Responing to growing interest about CBD from families across the United States, the Autism Society of America and Wholistic Research and Education Foundation have co-costed this educational webinar to discuss whether CBD indeed holds a therapeutic promise for autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. This webinar brings together renowned MDs and Researchers to explore just how medicinal cannabis therapies can alleviate symptoms in children with autism, and highlights the latest research-driven data driving a groundbreaking multi-disciplinary study on this highly topical issue at the University of California San Diego (UCSD).
Just a few years ago, most of the cannabis-infused topicals and skincare products available were jars of greasy green glop, handmade in someone’s kitchen and smelling suspiciously of bong water. Not so in 2019.
In today’s 17-billion-dollar “prestige beauty” industry, cannabis-infused skincare is the hottest trend since snail mucus, and the non-intoxicating cannabinoid known as cannabidiol (CBD) is its sparkly little darling. CBD is the reason why executives from top outfits like L’oreal and GOOP are leaving lucrative jobs to join forces with cannabis skincare start-ups.
CBD blasted into the entrepreneurial stratosphere after the passage of 2018 Farm Bill, which removed hemp from the Controlled Substances Act and supposedly made it legal to grow, produce and market any part or derivative of a cannabis sativa plant containing a minuscule amount (0.3 percent or less) of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These days, CBD-spiked skin products are everywhere. Vogue, Vanity Fair, and Forbes sing their praises. Gwyneth Paltrow and Martha Stewart are big fans. And while it’s not surprising that Bob Marley’s daughter has her own cannabis-infused skincare line, you can also buy CBD-infused lotions, massage oils and lip balms from Amazon or at the mall in stores like Sephora, CVS, and Walmart.
Manufacturers, distributors and investors are flinging themselves onto the CBD bandwagon, while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) dithers, trying to figure out how to respond to the CBD upsurge. Given the uncertain regulatory environment and the FDA’s qualms about ingestible CBD supplements, topicals are a safer bet for those seeking business opportunities in the CBD market. It appears that the FDA is much less concerned about the safety and efficacy of CBD topicals than CBD edibles and beverages. In general, FDA policy with respect to cosmetics and deodorants is shamefully lax, fostering widespread exposure to carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, and other toxins that pose a serious threat to public health.
Thus, it’s important to carefully scrutinize all the ingredients listed on the label before you drop a couple of Benjamins on CBD-infused facial creams or bath bombs. Don’t assume that it’s a high-quality product just because it contains CBD.
Slick marketing campaigns are touting CBD as a miracle compound for the skin, with healing properties that range from relieving pain to soothing rashes and eradicating acne. The most alluring (and profitable) CBD-related promises pertain to anti-aging and beautifying the skin. But is there anything substantive behind all the hype? Can CBD really protect, heal and restore the skin? What, if anything, does the science say about all this?
diagram showing the multiple layers of the skin
Skin, Our 22-Pound Organ
Human skin is a complex, multifunctional, protective barrier for the body. It’s also the heaviest organ we carry around — about one seventh of our total body’s weight, or 8 to 22 pounds on average — with a surface area of about 2 square yards. (Apologies to the rest of the world that measures in terms of meters and kilos.)
The skin is comprised of three layers. The outermost, called the epidermis, is like a fortress wall, a strong-yet-flexible barrier made up of constantly-renewing skin cells known as keratinocytes that shield the body from physical assaults — everything from sunburn and irritating substances to attacks from invading pathogens; from biting and stinging creatures to burns, punctures, cuts, abrasions, and other inflicted traumas.
Below the epidermis is the dermis, which houses a complex collection of nerves and capillaries. Most of the body’s sensory cells (those that feel pressure, heat and cold, touch, vibration and pain) are found here, as well as sweat glands, hair follicles and sebaceous (oil-producing) glands. The dermis is also where collagen and elastin are made, substances that support the epidermal outer layer and gives it that youthful, spring-back-when-pinched quality so coveted by the older set. Seniors are particularly vulnerable to manipulative advertising that banks on society’s obsession with youthfulness to sell beauty products that promise to rejuvenate the skin’s once-glowing exterior.
And then there’s the deepest layer, known as the hypodermis, which attaches the skin to the rest of the body. Composed mostly of fat, connective tissue and water, it helps to insulate the body from temperature extremes and cushions bones and joints. Vitamin D and other essential hormones are synthesized in the hypordermis.
