. I would love a cream that I can say works.”
The National Eczema Association notes that the evidence for using CBD to treat eczema is limited, but research shows that topical CBD is safe. The U.S. Federal Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate many of the CBD-containing products currently available. The FDA has only approved one CBD-containing product, a prescription for treating epilepsy. Though CBD is generally considered safe, side effects may include dry mouth and drowsiness. CBD might also interact with other prescription drugs such as blood thinners, so it's important to talk with your dermatologist and health care providers before trying CBD.
In the United States, each state has different laws regarding the sale of products containing THC or CBD. The majority of states allow for the use of some forms of cannabis for medical purposes. Several states have fully legalized cannabis. However, cannabis remains fully illegal in some states.
The FDA prohibits CBD from being marketed as a dietary supplement.
MyEczemaTeam is the social network for people living with eczema and for their loved ones. More than 37,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with eczema.
Have you tried CBD oil to relieve symptoms of eczema? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on MyEczemaTeam.