CBD for Psoriasis: Can It Help?
If you’re struggling with psoriasis, you’ll know it can be painful, debilitating, and hard to treat. With some of the more common psoriasis treatments possibly resulting in side effects as serious as kidney damage and heart issues, you’ve probably started to wonder if there could be a better option out there. The good news is that CBD could offer some hope for those out there with psoriasis.
What is CBD?
CBD is a type of chemical compound called a cannabinoid that is found in cannabis and hemp plants that contains an impressive range of therapeutic benefits. From oils to lotions to edibles, there is a smorgasbord of CBD products available these days. The especially exciting thing about CBD for patients with psoriasis is that research tells us that CBD holds skin healing properties that could possibly help with this hard-to-treat skin disorder.
How does CBD help psoriasis?
CBD may be able to help treat psoriasis by potentially stopping the cause—the overproduction of skin cells.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, which essentially means that your immune system, which is meant to protect you from illness, misfires and instead starts to attack your body. In the case of psoriasis, this takes the form of your immune system overproducing skin cells. This overproduction then results in skin cells building up and leading to inflamed, dry, and painful patches of skin.
CBD exerts its effects on the body by binding to and acting on different receptor types, and this is exactly how it might be able to improve the symptoms of psoriasis.
Research on CBD and psoriasis
- One study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science tested the ability of various cannabinoids (including CBD) to stop the excessive production of epidermal skin cells that cause psoriasis. The study found that CBD managed to block the proliferation of skin cells, which was more effective when higher concentrations of CBD were used. The study’s authors concluded that cannabinoids, including CBD, were able to inhibit the overproduction of skin cells and, therefore, could be effective in the treatment of psoriasis ( 1 ).
- A study published in the journal PeerJ investigated whether the activation of cannabinoid receptors had an effect on specific keratin protein types present in higher levels in psoriasis. The results showed that when cannabinoid receptors were activated, those specific keratin protein types were reduced. As cannabinoid receptors are activated by cannabinoids such as CBD, it is, therefore, possible that CBD may be able to improve psoriasis by reducing the levels of the specific keratin protein types ( 2 ).
- A 2019 study found that CBD ointment significantly improved the symptoms of psoriasis in patients, as measured by the Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI). Patients in the study administered the ointment to lesioned skin areas twice a day for three months, and the CBD ointment resulted in no irritant or allergic reactions. While these results are impressive, it’s important to note that this study used a very small sample size, so more extensive research is needed before conclusions can be drawn ( 3 ).
- Psoriasis can also result in inflammation, which can leave you with hot, red, painful areas of skin. Aside from reducing skin cell proliferation, CBD has also shown promise as an anti-inflammatory. Multiple studies tell us that CBD can induce an anti-inflammatory effect in the skin, which makes it an extremely positive possible treatment for psoriasis ( 4 , 5 , 6 ).
The trouble with psoriasis treatment
Traditional psoriasis treatments come with some pretty significant side effects, so the potential of CBD to be a low-irritant effect psoriasis treatment is exciting.
Cyclosporine is an immunosuppressant medication that is commonly used to treat psoriasis, and its side effects can be severe. These can include high blood pressure, blood clot risk, acne, headaches, increased gum size, tremors and unusual body hair growth. More serious side effects such as kidney damage, liver damage, or heart problems are also possible ( 7 ).
Topical steroids are another treatment, but they can also result in side effects that it’s important to be aware of. Prolonged treatment of steroids can lead to acne, dermatitis, delayed wound healing, pigment changes, and exacerbation of skin infection ( 8 ).
Side effects of CBD
One of the main benefits of CBD is that it has very few side effects. Any side effects from CBD tend to be mild. These can include:
- Lack of appetite ( 9 )
On the whole, CBD is considered very safe. In fact, studies have found that doses of CBD as high as 1,500 mg per day can be used safely and effectively ( 10 ). It seems that it is also impossible to overdose on CBD, as CBD receptors have no control over respiration, which means that CBD can’t lead to respiration suppression and overdose ( 11 ). The FSA recommends not consuming more than 70mg of CBD per day unless under medical supervision.
Even though CBD is an active compound in cannabis, you don’t have to worry about getting high. Another cannabinoid, THC, is the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of cannabis. As long as your CBD contains no THC, then your treatment will be high-free.
