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Topical Cannabis: Aye, There's the Rub

Another potential indication for medical marijuana: psoriasis.

Medical marijuana is legal in more than half of US states. As its use has increased over the past decade, so has research into the different medical applications of cannabis-including topical cannabis for skin disorders.

"We've learned a great deal about the dermatologic applications of cannabis over the past several years, and we're continually learning more," said Jeanette Jacknin, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, at the 2018 AAD Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA.

Because cannabis has anti-inflammatory properties, Dr. Jacknin said, there may be potential for topical formulations to improve conditions such as psoriasis by reducing the inflammation associated with the disease. Moreover, she said, no negative side effects have been associated with topical cannabis treatment, aside from contact dermatitis, which could occur with any substance applied to the skin.

"Topical cannabis products contain little or no THC, which gives marijuana its psychoactive properties," Dr. Jacknin said.

Before recommending topical cannabis treatment, Dr. Jacknin noted, it's important to ensure that the product comes from a reputable source. And since medical marijuana isn't legal everywhere, she said, those considering topical cannabis treatment should familiarize themselves with the medical marijuana laws in their state and make sure they abide by them.

While most research into the dermatologic applications of cannabis has focused on topical uses, investigation into oral and inhaled use is ongoing, Dr. Jacknin said, and more research into topical cannabis is also needed. "This is an area that has really exploded in recent years, and I expect it to grow even more in the years to come."


American Academy of Dermatology. Public, researchers demonstrate growing interest in cannabis treatment [press release]. Schaumburg, IL: American Academy of Dermatology; February 16, 2018.