cbd salve for shingles

Does CBD Oil for Shingles Work?

If you have shingles, you know how painful it can be. If you had chickenpox when you were younger, you also know the pain of a boily rash, but did you know you probably have the shingle virus dormant in your body? Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella zoster. It remains dormant in the body after a case of chickenpox and can be “activated” at anytime and doctors don’t what triggers it.

So how do you deal with the pain and rashes? Medications usually have side-effects and a case of severe shingles can be debilitating. That’s why some people are turning to CBD for shingles to avoid negative side-effects that come with many shingles medications. Studies show that CBD, or cannabidiol, the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant, may help improve the symptoms of everything from anxiety and depression to nerve pain and skin cancer. Now there is preliminary evidence that shingles can be improved by CBD too.

CBD for Shingles at a Glance

  • What the claims are: CBD can help with rashes and pain.
  • What the studies show: Research shows that CBD connects to receptors in the body and helps properly regulate cell function, which may help with symptoms of shingles.
  • What the facts say: Because most studies on CBD have been done on mice and rats, concrete evidence that CBD can treat shingles directly is lacking. However, studies have shown it could possibly help with shingles indirectly through the natural mechanisms of CBD.

About Shingles

Shingles is a rash with shooting pain that usually shows up only on one side of the body. It’s caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella zoster. Usually people who experienced chickenpox earlier in their lives can have shingles in the future because the virus remains dormant in the nerve tissues near your spinal cord and brain after the body experiences chickenpox.

A weakened immune system usually “wakes up” the varicella zoster virus, causing shingles, which is also known as herpes zoster. A person who has cancer, HIV, is 50 or older, is under severe stress, or is taking medicines that weaken the immune system is more likely to get shingles.

Symptoms of shingles are raised dots on your body or face that eventually turn into painful, red blisters. They start to dry out over 7 to 10 days, but you’ll feel a stabbing or shooting pain, a tingling feeling in the skin, and you could have fever, chills, and an upset stomach. The shingles virus is contagious to people who have never had chickenpox and haven’t been vaccinated.

Antiviral medications may slow down the progression of shingles rash and lower your chances of having complications. Acyclovir (Zovirax), Famciclovir (Famvir) and Valacyclovir (Valtrex) would be something your doctor would prescribe. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Acetaminophen or Ibuprofen can be used for the pain and inflammation. Lidocaine or calamine lotion can be used topically to numb the pain of the rash.

Using CBD for Shingles

Cannabidiol, or CBD, the non-psychoactive compound of the cannabis plant, has been shown to help improve many ailments, from anxiety and depression to epilepsy, pain, and even some cancers. Recent studies have shown that it may help lessen symptoms of shingles as well.

CBD affects our bodies because of our endocannabinoid system. The endocannabinoid system is known to regulate physiological functions in mammals in the central and peripheral nervous systems and in peripheral organs. CBD compounds attach to endocannabinoid receptors in our bodies which regulate cell function in many tissue types.

That means CBD for shingles can help in the same way. CBD connects to CBD receptors called CB1 found in cells on the skin, according to a study published in the journal Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in 2006.

CBD comes in many forms, like oil, cream, sprays, edibles, and more. Since shingles occurs on the skin, CBD oil for shingles could reduce pain and inflammation because when CBD links to CB1 receptors in the skin it can activate neuro-protective functions that can fight nerve inflammation and damage.

The Hartford Courant reported in 2017 that a Connecticut panel of physicians proposed to expand Connecticut’s medical marijuana laws to cover more types of conditions that could be treated by the drug, such as shingles, fibromyalgia, muscular dystrophy and rheumatoid arthritis.

The paper reported that the daughter of a 95-year-old World War II Navy veteran spoke in a public hearing urging the panel to approve medical marijuana for severe cases of shingles. “Shingles is the one thing that is taking him down,” Regina Walsh said. She read a letter from her father, who wrote shingles “left me with nerve pain that has plagued me ever since” and that medications “had no effect on the nerve pain, or they had unacceptable side effects.”

The panel concluded that shingles should be added to the list of marijuana-treatable illnesses, but rejected eczema, osteoarthritis, and severe emphysema.