The many different cells contained in all three layers of skin work together in a complex, interconnected, delicately-balanced neuro-immuno-endocrine network that is regulated by the endocannabinoid system (ECS). Comprised of endogenous compounds that bind to cannabinoid receptors (CB1 and CB2), which are expressed in all types of skin cells, the ECS engages in a homeostatic process called cutaneous cannabinoid (“c[ut]annabinoid”) signaling. This signaling mechanism promotes healthy skin renewal and barrier function.
The Skin’s Guardian
The ECS regulates numerous physiological functions, including cellular apoptosis (cell death), a process that allows the body to eliminate aging and damaged cells, enabling regenerated cells to take their place. Cannabinoid receptor signaling can slow abnormally high skin cell production (thereby lowering the likelihood of cancer) and can also soothe the skin’s sensory nerves, reducing pain and inflammation.
The ECS also regulates the activity of pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines (proteins in the body involved in immune activity), and helps to maintain the action of Treg cells, a type of T cell that modulates immune response in the skin.
diagram of skin inflammation
Hungarian scientist Tamas Biro has documented how the ECS influences the production of sebum (the skin’s natural oil), increasing it to keep the skin’s waterproof barrier intact or decreasing it, which helps to keep acne at bay.
A recent report by German scientists in Experimental Dermatology noted that a “disruption of the delicate balance in cannabinoid signaling might facilitate the development of multiple pathological conditions and diseases of the skin such as atopic dermatitis, irritative allergic contact dermatitis, acne, seborrhea, psoriasis, itch, pain, hair growth disorders, systemic sclerosis, and cancer.”
The report goes on to explain how skin barrier dysregulation can delay wound healing and concluded that a “depletion of CB1 or CB2 receptors resulted in enhanced contact allergic inflammation, while cannabinoid receptor activation resulted in a reduction of inflammation.”
Based on their preclinical findings, the report suggests that pharmacological intervention to delay the breakdown (and thereby prolong the action) of endogenous cannabinoid compounds, which activate CB1 and CB2, could be a viable strategy for treating skin disease.
Enemies of Healthy Skin
Most negative aspects of the skin’s appearance are due to years of accumulated damage to cutaneous cells. Wrinkles and roughness, for example, can be caused by environmental and lifestyle factors such as excessive sun exposure, alcohol consumption, smoking, and poor diet. In addition to these epigenetic intrusions, the dryness common in a mature woman’s skin is associated with the drop in hormone production that occurs after menopause. All of these factors can cause biochemical changes in our cells’ DNA, which in turn can trigger DNA methylation, a process that alters the function and expression of genes in our skin and throughout the body.
Let’s face it, as we age, everything slows down and becomes less efficient, including our skin’s ability to generate the fresh new cells that give us that healthy, youthful look we took for granted during all those summers on the beach, when the only sun block we wore was a bikini.
As we get older, our cellular functions start to go a little haywire. And when this starts showing up on our faces, it can be truly sobering. There’s even a scientific term for time’s cruel ravages upon the body: inflammaging, the continuous, low-grade inflammation associated with aging. A 2019 article in the journal Cosmetics linked many skin conditions with such inflammation, and suggested that natural, anti-inflammatory compounds might help.
Cannabis-infused skincare has a long history. According to Dr. Eduardo Munoz, professor of immunology at the University of Cordoba in Spain, topical preparations of cannabis were used to treat various skin disorders in ancient China, Egypt, and the Arab world. Unlike the dubious efforts of some U.S. and British women of yore, who tried to beautify their skin by ingesting arsenic tablets, for example, or applying lead-based face paint, there are no known side effects from using topical cannabis.
Pure CBD has demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity in preclinical models of skin inflammation. But how does the efficacy of single-molecule CBD in a topical compare to a full spectrum CBD-rich oil extract containing hundreds of other cannabis compounds?
A 2019 in vitro study by Italian scientists in Phytotherapy Research found that the anti-inflammatory impact of cannabis oil exceeded that of pure CBD, indicating that compounds other than CBD contribute to the inhibition of pro-inflammatory triggers in the skin. The Italian team determined that the cannabis oil downregulated several genes involved in wound healing and skin inflammation, whereas the anti-inflammatory effect conferred by the CBD isolate did not involve the same molecular mechanisms.
