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The endocannabinoid system of the skin

Unter der Haut 02.02.21 9 min. read

At a glance: The endocannabinoid system of the skin

  1. Our skin
  2. Complex protection function code
  3. balance
  4. The endocannabinoid skin
  5. The endocannabinoid system and skin health code
  6. skin in the imbalance
  7. Which skin diseases, ECS comes as a therapeutic target in question?
  8. The endocannabinoid skin - new directions in skin health code

Our skin

The skin is the largest organ of our body - and even if it sometimes seems not so: Our skin is a fairly complex structure with many important functions. The proverbial "lazy" to which some like sets times by the way, is a rumor.

As our utmost material cover our skin forms a barrier to the outside world, making it the first line of defense against injury and infection.

to meet the work they do every day for us to this function, is hardly influenced by idleness; the skin is a highly active organ.

Special tissue structures in the skin can trigger an immune response on their own, if they are exposed to pathogens - so the skin has its own immune system. From that both innate can go out and learned immune responses.

Complex protection

Let's rough estimate of how many different environmental influences our skin it gets to do every day, it soon becomes clear: Since adds up. And the fact that very few of these influences ever be a real problem for us, seems all the more astonishing. A complex job that our sleeve masters since daily.


Complex systems are neither new nor rare in nature. Well, whether they are "new" or not ultimately depends greatly on the time perspective from from which you can see something - that's for sure again an exciting topic for itself ...

What should be but clear: Complex systems are tested and can work well. So that they do that in the long term and reliable, everything has to fit - it must balance prevail.

And so sometimes it takes a lot to bring a system to falter: Too much of this, too little of that ... and you can already healthy balance - homeostasis - be permanently damaged.

The result: The system can not meet its function completely more. In terms of our skin means: Our first line of defense against harmful influences from the outside is damaged, translucent, become unreliable.

The endocannabinoid system of the skin

In recent years, more studies have shown in getting that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a crucial role in our skin health. An impaired function of the ECS could accordingly be associated with different dermatological diseases, in conjunction, such. B.

  • Atopic dermatitis (is accompanied by severe itching, often referred to as "eczema")
  • Psoriasis
  • scleroderma
  • skin cancer
  • itching and acne ( "TRP-targeting", more on that later)

The further exploration of the ECS and its role in the treatment of these pathologies seems promising. It was observed in numerous studies that with phytocannabinoids (which also belongs CBD) simultaneous multiple different treatment goals can be targeted. This is true in the field of skin health as critical to long-term and successful therapy. The approach is in contrast to the conventional approach of pharmaceutical research where to take for each illness or any symptom a single therapeutic structure targeted.

Excursion: The endocannabinoid system

Let's go again but take a step back: What exactly did this ECS, what is it made and why it seems to be such a promising therapeutic target not only for our skin health?

The ECS consists u. A. of receptors and related ligands. Ligands are, so to speak keys that close attention to a specific lock, a receptor fit. Meet both elements may cause a certain reaction.

Normally, even all substances ago our body that are needed for a smooth functioning of this system. However, it may happen that just does not work anymore - the system is out of whack.

And since the ECS is also crucial for the regulation and fine adjustment of other systems, this imbalance can speak in many different areas to reproduce.

In such cases, it may make sense to supply missing components from the outside. For example, as Phytocannabinoids from the cannabis plant.

So much for ECS in a nutshell - but works as exactly in our skin?

The endocannabinoid system and skin health

Also in the skin all the important elements of the ECS are represented. The specific cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 are found among others:

  • superficial (suprabasal) layers of the epidermis,
  • hair follicles,
  • horn forming cells (keratinocytes)
  • tallow and
  • sweat and
  • melanocytes (pigment cells).

A dense network of these receptors was also identified in skin nerve fibers.

At the signaling of the ECS are also involved in other receptors - these are found in the skin (PPAR, TRPV1).

The involvement of the ECS has already been demonstrated for a number of areas. These include:

  • growth, differentiation and survival of cells
  • immune and inflammatory responses
  • Sensory phenomena

Part of our skin are able, even eliciting an immune response when we are confronted with pathogens. The role of the skin thus not limited to a physical barrier - the skin is part of our immune system. And it was shown that the ECS to this part of our immune system has a strong influence (as well).


The fact that cannabinoids great therapeutic potential for the treatment of various skin disorders, seems conclusive in this context.

Skin unbalanced


The ECS seems indispensable our skin for balance. But what happens when our skin begins to falter?

mild itching to dry or oily skin or slight redness -

In the best case, the smaller irritations leads. In most cases, these symptoms can be easier to put right by simple means.

But: Device our skin really sleep out of balance, you often get away with it no further. Skin diseases can then be the result.

What skin diseases, ECS comes as a therapeutic target in question?

Researchers have been able to prove the involvement of the ECS for various diseases of the skin, such. As in fibrosis and allergic contact dermatitis. However, the potential seems to be great in other areas. Some of them we take here something closer look ...

Atopic Eczema (also: atopic dermatitis or eczema)

This chronic inflammatory skin disease characterized primarily by a very complex formation and development (pathophysiology). In addition to an impaired skin barrier function can also cutaneous microbiome, ie the microbial community of the skin, be disturbed. Genetic, environmental and immunological changes may also play a role.

The most common symptoms include scaly, red and sometimes weeping eczema on the skin. These are often accompanied by intense itching. The disease is considered not salutary, but treatable.