The bottom line
Psoriasis is a serious, debilitating, and often hard-to-treat condition. While it may not be an outright cure and there is still much work to be done, CBD does show a lot of promise as a potential treatment.
More research is needed before we can make sweeping conclusions about CBD’s ability to treat psoriasis, but what we see now is exciting, especially the ability of CBD to block the cause of psoriasis—the overproduction of skin cells.
With its high safety profile and minimal side effects, CBD appears to be a treatment option worth trying to alleviate psoriasis symptoms.
How CBD Oil and Topicals Can Help Psoriasis
More than 8 million Americans live with psoriasis—a chronic autoimmune condition. People with psoriasis experience an overactive immune system that makes their skin cells grow too quickly, and this in turn causes red, scaly, painful patches of skin cells to build up. These plaques are ugly, itchy, and disruptive.
Psoriasis is incurable, so the only option is to treat the symptoms and find ways to cope. For those millions of people who are searching for options to help control their symptoms, CBD for psoriasis is a new source of hope.
In this post, we’ll explore an overview of Psoriasis and why it’s so tough to cope with. We’ll talk about the challenges of treating psoriasis, including with topicals. We’ll also discuss treating psoriasis with CBD, and why CBD has so much potential in this area. Finally, we’ll recommend the best CBD cream for psoriasis that we’ve tried so far.
Overview of Psoriasis
For people with psoriasis, a lifetime of itching is in store—I’m here to tell you. Right now as I sit here typing this, my skin is itching so much, I almost can’t stand it, but for me, that’s pretty normal.
Most patients with psoriasis will have it for life because it’s an incurable, chronic autoimmune disease, although there will be times when it’s better or flare-ups when it is worse. Medications are available, many of them topical and designed to soothe irritation and reduce inflammation. They are sometimes kind of helpful, but ask anyone with psoriasis: they don’t stop the problem. Nothing does.
Women have a worse problem with psoriasis overall because fluctuations in hormones can and do cause shifts in psoriasis symptoms, and this often causes women to experience flare-ups during and after pregnancy. In fact, many women experience a psoriasis flare-up just after delivery.
Psoriatic arthritis is caused by inflammation and affects about 30 percent of psoriasis patients. Elevated levels of inflammation can also cause complications such as typical arthritis, heart disease, thyroid issues, diabetes, and kidney problems in people with psoriasis. For all of these reasons, it’s important for people with psoriasis to watch cholesterol levels and maintain their weight.
There are even numerous food triggers for psoriasis patients; many people with the disorder cannot eat things like processed or junk foods, eggs, citrus, red meat, tomatoes, dairy, or alcohol without flare-ups. (This article is being written by an involuntary vegan.) In other words, psoriasis truly affects every aspect of your life.
Foods that are high in antioxidants such as fruits and vegetables may help fight oxidative stress and inflammation, so these are recommended for patients with psoriasis and other autoimmune conditions. Some patients benefit from eating foods high in omega-3 fatty acids such as fatty fish like sardines and salmon which may reduce inflammation in the body. Anti-inflammatory spices such as turmeric and oils like coconut or olive are another natural option to try—but either way, you’ll be altering your diet.
The worst part about something like psoriasis, from someone who deals with it, is the mental health impact and social consequences. It can be embarrassing and stressful. Yes, I’m used to the staring and questions—and still they stress me out. And guess what? Stress makes it worse.
So, all of this should point to a few factors for you:
- Living with psoriasis isn’t easy. In fact, it sucks. It touches every part of your day, and causes tremendous quality of life issues.
- There’s no cure for psoriasis but every reason to try things that might work and won’t hurt.
- Everyone with psoriasis dreams of that day they walk outside in shorts or whatever and never have to worry about it again.
So, this is why CBD for psoriasis is now a trend: necessity.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
Symptoms and signs of psoriasis vary from person to person, but typically they include:
- Red skin patches covered with scales that are thick and silvery
- Smaller, scaly spots of skin
- Cracked, dry skin that may itch or bleed
- Burning, itching, or soreness
- Pitted, thickened, or ridged nails
- Stiff and swollen joints
Patches of psoriasis can vary from a few small spots of scaly skin that resemble dandruff to serious eruptions that cover major portions of the body. The ankles, elbows, face, knees (front and back), legs, lower back, palms, scalp, and soles of the feet are the most commonly affected areas of the body.
Most kinds of psoriasis flare up for a few weeks or months in cycles and then subside or even go into remission.
