The Best CBD Oil for Shingles and Nerve Pain in 2022
CBD oil has become a common conversation starter and hip new cure-all name. Is it really effective for all of the things they say it is? Well, this article will probably not answer every question you have ever had about CBD oil, but it will both give you some background and dive into all of the ways that it may be an effective addition to shingles and nerve pain treatment. CBD oil and shingles are still new to each other, but there is pretty good evidence that suggests this to be a therapeutic pairing.
I have heard multiple people describe “the worst pain in their lives,” when explaining their experiences with shingles. It has been compared to the pain level of unbearable back pain and even childbirth. There are some mysteries associated with this viral infection, but one thing is for sure, if you come down with it, you want to do whatever you can to ease the symptoms and heal quickly. There is a shingles and now chickenpox vaccine that are great for taking preventative measures, though even they are not a sure thing. It is always good to have as many tools as possible for getting to the other side of something like this.
Table of Contents
- Topical CBD Oil Balm: The Best Delivery Method for Help with Shingle Pain
- How to Dose CBD Oil for Shingles
- What We Know About Shingles
- Shingle Causes
- Typical Shingles Symptoms
- Other Shingles Symptoms May Include
Topical CBD Oil Balm: The Best Delivery Method for Help with Shingle Pain
Applying CBD oil balms, salves, and creams can have a big impact on the rash itself. CBD oil for shooting nerve pain from shingles has been proclaimed an excellent fit. The topical application of CBD can have a great impact on the nerve issues associated with the pain. Though not confirmed scientifically yet, it is speculated that CBD oil both orally and topically can reduce the duration of the virus, while also making you more comfortable as it runs its course.
An intensive topical cream is most likely the best course of action when using a salve or balm for treatment. It is important that you only put it on clean dry skin in order to prevent bacteria from growing on this sensitive rash. There are many topicals out there, so be sure you find one with all-natural ingredients from a trusted source. It can be put on targeted nerve pain areas and might even work instantly to relieve pain.
How to Dose CBD Oil for Shingles
It is important to remember that CBD oil is not a one size fits all remedy. Everybody responds differently, and less is sometimes more in the case of CBD. It’s good to titrate up, especially with something as severe as shingles. So, start low and increase your dose until you find that you are in a therapeutic range, and stick to that for a while. 20-25 mg is considered a therapeutic amount specifically for extreme pain management.
If you start to feel that dose is no longer serving you, increase the dose. Topical and oral doses are different, and you can do both at the same time. Patience is critical because it might take a little while for your nervous system to respond to the CBD oil, so be sure to keep using it for at least a week if you are not feeling relief.
There are many ways to ingest CBD oil, and personal preference plays a role in choosing the right fit. For example, you might prefer gummies over a tincture or a pill. While having something like shingles probably doesn’t inspire experimentation, it is important to find a good fit for your personal constitution and preferences.
These days there are so many ways to take CBD oil, including infused in your coffee or tea, in pill form, tincture, smoking the bud, vaping, in a variety of edibles (including chocolate), in botanical blends that can be mixed into drinks, among many other formats. Topically speaking, there are even CBD infused bath salts and lightly laced lotions.
It’s true that there is not yet conclusive scientific research connecting CBD oil to a shingles treatment plan. As we covered in this article, however, there is quite a bit of evidence that suggests CBD’s relevance in the treatment of nerve and joint pain, including neuropathic pain that is a result of chemotherapy.
Hopefully, you never have to contend with how to treat a shingles infection, but if you do, it seems that CBD oil could be an excellent addition to whatever your doctor comes up with as an appropriate treatment supplement. Again, don’t shy away from taking CBD oil orally to combat nerve damage and the pervasive impacts of shingles, and also using it topically in tandem.
What We Know About Shingles
This infection is actually caused by the varicella-zoster virus, which is the same strain that kickstarts the chickenpox. In the case of shingles, It is also called herpes zoster (different from the sexually transmitted version of herpes).