Medical Studies

One study found that CBD activated CB1 receptors in mice with stress-induced excitotoxicity (death of neurons induced by stress-activated amino acids) and neuroinflammation and improved their symptoms. Because exposure to stress induces excitoxicity and neuroinflammation in the brain, just like how the shingles virus is somehow “activated,” CBD for shingles could prove helpful. The researchers concluded that the CB1 activation by CBD could be a new therapeutic strategy against neurological and neuropsychiatric pathologies caused by excitotoxicity or neuroinflammation.

Another study published in Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy states that CB1 receptors are more frequently found in the nervous system, particularly in the cerebellum and basal ganglia where the shingles virus remains dormant. Activating the CB1 receptor caused significant reduction in neuroinflammation in their study, reaching a similar conclusion to the study published in Neuropsychopharmacology.

Downsides of Using CBD for Shingles

Despite millions of people already using cannabis and CBD for many different reasons, as with any drug, there are side-effects. CBD is usually well-tolerated because it’s non-psychoactive, it doesn’t get you “high” like THC, another component found in cannabis. However, the more common side-effects are diarrhea, changes in appetite, and fatigue. CBD can also interact with other medications.

CBD is not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, so dosage may not be as accurate as stated in labeling. There have been cases of CBD oil containing THC, which would give an intoxicating effect, instead of the non-psychotropic effect of CBD.


People are already using CBD for shingles and for a multitude of other ailments due to its healing properties, however there is no concrete research that proves CBD will help lessen symptoms of shingles other than possibly improving pain and being properly absorbed by the body, as research suggests.

Can CBD help with shingles? Our experts review the medical research and look at what the future might hold for CBD as a possible remedy for shingles.

CBD Oil for Shingles: Fact or Fiction?

CBD is all the rage these days, and it’s being used for everything from reducing anxiety to pain. But can you use CBD oil for shingles and the pain that comes with it? We took a dive into finding out what the condition really is, how it’s treated, and whether or not you can effectively use CBD oil for shingles.

What Causes Shingles?

As children, many of us experience chickenpox, an itchy rash caused by a virus that that lasts a couple of weeks from exposure to completion. Chickenpox is caused by the highly contagious varicella-zoster virus and spreads easily, especially among those who haven’t previously been infected by the virus or been vaccinated against it. Once you have had chickenpox, your body creates an immunity to the virus, preventing you from getting chickenpox again.

However, once you are exposed to the varicella-zoster virus, it remains in your system, essentially hiding inactivated in nerve cells. This virus can later become activated and cause you to develop the condition called shingles.

Understanding Shingles

Shingles affects about 1 million adults in the United States each year. Currently, we do not have very effective treatments for this painful condition or some of its possible complications, such as post-herpetic neuralgia. As such, people are reaching out for natural ways to treat shingles in an attempt to find some pain relief. Some are using CBD oil for their shingles symptoms.

Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts

Shingles is a painful red rash caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. This reactivation is also called herpes zoster (not to be confused with other herpes viruses). Research shows that CBD is effective in treating various types of nerve pain, due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system. Although there are not any studies on the use of CBD oil for shingles directly, it is well within reason that it could help manage shingles pain.

Experiencing Shingles

The shingles rash typically affects one area of the body. Because the virus hides in nerve cells, the rash forms along the area of the body that those nerves control. This is known as a dermatome.

Common Symptoms of Shingles

The most common symptom of shingles is severe pain. Burning pain in one area of the body is usually the first symptom people notice. In some cases, people confuse the pain for other conditions, like a kidney infection or lung issue, depending on what area of the body the shingles affects. The tingling, burning pain generally lasts for a few days.

Next, a red rash develops. After a couple days, the rash forms small clusters of fluid-filled blisters that are terribly painful and itchy. Some people also experience:

  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Fatigue

In most cases, the blisters scab over after 10 days or so, and after 3 to 5 weeks the rash clears.

Risk Factors for Shingles

Not every person who has had chickenpox develops shingles. Approximately 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Although we do not know all the reasons why some people develop shingles and others do not, there are some common risk factors. These include:

  • Being an older adult (over 50)
  • Lowered immune system
  • High amounts of stress
  • Medications such as steroids

Is Shingles Contagious?

You cannot catch shingles from someone else; however, the varicella-zoster virus is highly contagious. This means people who are exposed to people with shingles cannot catch shingles, but they can catch chickenpox.

