Atopic dermatitis (AD), also called atopic eczema, the most common inflammatory skin disease worldwide, presents as generalised skin dryness, itch, and rash.
In a healthy skin, the natural skin barrier helps to retain moisture and protect the skin from bacteria, allergens and irritants. In some people however this natural skin’s ability to protect itself is adversely affected by a specific gene variation, which leaves the skin vulnerable.
Atopic dermatitis most often begins before age 5 and may persist into adolescence and adulthood. For some people, it flares periodically and then clears up for a time, even for several years, but eventually returns when triggered. It may also be accompanied by asthma or hay fever. Unfortunately, no cure has been found for atopic dermatitis yet.
The symptoms of atopic dermatitis (eczema) very widely from person to person and include:
- Dry, itchy skin, which can sometimes intensify at night
- Red to brown-gray skin patches, especially on the hands, feet, ankles, wrists, neck, upper chest, eyelids, inside the bend of the elbows and knees, face and scalp
- Thickened, cracked, scaly skin
- Swollen, sensitive and sore skin from scratching
The chronic condition of atopic dermatitis and intensity of flare-ups is what often moves patients and their families to look for more effective and long-lasting ways to ease the symptoms.
How to prevent or reduce severity of atopic dermatitis’ flare-ups
- Identify and avoid triggers that worsen the condition. These often include alcohol, sugar, gluten, sweat, stress, dust, pollen and skincare products with sulphates and parabens.
- Limit your baths and showers to 10-15 minutes and use warm, rather than hot, water. And dry yourself gently with a soft towel.
- Moisturize your skin at least twice daily with natural skincare products.
Science has shown that the symptoms of atopic dermatitis can be effectively treated with hemp seed oil.
In a 20-week randomized, single-blind crossover study[i], patients with atopic dermatitis condition were asked to treat their condition with dietary hemp seed oil. Fatty acid profiles were measured in plasma triglyceride, cholesteryl, and phospholipid fractions. A patient questionnaire provided additional information on skin dryness, itchiness, and usage of dermal medications. Skin transepidermal water loss (TEWL) was also measured.
Results: dietary hempseed oil caused significant changes in plasma fatty acid profiles and improved clinical symptoms of atopic dermatitis. It is suggested that these improvements resulted from the balanced and abundant supply of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the hempseed oil.
In another review in 2014, a group of researchers was looking for plants to help people to treat several skin conditions, or to improve their overall skin health with the aid of herbal medicine. In their research, it was shown that topical use of hempseed oil strengthened the skin naturally, thus making it more resistant to fungal, bacterial, and viral infections as well as making it able to fight important skin conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, eczema, acne rosacea, lichen planus, and many others. They established that this was possible due to high concentration of essential (anti-inflammatory) fatty acids in hemp seed oil that help relieve pain, itchiness, inflammation, and soreness in the affected areas.[ii]
Another study that was published in the Journal of Dermatological Treatment in 2005 showed that hemp seed oil is rich in several important EFAs, MUFAs, and PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids) such as gamma-linolenic acid, and stearidonic acid – both biological metabolites of linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. These acids in addition to tocopherols are responsible for providing a soothing relief to dry and itchy skin.
Let’s take a closer look at hemp seed oil.
Hemp seed oil is obtained by pressing seeds of the hemp plant. When cold-pressed, the hemp seed oil appears greenish in colour with a nutty flavour. Unlike other methods to oil extraction, cold-pressed hemp seed oil retains its flavour, aroma, nutritional and therapeutic value.
Hemp seeds are a good source of essential nutrients such as protein, fatty acids, fibre, vitamins and minerals, without an excess of calories, starches and sugars. As such, hemp seed oil is an excellent dietary supplement to support and improve overall health and skin more specifically.
Essential Fatty Acids
Hemp seed oil is an excellent source of essential fatty, typically comprising 35% of the seed. One tablespoon of hemp seed oil typically contains 14 grams of fat, of which only 1 gram is saturated. This low saturated fat content is another great benefit of using hemp seed oil in place of animal fats.
More specifically, hemp seed oil contains:
- High amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, oleic acid, linoleic acid (LA / omega-6), alpha-linolenic acid (ALA / omega-3) and gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). The LA:ALA ratio normally exists in hempseed at 3:1 level. This proportion has been proposed to be ideal for a healthy diet.
- Hemp is currently one of the very few natural food sources of GLA, i.e., not requiring the consumption of extracted dietary supplement. GLA is a key anti-inflammatory fat; it also regulates hormones and supports healthy skin and coat. GLA is considered “conditionally essential.” That means dogs need to get GLA in their diet. LA converts to GLA but conversion needs a specific enzyme (D6D) and five key nutrients (magnesium, zinc, vitamin C, vitamin B3 and vitamin B6), all of which are abundant in hemp seed oil.
Hemp seed oil also contains all of the essential amino acids (building blocks of protein) and also contains surprisingly high levels of the amino acid arginine, a metabolic precursor for the production of nitric oxide (NO), a molecule now recognized as a pivotal signaling messenger in the cardiovascular system that participates in the control of haemostasias, fibrinolysis, platelet and leukocyte interactions with the arterial wall, regulation of vascular tone, proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells, and homeostasis of blood pressure.
Essential Minerals and Vitamins
Hemp seeds are packed with Vitamin E, C, A and B as well as all essential minerals such as phosphorus, potassium, sodium, magnesium, sulphur, calcium, iron, and zinc.
Significant Amount of Soluble and Insoluble Fibre
Hemp seeds typically contain 27% carbohydrates, primarily as fibre and as such, serve as a good source of dietary fibre to help promote healthy digestion.
Hemp seed oil benefits for skin health
Hempseed oil possesses several skin health-related benefits, which can be taken advantage of by using it topically or consuming it.
#1 Hemp seed oil helps to improve skin barrier and reduce symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions and skin allergies.
Given the high content of anti-inflammatory gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in an ideal ratio of 3:1, hemp seed oil helps fight inflammation, improving the skin’s natural barrier to support skin healing, growth and regeneration. A 2014 review[i] concluded that applying hemp oil may benefit people with atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, varicose eczema, psoriasis, lichen planus and acne rosacea. Another study in 2020[ii] found that consumption of dietary hemp oil can reduce the use of medications in people with atopic dermatitis.
#2 Hemp Seed Oil is an Excellent Moisturiser!
When applied topically, hemp seed oil moisturizes the skin without clogging pores. It restores skin barrier and thus helps to retain moisture and rejuvenate the skin, which results in skin that looks healthy, supple and more youthful.
#3 Hemp Seed Oil is Anti-Aging
Hemp seed oil is packed with skin-essential antioxidants such as vitamin A, C and E and fatty acids that strengthen the outer layer of the skin so it can better retain water, keep the skin nourished[iii] and help defy skin atrophy (thinning). The GLA and ALA acids in hemp seed oil also help to control inflammation, help repair UV skin damage[iv] and reduce oxidative stress, thereby protecting the skin from environmental factors that damage skin and cause premature aging, such as sunlight, radiation, pollution, cigarette smoke, and exposure to extreme hot and cold temperatures.
Nutrient rich hemp seed oil is packed with skin loving phytochemicals that can help manage the symptoms of inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis, seborrheic dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. Hemp seed oil can also be helpful as a natural anti-ageing solution.