CBD for Psoriasis | NEW Info + Studies
According to research doctors, J.D. Wilkinson and E.M. Williamson in an article published for the Journal of Dermatological Science, cannabinoids like CBD can inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, which is a central contributing factor to chronic skin conditions like psoriasis.
Research has shown that cannabinoids like CBD can inhibit skin keratinocyte proliferation – one of the key factors contributing to psoriasis.
Clinical investigations thus far have been limited (and there are yet to be any adopted protocols for treating psoriasis with CBD), but some individuals are already using cannabis-infused topicals in an effort to reduce symptomatic flare-ups, many of which have experienced positive results.
In this article, we take an in-depth look at what psoriasis is, how it works, and how the functions of CBD (and other cannabis-based compounds) may work to inhibit the hyperactive skin proliferation that leads to psoriatic flare-ups.
CBD, Psoriasis, and What You Need to Know
From a clinical perspective, psoriasis remains one of the trickier non-communicable autoimmune diseases to try and define. This is due in part to the number of different ways it can manifest itself in the individual, and also to the fact that there’s no known autoantigen that triggers it.
However, research has pointed to several different key factors in regard to the disease’s onset, manifestation, and subsequent medical complications:
- It is an autoimmune response of T-cells in the epidermal layer wherein healthy skin cells are attacked and replenished at a faster rate than normal
- It causes inflammation in epidermal blood vessels which result in pain, swelling, and localized skin irritation
- It has a strong genetic component
- It is triggered by specific environmental stimuli
While there are plenty of conventional treatment methods out there ranging from topical creams to prescription medications, patients have historically been wary of these options due to their ineffectiveness, their prohibitive costs, and/or their potentially dangerous side effects.
Thus, CBD topicals for psoriasis have been emerging as potentially viable treatment options based on their anti-inflammatory properties, role as an autoimmune regulator, and influence on whole-body homeostasis.
Research on CBD for psoriasis has been limited. Despite this, the results of several studies have been more than promising. One study in particular showcases a definitive role of the endocannabinoid system in regulating cutaneous (skin) cell growth and differentiation.
Can CBD help treat psoriasis? Initial scientific data is promising, to say the least…
So while a CBD topical for psoriasis likely won’t be first on your physician’s list of treatment options, it is (and has been for some time) proving to be more than worthy of serious consideration for suffering individuals.
Psoriasis: What Is It, What Causes It, and Who’s at Risk?
As we mentioned in the intro, psoriasis is a non-communicable (non-contagious) disease of the immune system wherein T-cells attack healthy skin cells at an abnormal rate. Instead of the normal 28-30 days, new cells are produced every 2-4 days.
This results in a buildup of dead skin tissue due to the epidermis’ inability to shed old skin cells faster than new ones are produced. And though genetics have shown to play an important role in the onset of psoriasis, the exact autoantigen that triggers the T-cell attack on healthy tissue remains unknown.
What’s certain is that, depending on the severity of the condition, the physiological pathways of psoriasis can cause an array of other medical conditions, including psoriatic arthritis (which affects upwards of 40% of victims and can result in the permanent disfiguring of joints), and severe localized pain due to inflammation of the epidermal blood vessels. Not to mention, clinical depression has been shown to be more than 50% more prevalent among those suffering from psoriasis.
“The effects of psoriasis can lead to a range of conditions including pain, inflammation, and depression … CBD may act as a natural therapy to reduce the onset of [these] symptoms.”
Regarding those at risk, we’ve already mentioned that genetics have been shown to play a key factor in the onset of the disease. One study, in particular, managed to isolate symptomatic psoriasis to seven specific gene locations, though the exact association of gene activity with the onset of the disease remains complicated due to heterogeneity among the individuals studied.
And lastly, certain environmental factors have also been shown to increase the onset and severity of psoriasis, including obesity, smoking, cold weather, and stress.
Conventional Psoriasis Treatment Methods (Not Related to CBD)
Generally speaking, conventional psoriasis treatment methods are limited to three different approaches:
- Topical creams and ointments
- Phototherapy (exposure to light)
- Prescription medications
Topical creams are generally the first-choice recommendations in cases of mild psoriasis. These include products like corticosteroids, retinoids, and Vitamin D replicators. While moderately effective, they are typically designed to alleviate sporadic flare-ups and localized symptoms of itching, burning, and general skin irritation.
DID YOU KNOW: Factors such as stress, obesity, smoking, and even cold weather can lead to psoriasis flare-ups?