Complications of Shingles

Although most cases of shingles run their course within about five weeks, there are instances where this is not the case. In people with lowered immunity, the episode may last longer than five weeks. This warrants medical attention from your doctor. Furthermore, shingles can produce other complications. These complications include:

Post-herpetic Neuralgia

Post-herpetic neuralgia is when pain continues in the area of the shingles rash, even after the rash has cleared. This is due to damage having been done to the nerves. People who experience post-herpetic neuralgia may also become depressed or have issues sleeping due to their chronic pain.

Eye Conditions

If shingles develops around the eye, it can result in eye infections that could lead to blindness.

Skin Infections

Skin infections are also possible with shingles. If the rash is scratched and the blisters are broken open, bacteria can enter the open skin and create an infection.

Conventional Treatment

Currently, there is no cure for shingles. The typical course of treatment includes anti-viral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications can help shorten the duration of the outbreak, however, they do not provide pain relief.

The conventional treatment for shingles pain is prescription medications like opiate painkillers, lidocaine numbing cream, or capsaicin topical patches. In addition, on some occasions, medications like gabapentin or anti-depressant drugs are recommended.

Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment

Post-herpetic neuralgia is difficult to treat. The most common treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia pain are steroids, traditional painkillers, and anti-depressants. These drugs are not particularly effective, and they also come with a host of side effects. For example, pain killers can be addictive.

Using CBD for Shingles

Because shingles is such a painful condition, and treatment options are limited and are only somewhat effective, people are turning to CBD products to help relieve their shingles pain.

CBD products are available as oral supplements, including gummies, pills, and oil, as well as topical salves.

The History of CBD Use for Pain

CBD is derived from the industrial hemp plant, otherwise known as cannabis sativa. There is anecdotal evidence to support cannabis’s use for pain management as far back as 2000 B.C.

There are numerous accounts of people using medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) for nerve pain. Medical cannabis contains the same cannabinoids as CBD oil. However, medical marijuana also contains THC, which is a psychoactive component not found in CBD products.

How CBD Can Relieve Shingles Pain

The Endocannabinoid System

The way we perceive pain is controlled in part by our endocannabinoid system. This is a signaling system in our bodies that influences our sensitivity to pain, especially pain due to inflammation. The cannabinoids in CBD oil activates the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors, which suppress our perception of pain levels.

Inflammation and Pain

The cannabinoids in CBD have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Research supports that CBD reduces the number of inflammatory chemicals in the body, including TNF. These inflammatory chemicals are part of our pain pathways, and reducing inflammatory mediators in the body can help lower pain levels.

What the Research Says

To date, there have not been any research studies specifically regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, CBD’s effects have been studied in relation to a variety of other pain conditions, including joint pain, other types of nerve pain (including chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain), and trauma-induced nerve pain.

CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain

A review of the efficacy of CBD oil on several types of nerve pain found that CBD products are overall effective for nerve pain. Although the study did not assess CBD oil for shingles itself, it is reasonable to consider that CBD may be effective for treating shingles pain due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system.

Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain

A recent study found that CBD products were effective at reducing the neuropathic pain, which is pain that comes from nerve damage, in people treated with chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can negatively affect nerve cells, much like a shingles outbreak can, resulting in chronic nerve pain. Given that CBD was able to reduce pain in this condition, the possibilities of using CBD oil for shingles pain are optimistic.

Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD

As previously mentioned, a complication of shingles is chronic nerve pain—or post-herpetic neuralgia. Animals studies support that CBD is helpful for post-herpetic neuralgia. However, there have not been human studies to confirm this. Therefore, more research is needed.

A Summary of What the Research Says

To date, there have not been any human studies regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, the use of CBD for shingles as well as post-herpetic neuralgia is promising.

Several studies on the use of CBD for other types of nerve pain show it is effective for pain management.

Final Thoughts

A shingles outbreak is a painful medical condition and can disrupt many aspects of your life. Current treatment medications are only somewhat effective and come with numerous side effects.

CBD products are shown to be capable of reducing nerve-related pain and can also help with post-herpetic neuralgia. However, it is always recommended to consult with your physician before making any changes to your medications or trying new natural supplements.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate CBD products. When purchasing CBD in any form, ensure you are using a product that has undergone third-party testing. This helps ensure that the product you buy meets certain quality and purity standards.

Find out if you can use CBD oil for shingles as well as other types of nerve pain and pain-related issues. ]]>