The ECS and Skin (How CBD Works Topically)

In a previous post, we discussed the internal workings of the endocannabinoid system. We discovered that we have cannabinoid receptors in the brain, nervous system, and immune system. The presence of these cannabinoid receptors partially explains why supplementing our routine with cannabinoids such as CBD can be beneficial.

What wasn’t discussed in our previous blog post is the advantage of applying cannabinoids externally. When applied topically, cannabinoids do not reach the bloodstream. This can leave questions on how CBD topicals can be of benefit. In this blog, we’ll discuss the role of the endocannabinoid system in the skin.


The Skin: A Dynamic Organ

To better understand the ECS and skin, we must first review the functions of the skin. In addition to acting as a protective barrier against the environment, the skin is a dynamic organ. It is a source of hormones, has its own immune system, and contains an abundance of sensory nerves.

The skin is made up of three layers. The outermost layer is the epidermis, which is formed by layers of cells called keratinocytes. The epidermis is waterproof and provides protection from environmental factors such as UV radiation, microbes, extreme temperature, allergens, and chemicals.

The next layer of skin—the dermis—is made of collagen and elastin fibers that give the skin strength and elasticity. The dermis houses several appendages: follicles that produce hair, sebaceous glands that supply sebum, and glands that secrete sweat. These appendages help to reinforce the skin’s waterproof barrier, regulate the body’s temperature, and produce hormones such as steroids and vitamin D.

The skin’s immune system is located in the dermis. Various immune cells live inside this layer of skin or enter the skin when danger is present. When necessary, all skin cell types assist the immune system in protecting and healing the skin.

The dermis also contains a dense network of nerve fibers that recognize many stimuli. For this reason, the skin is considered the largest sensory organ.

The final layer of the skin is the subcutis, which includes fat that acts as a fuel reserve, insulation, and cushion.

The ECS and Skin

Recent studies have found the existence of the endocannabinoid system in the skin. The main purpose of the ECS in the skin is to maintain the balance of skin cell functions such as reproduction, differentiation, and immune competence.

Several cell types in the epidermis, hair follicles, and sebaceous glands synthesize, or create, endocannabinoids such as anandamide and 2-AG. These compounds bind to the two major cannabinoid receptors—CB1 and CB2—which are present in nearly all skin cells.

Due to the high presence of cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids affect all components of the skin and contribute to their proper functioning. As discussed previously, the skin is a complex organ that performs defense, immunity, and sensory functions. The following list illustrates the effects of the ECS on the skin.

Epidermis: endocannabinoids activate the cannabinoid receptors on epidermal cells to help regulate the epidermis’s defense barrier as well as suppress inflammation in the epidermis.

Immune Cells: The ECS controls the action of the skin’s immune and inflammatory system. Endocannabinoids have anti-inflammatory effects and the ECS only activates the immune system when it is needed.

Sebaceous Glands: a healthy level of cannabinoids leads to the proper functioning of sebaceous glands. When the glands secrete proper levels of lipid-containing sebum, it contributes to healthy skin.

Sensory Nerves: cannabinoid receptors are located on sensory nerve endings. When activated, the receptors can block the action of the structures. This can inhibit pain and suppress the sensation of itch.

How CBD Works Topically

The skin relies on the homeostasis of skin cell function. Just as taking CBD internally helps to maintain homeostasis, applying CBD topically controls the balance of skin cell function. Cannabinoids supplement the endocannabinoids that are created in the skin and mimic their action. CBD interacts with the cannabinoid receptors in the skin and shows potential in various therapeutic situations. We encourage you to research the many benefits of CBD for the skin.

Many use CBD topicals for muscle and joint relief. Those with localized concerns—such as in the knees, hands, and feet—find topicals beneficial. At Made by Hemp, we carry a line of CBD salves, lotions, patches, and facial care.

How to Use CBD Oil on Skin

In particular, inflamed or dry skin could reap many benefits from CBD oil. The most convenient method is using a CBD Patch, which can be left on the skin for 12 hours. Patches take away the hassle of re-applying CBD oil throughout the day, however, they target a specific area.

Topical concerns that spread across more than one general area may fair better with a CBD rub-on cream.

Learning the endocannabinoid system’s role in the skin helps us to understand how CBD provides benefit to our skin. Do you have additional questions regarding the ECS and skin? Leave a comment below!


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Is CBD During Pregnancy Okay?

