Psoriasis is a notorious skin condition that not only causes physical irritation and pain but can have a debilitating psychological effect too. However, research suggests that the unique cannabinoids found in cannabis may offer psoriasis patients relief from their skin complaint. In this article, we’ll dig down on how cannabinoids can reduce pain and manage psoriasis symptoms and identify which cannabis products may work best.
Irritation, pain, itchiness and red patches are all associated with the frustrating skin condition psoriasis. Plaques form on these red patches, with the skin producing too many new cells and layers than it can get rid of. Healthy skin consistently sheds old cells and replaces them with new – when this process is disrupted, skin conditions can result. In the case of psoriasis, scaly red patches form on certain parts of the skin.
Not all psoriasis is the same, and it can flare up on various regions of the body. Cracking and bleeding of the skin is common, and psoriasis patients have between a 10 to 20 percent chance of developing psoriatic arthritis later in life. This is a very painful type of arthritis that causes joints around lesion areas to swell up.
As of 2018, scientists have found no cure for psoriasis, a condition which can be set off by several factors. So far, research zones in on stress as a key contributor to many psoriasis outbreak, but 25 different genes could also increase a person’s risk to getting psoriasis. In addition to physical and psychological stress, psoriasis has also been linked to infection, trauma and adverse reactions to medication.
Experts have also connected the immune system to psoriasis, with studies finding that psoriasis patients tend to have overactive T lymphocytes (T-cells). The T cell is responsible for killing harmful bacteria and pathogens. When these cells become overactive, they start to perceive the skin has an invasive threat and begin to attack it.
How cannabis can help with psoriasis?
Cannabis is thought to help with psoriasis in a few ways, with the herb managing the pain and discomfort, as well as the condition itself. Studies into THC have found that the compound could have a suppressant effect on the body’s immune system, meaning that it could possibly be harnessed to treat conditions such as psoriasis, that are caused – at least in part – by overactive immune systems.
THC has an important role in the endocannabinoid system, interacting with both the cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors. CB1 is predominantly found in the brain and central nervous system and is the gateway to THC’s psychoactive effects, while CB2 is the entry point to tinkering with immune response. In 2010, a research review showed that targeting the CB2 receptor could be a “new” and “effective” way for drugs to treat autoimmune diseases and conditions that are caused by “malignancies of the immune system.”
Since we know already that THC interacts with CB2, there’s strong evidence that it could be an efficacious medication for patients with autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, plenty of studies into THC’s anti-inflammatory potential have been carried out, with one showing that the cannabinoid is 20 times more effective than aspirin.
Psoriatic arthritis is caused by inflammation which leads to an increase in pain and the deterioration of tissue around the joints. Inflammation is also responsible for some of the pain and itchiness that comes from skin lesions. Cannabinoids can also slow the growth of keratinocytes, a group of skin cells, according to research – reducing the opportunity for plaque build-up on the skin. All of these benefits could have an incredibly beneficial effect for patients with psoriasis and similar conditions.
However, not all cannabis products are going to be helpful for your skin. If you want to maximize the herb’s potential, then first you should know about the unique advantages cannabinoids have when administered in topical form.
Cannabis topicals for psoriasis
Balms, creams, gels, lotions and salves are all classified as topicals, and these products are increasingly available infused with cannabinoids. Some contain just CBD or just THC, while some have a mix of both – this depends on the state you reside. Some topical products contain cannabinoids in their acidic, pre-activated form (THCa, CBDa), whereas others heat the marijuana first, putting the compounds into their more familiar CBD and THC states. Interestingly, THCa, the pre-activated form of THC, is non-psychoactive.
Cannabinoids cannot make you high when applied in a topical, but this consumption method is very effective at reducing localized pain and inflammation. Cannabinoid receptors are found in abundance throughout the skin, the body’s largest organ. Topical cannabis directly engages the skin’s receptors in away that oral consumption or inhalation cannot achieve.
Topical cannabis helps to calm down the skin’s immune system and inflammatory responses, which is useful for patients with skin complaints and joint-related pain. Those with scalp psoriasis are often advised to try cannabis-infused shampoos and conditioners, which can gently treat the head.
The stories of psoriasis patients reversing their condition through cannabis treatment are remarkable, many of which can be read on the International Cannagraphic forum.
One user commented that topical cannabis helped to improve their psoriasis, which they had found no suitable treatment for in 20 years. The cannabis extract healed their skin complain in just three days and came with none of the side effects that the steroid creams normally prescribed come with. The user on the forum, known as Shmalphy, was also unprepared to try the popular self-injected medications that are available, due to the risks of tuberculosis and lymphoma. However, bubble hash made of fan leaves combined with cannabis oil has made all the difference.
Don’t smoke cannabis if treating a skin complaint
While cannabinoids are beneficial for the skin, consuming the herb by smoking it can actually cause more harm than good, irritating skin complaints. The combustion of cannabis creates a smoke packed with carcinogens and free radicals that can be damaging for the skin. THC may work to reduce the harmful effects of these, however it makes more sense to eliminate the carcinogens and free radicals entirely, by taking cannabinoids in a vaporizer, or by dosing with oils or edibles.
Finding a great cannabis topical to treat psoriasis
Many progressive medical cannabis states have adopted arthritis as a qualifying condition, however nowhere yet considers psoriasis to be treatable with the plant. However, California and a few others work out whether patients are eligible for medical cannabis on a case-by-case basis.
Chronic pain counts as a qualifying condition for medical cannabis in other states, so psoriasis patients may be able to get access to the herb under those means. For patients in states where recreational cannabis is legal, all products – containing CBD and THC – are accessible without need for a card.
Medical cannabis dispensaries typically stock some types of cannabis topicals. Many patients choose to make creams and lotions themselves.
Make your own cannabis topical
Cannabis topicals are likely underrated because the industry has historically been dominated by recreational users who would have no use for such products. However, as a medicine, creams and balms are incredibly effective, and it’s worth knowing how to make them.
If you have run out of options for treating psoriasis or any other skin condition, but do not want to start taking steroids, cannabis therapy is worth looking into – perhaps consult your doctor if you’re thinking of using a topical.
Have you used cannabis topicals to treat psoriasis, or do you know somebody that has? Leave us a comment below and share your story with others.