One of the myths about shingles is that if you have never had the chickenpox you are more susceptible to coming down with shingles. Quite the opposite is true. In fact, if you have had the chickenpox virus, it never fully goes away. It can linger in a dormant stage nestled into the tissue near your brain and spinal cord. It is not clear exactly what, but something can trigger it to reactivate in the form of the shingles virus.
Be careful, because the virus can actually be contagious, but most only likely if someone comes in contact with the fluid from the rash itself. The real kicker is that if someone comes in contact with the rash they will not come down with shingles, but chickenpox. This is only if they have never had it before.
It is speculated that one of the causing factors of a shingles outbreak is extreme stress. Stress has been linked to a lowering of the immune system, which can re-activate dormant and new viruses alike. Age seems to play a role in contracting shingles, though not always. The majority of the people who get this painful viral rash are over the age of 50.
Another population at higher risk for contracting shingles are those with compromised immune systems. Many people fall under this category, including:
- People with HIV/AIDS
- Anyone undergoing treatment for cancer–specifically chemotherapy and/ or radiation
- Anyone carrying an autoimmune disease like Lyme or fibromyalgia
- People on a variety of medications, especially those designed to help the body integrate an organ transplant
Typical Shingles Symptoms
- The first symptom of shingles is generally full-body pain. The pain is so pervasive that it often hurts to be touched, or can simply feel overly sensitive.
- After a few days of pain, the signature red rash generally appears. It is often on one side of the core body, or it can be on the face. It is known to wrap around the left or right side of the torso like a ribbon of blisters.
- The nerve pain generally comes with tingling, itching, and on and off numbness
As aforementioned, shingles can show up on the neck or face, and even surrounding the eye. This of often initially misdiagnosed as eczema at first sight. The rash goes through many stages, including blisters that are full of fluid and crust over after bursting. Often, this signature rash is the telltale sign that it is indeed shingles.
Misdiagnosis is common, especially when the rash is late to the game, or doesn’t appear at all. That’s right, a complicating factor is some people get the pain and never come down with the rash, making it very challenging to diagnose. People have been known to leave the doctor’s office thinking they have a heart, lung, or kidney issue instead of shingles.
Other Shingles Symptoms May Include
- light sensitivity
- body aches
- overall extreme exhaustion
Yep, sounds like a virus. Within two to six weeks, this nasty rash sickness should have run its course and moved on — phew.
It is important to take a shingles diagnosis very seriously because in extreme cases, and without the proper healing regimen, you can open yourself up to long term damage. This can include:
- Postherpetic neuralgia – a condition that occurs when the nerve damage is so extreme the neurotransmitters send confused or exaggerated messages to the brain from the skin, keeping the pain around much longer than the rash.
- Vision impairment – The eye is such a sensitive place to have any kind of infection. If this virus presents itself around the eye (ophthalmic shingles), you must take preventative measures to not have long term eye problems, including loss of vision.
- Neurological complications – The nerve channels can literally get their wires crossed with this infection, and in extreme cases result in brain inflammation (encephalitis). This can cause facial paralysis, balance, or even hearing issues.
- Skin infections – your skin is your largest organ and needs to be cared for as you would any other part of your body. With something like shingles, it is important the blistery rash is proactively treated, otherwise, bacteria can get beneath the skin and create infections.
In the meantime, how do you get through it with as much ease as possible?
CBD Oil: Help for Those Suffering With Shingles
Though using CBD medicinally is still quite new, there have been studies that suggest CBD oil for nerve pain is very effective. Because there is not a clear treatment path for shingles yet, finding ways to be as comfortable as possible as it runs its course is paramount. Basically, the cannabinoid chemical found in CBD supports an anti-inflammatory response in the body that can be both beneficial for the rash itself but also calming some of the nerve pain. The more you take down active inflammation, the less likelihood you have of accruing long term damage from the virus.