Being pregnant means that, for nine months, you have to treat your body like a temple and be cautious about pretty much everything you put into your body because, when your unborn baby’s life is hanging in the balance, you can never be too careful. So, that means cannabis and cannabis-based products are out of the question, right? Well, not quite. While CBD’s popularity over the past few years is increasing and it is seen as a miraculous cure capable of curing everything under the sun, there is still a fair amount of controversy surrounding its use in pregnant women.

The experience of being pregnant is one of the most exciting and beautiful periods of a woman’s life; there are some rather uncomfortable and unpleasant symptoms that accompany this excitement. Many pregnant women find that they are prone to nausea, morning sickness, chronic pain, anxiety, and insomnia—symptoms that can be treated effectively with CBD products, such as CBD hemp oil and pure CBD.

Before we get into looking at whether or not CBD is okay to use during pregnancy, we need to clear up one very important point that people still get confused with when they consider using CBD for medical purposes. Good quality CBD is often derived from a hemp plant, which contains less than 0.3% THC. THC is the component of a cannabis plant that makes you feel high and there, it is pretty much impossible to feel any psychoactive effects as a result of using CBD oil that comes from a hemp plant.  This is precisely the reason that CBD-based products have been legalized in most countries and it is safe to use by people of all ages and even animals!

But due to the existing stigma that still hangs over marijuana and its use, not everyone seems to understand the fact that CBD oil is not the same as smoking pot. You won’t get high, you won’t feel crazy and most importantly, you won’t experience any negative side effects whatsoever.

Can I Use CBD Whilst I Am Pregnant?

In short, the technical answer is that there isn’t enough clinical evidence as yet that CBD is either safe or unsafe to use during pregnancy. Leading researchers have suggested that the only way a firm conclusion can be reached, is by examining the human endocannabinoid system that we all have internally and how it interacts and reacts with external cannabinoids like CBD.

Some physicians are inclined to believe that many people, including women who are pregnant, have a cannabinoid deficiency. This can have serious effects on someone’s overall health and can result in chronic fatigue, the onset of dementia at an early age and even fibromyalgia. Therefore, if we take this therapy into account when we consider the fact that CBD will essentially boost our cannabinoids, it would be highly beneficial for not only the mother but also for her child.


A study was performed that clearly highlights the unfortunate news that due to its psychoactive effects, THC can interfere with a baby’s endocannabinoid system in utero, which could lead to brain defects.  But it needs to be made clear that CBD works in an entirely different way from THC. They both work with receptors in the brain, but CBD stimulates the natural cannabinoids in the body causing them to work properly and keeps hormones and chemicals in balance. Unlike THC, CBD does not bind to these receptors, so there are no psychoactive effects whatsoever.

Why Would Pregnant Women Want to Use CBD?

As we briefly mentioned earlier in this article, women almost always struggle with nausea, anxiety and different types of pain in the later stages of their pregnancy. And because pharmaceuticals are known for being highly toxic, CBD is an appealing option for treating their symptoms, as it is just as effective, yet not laden with potentially harmful side effects.

And while there is no firm decision from scientific research with regards to the safety of CBD in pregnant women, clinical studies have indeed shown that CBD oil can be therapeutically beneficial for managing issues such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Pain
  • Seizures
  • Migraine
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea

CBD from a Legal Standpoint

Despite that CBD is clearly beneficial to heal a range of illnesses and it is entirely legal in many states, in others, marijuana is still illegal. Therefore, it isn’t regulated or approved by the FDA for its safety or efficacy. And while those who love a conspiracy theory that Big Pharma controls the world and that the FDA should never get involved in medical marijuana, others are put off by the fact that CBD-based products are entirely unregulated. This means that no one actually knows the exact potential dangers of it being ingested by pregnant women.

There is still a distinct lack of clinical trials focusing on how CBD could potentially affect unborn babies, as most of the existing research has been looking at its efficacy with regards to treating conditions like cancer and arthritis.

Final Thoughts

At the moment, the use of CBD oil amongst pregnant women is a bit up in the air. There are mothers who absolutely swear by it and have reported that their children appear to be smarter and more sociable than other kids of a similar age and there are some who are convinced that it should be avoided at all costs. What we do know is that while there may not be any immediately harmful consequences of using CBD during pregnancy, we don’t know what a safe dosage is, or the best way to take it. This is why you should always do your research and get a few professional opinions as to whether you should take the risk or not. If you are struggling with mental and emotional difficulties during pregnancy, but you are opposed to taking traditional pharmaceuticals, then you could speak to a homeopathic physician to come up with a natural treatment plan that will ensure your own safety during pregnancy, as well as that of your baby.


This article by Madeleine Taylor is originally published at SundayScaries.