Scoop of Practice Episode 4: Prescribing Plant-Based Wound Care

The skin is the largest organ in the human body, which is constantly exposed to external stressors and is vulnerable to wounds such as cuts, tears, abrasions, lacerations, bruises, pressure ulcers, surgical wounds, burns, and diabetic wounds.1 Skin wounds affect millions of Americans and are disproportionately higher in the aging population, as aging skin has diminished regeneration capacity owing to increased cell senescence and altered collagen fiber remodeling, among other physiological changes.2,3

Non-healing wounds are associated with reduced quality of life and increased mortality and morbidity.4–6 A retrospective analysis of the Medicare 5% data set for 2014 estimates that skin wounds affect about 15% of Medicare beneficiaries (8.2 million) the total Medicare spending estimates for all wound types ranged from $28.1 to $96.8 billion.7

Wound healing is a highly orchestrated process involving a variety of cell types (fibroblasts, keratinocytes, inflammatory cells), extracellular matrix proteins, growth factors, proteases, cytokines, and chemokines.8,9 The complex interplay between these factors and the highly coordinated steps involved in the wound healing process poses a challenge to developing effective wound care therapeutics.10,11 Although a wide range of topical agents has been developed for treating wounds, these agents have limited efficacy and are associated with many adverse effects.5,10,12

Recent studies have postulated that topically applied cannabinoids and terpenes may be effective in aiding wound healing with minimal adverse effects.13–17,22–33 Cannabinoid receptors have been identified in multiple cellular compartments of the skin, including epidermal keratinocytes, hair follicles, and sweat glands.13,18–21 Exogenous cannabinoids have been shown to improve the proliferation and differentiation of human keratinocytes, stimulate regeneration and reduce cellular senescence of fibroblasts, reduce inflammation, and alter immune functions in the epithelial cells.19-20,22 More importantly, cannabinoids have also been shown to modulate stem/progenitor cells, which are involved in the re-epithelialization process.13–14,21–22

Traci A. Kimball, MD, MBA, is the Chief Medical Innovations Officer at WISH Skin Labs. Contact her at


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