CBD is known to be an active nerve protectant. This is an important element because if the inflammation gets too out of control, the nervous system can have irreversible damage. The body is full of neurotransmitters. These are basically messengers sending information from the brain to different parts of the body. A type of neurotransmitter is called endocannabinoid, which is something your body makes to connect with your nervous systems’ cannabinoid receptors.
I know, this is a lot of scienc-y jargon, but the meat and potatoes of the story is that CBD plays a role in effecting the activity of endocannabinoid receptors, which not only bring down inflammation but tell your systems (by way of neurotransmitter) to chill. In a nutshell, that is why CBD oil for nerve pain from shingles can be effective.
CBD has shown in research studies to be useful in positively reducing nerve damage and subsequent pain from the use of chemotherapy. Drugs like chemotherapy are known to have a long term impact on the nervous system. Because CBD is a proven nerve protectant it can play the same role in those with shingles as it does for people undergoing chemotherapy treatments. As mentioned earlier in the article, a long term complication that can come from shingles is chronic nerve pain (also called post-herpetic nerualgia). In studies that use animals, CBD has proven to be helpful in reducing this outcome.
There are other reasons CBD oil can be helpful here. Many people take CBD oil for stress and anxiety. This has actually been researched much more heavily and has proven to be therapeutic in some people. Because shingles is potentially kickstarted by stress, CBD oil can be an effective multi-tasking support. Not only is it coming at shingles from the nerve angle, but it is also dealing with the whole patient, and allowing all of your systems to calm down. Being sick is never a walk in the park, so even if you are not someone who regularly struggles with anxiety, this might be the time it shows its head.
Another way CBD oil is helpful in the treatment of shingles is its ability to suppress viruses. This is partially due to its anti-inflammatory properties, and also it’s natural immune-boosting properties. Relieving inflammation support viruses to stay in their dormant stages and not reactivate.
CBD has been known to generally bring a sense of homeostasis to the body, providing an equilibrium of sorts. The anti-inflammatory properties alone can positively impact pain signaling and overactive nerves. This is turn can have a major impact on pain relief.
CBD Oil for Shingles Pain: Effectiveness of Cannabis Oil (from Hemp & Marijuana)
Shingles are a painful condition similar to chickenpox, which is a type of rash on the body that typically affects children.
Many people are probably unaware that they have the shingle virus in its inactive form in their bodies.
Chickenpox is caused by the same virus as shingles — varicella-zoster. The virus stays dormant in the body after the chickenpox has disappeared and can be triggered at any time in your life.
What’s worse, doctors don’t know what exactly activates the virus.
So, how do you cope with those painful blisters? Pharmaceutical treatments often include a range of side effects, not to mention that a severe form of shingles can be debilitating on its own. That’s why people are turning to natural remedies, such as CBD oil.
This article will give you a deeper insight into the problem of shingles and the pain that comes with it.
We’ll also discuss the efficacy and safety of CBD for shingles, how to use it to get the most out of your shingle treatment, and whether you can use other natural remedies to relieve this condition.
What You Need to Know About CBD and Shingles?
The telltale symptoms of shingles include a painful, blistery rash that is caused by the virus varicella-zoster and can be mistaken for chickenpox. It typically occurs on one side of the torso, but can actually show up anywhere on the body.
After a person goes through a chickenpox infection, the virus transforms into its inactive form and can get activated several years later to cause shingles — also referred to as herpes zoster.
Shingles can spread to those who haven’t had chickenpox yet and are more likely to appear in older people (1).
Shingles outbreak features a tingling sensation under the skin, which can be confused with a slight fever at first. People with shingles suffer from moderate to severe pinching pain in the problematic area, red patches of skin, and itchiness.
Doctors usually prescribe antiviral drugs like acyclovir to tackle shingles. People also try to reduce their duration and severity with over-the-counter painkillers such as lidocaine (2).