Phototherapy has also been a proven treatment method, with exposure to either natural or artificial UV light having been shown to “slow skin cell turnover” and reduce scaling (which is the accumulation of dead tissue buildup).
Lastly, prescription medications are the only form of conventional treatment designed to specifically target the underlying physiological pathways of psoriasis, though success has been largely hit or miss with these drugs. Some of the most routinely prescribed medications include drugs like:
- Methotrexate (a common chemotherapy drug)
- Adalimumab (Humira)
Not only can these medications be extremely cost-prohibitive, but they’ve also been documented to pose increased risks of infections (including cancer), as well as increased instances of kidney problems and high blood pressure.
Likewise, biologics such as Humira (and other drugs that alter the immune system), are particularly dangerous as they work by decreasing immune activity, thereby exposing the patient to potentially life-threatening infections.
CBD for Psoriasis: General Medical Implications and Patient Evidence
Given the condition of psoriasis as an autoimmune and inflammation-inducing disease, it would make sense that CBD would act as a “rubber-and-road” treatment option considering its well-documented roles as both an anti-inflammatory drug and an immune-modulator.
One study , in particular, has shown the role of cannabinoids (CBD) in suppressing both inflammatory cytokines and angiogenic growth factors (two of the key constituents involved in the symptomatic onset of psoriasis) within epithelial layers.
The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has also described the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a 100% innate network of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors inside the human body, as perhaps “the most important physiologic system involved in establishing and maintaining human health” due to its role as a regulator of homeostasis. Homeostasis is an active process the body undertakes in response to harmful stimuli.
Intriguingly enough, publications have also pointed to the existence of a functional ECS within the skin layers responsible for onset psoriasis, identifying the ability of cannabinoid receptors within these layers to “control the proper and well-balanced proliferation, differentiation, [and] immune competence and/or tolerance of skin cells.”
Pretty compelling stuff, to say the least.
Conventional psoriasis drugs like Humira boast a long list of severe side effects – could CBD be the safe, all-natural therapy that millions of sufferers are looking for?
And of course, all of this is supplemental to the fact that many psoriasis sufferers (however anecdotal their cases may be) are already finding reliable, effective relief in the form of CBD topicals, and have been for years.
CBD for Psoriasis: What the Studies Have Shown
We’ve already briefly gone over two of the key publications pointing to CBD as a potential treatment option for psoriasis, with one showcasing the presence of a functional endocannabinoid system within skin cell layers, and another pinpointing the role of cannabinoids as anti-inflammatory agents within the specific psoriatic pathway.
Another recent study has pointed CBD’s inhibitory effects on the proliferation of “epidermal keratinocyte differentiation” – in other words, the inhibition of uncontrolled skin cell reproduction.
As did the previously mentioned study, this publication has verified the presence of cannabinoid receptors within human skin layers and also has verified the presence of anandamide in the skin, which is a cannabinoid receptor ligand that has been shown to inhibit epidermal (skin) cell differentiation.
Studies like this one (and the other two previously mentioned) have effectively showcased CBD’s potential to influence, manipulate, and ultimately correct both the underlying conditions of psoriasis and the onslaught of symptoms and side effects brought on by its characteristic pathways.
Lastly, one more thing of note, we mentioned earlier about the dangerous prevalence of clinical depression among victims of psoriasis; compared to the average population, they’re over 50% more likely to display characteristics of the mental illness. In light of that overwhelming statistic, it’s important to mention the well-documented therapeutic benefits of cannabis – in particular, CBD – on emotional and psychological conditions such as depression.
“Research has shown CBD’s potential to influence the underlying conditions of psoriasis — as well as the onslaught of symptoms brought on by its characteristic pathways.”
Finally, it’s imperative to mention that unlike THC, CBD will not get you high. THC is the intoxicating ingredient in cannabis, meaning it’s the ingredient responsible for disrupting people’s mental and motor processes. CBD, on the other hand, contains zero of these psychoactive properties; it displays all of the medicinal benefits of cannabis, without the mind-altering side effects.
The Bottom Line: CBD for Psoriasis
In light of the research discussed, it’s clear that the speculation for CBD to be a viable medical treatment option for psoriasis has more than distinguishable merits. On the condition of its underlying medical bases, the cannabinoid compound works to suppress both the inflammation-inducing agents and the skin cell proliferation pathways consistent with the disease. Moreover, it acts as a more than capable therapeutic factor in the treatment of onset symptoms, specifically with regard to its roles in pain and depression management.
