Alopecia Areata

Will medical marijuana help patients with symptoms of alopecia? Read below to find out. 

What is Alopecia Areata?

Alopecia areata is a medical condition that causes hair to fall out. Alopecia is the medical term for hair loss; there are various types, including alopecia areata.

Who gets alopecia?

Any person can develop alopecia; however, the chances are slightly more significant if you have a family member with the condition. Alopecia areata occurs more often among people with autoimmune disorders such as diabetes, lupus, or thyroid disease.

What are the causes & symptoms? 

Alopecia areata is an autoimmune disease where the immune system attacks the hair follicles. When this occurs, the hair begins to fall out, often in clumps. In some cases, alopecia is in a few spots; however, hair loss can be more significant in others. Genetic factors are thought to trigger an autoimmune response of alopecia areata, along with a possible virus or a substance the person comes in contact with. It can typically be treated with medications. 

What is an Autoimmune Disease? 

Your immune system protects the body from disease and infection by attacking harmful germs in the body, like bacteria and viruses. Your immune system has a unique way of telling which objects are foreign and then destroys them accordingly. However, with an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakenly attacks the healthy organ and tissue cells. Over eighty autoimmune diseases can affect relatively any part of your body. 

There is no exact cause of autoimmune disorders, and even with all of the studies, they are still reasonably mysterious to the medical world. They tend to pass along genetically from generation to generation, meaning some people are more likely to develop an issue. Viruses, certain chemicals, and other environmental factors can trigger autoimmune diseases in some people.

Treatment Options

There is no cure for alopecia areata; however, it is treatable, and the hair can grow back. Alopecia is typically treated with medications used for other health conditions. Treatment options for alopecia areata may include the following:

  • Corticosteroids are anti-inflammatory medicine prescribed for autoimmune diseases and provide gradual relief. Corticosteroids can be given orally as an injection into the scalp or applied topically as an ointment, cream, or foam. 
  • Rogaine is a topical medication that is generally used for pattern baldness treatment. It can take approximately twelve weeks of therapy with Rogaine before hair starts to grow back. 

Skincare Benefits of Medical Cannabis 

Cannabis, especially CBD, is highly prevalent in today’s society. CBD to control pain and treat skin conditions can be traced back to ancient times, as they used it in abundance during religious practices and rituals. The earliest uses of cannabis for skincare can be traced back to Ancient Egypt. Pharaoh Ramses II was known to partake in cannabis and encouraged others to use the plant. 

During the 20th century, cannabis was extensively criminalized; however, changing laws and further research into the compounds within the plant led to a slow but vast reconsideration of their potential health benefits. The use of cannabis is becoming more widely accepted today due to the balancing effects of this particular cannabis-derived compound.

“CBD can bind to receptors in the human body that are part of the cannabinoid system, called the endocannabinoid system, that can influence pain, itch, and mechanisms of inflammation,” Dr. Friedman states.

“We know that when CBD binds to the cannabinoid receptor type 2 and other receptors, it can be involved in not just anti-inflammatory activity, but it can become the chemical messenger to facilitate an array of activities that resolve inflammation. It can stimulate the secretion and recruitment of skin cells important for removing debris and allowing for proper skin maturation and healing.”

Can Medical Cannabis Help Alopecia Patients?

CBD has been shown to help alopecia patients. Topical use is the best method for skin and hair due to the large amounts of cannabinoid and TRPV receptors. A study published in 2021 focused on treating patients with androgenetic alopecia, which is caused by an excess of dihydrotestosterone in hair follicles. The research examined topical hemp oil containing 3-4 mg of CBD. Measurements were taken before and after six months of treatment and showed a 93.5 percent increase in hair growth on the scalp.

A 2016 study of the cannabis plant’s antibacterial and antifungal effects showed that they might help reduce infections from skin pollutants. While the initial results seem hopeful, human trials are still needed to confirm the findings.

Researchers recently observed how skin reacts to CBD products and found that all participants had better skin in two weeks. This study was impressive, considering it’s unusual to have such a large percentage of people experience results. 

CBD can influence skin oil production and inflammation, which promotes the development of pimples. Research from The Journal of Clinical Investigation reports that CBD can inhibit extraneous lipid production in the skin. This study shows that CBD slows lipid production and normalizes imbalanced skin lipids.

A recent study in 2014 was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. In this study, researchers measured the effects of CBD compounds on human skin cells and oil-producing glands in a laboratory. The researchers found that CBD prevents these cells from producing too much oil. The study also showed that CBD triggers an anti-inflammatory reaction in the skin cells. They concluded CBD might be an effective acne treatment due to its extreme anti-inflammatory response.

Last Updated: February 16, 2023

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