Can CBD Reduce Eczema Caused By Stress?

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Mental illness is not a personal failure. The statement may be bold, but in a world dominated by emotional stress, it helps to realise you are not the only one struggling. Whether it is work, home life, family-related, or the neighbours playing music until the early hours of the morning, there is no avoiding stress. Under usual circumstances, stress is a necessary and healthy part of life, helping us to stay focused and alert. However, it is when stress is left unchecked that physically and mentally debilitating conditions begin to manifest. In this article, we will look at how researchers think CBD could impact stress-related eczema, one of the physical manifestation of stress-related illness.

In most cases, the biggest hurdle to dealing with any condition influenced by stress is talking about it! Whether it is a doctor, psychologist, or a friend, discussing how we feel is vitally important.

Dealing with stress is not always a simple fix, especially when it begins to impact both our mind and body. Fortunately, a 2022 report by the World Health Organisation outlined how several psychological conditions can be easily managed, treated or avoided with simple medications and community-based healthcare programs. Although treatment may sound simple, the challenge for health care organisations is that no two cases of stress are the same.

Understanding stress and what causes it

There is no one size fits all approach to managing stress or triggers for stress. An influx in workload might stress one person out, while others are unaffected. The source of stress will vary from person to person. A vital consideration is being honest with yourself and talking candidly about what or who is causing you stress.

It may be that removing the source of stress is all it takes to get back on track. If you can't, potential steps to manage stress include getting regular exercise, relaxation techniques (reading, yoga, medication), spending time with family and friends or enjoying hobbies. Effective strategies will, again, vary from one person to the next. Often the best approach is being proactive in managing stress, rather than waiting for it to build to the point that it spills over into a range of mental or physical symptoms.

The relationship between stress and eczema

We’ve talked about stress a lot, but in reality, what does emotional stress actually do to the body? Psychologically, prolonged or untreated stress can lead to anxiety, depression and a lack of motivation—to name but a few symptoms. Physically, stress can manifest as headaches, upset stomach, muscle tension, and skin conditions such as the one in the title of this article—eczema.

Eczema, or atopical dermatitis as it is otherwise known, is typically caused by an overactive immune system. In response to an internal or external agent, our immune system can trigger excessive inflammation. The result is red, itchy and painful patches of skin which usually appear on the face, elbows, knees, hands, feet and ankles. Sadly, we still don’t know what causes our immune system to behave this way, and that makes curing eczema impossible—for the time being.

What we can do, however, is to manage or reduce the agents causing our immune system to go into overdrive. Dry skin, irritants such as shampoo, metals, cigarette smoke and food allergens are all linked to the onset of eczema. Provided you can identify the correct trigger, removing one or all of these elements isn’t too challenging. That sounds all well and good, but you may be wondering where stress fits into the eczema equation.

Although research is limited, there is evidence suggesting that emotional stress also acts as a trigger for eczema flare-ups. In a comprehensive review performed by multiple leading universities, it was established that “psychological stress is a significant contributor to atopical dermatitis through its direct and indirect effects on immune response”. The researchers went on to add that more scientific research was needed to establish the exact “neurocutaneous interactions”—that’s the interactions taking place between different genes in layman terms.

What do academics suggest about CBD as part of eczema treatment?

It is, without a doubt, fantastic news that we are slowly learning the underlying mechanism involved in eczema. But for the millions of people living with the condition, what options do they have if the triggers outlined above are unknown or unavoidable?

Respite may come in the form of a hemp-derived cannabinoid, CBD—at least according to a study published by La Clinica Terapeutica. The objective of the study was to investigate the effect of CBD ointment administered on severe skin diseases.

A total of twenty patients (five with atopic dermatitis) were asked to apply topical CBD ointment to affected areas, twice a day for three months. Using data from skin evaluations, clinical questionnaires, and photo evidence, “results showed that topical treatment with CBD-enriched ointment significantly improved the skin parameters”. The study went on to add that “no irritant or allergic reactions were documented during the treatment period”.

There is still an incredible amount to learn about the underlying mechanism of eczema, in addition to the condition's links to stress. While we wait for more studies on CBD’s impact on eczema, early results appear favourable—an outcome that will no doubt appeal to the millions of people living with eczema.

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