Types of Psoriasis
There are multiple kinds of psoriasis, including:
Plaque psoriasis. Plaque psoriasis is the most common type, causing dry, red, raised patches of skin covered with silvery scales called lesions. The plaques might be few or numerous; tender, itchy or both; and they typically appear on the knees, elbows, scalp, and lower back.
Erythrodermic psoriasis. Although it is the least common type of psoriasis, because it can cover the entire body with a peeling, red rash that can burn or itch intensely, erythrodermic psoriasis is one of the more serious varieties.
Guttate psoriasis. Guttate psoriasis is characterized by small, scaling lesions shaped like drops on the arms, legs, or trunk. Typically triggered by strep throat or some other bacterial infection, this variety of psoriasis primarily affects children and young adults.
Inverse psoriasis. Inverse psoriasis mainly affects skin folds near the breasts, groin, and buttocks, and it causes smooth patches of red skin that sweating and friction make worse. This kind of psoriasis can be triggered by fungal infections.
Nail psoriasis. Nail psoriasis can cause abnormal growth, pitting, and discoloration in fingernails and toenails. Psoriatic nails can result in onycholysis, where the nails loosen and separate from the nail bed. In severe cases of psoriasis, the nail can crumble.
Psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes painful swelling in any joint, ranging from mild to severe, just like typical arthritis. Symptoms vary, and joint symptoms or nail changes may be the only signs of psoriasis. Psoriatic arthritis can progressively damage the joints—in the most serious cases, permanently.
Pustular psoriasis. Pustular psoriasis is a rare variety occurring either in widespread patches as generalized pustular psoriasis or in smaller patches on the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands. The patches themselves consist of pus-filled lesions that are clearly defined, similar to blisters.
Causes and Triggers of Psoriasis
Psoriasis, like similar skin disorders, is considered to be an immune system disorder. It triggers the skin to regenerate too quickly, and in plaque psoriasis, which is the most common type, this too-rapid cell turnover causes red, scaly patches of skin.
What causes the immune system to react this way remains unclear, although psoriasis is definitely not contagious or dangerous to others. Right now, scientists think that both environmental and genetic factors may play a role.
Triggers are an issue for people with psoriasis. In fact, many people who may be predisposed to psoriasis experience wellness and have no symptoms for years until some environmental factor triggers the disease.
Some common psoriasis triggers are:
- Skin injury, including a bug bite, a scrape or cut, a burn, or a severe sunburn
- Infections, either of the skin, or systemic such as strep throat
- Weather, particularly dry, cold conditions
- Heavy consumption of alcohol
- Rapid withdrawal of corticosteroids
- Exposure to smoke, from smoking, secondhand smoke, and wildfire
- Certain medications, including antimalarial drugs, lithium, and high blood pressure medications
Risk factors for Psoriasis
Although anyone can develop psoriasis, there are several risk factors according to the NIH. Some you can control more than others:
- Family history. Having one or more parents with psoriasis increases your risk of getting the disease because it runs in families.
- Smoking. Smoking may play a part in the development and onset of psoriasis, so your initial risk, and it may also increase the severity of psoriasis once you get it.
- Stress. High levels of stress, which can affect the immune system, can increase your risk of psoriasis.
Beyond psoriatic arthritis, complications from psoriasis include:
- Other autoimmune diseases such as sclerosis, celiac disease, and the inflammatory bowel disease called Crohn’s disease
- Eye conditions, such as blepharitis, conjunctivitis, and uveitis
- Type 2 diabetes
- Cardiovascular disease
- High blood pressure
- Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions
Challenges of Treating Psoriasis
Basically, this is an ongoing war—a series of battles you fight your whole life. You look for the weapons that work best against psoriasis for your body, and you add them to your arsenal. You avoid the triggers that make it worse and hope they’re not everywhere.
Here are some of the treatment options and how they work.
Non-medicated moisturizing products for the skin and bath, such as mineral oil, body creams, moisturizers, bath bombs, and petroleum jelly may reduce the dryness and soothe affected skin from psoriatic plaques.
Medicated topicals are also available in a wide variety, and applying them directly to plaques of psoriatic skin can help reduce skin turn over and inflammation, remove built-up scale, and clear affected skin of plaques. Some common active ingredients for creams and ointments intended for psoriasis include coal tar, corticosteroids like desoximetasone (Topicort), dithranol (anthralin), vitamin D3analogues (for example, calcipotriol), fluocinonide, and retinoids. Each works a bit differently, but they all reduce inflammation and help to normalize skin cell production.