Since CBD can calm inflammation, it makes sense that it might be a useful ingredient in topical skincare products. But can CBD penetrate human skin deeply enough to really make a difference? A recent in vivo study by University of Kentucky scientists suggests that it can.
Published in the European Journal of Pain, this report found that a topical gel containing CBD significantly reduced pain and inflammation in a rodent model of arthritis. Moreover, it appears that CBD is much more permeable through the skin than THC. According to a 2004 article in the Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, the transdermal permeability of cannabidiol is 10-fold higher than delta-8 THC. (The permeability of delta-9 THC is very similar to that of delta-8 THC.)
The Hundred-Dollar CBD Face Cream Question
So, should you buy a CBD skincare product? It depends. Just because a product has a fancy label and a high price doesn’t mean it will deliver what it claims. CBD products are still unregulated by the FDA, and according to a report in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a significant number of CBD products surveyed contained less of the compound than labeled.
A lot depends on what else is in a CBD-infused topical. CBD skincare products may include a “full spectrum” cannabis oil extract containing CBD, THC, and all inherent cannabinoids, fatty acids, and terpenes, which combine synergistically to create a therapeutic entourage effect that’s greater than the impact of CBD alone. Or a skincare salve might contain an infusion of “broad spectrum” cannabis oil without any THC. Or, more likely, it will include a less effective CBD isolate that could be synthetic or naturally-sourced.
Keep in mind that studies on how CBD and other cannabis compounds affect the skin are mostly pre-clinical. Randomized, controlled clinical trials have yet to verify anecdotal accounts (and marketing claims) of CBD’s efficacy for skin ailments. Given the paucity of clinical research, it’s hard to know exactly how many milligrams of CBD per milliliter would be optimal for a skincare product or what a recommended dose should be.
So, if you decide to try a CBD skincare product, do your own research first. Buy from a reputable source – preferably one with a good track record of making cannabis-infused products from organically-sourced ingredients. If possible, make sure it’s third-party lab-tested for consistency and purity. Or you might also consider making your own CBD topical.
Melinda Misuraca is a Project CBD contributing writer with a past life as an old-school cannabis farmer specializing in CBD-rich cultivars. Her articles have appeared in High Times, Alternet, and several other publications.
Zhuang, Yong & Lyga, John. (2014). Inflammaging in Skin and Other Tissues – The Roles of Complement System and Macrophage. Inflammation & Allergy-Drug Targets (Formerly Current Drug Targets – Inflammation & Allergy). 13. 10.2174/1871528113666140522112003.
When it comes to having a usable, smokable, great-tasting crop, it turns out that growing cannabis is really only half the journey. After harvest, a proper dry and cure are crucial. These steps help retain terpenes and cannabinoids while diminishing chlorophyll, giving you something that tastes more like grass than, well, grass. Not to mention, the right conditions in a grow room prevent mold, so post-processing is an important time to pay careful attention.
No matter the size of your grow setup, a few truths remain: You should dry your weed in a dark room with temperatures between 60-70?F and humidity between 50-65%. A cheap hygrometer will take the mystery out of monitoring those numbers.
And the good news is that, in a small space, simple oscillating fans and small humidifiers or dehumidifiers (depending on your climate) should be plenty to nudge those numbers in the right direction should they be off by a few. Also, any spot you choose should be tidied up and mold-free.
If you’re in a small home or apartment or simply don’t want the dry and cure to take up too much room, here are some space-saving tips to help you minimize the footprint of the last phase of the growing journey.
Hang Branches Efficiently
Hanging harvested plants upside down is the gold standard for drying practices. It prevents buds from getting flattened or misshapen as they dry. Also, keeping flowers connected to branches for as long as possible helps create an even, slow dry–exactly what you’re after.
To make hanging even more efficient, forgo hanging branches directly on a line and instead place them on a hanger. Many more hangers can fit on the line than just branches alone. BAM–you’ve just exponentially increased your drying space. It’s a-OK for branches to be close together, but leave a little room to encourage airflow and prevent mold.
Minimize Building New Structures
For a neat and tidy hanging apparatus that takes no construction and requires no drilling into walls, purchase a freestanding wardrobe from any department store, online retailer, or thrift store.
They’re available in all sorts of sizes and come ready-made for hangers with nothing more than the twist of a few screws. They’re super sturdy, too, able to support the weight of freshly harvested branches–something that you should account for in your setup.
