You may have heard that your skin is your largest organ, and this is true. But did you know that it weighs about 8 lbs, and covers up to 22 square feet? The skin can connect us with and also protect us from the outside world. But this amazing organ even does more. Recent research has also found that our skin actually functions as a neuro-immuno-endocrine organ. More research needs to be done in order to learn about the many functions our skin performs, but it’s safe to say that it is very important, and whether our skin is normal or diseased, it should not be ignored.
Many skin conditions are very common, and although most are not curable or preventable, they can be controlled and managed. If you are tired of the man-made, side-effect prone, and expensive prescription medications your doctor prescribes, it might be time to look into cannabis. Whether it’s topical (applied directly to the skin), or systemic (oral), the therapeutic effect of cannabis can be a welcome treatment.
The reason cannabis is particularly effective in treating skin conditions is because it’s properties can help reduce many of the most common symptoms and triggers, including:
- Immune system malfunctions
- Anxiety and Stress
Here are some basic facts about some of the most common skin conditions, and how cannabis may be able to help:
Acne – 85 percent of Americans will experience acne at some point in their lives (40-50 million people at any given time). Americans spend over $2 billion per year treating and/or preventing it. After a quick perusal of the internet, it’s clear there is some controversy with using cannabis for acne. While some swear by the benefits, others contend that when smoked, marijuana can actually cause acne. Even the Huffington Post weighed in on this debate! It is possible that a topical application of cannabis might be more effective than smoking marijuana.
Eczema (including Contact Dermatitis) – Over 30 million Americans may have it. It means the immune system is working too hard, therefore causing the skin to overact. Triggers are often environmental, or brought on by stress. Cannabis (more specifically THC), when applied topically, has been found to effectively lessen contact allergic inflammation. It can be applied in an alcohol extract or in oil form. The medicine is absorbed at the site of inflammation, with little to no psychoactive effect.
Psoriasis – As many as 7.5 million Americans have it. It is an autoimmune disease, and is most often hereditary. Acute cases usually require systemic therapies, however topical therapies are appropriate in most cases. Due to the anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoids, and the regulatory effects of THC on the immune system, in addition to the ability of cannabinoids to be absorbed through the skin, cannabis has been found to be effective in treating psoriasis.
Rosacea – An estimated 16 million Americans have it. It is characterized by flare-ups and remissions of redness and dryness of the skin on the cheeks, nose, chin, forehead, and surrounding areas. It may also affect the eyes. Rarely does it affect other parts of the body. The cause is unknown, but seems to be more prevalent in women, and those with fair skin who blush easily. There seems to be some connection to inflammatory pathways and immune response. It is possible the condition is hereditary. The most common triggers are environmental, such as extreme weather, certain foods, and cosmetics. Stress is also a major trigger. Topical and oral applications seem to be more effective than smoking cannabis. Because cannabis can reduce inflammation, immune response, and stress, it can be an effective treatment for rosacea.
Skin cancer – More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually. It is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In general, medical marijuana has been beneficial to cancer patients, with its ability to increase appetite, and reduce pain, nausea, and depression. Due to its specific therapeutic properties, cannabis can be particularly effective in treating skin cancer.
In addition to the conditions above, cannabis can also help with shingles, herpes, warts, and others.
One often overlooked problem with skin conditions is the mental aspect. Due to the often “ugly” visual nature of many skin conditions, it is quite common for the sufferer to be treated poorly by others, or have low self-esteem. This type of behavior can translate into depression and anxiety. This may be one of the most compelling reasons to try cannabis, while it can help alleviate the symptoms of skin conditions, it is also known to be effective with depression and anxiety.
But the advantages of cannabis don’t stop there. Because it is also considered an antioxidant, it can help slow down the damage to skin cells from oxidation by free radicals. This is particularly important in skin cancer cases, as antioxidants can play a role in preventing the spread of cancer.
Cannabis may not always be “a miracle drug”, but what other known substance can address the triggers, symptoms, and mental ramifications of skin disease, and also help slow down the damage of skin cells? Keep this in mind the next time that nasty itch flares up again, and remember that you have an excellent alternative to that old prescription your doctor gave you.