WRITTEN BY MELANIE FLORES AND DR. SWATHI
As the weather gets colder and the holiday season fills up our calendars with dinners and events, it is still important to prioritize the most important person in your life: yourself. It is normal for self-care to fall by the wayside during the holiday season, but making sure you are getting adequate sleep and taking care of your skin are still important things to keep in check during the winter months. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a large role in regulating your normal body functions, and can be an excellent addition to your winter self-care routine.
How the ECS keeps skin healthy
Skin is the largest human organ, and it functions with its own endocannabinoid system. The main physiological function of the ECS’ presence in the skin is to control the proper survival and immunity of human skin cells. When this system is disrupted, it can result in various unwanted conditions or diseases of the skin resulting in irritation, itchiness, or overall discomfort. Two of the most prominent receptors in the ECS are cannabinoid type receptors one and two (CB1, CB2). CB1 and CB2 have also been identified on human skin cells and innerve fibers. This is important to note, as it suggests that products with ingredients like CBD or CBG could be applied topically (on the skin) and help to calm skin issues that can flare in winter months, such as allergic contact dermatitis.
Can CBD help your dermatitis?
Allergic contact dermatitis–an itchy reaction your skin may have to a new substance or activity– affects around 5% of men and 11% of women in industrialized countries. Cold and dry environmental conditions can take away the natural moisture of skin, and dry skin can be a major reason for a dermatitis flare. Common home treatments to soothe contact dermatitis include over the counter hydrocortisone 1% cream, benadryl, applying a cool compress or soaking in a cool bath, and applying moisturizer. While all these treatments can do wonders to treat contact dermatitis, it is hopeful to hear that cannabinoid containing skincare products (like the Element Apothec Nourish Lotion or Relief Wellness Patch) may be of use as well.
Researchers have been studying the effects of cannabinoids for years. One study revealed that animals that lacked both CB1 and CB2 receptors displayed exacerbated allergic skin inflammation. Molecules that block cannabinoid receptors from functioning have also been shown to exacerbate an allergic reaction, whereas cannabinoid receptor agonists help reduce an unwanted response. Another 2020 study showed that when THC was applied topically to animals with allergic contact dermatitis, it reduced the allergic inflammation by decreasing keratinocyte pro-inflammatory mediators. Several case studies have also been successful in treating itchy dry skin with cannabis for this similar mechanism. These studies remain promising and may be a reason to add topical cannabinoids to your winter self-care arsenal.
Getting your sleep back on track in the holiday season
Maintaining an adequate sleep schedule during the holiday season can be difficult. Many of us have more time off from work or busier schedules, and it can be hard for your body to adjust. The amount of sleep needed for proper daily functioning varies between individuals, but experts recommend somewhere between 7 to 9 hours a night. Getting the proper amount of sleep is vital for one’s physical and mental health, so it is very common for adults to seek treatments for their inability to fall or stay asleep. Tested and effective ways to help you fall asleep when you’re overthinking during the holidays:
- Follow a regular sleep schedule (set a bedtime for yourself and stick to it everyday)
- Stop looking at electronic devices one hour before bedtime
- Keep your sleep environment quiet, dark, and at a cool temperature
Cannabis as a sleep aid?
While cannabis has long been talked about being used anecdotally to aid in sleep, there are evidence-based research studies that have examined the physiological effects cannabis has on human sleep patterns. CBD can help regulate your circadian rhythm, our body’s internal clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle everyday. We currently have limited new research about the potential of cannabis as a sleep aid, and further investigations with human subjects are needed to establish the potential benefit of cannabis for sleep issues. For more information about keeping your sleep and stress, read this article.
The bottom line
The holiday season coupled with the dry winter months can definitely wreak havoc on our skin and sleep schedule. Making sure to pay extra attention to your health during this time is essential. There are many treatments for common winter ailments that cost nothing financially, and it is worth putting extra time into your self-care this year!
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This article was edited by Dr. Swathi and was written by Element Apothec Scientific Communications Intern, Melanie Flores. She is a Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) student at Oregon State University and Oregon Health & Science University College of Pharmacy in Portland, Oregon.