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CBD Oil for Psoriasis: Can It Help?

Posted on December 22, 2020
Medically reviewed by
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D.
Article written by
Susana Restrepo, Ph.D.

With marijuana becoming legal in states around the U.S., people living with psoriasis have become increasingly interested in whether cannabidiol (CBD) oil can help with psoriasis flare-ups and pain.

“Has anyone consumed CBD oil drops or applied CBD topical cream?” a MyPsoriasisTeam member asked the community. “I want to know if it is actually effective and if there are any side effects.”

Psoriasis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation and the accelerated production of skin cells. Skin builds up more quickly than it can shed, causing patches of thickened, scaly skin that can crack, bleed, and itch — as well as other symptoms. Clinical research into the effects of CBD oil on psoriasis symptoms is limited, though some people — including members of MyPsoriasis team — have reported positive results.

Understanding what is known about CBD oil and its effects on psoriasis symptoms can help you make an informed decision as to whether it’s a treatment worth exploring. Before trying CBD oil or making any other changes to your psoriasis treatment, talk with your health care provider.

What Is CBD?

CBD is a molecule in the family of cannabinoids. Cannabinoids are oily molecules that can be produced by your body (endocannabinoids), made in a lab (synthetic cannabinoids) or produced by the cannabis plant (phytocannabinoids).

Many individuals may be hesitant to try CBD because it comes from the cannabis plant (marijuana), which is infamous for its psychoactive effects. However, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), CBD does not cause intoxication, which is commonly called “feeling high.”

Research has helped us understand the medicinal benefits of cannabinoids like CBD. “There is reasonable evidence that cannabinoids improve nausea and vomiting after chemotherapy. They might improve spasticity (primarily in multiple sclerosis),” according to a review of several studies. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has even approved the first CBD drug for the treatment of rare and severe forms of epilepsy.

Natural Treatments

Natural alternatives such as CBD oil should not replace medications prescribed by your dermatologist. Prescribed topicals and biologics are clinically proven to prevent relapses, delay disease progression, and treat symptoms of psoriasis. Natural alternatives can be used as supplements, depending on your specific circumstances. Before supplementing your regimen with natural alternatives, talk to your doctor. Importantly, some natural supplements can cause side effects or interfere with your medication.

Although natural alternatives cannot replace clinically proven medications, some scientific evidence indicates that natural alternatives — such as CBD products and salves — have the potential to alleviate psoriasis symptoms.

How CBD Affects Psoriasis Symptoms

The nervous system, including skin, is full of endocannabinoid receptors, part of the endocannabinoid system. These receptors are large molecules that recognize endocannabinoids, which help maintain skin health by:

  • Forming the skin barrier
  • Promoting skin cell growth
  • Aiding skin immune and inflammatory reactions

These receptors respond to endocannabinoids to regulate these important skin functions. Many scientists believe the receptors could respond similarly to other cannabinoids, such as CBD.

Itching

Several laboratory studies have found that some cannabinoid receptors can help relieve itchiness when bound to cannabinoids. However, this claim has its limits because the effects of CBD on itchiness are not yet clear.

Psoriasis Plaques

Constant inflammation and proliferation of skin cells (such as keratinocytes) is seen in psoriasis plaques. This inflammation and buildup is caused by the abnormal function of certain molecules normally involved in regulating the immune system. Scientists have found that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that can essentially block the abnormal function of these immune system molecules and have potential therapeutic effects. However, more work is required to determine just how beneficial CBD can be in treating psoriasis plaques.

Should You Try CBD?

Most of the available research on the health benefits of CBD was gained in a lab setting. This means that cells and animals were tested to see if CBD affected inflammation, itchiness, and other psoriasis symptoms. There is still not a lot of clinical evidence (human data) regarding the potential benefits of CBD for psoriasis. Whatever you choose to do, you can make an informed decision with the help of your doctor.

Many MyPsoriasisTeam members have begun to experiment with CBD oil for treatment. Some MyPsoriasisTeam members have found CBD oil helpful, while some have not gained any relief from using it.

Topical CBD Application

The most direct route to psoriasis skin care involving CBD would be topical application in the form of a cream or lotion. For instance, one MyPsoriasisTeam member said they used CBD oil to treat palmoplantar pustular psoriasis on their palms and soles of their feet.

A member with inverse psoriasis, meanwhile, said they tried moisturizers and CBD lotion to treat weeping lesions, which helped “numb it a bit.”

