A picture of a marijuana leaf. Reuters/Rick Wilking

Cannabinoids may be an effective treatment for various skin diseases, according to research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

Researchers at the University of Colorado Anshutz Medical Campus analyzed current literature on the topic and found pharmaceuticals, like topical creams, containing cannabinoids may help fight eczema, psoriasis, atopic and contact dermatitis. The term “cannabinoids” refers to a number of chemical compounds found in the marijuana plant, such as THC and CBD.

“Perhaps the most promising role for cannabinoids is in the treatment of itch,” said the study’s senior author Dr. Robert Dellavalle, in a press release.

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Dellavalle noted in one, small study, some of the participants who applied a cannabinoid cream for 3 weeks had their severe itching completely eliminated.

He believes the reason the treatments may be effective is due to their anti-inflammatory properties. Some studies have found THC, the main ingredient in marijuana, reduces inflammation in mice.

A majority of the studies Dellavalle and his colleagues reviewed used animals models, he notes. Large-scale clinical trials need to be conducted to better understand the effect of cannabinoids on human skin diseases. Although more research is needed, he believes that cannabinoids without psychotropic effects may be a good option for people who have not benefited from prior skin medications; however, he does not recommend this for those with cancer.

“These diseases cause a lot of problems for people and have a direct impact on their quality of life,” said Dellavalle. “The treatments are currently being bought over the internet and we need to educate dermatologists and patients about the potential uses of them.”

Skin diseases are common worldwide and affect more than 1 in 4 Americans, according to a previous study.

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