Are you struggling to treat your eczema? Click to read all you need to know about CBD and its possible eczema-improving effects. Using CBD for eczema may provide relief for dry, itchy, and inflamed skin. Here’s what the research says and considerations to know before purchasing topicals.
CBD for Eczema: What the Research Shows
Eczema is not just dry skin; it’s a painful, restrictive and hard to treat condition that we’d all want to be without. People with eczema experience dry, flaky skin, redness, itching and painful skin areas.
Corticosteroids are typically used to treat eczema, but the results are often short-lasting, are not totally effective and can come with some serious side effects. Long-term use of topical steroids can actually leave you with more skin problems, like acne, dermatitis, thin skin or discolouration.
A natural alternative could offer some help in relieving the frustrating symptoms of eczema. CBD has shown a lot of promise as a treatment for skin disorders and may be able to combat some of the underlying reasons behind eczema. We’ve done the reading to find out all you need to know about what the research says about CBD for eczema.
What is CBD?
Also known as cannabidiol, CBD is a naturally occurring chemical that belongs to the cannabinoid family. This natural compound is gaining a reputation for its possible health benefits, and many are turning to it as an alternative treatment option. CBD is produced from cannabis plants but can also be purchased as an extract to be used topically, swallowed or vaped.
There are many reasons why people are turning to CBD. Research tells us that CBD may be able to improve a range of conditions, including anxiety, sleep disorders, neurodegenerative conditions and pain ( 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 ).
How can CBD help eczema?
The main way that CBD may be able to help you manage eczema is by reducing inflammation.
There are many different types of eczema, with the most common being atopic dermatitis. Atopic dermatitis is an inflammatory immune condition, meaning that your immune system misfires, overreacting to certain substances and sending out an immune response. Immune responses are typically good; they protect you from harmful invaders. But in the case of atopic eczema, the immune response results in inflammation in the skin, leaving you with itchy, red and painful skin lesions.
Research on CBD and eczema
- One study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine investigated whether cannabinoids like CBD have any effect on certain receptors that result in an inflammatory effect when activated. The study found that CBD significantly suppressed the activation of these receptors, resulting in a reduction of chronic inflammation. The study also found that CBD showed promise in reducing chronic pain, which would also be useful for patients with serious, painful eczema symptoms ( 5 ).
- Another study published in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapies in 2018 also investigated the anti-inflammatory properties of CBD, this time directly to skin cells. The study added CBD to human skin cells that had a stimulated inflammatory skin disorder and measured the inflammatory response these cells exhibited. What the researchers found was that CBD blocked the release of various inflammatory factors, indicating that CBD could be useful in reducing inflammation in inflammatory skin disorders like eczema ( 6 ).
- CBD may also be able to help the general skin condition of patients with eczema by improving hydration and skin elasticity. A 2019 study published in the journal Clinical Therapeutics tested the effects of CBD ointment on severe skin diseases. Patients with psoriasis and atopic eczema administered CBD ointment to their problem skin areas twice daily for three months. The results found that CBD significantly improved the symptoms of these inflammatory skin disorders, with no irritant or allergic reactions reported ( 7 ). This study tells us the CBD could be able to safely and effectively improve the condition of inflammatory skin disorders like eczema.
Does CBD work as a topical?
When using CBD for eczema, most people will probably prefer to use it as an ointment, cream or topical oil, but topical CBD products may not be the most effective.
Bioavailability refers to the amount of a substance that reaches the bloodstream. When it comes to using CBD on the skin, the bioavailability is likely to be low. This is because the skin contains a lot of water, and cannabinoids can’t dissolve in water, so CBD is unlikely to be able to cross the skin barrier to take effect.
One way that you may be able to improve the effectiveness of topical CBD products is by ensuring they contain carrier oils. Since cannabinoids can dissolve in oil, a carrier oil could help to improve the transport of CBD through the skin. Oils you should look out for in CBD products include argan oil and olive oil, as these are thought to potentially work as carriers for cannabinoids like CBD ( 8 ).
Side effects of CBD
While CBD does show a lot of promise as a possible treatment for eczema, it’s important to keep in mind any possible side effects from this cannabinoid. Common side effects from CBD include reduced appetite, sleepiness, lethargy and diarrhoea ( 9 ). But the good news is that these side effects tend to be mild, and CBD is largely thought to have a high safety profile.
One misconception around CBD is that it can induce a high. While CBD is derived from cannabis, a high is not one of its side effects. Another cannabinoid compound called THC is the reason for the infamous effects of cannabis. As long as your CBD extract contains no THC, you don’t have to worry about experiencing any psychotropic effects.