If you’ve been considering CBD oil for psoriasis as a therapy for your own condition, it certainly is an option worth considering. CBD topicals may be a more viable option, however, as they are applied directly onto the skin and can therefore impact targeted areas. As is always the case, though, it’s important to do your own research and if possible, to speak with a medical professional about some specific tinctures and application methods that can be suited to your unique condition.
CBD for psoriasis has been emerging as a potentially viable treatment option based on its anti-inflammatory properties as shown in some studies.
Can CBD Oil Reduce Symptoms of Psoriatic Arthritis?
Some doctors and alternative health practitioners have begun to include this hemp product in their treatment arsenal.
There’s been an explosion of interest in CBD (cannabidiol) oil as a treatment for pain, anxiety, depression, and a host of other ailments. Now some doctors and alternative health practitioners are using CBD, a natural chemical found in the cannabis plant (also known as industrial hemp), to help patients with psoriatic arthritis.
Psoriatic arthritis affects about 30 percent of people with psoriasis. Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes cells to build up on the surface of the skin, resulting in thick red patches with silver scaling. Psoriatic arthritis develops when the immune system begins to attack healthy cells and tissue, causing swelling, pain, fatigue, and inflammation in joints.
James W. Baumgartner, PhD, head of research and development and a manufacturing partner for the CBD business BIOS Labs, believes that CBD oil and medical marijuana extracts may be new alternative treatments for psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis.
According to Baumgarnter, there is scientific evidence that cannabinoids, which include CBD and other active compounds in the cannabis plant, help regulate the immune system through the body’s endocannabinoid system. Researchers are still trying to understand the underlying mechanisms, he says.
A review of the scientific literature on this subject, published in a 2016 issue of the journal Current Clinical Pharmacology, makes the same point. The investigators conclude that there’s reason to believe cannabinoids have the potential to help treat psoriasis.
In a small study published in the April 2019 edition of the Italian medical journal La Clinica Terapeutica, researchers concluded that for patients with some skin disorders, especially those related to inflammation, topical CDB is a safe, effective, noninvasive way to reduce symptoms and improve quality of life.
How Do You Use CBD?
Hervé Damas, MD, founder of the medical marijuana business Grassroots Wellness in Miami, uses an array of CBD products for patients with inflammatory skin disorders. Depending on the severity of the disease, he says, he’ll either use topical CBD or a combination of a cream and systemic treatments (formulations that are absorbed into the bloodstream, such as drops that go under the tongue). “For issues such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema, I’ve found CBD very effective at decreasing flare-ups, irritation, and discomfort in patients,” he says.
Aly Cohen, MD, a rheumatologist and integrative medicine practitioner in Monroe Township, New Jersey, and the founder and medical director of the website The Smart Human, says it’s important for patients to take CBD oil under the guidance of a practitioner who has expertise in this area and knows all the benefits and potential risks. “You need to watch for dangerous interactions with antidepressants, chemotherapy drugs, anticoagulants, and anti-seizure medications,” she says.
How Much CBD Oil Should You Use?
Dr. Damas finds that dosing with CBD is more art than science at this point. “For patients with inflammatory skin disorders I typically recommend 20 to 30 milligrams for daily maintenance, but this dosage varies based on a person’s body weight, health, and other medications they may be taking,” he says. “Applying topical applications to an affected area two or three times daily usually suffices.”
What Kind of CBD Oil Should You Buy?
Damas suggests buying full-spectrum oil (containing all cannabinoids and other compounds naturally occurring in the cannabis plant), as some research has shown this form of CBD to be more effective than isolates (just CBD).
How Do You Know if Your CBD Is Pure?
Shital Mars, CEO of PharmCo RX, an independent pharmacy in Miami, explains that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate CBD products (with the exception of a single CBD-based drug, Epidiolex, used to treat two rare forms of epilepsy).
“The best way to choose a CBD product is to do your research, work with a licensed physician or trusted pharmacist, and get a verified certificate of third-party analysis from the manufacturer,” says Mars. “That is the only way to know you are getting a quality product.”
Mars explains that manufacturers that offer transparency merit the most trust, so ask how much CBD you are actually getting in each dose. Understand that most labels show CBD content by volume, not by dose.
Some research suggests that for people with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, CBD (hemp) oil may reduce flair-ups and discomfort. Products include CBD creams and CBD drops that go under the tongue.