Dr Sarah Brewer November 21, 2019

CBD (cannabidiol) oil is one of the most popular health supplements for general well being and, as well as being taken by mouth, can also be applied directly to the skin.

In fact, extracts derived from cannabis plants have been applied to wounds for thousands of years1 and, in modern times, CBD balm is now used to soothe chapped, dry or irritated skin and scars.

What is CBD balm?

CBD balm is a soothing and softening emollient made by infusing CBD into a blend of organic beeswax and regenerating oils of coconut, argan and rosehip, plus therapeutic essential oils of geranium, eucalyptus and lavender. To use, apply a thin layer and massage thoroughly into affected areas of skin or over a tired joint.

How does CBD balm work?

When applied to the skin, CBD balm works in several ways. First is the physical and warming action associated with massaging it in. As children, we quickly learned that ‘rubbing it better’ really works for reducing the pain of knocks and sprains, and the same is true for sports injuries and painful joints in later life. The action of rubbing stimulates nerve endings in the area and helps to overwhelm underlying pain signals, so the perception of discomfort is reduced. When rubbing is combined with an active ingredient that sinks into the skin the benefits are multiplied for reducing aches and pains.

CBD interacts with your own endocannabinoid system. Endocannabinoid receptors are found throughout the body, including in skin cells, skin nerve fibres, hair follicles and oil and sweat glands.2 The abundant distribution of cannabinoid receptors in the skin allows topical CBD products to have a localised anti-inflammatory, soothing effect. It also helps to stabilise skin mast cells which release histamine and are involved in allergic skin reactions.2 CBD balm can therefore be used to soothe inflammatory conditions such as acne, eczema and psoriasis, and to soften scars.

Research findings

In a recent study, 20 people with either psoriasis, atopic dermatitis (eczema) or scarring were asked to apply a topical, CBD-enriched ointment to the affected skin, twice a day, for three months. Significant improvements were noted by patients and clinicians, with no irritation or allergic reactions reported. The researchers concluded that topical CBD ointment is a safe and effective way to improve quality of life in people with skin disorders, including those associated with inflammation.3

CBD balm can be used in addition to oral CBD capsules or drops. It can also be used on its own for those who don’t like the taste of CBD drops or who find it difficult to swallow capsules.

Key CBD balm benefits

The organic essential oils that form the balm base have additional skin softening and soothing actions to ease dry, chapped areas.

Applying a topical joint cream or gel after a warm bath or shower, or after exertion, helps it sink in quickly.

Cautions

  • Do not apply topical treatments to broken skin in cause they sting
  • Wash your hands immediately after applying the treatment
  • Don't touch or rub your eyes while you have topical products on your hands
References
1Maida, V. and Corban, J. (2017). Topical Medical Cannabis: A New Treatment for Wound Pain—Three Cases of Pyoderma Gangrenosum, Journal of pain and symptom management 54(5), pp.732-736
2Ständer, S., Schmelz, M., Metze, D., Luger, T. and Rukwied, R. (2005). Distribution of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) and 2 (CB2) on sensory nerve fibers and adnexal structures in human skin, Journal of dermatological science 38(3), pp.177-188
3Palmieri, B., Laurino, C. and Vadalà, M. (2019). A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars, La Clinica Terapeutica 170(2), pp.e93-e99

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn't possible, supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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