The bottom line
Those with eczema know that it can be especially hard to live with. This skin disorder can make it difficult to move and can be embarrassing, uncomfortable and, in serious cases, painful.
CBD has shown great potential as a treatment for eczema, thanks to its anti-inflammatory powers and ability to improve skin elasticity and hydration. It is important to keep in mind that more research is needed into CBD as a treatment for eczema before we can properly understand just how effective it is. However, early research is promising, and with a high safety profile, it shows exciting potential.
Does CBD for Eczema Really Work?
Lindsay Curtis is a health writer with over 20 years of experience in writing health, science & wellness-focused articles.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Emily Dashiell, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor who has worked in group and private practice settings over the last 15 years. She is in private practice in Santa Monica, California.
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural compound found in the cannabis plant that can be prepared as oils, creams, and other products for use as a therapeutic remedy for many common ailments and health conditions. Some people use CBD oil for eczema.
Eczema (dermatitis) is a skin condition that causes patches of irritated, itchy, dry, inflamed skin. There are many types of eczema. While the exact cause is unknown, genetics, environmental factors, and the immune system are believed to be potential causes and triggers.
There is no cure for eczema, but there are ways to manage symptoms, including over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription treatments. For people who prefer using natural remedies, CBD oil may help soothe and reduce their eczema symptoms.
Photoboyko / Getty Images
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabis plants contain unique chemicals called cannabinoids. The two major cannabinoids are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Has psychoactive properties that can make a person feel “high”
- Cannabidiol (CBD): Has no psychoactive effects but may provide therapeutic benefits
Both CBD and THC interact with a communication system in the body called the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex biological system that plays a role in appetite, mood, memory, and sleep.
Research has suggested that the ECS contributes to the function and reproduction of skin cells. A dysregulated ECS is associated with dermatological disorders, including eczema and atopic dermatitis.
When applied topically to the skin, CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the top layer of the skin (epidermis) and may offer therapeutic benefits including moisturizing the skin, reducing itchiness and inflammation, and promoting wound healing.
CBD oil comes in many forms, including creams, salves, balms, lotions, and oils.
Hemp Seed Oil vs. CBD
In your search for plant-based remedies for treating eczema, you may have come across different options that derive from cannabis and hemp plants, including hemp seed oil, hemp oil, and CBD oil.
Understanding the differences can help you know what to look for when you’re shopping for whole hemp plant products for eczema.
: Created by pressing the seeds of hemp plants (Cannabis sativa L.). This oil is rich in fatty acids and other nutrients, and research shows it can be helpful in treating skin conditions, including eczema and dermatitis. Hemp seed oil does not contain cannabinoids—the chemical compounds in the hemp plant that interact with the body’s endocannabinoid system. : Made using the flower of the hemp plant, rather than the seed. Hemp oil contains a full spectrum of cannabinoids. CBD is just one of the cannabinoids in hemp oil. : Extracted from the entire hemp plant, including the stalks, flowers, and leaves. CBD oil does not come from the seeds of the cannabis plant (the seeds do not contain cannabinoids).
CBD for Eczema Symptoms
There are many types of eczema, and they can show up in different parts of the body. Eczema of all types can cause itchy, dry, flaky patches of skin. In some cases, it may cause painful sores and blisters, which can leave the skin more susceptible to infection.
Types of eczema that may benefit from topical CBD include:
- Atopic dermatitis (AD): This is the most common type of eczema. It is associated with dryness and itching. The exact cause is unknown, but it is believed to be triggered by an overactive immune system. People with asthma and/or hay fever are more likely to develop AD. : This type of eczema is caused by an allergic reaction from contact with irritants such as fragrances, dyes, metal, some medications, and poison ivy/oak. Symptoms include intense itching, and burning or blistering of the skin. : This type of eczema is triggered by stress, seasonal allergies, and change in humidity. It causes itchy, irritating blisters on the bottom of the feet and palms of the hands. : This type of eczema is associated with pink or brown circular (sometimes oozing) spots on the skin. It is often triggered by dry, sensitive skin, insect bites, injuries to the skin, or chemical burns. : This type of eczema is commonly caused by cold, dry weather, genetics, and stress. It produces scaly, dry patches of skin on the scalp or body which tend to form where the skin is most oily, including around the eyebrows, mid-chest, upper back, and groin area.
What Research Shows
There are limited studies on the effectiveness of topical CBD for people with eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions. However, some of the research suggests that CBD oil may have therapeutic potential for treating eczema, healing skin wounds, and soothing skin symptoms.
A study published in 2019 found that CBD ointment helped reduce itchiness, soothed redness and inflammation, and enhanced sleep in people with eczema.
