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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.

Is Cannabis an Effective Treatment for Psoriasis?

Cannabis, or marijuana, is now being used to treat pain and conditions such as Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, and nausea from chemotherapy. The evidence is mounting that cannabis may also be effective in treating everything from multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease to schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder. But can cannabis be used to treat psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes the rapid build-up of skin cells. The new skin cells are produced so quickly that they reach the surface of the skin before they’re mature. This immature buildup on the surface of the skin forms itchy, raised patches of silvery scales. Parts of your body may also become inflamed, and you may have redness, swelling, and discomfort.

About 15 percent of people who have psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. This condition causes painful swelling and stiffness of the joints. If left untreated, it can also lead to permanent joint damage.

Pain, fatigue, and sleeplessness often occur with psoriasis. Psoriasis can also take a profound toll on your mental health.

The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that people with psoriasis are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide. A 2010 study published in the Archives of Dermatology found that people living with psoriasis have a 39 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with depression than those without the disease. They also have a 31 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with anxiety.

Psoriasis isn’t curable and can be difficult to control. Although there are a variety of medications and light therapies for treating the disease, some have serious side effects and others lose their effectiveness when your body builds up a resistance to them.

Given the physical and emotional burden of psoriasis, new treatment options are needed. Cannabis is one of the treatment possibilities being explored. Research into the effectiveness of cannabis addresses different aspects of the disease.

Slowing cell growth

Some studies suggest cannabis may be useful in slowing the rapid growth of keratinocytes. These are the immature skin cells found in people with psoriasis. One study suggests that cannabinoids and their receptors may help control and limit the production of immature skin cells. Researchers add that cannabis may be useful in treating several conditions involving keratinocytes, including psoriasis and wound healing.

Controlling pain

Many people use marijuana to control pain. Cannabis may be more effective than opioids in controlling acute and neuropathic pain. It may also be useful in reducing chronic pain, according to an article in Current Rheumatology . An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also suggests that marijuana may be effective in treating pain.

Regulating the immune system

Although more research is needed, some studies indicate that cannabis reduces the severity of inflammation associated with some conditions, including autoimmune disorders like psoriasis. An article published in the journal Pharmacology indicates that cannabis can suppress the immune system.

Most research has focused on forms of cannabis that are taken by mouth. Cannabis is also available as oil. Some people use this oil topically to treat psoriasis, claiming that it controls the speed of skin cell production and reduces inflammation. More research is needed to support these claims.

Treatment of stress

Psoriasis and stress go hand in hand, and THC has been shown to relieve stress. However, researchers note that while low doses of THC can produce stress-relieving effects, higher doses may actually have a negative effect on mood.

Cannabinoids hold the key

Cannabinoids are active chemicals found in marijuana plants. Your body makes cannabinoids, too. These chemical messengers are called “endocannabinoids.” They play a role in some functions in your body, including:

  • inflammation
  • immunity
  • appetite
  • the pressure in your eye
  • mood
  • reproduction

Cannabis holds promise for treating the symptoms of psoriasis. It’s well-established that cannabis can be useful in controlling pain. More research is needed to determine if it’s safe and effective, though. The manner in which cannabis is used also needs more testing. Cannabis can be used in a variety of forms, including:

  • pills
  • inhalants
  • vaporizers
  • tinctures

Cannabis hasn’t been better studied because it’s a Schedule I substance under the United States Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I substances are considered to have a high potential for abuse, have no accepted medical use, and may not be safe for use under medical supervision.

These restrictions have posed a significant obstacle to cannabis research. Still, state laws allowing the use of medical marijuana have encouraged more research and efforts to deregulate the drug.

Cannabis is being increasingly used to treat a number of conditions and their symptoms. But how does it shape up as a potential treatment for psoriasis?