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Effects of Cannabis Extracts on Skin Cells

Written by Sabine Downer

Plants contain many bioactive compounds that display antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects that work to protect and regenerate cells in the body when consumed or applied topically. Cannabinoids like cannabidiol (CBD) from hemp can interact with cannabinoid receptors in the skin. Hemp is also a rich source of phenols, flavonoids, and chlorophylls which can also have bioactive properties. The research paper “Positive Effect of Cannabis sativa L. Herb Extracts on Skin Cells and Assessment of Cannabinoid-Based Hydrogels Properties” evaluates how hemp extracts reduce oxidative stress, inhibit skin aging processes, and positively affect the viability of skin cells.

This study assessed the antioxidant and cytotoxic properties of water-ethanol extracts of hemp. To do this, the researchers first determined which bioactive molecules were present in the extract. The primary compounds found were CBD and cannabidiolic acid (CBDA) with smaller amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA), as well as cannabigerolic acid (CBGA). Ultrasound-assisted extraction led to higher levels of cannabinoids, phenolics, flavonoids, and chlorophylls compared to magnetic stirrer-assisted extraction.

Next, they tested the antioxidant ability of the hemp extract by observing its ability to scavenge the DPPH (2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl) free radicals and increase activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD). Cytotoxicity was assessed by testing the extract against skin cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). The effect of hemp extracts on elastase and collagenase enzymes activity was also tested since those enzymes are important to healthy skin. Finally, the hydrogel properties of hemp extract were evaluated to provide insight into how hemp extract may help the skin stay moisturized and prevent water loss.

The findings of the study observed that hemp extract does have antioxidant effects which are beneficial for skin. No cytotoxic effect on keratinocytes and fibroblasts was observed. Elastase and collagenase enzymes normally work to degrade elastin and collagen in the skin, but the hemp extract was able to inhibit them, and thus, the breakdown of these molecules. Finally, the application of hemp extract in hydrogel form showed a positive effect on skin condition with improved moisture retention. This study demonstrates that hemp extract has valuable properties as a cosmetic ingredient and is also useful in hydrogel form. In the future, hemp extracts could help treat dermatological problems like atopy, dermatosis, psoriasis, as well as wound healing.



1- Zagórska-Dziok M, Bujak T, Ziemlewska A, Nizioł-Łukaszewska Z. Positive effect of Cannabis sativa herb extracts on skin cells and assessment of cannabinoid-based hydrogels properties. Molecules. 2021;26(4):802. Published 2021 Feb 4. doi:10.3390/molecules26040802


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About the author

Sabine Downer