The role of cannabinoids in dermatology

Historically, medical cannabis has been used most extensively to treat chronic pain, anorexia, and nausea in advanced cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy. Recently, its therapeutic effects against many other conditions have been actively researched, with treating itch-related dermatologic conditions emerging as a promising application.

Chronic kidney disease-associated pruritus (CKD-aP) is chronic itching that occurs in 20%-50% of patients with advanced or end-stage renal disease and causes long-term pain. Physicians have studied the benefits of a cream containing endogenous cannabinoids – compounds similar to components of cannabis but produced naturally by the human body in CKD-aP patients on hemodialysis. In this study, topical application of the cream twice daily completely eliminated itching in 38% of the patients, in addition to alleviating dryness in 81% after only 3 weeks. Moreover, the cream was well tolerated.

Other dermatologists have demonstrated the benefits of an emollient cream with palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) in patients experiencing intense itchy spots and thickened skin spots resulted from itching. They found that PEA, which stimulates anandamide – an endogenous cannabinoid, reduced itch by 86.4% and was also well tolerated by the study participants.

In summary, these clinical studies provided compelling evidence of the benefits and safety of medical cannabis and cannabinoids in treating itch. Although not as well understood, their applications in several other dermatologic conditions including skin rashes, inflammations, and skin cancers are also under active research with promising results


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