Trim Off Extra Leaves
Greatly reduce the volume of plant material by manicuring your cannabis before you hang it to dry. Getting rid of all those fan and sugar leaves results in much slender branches, which take up a lot less space.
Opt for Flat Racks
Or skip the branches altogether and just dry the buds. Trim wet and put all buds on a hanging herb-drying rack, sometimes called a “high-rise drying rack.” They are circular with layers of mesh lining (great for airflow), and can be lined with flowers.
This will let you dry just the part you’re ultimately after, skipping any excess material like sticks and stems. Racks come in varying sizes and heights, going up to eight levels tall.
There are a few things to keep in mind should you go this route. First, weed should be trimmed and bucked–snipped off its main stem and into smaller nugs–to make maximum use of space. This means the dry will happen more quickly, so be sure to check on your flowers often. You’ll want to get them into jars to cure at the right time, rather than having them dry to a crisp.
Drying flat also means the buds will get a little smooshed on one side, the side on the rack. This is purely an aesthetic concern, but one to be aware of should impressing your friends with perfectly shaped weed be your end goal.
Skip Transferring Buds Before the Cure
When branches snap and buds sound like popcorn when pressed gently, the bud is considered to be mostly dried, and it’s time for the next step: curing.
During curing, moisture continues to draw from the center of the bud toward the outside. Most people consider their cannabis to be cured after two weeks to a month. For reasons that relate more to tradition than actual need, people take all sorts of secondary steps to cure their weed after it’s dry. For example, they transfer almost-dried branches to paper bags, cardboard boxes, or plastic bins.
All of these involve a transfer, another setup, and most importantly, more room. Skip it. When your weed is dry, buck it off stems and trim it if you haven’t already, and place it directly into your curing vessels–mason jars or locking stainless-steel tubs both work great.
Seal them overnight and check on them the next day. If the flowers seem to have regained their moisture, leave the lid off all day before resealing at night. Repeat this process–known as burping–until you find them as dry as you left them the night before. Judge this by giving them a gentle squeeze.
If you’re unsure, you can also procure a digital moisture meter, available for $20 or so at any hardware store. You’ll stick the pins into the bud and a moisture reading pops up on the display. The ideal moisture for fully dried and cured cannabis is a steady 10-15%. Voila, your cure is done, and you haven’t had to acquire any more vessels or take up any more room to make it happen.
BATON ROUGE, LA — Two weeks after Louisiana patients began receiving medical cannabis, the program is humming along without supply disruption and with thousands of people receiving the drug for medical use, regulatory officials and the head of one growing operation said Monday.
Louisiana has 5,000 patients, two weeks after opening dispensaries.
John Davis, president of GB Sciences Louisiana, one of two state-sanctioned medical cannabis growers, said Louisiana has about 5,000 patients so far.
Nine medical marijuana pharmacies have been permitted to dispense the products, with the first cannabis available in a flavored liquid tincture, a bottle containing a dropper.
“The feedback that we’re getting from patients is really overwhelming, with patients who were having epileptic seizures of 18 a day now down to two,” Davis told a panel of state regulators who meet regularly to update the public on the medical marijuana program.
Concerns that patients could face interruptions in supply since only one of the state’s two growers has a product in pharmacies haven’t panned out in the early days of the program.
“It appears the supply chain is working perfectly, or as well as it can be,” Davis said. “We’re able to satisfy the demands that are out there.”
Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, whose department oversees the medical marijuana program, urged: “We don’t want to run out” now that people are taking the drug to ease pain and other medical conditions.
Law Passed in 2015
Louisiana is one of 33 other states that allow medical marijuana in some form.
Under the 2015 law and additional changes passed since then, Louisiana is allowing medical marijuana to treat a long list of diseases and disorders, such as cancer, seizure disorders, epilepsy, glaucoma, post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease.
Only the agricultural centers at Louisiana State University and Southern University are authorized to grow medical marijuana. GB Sciences is LSU’s grower. Southern’s grower, Ilera Holistic Healthcare, estimates its first product could be available by fall at the earliest.
Marijuana can be available in oils, pills, liquids, topical applications and an inhaler, such as that used by asthma patients–but not in a smokeable form. GB Sciences currently offers only the liquid tinctures, in three different concentrations.