Approaches to UV light therapy such as psoralen plus ultraviolet A (PUVA) and UVB phototherapy can reduce psoriasis symptoms effectively for some people. However, you need several sessions per week, which takes time, effort, and money. Also, long-term light therapy can increase your risk of skin cancer.
You might try a systemic agent against psoriasis that resists both topical treatment and phototherapy—that’s a medication you take as a pill or injection. Only people with regular blood and liver function can handle this kind of medication, and if you might become pregnant, you should avoid it. If you ever stop taking your systemic treatment, your psoriasis will probably come back.
There are three primary systemic medications usually used to treat psoriasis: cyclosporine, methotrexate, and retinoids. Cyclosporine and methotrexate are immunosuppressant drugs that work by suppressing and regulating the unhealthy overactive immune system action. However, ulcerations are a risk for patients taking methotrexate.
Retinoids are synthetic forms of vitamin A that can help speed up the skin cell shedding and growth cycle so plaques don’t build up as much. However, retinoids can also make your skin more sensitive and can decrease in effectiveness over time.
For those that have insurance, access to a doctor to inject them, and don’t mind continuing a new therapy for the rest of their lives, biologics are a promising option. These manufactured proteins interrupt the immune overreactions that characterize psoriasis, but in a very specific way. These are very new drugs, so their long-term impact on immune function is unknown, and they must be given by a doctor in-office.
There are also newer laser systems approved to treat psoriasis on the scalp. Obviously, these are an in-office option only, too.
Alternative Therapies for Psoriasis
So, you’ve tried everything and you’re in the same boat as most people with psoriasis: you can either try systemic therapy forever—with varying levels of success and cost, by the way—or you can try something else and hope it works to improve your quality of life.
Fortunately, some research does suggest that changes in diet, skincare routine, and lifestyle can at least help relieve psoriasis symptoms.
Various research studies have found benefits in diets supplemented with fish oils, low energy diets, fasting periods, and vegetarian diets. Fish oils in particular contain Vitamin E and are rich in the two omega-3 fatty acids docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Some fish oils also contain vitamin A and vitamin D.
Lifestyle habits also definitely impact psoriasis—at least how severe it is. It may not cure your psoriasis to stop smoking, limit your alcohol consumption, maintain a normal weight, get regular exercise and a good night’s sleep, and manage your stress, but it will probably lessen the severity of your symptoms. (If you figure out how to do all that, please let us know how in the comments.)
Furthermore, hypnotherapy may be an effective treatment for psoriasis if you have access to it where you are and can afford it.
There are a few other alternative therapies out there that get a little less…accessible. For example, researchers have found that the Indigo naturalis plant used in traditional Chinese medicine, also called Qing dai, may be effective in treating psoriasis.
And some spas in Croatia, Hungary, Ireland, Serbia, and Turkey offer ichthyotherapy, in which you sit in a pool full of “doctor fish” that eat your icky psoriatic skin. Apparently the outdoor thermal springs these doctor fish live in also have their own beneficial effect, and that’s good because you have to keep going back to the skin-eating spa. (Sorry, this one has an ick factor for us—but then so does psoriasis, so whatever works!)
Our point is this: treatments are tough, expensive, and only somewhat effective. There is plenty of room for a natural remedy that provides more relief.
Can CBD Reduce Symptoms of Psoriasis?
Given that CBD is a proven immune-modulator and anti-inflammatory, it makes sense that it would be a workable treatment option against psoriasis, an autoimmune disease that induces inflammation.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) in the human body is a naturally-occurring network of cannabinoids and cannabinoid receptors that regulates homeostasis. Since homeostasis is a balancing act in the body and psoriasis is evidence of certain physiological processes that are out of control, achieving and maintaining homeostasis is of interest here.
One particular study highlights the role of cutaneous cannabinoids in suppressing inflammation and excess growth in the skin’s epithelial layers. Another study connects these skin layers to onset psoriasis and the functional ECS system, describing the way the skin’s cannabinoid receptors help control and balance how the skin cells proliferate.
In other words, research indicates that the layers of human skin contain a functional endocannabinoid system, and cannabinoids act to reduce inflammation along the specific psoriatic pathway in the skin. The science does support CBD as a possible treatment option for psoriasis.
