Recent research has revealed that cannabis and CBD oil may benefit epidermolysis bullosa, a serious genetic skin disorder. This news could offer a ray of hope to patients with the condition who currently have few satisfactory treatment options.
So, how do cannabis-based medicines help epidermolysis bullosa, and what is the best way to use them? Here’s our complete guide.
What Is Epidermolysis Bullosa?
Epidermolysis bullosa is a severe skin condition that causes fragile skin that blisters with the slightest trauma or friction. It can make life challenging for its sufferers as everyday activities like walking and eating can result in extreme pain.
There are several types of epidermolysis bullosa, which vary from mild to debilitating. The most common classifications include:
- Epidermolysis bullosa simplex (EBS): The most common form of the disorder, tends to have relatively mild symptoms.
- Dystrophic epidermolysis bullosa (DBS): DBS symptoms can vary from mild to severe.
- Junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB): JEB is a rare and severe form of the disease.
- Epidermolysis bullosa acquisita (EBA): A similar condition that is an autoimmune disorder.
Doctors sub-classify each of these types further depending on whether one area or the whole body is affected.
Epidermolysis Bullosa Symptoms
The symptoms of epidermolysis bullosa can vary depending on the type and severity of the disease. The most common symptoms include:
- Skin that blisters easily
- Blisters in the mouth or on the hands and feet
- High risk of skin infections
- Scarring, sometimes with white spots called milia
- Thickened skin and nails
- Nail deformity or loss
- Dental problems
- Increased risk of skin cancer
What Causes Epidermolysis Bullosa?
Epidermolysis bullosa is genetic, meaning that it passes from parent to child. Experts believe that mutations in at least 18 different genes contribute to epidermolysis bullosa.
These mutations can be dominant, meaning that it is possible to inherit epidermolysis bullosa from just one parent. However, they may also be recessive, meaning that both parents must carry genetic mutations to pass on the disease.
The exception to the rule is epidermolysis bullosa acquisita, which is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when the immune system becomes overactive and attacks healthy tissue. This form of epidermolysis bullosa tends to occur in people over 40, while doctors usually diagnose the others during early childhood.
Conventional Epidermolysis Bullosa Treatments (Not Cannabis-Based)
There is no cure for epidermolysis bullosa at present. Treatments aim to manage the condition as much as possible by relieving blistering and preventing infections.
Patients may have to learn to puncture their blisters using sterile needles to prevent them from becoming too large. They will also need to learn to dress wounds and avoid activities that irritate the skin.
Some lifestyle changes which people with epidermolysis bullosa may find helpful include:
- Not walking long distances
- Avoiding injuries, even minor bumps and scratches
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes and natural fabrics
- Keeping cool in warm weather
Doctors can prescribe medication to manage symptoms like pain and skin infections. Nutritional support may also be necessary if a person cannot eat due to blisters in the mouth. In very severe cases, surgery such as skin grafts may be necessary.
With so few options available, some epidermolysis bullosa patients have started to treat themselves with cannabis and CBD oil. Let’s look at how these natural therapies might help.
Research on Cannabis and CBD Oil for Epidermolysis Bullosa
There are currently no full-scale clinical trials on cannabis-based medicine for epidermolysis bullosa. However, several case reports have encouraging results.
In 2018, the Pediatric Dermatology journal published a study detailing three patients who used topical CBD for epidermolysis bullosa. All three reported faster skin healing, reduced blistering, and pain relief. One of the participants even managed to stop using opioid painkillers completely.
Another 2019 study, this time for The British Journal of Dermatology, had similar results. However, this time the participants took a combination of CBD and THC. They administered the cannabinoids sublingually (under the tongue). All three patients reported reduced pain and itching, and all decreased their use of analgesic medication.
These initial results are promising, but there is no doubt that further research is necessary. Only large, placebo-controlled trials will confirm the efficacy of cannabis and CBD for epidermolysis bullosa. Until then, we must rely on the anecdotal evidence.
How Do Cannabis and CBD Oil Help Epidermolysis Bullosa?
Although scientists have yet to determine how cannabinoids could help epidermolysis bullosa, it is possible to make some assumptions based on our current knowledge.
For example, we know that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is present in the skin. The ECS is the biological system that cannabinoids like CBD and THC influence. It appears to play a critical role in the growth and development of skin cells.
The ECS operates through a combination of cell receptors and chemicals called endocannabinoids. When these two components bind together, they trigger a host of reactions to keep the body in a state of balance. This is especially important in the skin, which is continually regenerating. For instance, if the formation of new skin cells is not carefully regulated, problems such as psoriasis can occur.
A 2019 study for the journal Molecules explains that the ECS could also help to enhance healing. Research on mice has shown that inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids can lead to faster wound healing. This finding suggests that endocannabinoids have a crucial role in skin repair.
Inhibiting the same enzyme can also stimulate the migration of human keratinocytes from one area to another. These are the cells that produce keratin, the protein that gives our skin strength and flexibility.
Furthermore, the ECS is present in nerve endings in the skin. Therefore, by stimulating this complex system, cannabinoids can reduce some epidermolysis bullosa symptoms, including itching and pain.
To derive the maximum benefit from these cannabis-based treatments, however, it is essential to use them in the right way. Here’s how to use marijuana and CBD for epidermolysis bullosa.
How to Use Cannabis and CBD Oil for Epidermolysis Bullosa
One of the most typical ways of using cannabis is smoking. However, this consumption method is not ideal for patients with epidermolysis bullosa. Smoking, especially with tobacco, has a negative effect on wound healing. It also hinders the immune system and could make infections more likely.
Therefore, it may be better to use marijuana in an alternative way. Edibles are one option, although they could also present problems if a person has difficulty eating. Therefore, oral sprays, oil-filled capsules, or dabbing with concentrates might be more suitable.
Fortunately, there are many different ways to consume CBD oil. The most common method is placing a few drops under the tongue and holding them there for a minute before swallowing. Doing this should not pose too many problems for people with epidermolysis bullosa.
Another option is CBD topicals, although we would advise some exercising some caution here. Topicals do have a significant advantage as you apply them directly to the skin. This means that the cannabinoids in these products can access the skin’s ECS without having to undergo digestion.
The disadvantage of CBD topicals for epidermolysis bullosa is that one must take great care not to rub the skin too hard. Therefore, anyone choosing topicals should be mindful of how they apply them. It may also be necessary to experiment with a few different brands to find a suitable product.
In any case, we recommend consulting a physician before using either cannabis or CBD for epidermolysis bullosa. They will provide accurate information on dosage and administration based on your individual needs.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and CBD Oil for Epidermolysis Bullosa
Epidermolysis bullosa is a painful condition that is life-limiting and challenging to treat. It seems that marijuana and CBD could offer a glimmer of hope, although research is in its infancy.
We advise consulting a medical professional before using CBD or cannabis for epidermolysis bullosa or any condition. Always use responsibly and within the remit of your state’s specific laws.