With the increasing number of states in America legalizing cannabis, there have been a lot of related studies of the plant for medical application. Whatever your stance is on the drug, there is no doubt that the marijuana plant is full of potential benefits for patients. This list of benefits seems to grow by the day, as according to researchers at the University of Colorado, cannabis may be as effective as a topical treatment for an array of skin disease.
This discovery comes right off the heels of the team also linking tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the psychoactive compound in cannabis—and a reduction of tumor growth in mice with melanoma, a very deadly skin cancer. The active components of cannabis responsible for its effects on the body are called cannabinoids and have already been used for medical purposes for the treatment of nausea, pain, and inflammation. Recent studies show its potential for treating skin conditions such as psoriasis, severe itching, and atopic and contact dermatitis.
Senior study author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, associate professor of dermatology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and his colleagues made this connection—the current literature suggests that cannabis might be an effective treatment for severe itching (pruritus). They reference one study whereby 21 adults with severe itching applied cannabinoid cream twice a day for three weeks and found that eight of the adults experienced complete relief of their symptoms. They also reference other studies showing that THC reduced inflammation in mice, which indicates that the skin health benefits of cannabinoids might be a result of its anti-inflammatory properties.
While these studies show promising results, that have all been conducted using animal models. Dr. Dellavalle would like large-scale studies assessing the safety and efficacy of topical cannabinoids for skin disease in humans to obtain more definitive results for practical use. He and his colleagues are optimistic, as the current evidence suggests that patients with skin diseases not responding to current therapies might benefit from topical cannabinoid treatment.
“These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life,” says Dr. Dellavalle. “The treatments are currently being bought over the Internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them.”
Related: Psoriasis and eczema skin disease: Differences, causes, symptoms and treatment