Furthermore, CBD has been proven to effectively treat depression, anxiety, and related mental health issues. These are often connected to psoriasis, so CBD could have additional benefits for these users.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of Psoriasis
CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to regulate stasis in skin cells, including their immune competence, reproduction, and survival. Pathological skin diseases and conditions such as allergic dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis arise when this balance is disrupted.
The CB1 and CB2 receptors are the two primary receptors in the ECS, with CB1 receptors found all over the body and CB2 receptors found mostly in immune system cells. Both endocannabinoids naturally-occurring in the body and phytocannabinoids, which are created by the Cannabis sativa plant, bind with the CB1 and CB2 receptors.
Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD are the most notable phytocannabinoids. THC is the intoxicating ingredient of the cannabis plant which may get its users high.
Cannabinoids such as CBD are anti-inflammatories, and are therefore a potential treatment for a range of skin diseases. Cannabinoids, especially THC, are also immunosuppressive and reduce cytokines. Cytokines cause inflammation and rapid skin cell development, and psoriasis itself is an immunosuppressive disorder, making cannabinoids and THC of particular interest to psoriasis sufferers.
Another study found that cannabinoids inhibit psoriasis lesions, also called keratinocytes, from growing as rapidly. In addition, research indicates that the way the ECS moderates interactions between the CNS and the immune system suggests cannabinoids as a psoriasis treatment. In fact, a range of science suggests that cannabinoid products might be used to treat various skin diseases such as eczema, acne, and even skin cancer, along with psoriasis.
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Psoriasis
Studies have found that CBD has health benefits for those with psoriasis.
Topical steroids are among the primary traditional medications for psoriasis, and long-term use of them can and often does result in changes in pigmentation, thinning of the skin, easy bruising, stretch marks, dilated blood vessels, and redness. You might switch to oral steroids to avoid those issues, but using them long-term can cause acne, bone fractures, cataracts, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, increased risk of infections, liver damage, obesity, osteoporosis, and poor wound healing.
CBD, on the other hand, has minimal side effects, including tiredness, diarrhea, and changes in appetite or weight. According to the World Health Organization, CBD is also non-addictive. Across the United States, where state laws permit it, the 2018 Farm Bill has made CBD legal at the federal level, and you can buy CBD products without a prescription.
There is more than one kind of psoriasis, and the less common varieties have been studied less—especially in the context of CBD.
The United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved CBD for treating epilepsy. For this reason, there is no standard dosage of CBD for treating psoriasis.
CBD may inhibit Cytochrome P450 enzymes which metabolize steroids. This could make it less effective to use CBD and steroid medications together.
Again, related to the lack of regulation of CBD products, some are not adequately or accurately labeled. This alone can present a trigger danger for someone with psoriasis.
CBD vs Other Alternative Psoriasis Treatments
There are other potential natural remedies for psoriasis, which may be more or less effective depending on the patient and the situation:
- Some have used dead sea bath salts to treat psoriasis.
- Turmeric has proven anti-inflammatory properties, although they are limited.
Compared to steroids, CBD has no adverse reactions and minimal side effects. And in contrast to turmeric and dead sea salt or even light therapy, CBD produces a suite of benefits to relieve related ailments such as depression and psoriatic arthritis.
Is it better to use a CBD topical cream vs a CBD oil for psoriasis?
Since flare-ups of psoriasis can be triggered by many things, like illness, stress, and external factors like allergies, it’s not always easy to know which form of CBD might provide the most relief during an episode. Here are some things to consider.
The skin on the face is delicate and sensitive, not to mention prone to acne. If you’re experiencing psoriasis on the face and want to treat it topically, consider a CBD product specifically formulated for the face. Or, this might be a time to try CBD oil.
The same type of question arises when the issue is psoriasis of the scalp, which can be itchy and uncomfortable like dandruff, even though those products are often not right for the problem. You need to care for your hair, but the pain and burning are the more immediate problem. You want either CBD products that will soothe the scalp, or at least not irritate it, or a CBD oil to take orally.
When stress is triggering psoriasis flare-ups, aim for the right kind of CBD for managing your relaxation. Many users find CBD oil helps as a preventative and then use a CBD vape for acute issues. For psoriasis patients triggered by immune issues, CBD oil or CBD edibles are often similarly the best preventative strategy.