Even when a person has successfully treated shingles, they can still experience persistent pain lasting for years. That’s because shingles trigger a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is an annoying condition that irritates the nerves and skin.
There’s a growing body of anecdotal reports from CBD users that have used CBD products to relieve shingles. Despite the lack of shingles-specific studies, CBD is known to have, antiviral, and painkilling properties, all of which can help stop the growth of viruses, including the varicella-zoster virus (3).
Does CBD Help with Shingles?
CBD is one of the two significant cannabinoids in cannabis plants; it occurs both in hemp and marijuana in various concentrations.
This cannabinoid has been touted for its multiple therapeutic effects for various health concerns. Unlike its cousin, THC, CBD doesn’t cause intoxication, so you won’t get high off of it.
Once ingested, CBD signals the endocannabinoid system (ECS), our master regulatory network, to produce more of its own endocannabinoids. These endogenous molecules modulate the activity of the cannabinoid receptors by exerting certain actions of them. The ultimate role of the ECS is to maintain internal balance (homeostasis) between all biological functions in the body (4).
These functions include mood, memory, emotional processing, cognition, sensory perception, immune response, reproduction, neuroprotection, body temperature, sleep cycles, and more.
A 2009 review of the existing studies on the therapeutic qualities of cannabis suggested that CBD and other cannabinoids are remarkable anti-inflammatory compounds. The authors of the review concluded that these properties can be used in targeting a broad range of health conditions.
When it comes to shingles, CBD signals the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS, reducing inflammation and decreasing one’s sensitivity to pain.
Although no study has yet investigated the effectiveness of CBD specifically for shingles, the said interaction between CBD and the ECS can allow it to ease nerve damage caused by the condition.
CBD vs THC for Shingles: Which Is Better?
Both THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids in cannabis. Similar to CBD, THC also has remarkable anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. Whether applied through the vapor, sublingual consumption, or in a topical product, cannabis delivers THC and CBD to the rash site, helping alleviate the swelling. Topical cannabis products also offer localized pain relief, so they may come in particularly handy for coping with painful blisters or sores. In addition, THC may prevent these areas from becoming infected.
Another potential benefit of using THC for shingles is the protective effect on the nerves against the damage from the shingle virus. This particular feature can prevent the development of postherpetic neuralgia, the aforementioned condition that causes the patient to experience severe pain in the area of the shingles rash long after it has healed.
However, when you take THC through smoking, vaping, or any sort of internal administration, the compound can get you high, and the higher you get, the higher the chances it will impact your functioning throughout the duration of effects. If you have a low tolerance for THC, it may be better to use hemp-derived CBD products.
Hemp-derived CBD is also more widely available. While marijuana — the primary source of THC — is legal in 17 U.S. states, products sourced from hemp are legal on the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill.
How to Use CBD for Shingles?
CBD oil comes in many forms; you can choose between sublingual drops, capsules, edibles, vapes, concentrates, and topical products such as salves, balms, and gels.
The two most popular choices when it comes to using CBD for shingles are CBD oil and CBD topicals.
CBD oil is administered sublingually with a dropper that allows for accurate dosing. Once you’ve squeezed up the desired amount in the dropper, transfer that dose under the tongue, hold it there for up to 60 seconds, and swallow. The CBD will absorb through the tiny blood vessels in your mouth, avoiding the liver and the first-pass metabolism. As a result, the effects of CBD oil take hold faster than with oral forms (e.g. capsules and gummies) and last relatively long, up to 6 hours.
If you dislike the taste of CBD oil and don’t mind waiting several extra minutes for the effects, you can try CBD capsules or gummies. These products provide a premeasured dose of CBD per serving and are better suited for people who travel a lot and live a busy lifestyle.
Another way to take CBD oil is through vaping. Vaporization delivers the highest concentrations of CBD to your system and provides the fastest onset, but at the cost of some duration. The effects of vaporized CBD last for up to 4 hours.