The first treatment attempt mostly on topical therapies, so treatment with creams, which may include corticosteroids, for example.

More severe forms of the disease often require systemic treatment approaches, so treatment trials involving the whole body. For this purpose, for example, can also be a change in diet and taking nutritional supplements (about B vitamins) are.

Some of the targets of such therapies can be controlled directly via the ECS part. Therefore the targeted manipulation of the ECS offers a promising approach to treatment. At various stages of the disease process that could help to control inflammation and immune reactions as well as pathological changes of the horn-forming cells (keratinocytes). Failing that, the chances are good that the whole can contribute to restoring and / or maintaining the barrier function of the skin.

psoriasis (psoriasis)

Also, this skin condition is chronic and is usually especially on the scalp, elbows and knees and the buttocks. Often, the victims complain of severe itching. In psoriasis is an autoimmune disease. How exactly it comes to the severity of the symptoms and what mechanisms are involved, is not fully understood. But it is certain to play an important role in the pathogenesis of the disease that various immune cells.

It also follows the approach that psoriasis can be explained mainly by a dysregulation of the immune system. Also, this disease is often initially treated with drug-containing creams. In the course of addition, phototherapy, systemic agents or combinations of different treatment approaches are used.

More recently, once again places the use of cannabinoids more and more into focus. The rationale for this is derived mainly from the anti-inflammatory properties of some of these substances from: cannabinoids are potentially to suppress inflammation in the area. In conjunction with the observation that the activity of the ECS may act through different mechanisms on the differentiation of keratinocytes, arising here exciting approaches that point to a potential role of cannabinoids in the treatment of psoriasis.

Systemic sclerosis (systemic scleroderma)

It also is an autoimmune disease that can take different forms. Later, there may occur damage to internal organs.

A key feature of this serious disease is the hardening of the skin and in the affected areas important components of the ECS could be detected.

Researchers assume that the ECS is involved in all critical processes that lead to the development of the disease. This system important mechanisms are controlled, such. B.

  • inflammation
  • The modulation of immune responses
  • An investment in vascular function

In sum is also classified the reason enough for researchers cannabinoids here again as a promising treatment option.

Skin Cancer

In populations with predominantly fair skin types Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers. In cancer therapy, especially in palliative care, cannabinoids have long been known. Here they are considered to be effective in inhibiting pain perception, stimulate the appetite and reduce nausea and vomiting associated with chemotherapy.

Some studies have already show a possible potential of cannabinoids for the treatment of cancer itself - these are but to date cell and animal model studies can be very limited applicability transferred to a human whose results. In this context, the speech of the ECS has been found to be a promising strategy to slow the development of skin cancer.

Nevertheless, the lack of reliable data from people is great. Robust studies are lacking simple yet and thus the basis for unambiguous statements regarding the efficacy of cannabinoids in this always highly topical area.

activation of TRP channels

Who now so can not do anything with TRPs - do not worry. TRP stands for transient receptor potential, and refers to a group of ion channels. Might know one or the other of these channels even as channel or channel proteins in the biology class.

All we need but really know at this point is that these channels a large number of stimuli in physiological signals are involved in the transduction, ie the conversion. Many different diseases are associated with impaired function of these TRP channels.

In terms of our skin health they play mainly in the production of pain and itch a decisive role. And - as so often - are cannabinoids also the forefront when it comes to doing to promising novel treatment approaches. Because the substances from the cannabis plant can desensitize some of these channels.

It is noteworthy that broadband and full spectrum extracts, in addition to CBD a variety of other plant substances, the effect of individual isolated cannabinoids have excelled in studies. In the Cannabis Research is not really news: The special herbal synergy that can arise between the various ingredients of the cannabis plant, is also known as "Entourage" effect. The effect of individual substances, the theory can thereby alter the effects of other substances favorable - the whole thing is more in the end than the sum of its parts, or: gt "1 + 1; 2 ".

CBD against acne

The possible effectiveness of CBD against acne is related to the modulation of channel proteins. CBD can not only reduce sebum production by this mechanism but also the proliferation of cells talgproduzierenden curb.

cannabinoids such as CBD, especially if they are in a full or broad-spectrum extract, are therefore also promising candidates for future treatment methods.

The endocannabinoid skin - new directions in skin health

Our skin, the largest organ of our body, making the first line of defense against harmful influences from the outside every day hard work. What's going on, is as dynamic and complex. To keep under such conditions a healthy balance, we need reliable mechanisms to regulate and fine-tune all going the right processes. An important tool for this is the endocannabinoid our skin.

The fact that in many corners of even high-quality, large-scale studies are lacking in humans, is in the cannabis research, unfortunately, the rule rather than the exception - including in the field of skin health.

And yet: that, our skin has its own endocannabinoid system is secured. And also that this system a key role in the regulation and fine tuning our skin physiology plays hardly anyone seriously deny.

So it is not surprising that a failure of this system has been associated with a number of different skin diseases in combination.

The studies that already exist on the subject suggest that the endocannabinoid system and its influence has in store for the treatment of skin diseases huge potential.

This has to be developed now.

So - let's go! :)


[1] The endocannabinoid system of the skin. A potential approach for the treatment of skin disorders

[3] Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic potential of the "C (ut) annabinoid" System

[2] targeting the endocannabinoid system: future therapeutic strategies