CBD comes in many forms, including:
- capsules and softgels
- edibles, such as beverages, candy, gummies, snacks, and other foods
- oils and tinctures
- topicals, such as balms, creams, lotions, and more (What is CBD lotion and cream? Learn more in our full post)
Which type of CBD is best for psoriasis? There is no one answer—find what works for you personally.
Remember, before you start anything new for psoriasis (or any health condition), you should talk to your doctor or other healthcare provider. Although CBD is widely understood to be safe, the industry is poorly regulated. Look for third-party testing results, and remember that if you substitute CBD for some other medication, that may have an impact on your health.
How to Choose the Right CBD for Psoriasis
Beyond everything else that we’ve said, there are a few more things to consider. First, there are three basic types of CBD oils:
Full-spectrum CBD oil uses all the natural components found in cannabis plants including hemp plants. This means natural essential oils, terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids as well as cannabinoids will all be in that CBD product, including trace amounts of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). Together, the active phytonutrients produce the entourage effect, a synergistic suite of therapeutic benefits.
Broad-spectrum CBD oil is a version of full-spectrum CBD oil with all traces of THC removed.
CBD isolates contain only isolated cannabidiol and are extracted down from the rest. You can be sure nothing is in there except the CBD and whatever it is suspended in (along with whatever they’ve added intentionally, of course—just no extra cannabinoids or terpenes).
CBD Oil for Psoriasis – May 2022
Cannabidiol or CBD is one of the commonly-known compounds of the cannabis plant. Studies suggest that the therapeutic effects of CBD may include anti-pain, anti-anxiety, anti-seizure, and anti-inflammatory properties (4) .
CBD is a nonintoxicating compound, unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that contains psychoactive effects.
According to an article by the National Psoriasis Foundation, psoriasis is a systemic disease that can be linked to several comorbidities. Thus, cannabis-derived products should be used as an adjunct or complementary approach to treatment (5) .
The World Health Organization recognizes CBD as an effective treatment for epilepsy. Preliminary data suggests that CBD may help with other medical conditions (6) .
How CBD Oil Helps to Alleviate Symptoms of Psoriasis
CBD binds to the cannabinoid receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help manage pain, itchiness, and inflammation (7) .
The ECS acts in the immune and nervous systems and is found in the brain, organs, glands, connective tissues, and immune cells (8) .
Psoriasis is an inflammatory skin disease with symptoms associated with itchiness and pain.
Studies suggest CBD may hold promise for skin-related diseases, such as psoriatic disease (9) .
CBD Oil for Psoriasis: What Research Says
A 2019 study examined CBD’s effects on chronic skin diseases and cutaneous scars. The study focused mainly on psoriasis and atopic dermatitis (eczema) (10) .
The study showed that topical application of CBD without THC may be a safe and effective alternative to improving the quality of life of individuals with inflammatory skin diseases.
Another study was conducted on the effectiveness of shampoo with broad-spectrum CBD. Results suggest CBD may help manage symptoms of scalp inflammation caused by seborrheic dermatitis or moderate scalp psoriasis (11) .
Seborrheic dermatitis is a condition characterized by scaly, red patches on the scalp.
The researchers suggested that replacing current shampoo with broad-spectrum CBD shampoo may help reduce the severity of symptoms associated with scalp inflammation in two weeks.
In another study, researchers noted that CBD and cannabinol (CBN) may help suppress human keratinocyte proliferation (12) .
Keratinocytes are the skin cells in the epidermis or outermost skin layer. According to research, the excessive growth or reproduction of keratinocytes can contribute to inflammation (13) .
Several studies suggested CBD may help reduce anxiety and depression associated with various dermatologic diseases, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis (14) .
The researchers also acknowledged that evidence on the effectiveness of CBD on psoriasis-induced anxiety is still lacking.
Safety and Effectiveness
Based on a 2019 study, the individuals who administered topical CBD-enriched ointment on severe skin chronic diseases and scars twice daily for three months showed no allergic or irritant reactions within the test period (15) .
A 2020 study on the effectiveness of broad-spectrum CBD shampoo showed that the product may provide excellent tolerability and satisfaction among humans (16) .
The World Health Organization (WHO) also acknowledges that the use of pure CBD poses no public health issues, such as comorbidities or driving under the influence (17) .