A 2014 study found that hemp seed oil was useful for treating eczema and other skin conditions such as psoriasis, acne rosacea, and seborrheic dermatitis. The study also showed that hemp seed oil strengthens skin and makes it more resistant to bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
What Causes Eczema Flares?
Though eczema affects everyone differently, a number of common triggers can cause a flare-up of symptoms.
Common causes of eczema flares include:
- Dry skin: Brittle, rough, and tight skin can worsen eczema symptoms.
- Chemical irritants: Fragrances, chemicals found in shampoos and lotions, cigarette smoke, and environmental toxins can worsen or trigger eczema symptoms.
- Stress: Emotional stress can trigger or worsen eczema symptoms. Anecdotally, many people use CBD to help manage stress. Early research has shown that it might be effective at relieving stress, anxiety, and sleeping problems.
Is CBD for Eczema Safe?
CBD is generally considered to be safe for use in treating eczema and other skin conditions. Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD oil might help reduce irritation, pain, swelling, and redness from skin conditions like eczema.
As with any topical treatment, it’s best to test CBD oil on a small patch of unaffected skin before applying it to larger areas where you have eczema.
To do a patch test, apply CBD oil to a small area and watch for 24 hours to check for any side effects (e.g., itching, redness, swelling).
Talk to your primary care physician or dermatologist before you try CBD, as they will want to discuss the potential side effects of using CBD products, as well as make sure that it will not interact with any other medications, supplements, or treatments that you are using.
Best CBD for Eczema Flare-Ups
Topical CBD comes in many forms, including creams, lotions, serums, balms, and salves.
One of the best defenses against eczema is keeping your skin well hydrated. Thicker topicals that contain ingredients for both skin protection and moisturization can be especially helpful.
CBD products also come in different preparations. The availability of these products (especially those that contain THC) will vary from state to state.
- Isolate: CBD is the only cannabinoid contained in the product. : Contains multiple naturally occurring cannabis plant extracts, including terpenes and other cannabinoids, including up to 0.3% THC.
- Broad: Contains CBD and other components/cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant, but does not contain any THC.
How to Buy CBD
With many CBD and hemp oil options for eczema, it can be challenging to know what products to choose. Here are some key points to consider when you’re picking a product:
- Hemp source: CBD is derived from hemp plants. The quality and cultivation of the plants are important considerations. Look for products that come from organic hemp plants when possible.
- Certificate of Analysis (CoA): Responsible, reputable manufacturers should offer a CoA that details the quantities of a product’s cannabinoids. CoAs are conducted by an independent, accredited lab.
- Read the label: Read the full list of ingredients for CBD topicals. Make sure that any product you are considering does not contain fragrances or other potential irritants that could worsen eczema.
- Type of CBD: To get the best results, look for full-spectrum or broad CBD products, which may offer an “entourage effect” (combining multiple cannabis compounds that work in synergy to offer the most benefits).
A Word From Verywell
While there are many OTC and prescription treatments for eczema, if you are looking for a natural way to manage your symptoms, CBD products might be an option.
Research on how effective CBD is for treating skin conditions like eczema is limited, but has shown that products that contain CBD might help reduce the dry skin, itchiness, and inflammation that is associated with eczema.
It’s important that you talk to your doctor before you try a CBD product, as it can have side effects and might interact with other treatments that you use for eczema.
Before you use CBD on your skin, do a spot test on a place that does not have eczema on it to make sure that you do not have a sensitivity or reaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does CBD help with itchy skin from eczema?
CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that may help reduce irritating eczema symptoms such as itching, pain, and dry skin.
How does the ECS work?
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) helps regulate many physiological processes, including sleep, immune function, and pain.
Research has shown that the endocannabinoid system also plays a role in skin health. A dysregulated ECS is associated with dermatological disorders such as eczema and atopic dermatitis.
When applied topically, CBD’s anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, and pain-reducing properties interact with the ECS, which might make it an effective treatment for many skin conditions.
Is CBD good for skin conditions?
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, CBD is commonly used to treat skin conditions and soothe symptoms—especially the dryness, itching, and pain often associated with eczema, dermatitis, and psoriasis.
Is CBD for eczema safe?
CBD is generally considered to be a safe alternative treatment for eczema. However, as with any skincare product, you’ll want to do a patch test first to make sure that you do not have a sensitivity or allergy.
Apply CBD to a small patch of unaffected skin and wait for 24 hours, watching for symptoms of irritation such as itching, redness, and pain. If no symptoms develop, you can safely apply the product liberally to any eczema patches.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Baswan SM, Klosner AE, Glynn K, et al. Therapeutic potential of cannabidiol (CBD) for skin health and disorders. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2020;13:927-942. doi:10.2147/CCID.S286411