An estimated 15 million people in the UK are living with eczema, where over 25 million prescriptions for topical agents to treat the condition were written by GPs in England in 2015.
According to the National Eczema Association, “eczema” is a general term for irritated and itchy skin, which occurs predominantly in infants, but also in children and adults, where the severity and onset of the condition can depend on genetics, environmental, seasonal, or lifestyle factors. While the condition tends to manifest as a few annoying itchy areas that crop up form time to time, or in mild cases depending on the season, the condition can be truly debilitating for those with severe eczema - with issues including serious infections, immune system issues, and mental health struggles.
According to Amena Warner, Head of Clinical Services at Allergy UK, “Eczema is a common symptom which can be ‘triggered’ by irritants and allergens as well as from a genetic tendency of dry skin. As well as a symptom, it can also be the gateway to allergic sensitisation, so when the body is exposed to that allergen there is a potential for a reaction. Protecting the skin barrier can help to reduce the risk of becoming sensitised to allergens.” Allergy UK also recommends that emollient treatment is continued even when the skin appears to be in good condition to prevent the risk of eczema flares reoccurring.
Dr. Zeichner explains that there are two stages to treating eczema: “first there’s a need to repair the skin barrier and improve hydration. Second, we want to reduce inflammation in areas where there is an active rash”, and “typical treatments can include everything from gentle skin cleansers and moisturisers, to over-the-counter hydrocortisone creams, to stronger prescription topical steroid ointment, oral immunosuppressants and UV/LED light therapy.”
Whilst eczema is typically treated using the methods above, there is an increasing number of patients who are looking for natural remedies instead, including the use of CBD. According to a 2019 study, CBD creams and balms can help protect the skin, as cutaneous cannabinoid signalling is deeply involved in the maintenance of skin homeostasis, barrier formation and regeneration.
How CBD became an option for helping the treatment of Eczema
“CBD has skin calming and anti-inflammatory properties, making it useful in treating conditions like eczema” - Dr. Andrew Kerklaan of Dr Kerklaan Therapeutics.
According to Dr Kerklaan, “ultimately, your endocannabinoid system (ECS) is forming part of your immune system control - so, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues can be a sign of the immune system faltering. Technically, your skin is part of your immune system; it's the largest organ. So, it's kind of a perfect marriage to have your endocannabinoid system in your skin to have your issues potentially relating to immune response, and to have cannabinoids, and CBD in particular, be able to influence your endocannabinoid system.” He continues to say that CBD is a “perfect molecule” for skin issues, since it is plant-based and natural.
He describes it as a “mirror-image of a molecule you already have in your body that you produce anyway - toxicity is extremely low, tolerance is high, and the potential effect is great.”
With the concept that the ECS acting as a regulator, it can “speed things up or slow things down”, therefore CBD can be used both “as a preventative measure, or use it if you start to sense you’re getting a flare-up.”
As to whether to use solely topicals, or a combination of topicals and ingestibles, Dr. Kerklaan says it depends on the severity of the situation: “for a mild to moderate skin issue, then topical makes 100% sense,” he explains, but “if you have really irritated skin with lots of eczema, a really chronic condition—then it's likely that an ingestible will give you a kind of extra power,” and the reports and photos that we're getting from people with really mild to moderate situations [who’ve used only topicals] are clearing up nicely.
At Molecule we have both topical and ingestible forms of CBD - Here are our top picks to help with Eczema. Equally, if you'd like to know more or come in for a 1-2-1 consultation please get in touch.