Strain said 4,700 doses of therapeutic cannabis were in the first batch of mint-flavored tinctures. The second batch contains 4,300 doses in cherry-flavored product, he said.
Davis has said he expects to have dissolving strips taken by mouth available soon, followed by topical creams.
Arizona-based researcher Dr. Sue Sisley is spearheading an extraordinary lawsuit against the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), demanding that the agency stop dragging its feet on a years-old promise to end the federal government’s monopoly on growing cannabis for clinical research.
The DEA has two weeks to explain why it’s stalled these applications from expert growers.
Her next scheduled study will look at how late-stage cancer patients can perhaps use cannabis for pain relief.
With the help of two Texas attorneys who are working pro bono, Sisley’s Scottsdale Research Institute (SRI) is calling on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to order the federal government to follow through on the DEA’s 2016 announcement in the Federal Register.
In that announcement, DEA officials said they would permit other facilities to grow and manufacture cannabis for clinical trials and research.
Applications Put on Ice
For more than 50 years now the federal government has relied on a farm at the University of Mississippi, via a contract with the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), to produce all the cannabis used in research projects across the nation.
But that government-grown cannabis has come under criticism in recent years, including from Sisley and her colleagues, for its poor quality and low potency. There are also concerns by Sisley and others that the phenotypes and cultivars produced by the University of Mississippi’s crop are deliberately unrepresentative of the cannabis consumed by adults and patients in legal states.
According to the petition to the court, SRI repeatedly contacted the DEA about growing its own cannabis, to “improve drug quality and give it tighter control over dosages.” DEA officials have yet to respond. “With new trials around the corner, SRI can wait no longer.”
“We simply want them to make good on this pledge to the public,” Sisley told Leafly. “They promised the U.S. citizenry that they would finally end this monopoly and license other growers for research. And they’ve not followed through on this pledge.”
Demanding an Explanation
DEA officials have declined to comment on the litigation. “We are still working through the process and those applications remain under review,” an agency spokesperson told the Associated Press last month.
The DEA ‘isn’t saying yes, and it isn’t saying no. Until they respond, there’s nothing to go to court with, nothing to appeal.’
Matt Zorn, attorney for Dr. Sue Sisley
Sisley wonders if this three-year-long delay might be due to something outside of the DEA’s control, and perhaps involve other federal agencies.
Matt Zorn, one of the attorneys at the Houston-based Yetter Coleman law firm working on the SRI lawsuit, declined to comment on that speculation. Instead, he’s focusing on the damage done by the government’s inaction.
“They’re not saying yes, they’re not saying no,” Zorn told Leafly. “Until the agency says something, there’s nothing to go to a court with, nothing to appeal. It’s stuck in purgatory. So what we’re trying to do is get the agency to explain why they’re not processing these applications. It’s gotten to the point where we think a court needs to step in and do something about it.”
Unleashing the Writ of Mandamus
Zorn and his colleague Shane Pennington are using an unusual procedure to get the legal wheels rolling in this case: a petition for a writ of mandamus.
“We’re asking one judicial branch of government to order a different branch of government to do something, and they don’t like doing that,” noted Zorn. “What we’re essentially arguing is that there’s agency action that by law was required to have been done. Not only hasn’t it been done, but it hasn’t been done and then some.”
Zorn added that there aren’t many times when a writ of mandamus gets granted by a court.
“It’s a very extraordinary remedy reserved for extraordinary circumstances,” he said, “but we carefully investigated the facts and thought there was substantial merit to this case.”
The DEA’s response to this lawsuit is due before the end of August.
For their part, Sisley and Zorn are optimistic their legal strategy will have results which, if SRI prevails, could set a legal precedent.
“It’s really about unshackling science,” Sisley said. “It’s been shackled by politics in the U.S. now for over 50 years, ever since this monopoly was granted to the University of Mississippi.”
“We’ve been trying to ignite a national conversation about this,” she continued, “and trying to persuade people to pressure the government to license other growers for (cannabis) research. I don’t want to be a farmer, but I want to do research. I know what it takes to have good compliance. We’re trying to open the door for all researchers.”
Dr. Sisley, said Zorn, did everything required of her by law, “and it’s still not working.”
In cases like these, in order for change to take place, he added, “you need to show someone followed the rules and did everything right, and it didn’t work out. And that’s what we got here. We got a person who tried to work within the system and encountered system failure, at least at this juncture.”