What to Consider in Choosing the Best CBD Oil for Psoriasis
CBD oil, sometimes labeled as hemp oil, is usually extracted from the cannabis plant using ethanol, carbon dioxide (CO2), or hydrocarbon extraction method.
Upon extraction, CBD oil may be classified as broad-spectrum, full-spectrum, or isolate.
Broad-spectrum CBD oil usually has all the cannabinoids found in a full-spectrum CBD product except for THC. Individuals who prefer to take CBD without the psychoactive effects of THC may consider broad-spectrum CBD as an alternative.
Full-spectrum CBD oil usually contains all the compounds from the hemp plant, including THC, terpenes, and flavonoids. Terpenes are aromatic compounds, and flavonoids are compounds containing antioxidant properties.
Combining these compounds create an “entourage effect,” wherein the purported health benefits of cannabis are improved further to promote wellness (18) .
Meanwhile, isolates contain pure CBD, with no other compounds added to the product.
Reputable CBD brands selling quality products must provide certificates of analysis (COAs) on their website.
COAs are third-party lab testing results that analyze the actual content of the product, including contaminants or pesticides if any.
Some brands may also offer gluten-free or non-GMO CBD products to suit their customers’ preferences.
Individuals and psoriasis patients interested in CBD’s therapeutic potential should ask their physician or dermatologist for advice before taking CBD to help with psoriasis.
How to Use CBD Oil for Psoriasis
There are several types of high-quality CBD products that may help alleviate the symptoms of psoriasis. Product types include CBD sprays, tinctures, capsules, edibles, topicals, and vapes.
Use a dropper or oromucosal spray to administer CBD oil or CBD tinctures sublingually (under the tongue). Sublingual administration allows CBD oil to bypass the digestive tract and directly enter the bloodstream.
CBD oil can be mixed with a carrier oil such as hempseed oil or coconut oil to dilute the CBD content.
Hempseed oil extracted from hemp seeds usually does not contain CBD. However, it may provide some health benefits due to the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids it contains (19) .
CBD capsules or edibles are taken orally. The liver absorbs them after passing through the digestive tract. Some edibles include gummies, candies, and chews.
Topicals are applied to the skin. This method is usually applicable for joint pains and skin issues. CBD applied topically is usually not absorbed into the bloodstream. Examples include CBD creams, ointments, lotions, and balms.
Vaping administers CBD oil into the body through inhalation. Vaping may be considered the fastest method for getting CBD into the body (20) .
However, caution is advised when using vapes due to the potential health risks associated with lung disease (21) . Individuals must consult a physician or dermatology expert before smoking or vaping CBD.
CBD Topical Cream vs. CBD oil for Psoriasis
CBD oil administered orally may take about 30 to 90 minutes to take effect and lasts for about six to eight hours (22) . The drug passes through the stomach and gets metabolized by the liver before getting absorbed into the bloodstream.
Administered sublingually, CBD oil is absorbed directly into the bloodstream. CBD applied this way may take about 15 to 30 minutes and lasts for two to four hours (23) .
Meanwhile, the topical application of CBD is ideal for targeted localized use. It takes 15 to 30 minutes for CBD to take effect and may last for two to four hours (24) .
Pros and Cons of CBD for Psoriasis
- CBD is a nonintoxicant and does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC (25) .
- WHO acknowledges that using pure-CBD products poses no public health issues, including comorbidities or driving under the influence (26) .
- The FDA has not approved any CBD medication other than Epidiolex for treating epileptic seizures (27) .
Additional studies on the therapeutic benefits of CBD are needed to determine its effectiveness and safety in managing psoriasis.
The Farm Bill passed in 2018 removed hemp-based CBD products from the list of controlled substances of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
However, marijuana-based CBD products and supplements containing more than 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are prohibited (28) .
To date, Epidiolex is the only CBD-based medication for treating epileptic seizures approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (29) .
The National Psoriasis Foundation notes state and federal regulations regarding CBD use can be conflicting. This situation may have led to an increasing number of skincare products not being tested for safety and efficacy (30) .
Consumers are advised to review their state’s laws and check a product’s CBD and THC content to determine whether CBD is legal in their state.
Psoriasis is a skin disease that physically manifests as red and scaly patches that commonly develop on the knees, elbows, scalp, and trunk (31) .
Trending statistics show that more than 8 million people in the United States have psoriasis (32) .