The method to target localized problems is through the use of CBD topicals. These products provide relief in areas where they are applied. Using a topical formulation can effectively reduce inflammation and pain associated with red rashes caused by shingles. Using CBD cream is easy; you just need to make sure that the skin stays clean and dry during application. Massage the product gently for a few seconds into the affected area for better absorption.
Should You Use CBD Orally or Topically for Shingles?
From our experience, it’s best to take both. Doing so provides an all-around approach to shingles. The condition is triggered by the activation of the varicella-zoster virus, so if you want to benefit from the antiviral properties of CBD and speed up your recovery process, using CBD orally is the best option for the job.
On the other hand, shingles manifest themselves as red swollen rashes on the skin, so the use of topical may provide localized relief and reduce the redness, size, and painfulness of your blister.
In either case, make sure that you always choose high-quality, third-party lab-tested products from a reputable company.
CBD Oil Dosage for Shingles: How Much to Take?
No study has yet tested different CBD doses for shingles, so finding the right dose for your individual situation will require some trial and error. Everyone is different, and so will be their response to a certain amount of cannabidiol. Factors such as age, gender, metabolism, the sensitivity of cannabinoid receptors, and severity of symptoms should be taken into consideration when trying to determine the right dose.
According to anecdotal evidence, an oral dose of 20–25 mg of CBD daily works well to ease the painful symptoms of shingles. We suggest that you start low and gradually work your way up to the point where you feel the desired relief. You can use a ratio of 1–5 mg CBD for every 10 pounds of your weight for starters.
As for the topicals, people usually apply them to the rash once a day or as recommended by their doctor. A consultation with a healthcare professional experienced in cannabis use can help you increase the efficacy of your skin treatment.
Other Natural Remedies for Shingles
If you’re among the growing number of people affected by shingles, you may decide to supplement other natural remedies too. Here’s a list of natural products that may help alleviate shingles:
- Essential oils – people have used essential oils to relieve topical problems for many years. Some essential oils that reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and improve skin cell regeneration include chamomile oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Those looking to try essential oils for shingles should make sure they are not allergic to them.
- Cold compresses – A cool cloth or compress may assist you in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. It’s best to lightly soak a natural cotton cloth with cool water and wire it out before placing it on sore, itchy areas. Keep in mind not to expose the skin to extreme temperatures.
- Witch hazel – According to researchers, witch hazel is more effective for reducing itchiness and inflammation than chamomile. You can buy witch hazel in different forms, including creams or witch hazel water.
- Cool baths – Taking a cool bath or shower every day, with gentle scrubbing, will help to keep the blisters and sores clean, reducing the risk of infection. Cool water also helps relieve sore and itchy spots.
- Oat baths – Some studies point to oat extracts as an effective moisturizer and soothing agent for sensitive and inflamed skin. The FDA has approved colloidal oatmeal as a safe and effective treatment. The active ingredients in oath help reduce inflammation, pain, and itchiness.
- Gentiana scabra – this purple flower occurring throughout North America has a positive effect on pain perception in shingles and reduces the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia. By curbing inflammation in the skin, Gentiana scabra minimizes pain and speeds up healing. The plant has been used for many years by Chinese medicine practitioners.
- Vitamin supplements – Using supplements is a good idea when a person has a compromised immune system or has passed the age of 50. There’s a vivid link between immune function and vitamin D. Individuals with low vitamin D levels have lower immunity than those without deficiencies. Taking vitamin C, selenium, and zinc supplements can also improve immune function in adults.
Foods that Make Shingles Worse
People with shingles should avoid certain foods where possible. The worst type of food, in this case, is the one that contains the amino acid arginine that actually facilitates the spread of the herpes virus.
