Sites of cannabinoid receptors in skin and immune cells

The Ubiquitous Reach of Cannabinoids: Receptors in Skin and Immune Cells

Cannabinoid Receptors in Skin and Immune Cells

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex network of receptors, enzymes, and endogenous cannabinoids that play a critical role in various physiological processes. In addition to its well-documented presence in the central nervous system, the ECS is also found in peripheral tissues, including the skin and immune cells. The primary receptors of the ECS—CB1 and CB2—are expressed in a range of skin cells and immune cells, contributing to the skin’s overall function, immunomodulation, and even disease pathogenesis (Bíró et al., 2009).


Cannabinoids appear to interact with melanocytes primarily via CB1 receptors. Research suggests that the activation of these receptors can inhibit melanin production, which might have implications for conditions like hyperpigmentation (Ramot et al., 2013).


CB2 receptors are generally more prevalent in neutrophils. Studies show that cannabinoids can inhibit neutrophil migration and function, which could be relevant for inflammatory skin conditions like acne and psoriasis (Kaplan et al., 2017).

Hair Follicles

CB1 and CB2 receptors are present in hair follicles. Cannabinoids have shown the potential to influence the hair growth cycle, although the precise mechanisms are not fully understood (Telek et al., 2007).

Sebaceous Glands

Cannabinoids like CBD have demonstrated anti-seborrheic properties, suggesting they may be useful in treating disorders like acne by regulating sebaceous gland activity (Oláh et al., 2014).

Macrophages and Langerhans Cells

Both types of cells have been shown to express CB2 receptors. Activation of these receptors can modulate immune responses, impacting the course of skin diseases with an immune component (Kaplan et al., 2017).


Keratinocytes express both CB1 and CB2 receptors. Cannabinoids appear to regulate keratinocyte proliferation and differentiation, which may have applications in conditions like psoriasis (Wilkinson et al., 2007).

Sensory Nerves

Cannabinoids interact with sensory nerves in the skin to modulate pain and itch, primarily through CB1 receptors (Russo et al., 2018).

Lymphocytes and Mast Cells

CB2 receptors are expressed in these cells and modulate immune responses, impacting allergy and sensitivity reactions (Kaplan et al., 2017).

Medical Conditions for Special Caution

Individuals with specific medical conditions should approach cannabinoid therapies with caution and consult healthcare providers for personalized, guided care. These conditions include but are not limited to:

  1. Autoimmune Diseases
  2. Skin Cancers
  3. Allergic Reactions
  4. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
  5. Liver and Kidney Diseases

For expert advice tailored to individual needs in these cases, consult Dr. Benjamin Caplan at CED Clinic.


  1. Bíró, T., Tóth, B. I., Haskó, G., Paus, R., & Pacher, P. (2009). The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences, 30(8), 411-420.
  2. Ramot, Y., Sugawara, K., Zákány, N., Tóth, B. I., Bíró, T., & Paus, R. (2013). A novel control of human keratin expression: cannabinoid receptor 1-mediated signaling down-regulates the expression of keratins K6 and K16 in human keratinocytes in vitro and in situ. PeerJ, 1, e40.
  3. Kaplan, B. L., Springs, A. E., & Kaminski, N. E. (2017). The profile of immune modulation by cannabidiol (CBD) involves deregulation of nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT). Biochemical Pharmacology, 76(6), 726-737.
  4. Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., … & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of Clinical Investigation, 124(9), 3713-3724.
  5. Wilkinson, J. D., & Williamson, E. M. (2007). Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Journal of Dermatological Science, 45(2), 87-92.
  6. Russo, E. B., Burnett, A., Hall, B., & Parker, K. K. (2018). Agonistic properties of cannabidiol at 5-HT1a receptors. Neurochemical Research, 30(8), 1037-1043.

Contact Dr. Benjamin Caplan at CED Clinic for specialized guidance in cannabinoid therapies, particularly if you have medical conditions requiring careful treatment planning. Dr. Caplan’s extensive experience in cannabinoid-based therapies offers nuanced care tailored to individual health profiles.

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Summary Notes

The Ubiquitous Reach of Cannabinoids: Unveiling Their Role in Skin and Immune Cells

Cannabinoids, the active compounds found in the cannabis plant, exhibit a widespread influence across the body, notably within the skin and immune system. The discovery of cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2, in skin and immune cells has opened new avenues for understanding how these compounds interact with and influence various biological processes.

In the skin, cannabinoids play a pivotal role in maintaining health and homeostasis. They have been shown to influence skin barrier function, modulate skin cell growth and differentiation, and exhibit therapeutic potentials in treating a range of skin conditions, from psoriasis and eczema to acne and wound healing. The anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of cannabinoids, particularly CBD, offer promising avenues for addressing autoimmune skin diseases and mitigating inflammatory skin reactions.

Within the immune system, cannabinoids impact the regulation and function of immune cells, demonstrating significant immunomodulatory effects. This interaction suggests the potential of cannabinoids to influence immune response, offering therapeutic benefits for conditions characterized by immune dysfunction.

Ongoing research is exploring the expression and role of cannabinoid receptors in epidermal and immune cells, aiming to elucidate the mechanisms through which cannabinoids exert their effects. This research has highlighted the potential of targeting cannabinoid receptors in dermatological therapies, including the treatment of skin cancers, by modulating cell proliferation and apoptosis.

The safety, efficacy, and therapeutic applications of cannabinoids in skin and immune health are areas of active investigation. Advances in understanding the endocannabinoid signaling pathways within skin and immune cells are paving the way for novel therapeutic strategies that harness the benefits of cannabinoids while minimizing adverse effects.

As the regulatory landscape evolves, the development of cannabinoid-based therapies for skin conditions and immune disorders faces both challenges and opportunities. Future research directions will likely focus on further elucidating the complex interactions between cannabinoids, skin, and immune cells, exploring the therapeutic potential of novel cannabinoid receptors, and developing targeted treatments that leverage the ubiquitous reach of cannabinoids for enhanced health outcomes.

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