The illness is characterized by the overproduction of the interleukin (IL)-6 and IL-8 cytokines from keratinocytes and the overactivation of neutrophils (white blood cells) (33) .
The IL-6 and IL-8 cytokines are associated with the body’s inflammatory responses.
Symptoms of Psoriasis
- Dry and cracked skin that bleeds when scratched
- Stiff or swollen joints
- Itchiness, soreness, or a burning sensation
- Thickened or pitted nails
Individuals with psoriasis may experience the symptoms in cycles, usually going for weeks or months, before the illness goes into remission.
There is currently no cure for the treatment of psoriasis (35) . However, some medications and alternative remedies may help manage the symptoms.
Types of Psoriasis
- Plaquepsoriasis – Red skin lesions appear raised and covered with silvery scales. The plaques usually manifest on the elbows, knees, scalp, or lower back.
- Nailpsoriasis – Psoriasis may cause the fingernails or toenails to pit or grow abnormally. The nails may crumble or separate from the nail bed in some cases.
- Inversepsoriasis – The red skin patches may appear on the folds of the buttocks, groin, or breasts. This type of psoriasis may worsen with friction or sweating and cause fungal infections.
- Guttatepsoriasis – This type of psoriasis is usually caused by bacterial infection and mainly appears in children and young adults.
- Psoriatic arthritis – Psoriasis may also cause joints to become swollen and painful, resulting in arthritis.
- Erythrodermicpsoriasis – Red, peeling rashes may appear all over the body that may feel burning or itchy. This psoriasis type is the least common.
Causes and Triggers of Psoriasis
Psoriasis is likely caused by a problem with the immune system. However, scientists still need to determine what triggers the immune system to malfunction.
The immune system overreaction causes the skin to regenerate faster than usual. This overproduction leads to abnormal skin cell growth or buildup, causing the skin to turn scaly and appear as red patches.
- Skin injuries, infections, or strep throat (bacterial throat infection)
- Dry or cold weather
- Medications, particularly for malaria or high blood pressure
- Withdrawal of corticosteroids, a type of anti-inflammatory drug
Risk Factors for Psoriasis
- Stress – Elevated stress levels may adversely affect the individual’s immune system and trigger the symptoms of psoriasis.
- Smoking – Cigarette or tobacco smoking may cause the initial development of psoriasis and increase the severity of the symptoms.
- Family history – Genetics may contribute to an individual having psoriasis. If both parents have the illness, the risk increases more.
Challenges of Treating Psoriasis
Psoriasis is not contagious. However, there is no cure to date for psoriasis. Instead, available treatments today may help relieve the symptoms of psoriasis (39) .
The method to treat psoriasis depends on the severity and location of the rashes and the individual’s age and overall health.
Some topical treatments for psoriasis include steroid creams, moisturizers, and medicated lotions.
Over-the-counter medications like hydrocortisone creams may help reduce itching and inflammation (40) .
The healthcare provider may also recommend ultraviolet phototherapy, retinoids (vitamin A-based drugs), and immune therapy medications that help prevent autoimmune diseases (41) .
However, some treatment options may have significant side effects. For example, retinoids may cause congenital disabilities, and immunosuppressants like cyclosporine may cause high blood pressure or kidney damage (42) .
Alternative Therapies for Psoriasis
- Fish oilsupplements – Help reduce scaling by applying the oil to the affected area with a dressing. Using fish oil for six hours every day for four weeks may improve skin conditions.
- Aloe extractcreams – Help reduce inflammation, itching, scaling, and redness.
- Essential oils – Usually used for aromatherapy and may relieve anxiety and stress.
CBD vs. Other Alternative Psoriasis Remedies
CBD may help address pain, itchiness, and inflammation (44) . These benefits are comparable to alternative remedies that help reduce itching and scaling among individuals with mild to moderate psoriasis (45) .
Alternative remedies have not been conclusively proven effective. More studies are needed to determine CBD’s effectiveness and safety in managing psoriasis.
Does CBD oil help with psoriasis?
There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude that CBD oil may help with psoriasis.
How much CBD should be taken for psoriasis?
There is currently no FDA-approved CBD dosage or usage guide for psoriasis.
However, researchers suggest that CBD doses of up to 1,500 milligrams per day may be well tolerated by humans (47) .
Can CBD be used with other medications for psoriasis?
CBD products may come with a grapefruit warning, meaning CBD may interfere with the effects of other medications (49) .