Here are some of the foods to exclude from your diet if you have shingles:
- Soy products
- White and whole-wheat flour
- Coffee and other high-caffeine products
- Saturated fats (processed foods with empty calories)
Finally, remember that the food should be served not too hot, not too cold — just right. Extreme temperatures in foods, such as scalding soups or icy treats are jarring to the nervous system.
Understanding Shingles: FAQ
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles are caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. Usually, people who have had chickenpox early in their lives can develop shingles in the future because the virus gets activated in the nerve tissues near your brain and spinal cord after remaining in a standby mode.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
The symptoms of shingles include raised dots on one side of the body or face that eventually become painful, red blisters. The blisters usually dry out after 7–10 days; their duration is characterized by stabbing pain as well as tingling in the skin after the shingles virus goes into its inactive form again. Singles are often accompanied by chills, fever, and upset stomach.
Who Is More Likely to Suffer from Shingles?
The varicella-zoster virus is more likely to get activated in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, HIV sufferers, and people in their 50s and up. Chronic, severe stress is another risk factor for developing shingles. If you take immunosuppressants — medicines that weaken the immune system — you’re more likely to get shingles too.
Can People Spread Shingles?
People don’t spread shingles per se, but they can spread the varicella-zoster virus that triggers the condition. The virus is highly contagious, so individuals that get in contact with people who have shingles can catch the chickenpox virus and get shingles later in their lives.
What Are the Potential Complications of Shingles?
Shingles usually run their course within 4–5 weeks, but there are instances where complications may show up. People with a weakened immune system may need more time to recover from the shingles episode. Also, some individuals may develop postherpetic neuralgia, which includes sleep problems, chronic pain, and depression. Other complications of shingles include eye conditions and skin infections. If you experience the said complications, it’s a sign you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Final Verdict: Is CBD a Viable Option for Shingles?
Shingles are a viral condition that manifests in painful, red rashes on the body. They are caused by the same virus as chickenpox; most of the time, the virus remains dormant, but it can get reactivated later in life as shingles.
Common risk factors for shingles include a weakened immune system, nerve damage, skin infections, and older age. Before the shingles outbreak, a person may experience symptoms reminiscent of fever aside from a tingling sensation in their skin. Then, the skin becomes inflamed and itchy, developing red, painful blisters.
If you’re flirting with the idea of taking CBD for shingles, we have some good and, say, neutral news for you. The good news is that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and painkiller whose health benefits are well backed by studies. Since shingles are caused by a compromised immune system, and their symptoms involve inflammation and pain, it only seems within reason to try out CBD oil as a natural remedy for this condition. The neutral news is that no study has yet investigated the effects of CBD specifically for shingles.
Therefore, we suggest that you consult a doctor experienced in cannabis therapies before adding CBD oils and topicals to your routine. Doing so will help you establish the right dosage and regimen. Undertaking necessary lifestyle changes and avoiding certain foods described in the article may also help improve your symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Have you tried taking CBD for shingles? Do you use CBD oil or topicals — or maybe both? Let us know in the comments!
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Chickenpox: Overview. 2014 Jun 30 [Updated 2019 Nov 21].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279621/
- CDC.gov [Internet]. United States: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Treating Shingles. 2019 Jul. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
- Tagne, A.M. et al. (2020). Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope? Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2019.0060
- Pavlovic et al. (2018). Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint, and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules, vol. 23(5).
- Russo, E.B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, vol. 4(1), pp 245–59.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
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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.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Shingles?
- Understanding Shingles
- Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts
- Experiencing Shingles
- Common Symptoms of Shingles
- Risk Factors for Shingles
- Is Shingles Contagious?
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia
- Eye Conditions
- Skin Infections
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
- The Endocannabinoid System
- Inflammation and Pain
- What the Research Says
- CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain
- Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD
- A Summary of What the Research Says
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.
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.
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:
- Abdominal pain
- Sensitivity to light
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 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.
If shingles develops around the eye, it can result in eye infections that could lead to blindness.
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.
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.
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.