A third MyPsoriasisTeam member noted that they have not used “straight CBD oils" but that they have had positive experiences with hemp cream to relieve the burning sensations on their hands and feet. "I purchased the full spectrum hemp cream,” they shared. “It is not expensive.”

Notably, “full spectrum” means the cream may contain cannabinoids besides CBD.

Another MyPsoriasisTeam member described how they use CBD oil products to alleviate pain related to psoriasis. “I got an (edible) extract which seemed to help a little. I do use a THC balm (it's kind of like Tiger Balm) that does work rather well for me,” they wrote. “I do usually use it alongside a CBD balm for the extra anti-inflammatory ... but that CBD balm doesn't work as well by itself.”

Some clinical evidence shows that topical medical cannabis (which contains both THC and CBD) can help with pain. An article in The Journal of Pain and Symptom Management concluded that this topical treatment was useful in relieving wound pain.

Oral CBD Consumption

CBD can be consumed orally as a pill or capsule, as a liquid, or as a gummy or other candy. One MyPsoriasisTeam member said, “I only use one dropperful of CBD oil in the morning and at night, with good results. Everyone is different, and what works for one may not work for someone else … but it has been a godsend to me.”

“I have been using CBD oil for two months now and I absolutely love the benefits from it. I’ve noticed a decrease in my plaques,” another member shared.

CBD oil doesn’t work for everyone. A MyPsoriasisTeam member with psoriatic arthritis wrote, “I took a high-quality oral CBD supplement for 30 days. No impact.”

Some MyPsoriasisTeam members experienced some negative side effects that they assumed came from taking daily CBD oil. “Lately my memory has had some definitive gaps at the oddest times, and it may be due to the only new thing in my regimen: CBD oil. So, I'm reducing the frequency of use,” one member wrote. “With the memory losses I experienced, I no longer recommend CBD daily, but am having zero problem using it 2-3 days a week and still get all the benefits.”

Some members expressed interest in taking CBD orally expressed concern about the taste. Other members reassured them that CBD products come in natural flavors, including peppermint and cinnamon.

Know the Facts and Limitations

Since clinical data is not yet available to support the safety and efficacy of CBD in people with psoriasis, using it to treat psoriasis may come with risks. According to Mayo Clinic, people generally tolerate CBD well, but it can cause side effects including:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Reduced appetite
  • Drowsiness
  • Fatigue

Only clinical data can give us reliable information and inform the FDA whether approving CBD for the treatment of psoriasis is appropriate. Fortunately, some clinical trials are currently in the process of recruiting participants or completing their studies. This means there may soon be more information about CBD for psoriasis.

Talk With Others Who Understand

MyPsoriasisTeam is the social network for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, and their loved ones. On MyPsoriasisTeam, more than 90,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.

Have you found CBD oil to be helpful for treatment? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

References
  1. Is Marijuana Medicine? — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  2. Systematic Review of Systematic Reviews for Medical Cannabinoids: Pain, Nausea and Vomiting, Spasticity, and Harms — Canadian Family Physician
  3. Herbal Treatment for Dermatologic Disorders — Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects
  4. FDA Approves First Drug Comprised of an Active Ingredient Derived From Marijuana To Treat Rare, Severe Forms of Epilepsy — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  5. Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders — Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology
  6. The Endocannabinoid System of the Skin in Health and Disease: Novel Perspectives and Therapeutic Opportunities — Trends in Pharmacological Sciences
  7. TRP Channels as Drug Targets To Relieve Itch — Pharmaceuticals
  8. CBD Products Are Everywhere. But Do They Work? — Harvard Health Publishing
  9. Better Data for a Better Understanding of the Use and Safety Profile of Cannabidiol (CBD) Products — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  10. FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) — U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  11. What Are the Benefits of CBD — and Is It Safe To Use? — Mayo Clinic
  12. Cannabidiol Inhibits Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Protein Expression and Nitric Oxide Production in Beta-Amyloid Stimulated PC12 Neurons Through P38 Map Kinase and NF-Kappa B Involvement — Neuroscience Letters
  13. Topical Medical Cannabis: A New Treatment for Wound Pain — Three Cases of Pyoderma Gangrenosum — Journal of Pain and Symptom Management
All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Diane M. Horowitz, M.D. is an internal medicine and rheumatology specialist. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Susana Restrepo, Ph.D. is a medical and scientific writer with a Ph.D. in pharmacology from the University of Colorado. Learn more about her here.

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