From the 13th – 19th September, we’ll be turning our focus to National Eczema Week to learn more about this problematic skin condition, which can affect all ages, at any time.
What’s the deal with Eczema?
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. It provides immunity and much-needed protection from environmental factors such as UV rays, microbes, those aforementioned chemicals, temperature change and more, and when the protective, waterproof barrier fails, as with eczema, the side effects go far beyond the surface.
How the skin reads the environmental changes is through Neuropeptides. These are released from cutaneous (skin) nerves or skin and immune cells in response to noxious stimuli and are mandatory in regulating the skins immune responses and tissue maintenance and repair. They are also important for counter regulation of skin inflammation. A deregulated neurogenic immune control results in disease manifestation, like eczema, and frequently accompanies chronic development of skin disorders.
Today, it’s estimated that around 15 million people in the UK are suffering with eczema, particularly now with the extra hand-washing and sanitising required to keep Covid-19 at bay, not to mention the raised anxiety levels. In 2015, GPs in England reportedly wrote approximately 27 million prescriptions for the treatment of eczema, up a whopping 13 million since 2005, which then had increased by 57% in the four years prior to that. And numbers are only expected to have grown since.
So, the first question is: what’s going on? Why are we seeing such staggering increase of this, sometimes extremely painful, debilitating condition? There are a number of speculative answers.
One, which seems highly likely to us, is the pollutants we put onto and into our bodies on a daily basis.
A potential cause has been shown through research in the US conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency, which revealed that the air inside an average home, school or workplace is now 2 – 5 times more polluted than directly outside. There are many contributing factors to this too, such as harsh cleaning products, chemical-laden cosmetics, plastics, toys and furnishings off-gassing VOCs at an alarming rate. Even many of the products we might put onto our skin in a bid to soothe the discomfort of skin conditions such as eczema can very quickly exacerbate symptoms, due to seemingly innocent ingredients like ‘fragrance’ which can be made up of up to 5000 unlisted chemicals, including endocrine-disrupting phthalates.
Our diet also plays a huge role in skin health, as there are lots of foods which could present a problem or increase inflammation. This could be a result of allergic reactions, missing dietary essentials (such as amino acids and omegas) or simply due to the fact that some foods, like dairy, sugar or highly processed foods, are highly inflammatory by nature. Here’s an article with some dietary tips from Medical News Today.
Another factor to consider is stress, which those suffering from Eczema often say can cause a flare up. The National Eczema Association state “Although ridding your life of stress won’t eliminate your eczema altogether, it will help alleviate some of the common symptoms of this disease”.
The scientific research behind the relationship between stress and skin issues can be read here “ Recently, it has been further established via clinical and physiological means that psychological stress is a significant contributor to Atopic Dermatitis disease course (ECZEMA) through its direct and indirect effects on immune response, cutaneous neuropeptide expression, and skin barrier function”.
But whatever it is that’s causing the rise in Eczema, the result is the same: inflamed, sore, itchy, patchy skin where the protective barrier is not working as it should.
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And this is where CBD comes in.
Recorded research goes way back. 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. The first textbook of dermatologic therapeutics was also written by Piffard. In it he notes, “a pill of cannabis indica at bedtime has at my hands sometimes afforded relief to the intolerable itching of eczema.” Since then, there have been myriad studies published on the potential benefits of cannabinoids in skin conditions.
When people think of CBD, they’re likely to think of its existence in our internal workings – but endocannabinoid CB1 and CB2 receptors reside in almost all skin cell types too, helping to regulate the normal function of the skin barrier.
The skin, in all its layers, has its own immune system and it’s also the source of a number of vital hormones which are involved in immune defence. Its healthy function can be impacted by many factors, such as those mentioned above, but also anxiety, lack of quality sleep and dehydration – the same things which have the potential to cause what’s known as an endocannabinoid deficiency.
So, now knowing this, it may come as no surprise that one aspect of the skin which is off balance in those with Eczema is endocannabinoid production, which creates something called endocannabinoid tone – essentially the health and strength of the skin barrier. Both endocannabinoids anandamide and 2-AG need to be released consistently and in optimal amounts for healthy, physiological skin function and as such, many experts have speculated that endocannabinoid deficiency and dysfunctional cannabinoid tone are highly likely to contribute to inflammatory skin conditions like Eczema.
With this in mind, it seems only reasonable that clinical trials start looking towards cannabinoids from the cannabis sativa plant to help. And they have.
Scientific research since the discovery of the endocannabinoid system back in the early 90s has taught us that CBD, THC and all other 100+ cannabinoids have the ability to activate or bind to our ECS receptors, both mimicking the action of endocannabinoids and supporting their release and consistent flow through the body, including the CB receptors in skin cells. There’s growing evidence to support that endocannabinoid anandamide helps to control skin differentiation, in addition to the ability to control inflammatory responses and pain transmission. What’s more, a 2014 study published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation has shown (through administration of CBD on cultured human sebocytes and human skin organ culture), that topical application of CBD may exert a complex anti-inflammatory action to soothe swelling, redness and further irritation, as well as having lipostatic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory effects.
And this, ladies and gents, is merely scratching the surface.
If you, or someone you love, is affected by Eczema and you’d like to put these claims to the test we’ve got a wide variety of all-natural CBD skin care for you to choose from. We also recommend taking CBD orally, as this tackles the hormone imbalances and anxiety levels, acting as a preventative. Let us know how you get on! We always love hearing from you.