What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is an itchy and painful skin condition. A problem with the immune system causes too many skin cells to develop, which build up on the surface before they are mature. These skin cells form red patches with a covering of silvery scales.
Sometimes the skin patches can crack and bleed. People with psoriasis may also experience inflammation and swelling in other parts of their body.
According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, up to 30 percent of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis, which leads to stiff and inflamed joints.
There is currently no cure for psoriasis, but the right treatment can help people manage the symptoms.
Some treatments have side effects while others become less effective over time. As a result, scientists are always looking for new ways to manage this condition.
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.
Potential benefits of cannabis for psoriasis
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.
According to research doctors J.D. Wilkinson and E.M. Williamson in an article published for the Journal of Dermatological Science, cannabinoids like CBD can inhibit keratinocyte proliferation, which is a central contributing factor to chronic skin conditions like psoriasis.
“Research has shown that cannabinoids like CBD can inhibit skin keratinocyte proliferation – one of the key factors contributing to psoriasis.”
Clinical investigations thus far have been limited (and there are yet to be any adopted protocols for treating psoriasis with CBD), but some individuals are already using cannabis-infused topicals in an effort to reduce symptomatic flare-ups, many of which have experienced positive results.
Cannabis contains chemicals called cannabinoids. The human body also produces some cannabinoids naturally.
In the body, chemical messengers called endocannabinoids play a role in many functions, including:
- eye pressure
When a person uses cannabis, the cannabinoids in the drug may affect some of these bodily functions.
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.
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.
The positive effects of cannabinoids on the immune system and pain receptors mean that cannabis might provide relief from psoriasis symptoms. It is also possible that future medications may include some of the active ingredients in this drug.
As with any new treatment, people thinking of using cannabis to manage psoriasis should discuss their plans with their doctor. They should also refer to their local laws about cannabis and cannabinoid use.
It is important to remember that medicinal cannabis is a complementary treatment, which means that people should use it as part of a more comprehensive treatment plan.