Cannabis, or marijuana, and especially one of its components, CBD, is now used to treat pain and conditions such as Crohn's disease, glaucoma and chemotherapy nausea. There is growing evidence 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?
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic autoimmune disorder that causes the rapid accumulation of skin cells. New skin cells are produced so rapidly that they reach the surface of the skin before they are mature. This immature build-up on the surface of the skin forms raised patches of itchy, silvery scales. Some parts of the body may also become inflamed, with redness, swelling and discomfort.
About 15% of people with psoriasis develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes painful swelling and stiffness of the joints. If left untreated, it can also cause permanent joint damage.
How psoriasis affects your mental health
Psoriasis often causes pain, fatigue and insomnia. Psoriasis can also have a profound effect on your mental health.
The National Psoriasis Foundation notes that people with psoriasis are at increased risk of 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% higher risk of being diagnosed with anxiety.
Is cannabis a solution?
Psoriasis is not curable and can be difficult to control. Although a variety of medications and light therapies are available to treat the disease, some have serious side effects and others lose their effectiveness when the body builds up 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 on the efficacy of cannabis addresses different aspects of the disease.
Slow cell growth
Some studies suggest that cannabis may be helpful in slowing the rapid growth of keratinocytes. These are the immature skin cells found in people with psoriasis. A study suggests that cannabinoids and their receptors may help control and limit the production of immature skin cells. The researchers add that cannabis may be useful in treating several keratinocyte-related conditions, such as psoriasis and wound healing.
Many people use CBD for pain control. 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 published in Current Rheumatology. An article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association also suggests that CBD may be effective in treating pain.
Regulation of the immune system
Although more research is needed, some studies suggest that cannabis reduces the severity of inflammation associated with some diseases, including autoimmune disorders such as 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 orally. Cannabis is also available in oil form. Some people use this oil topically to treat psoriasis, claiming that it controls the rate of skin cell production, reducing inflammation.
Treatment of stress
Psoriasis and stress go hand in hand, and CBD has been shown to relieve stress.
Cannabinoids hold the key
Cannabinoids are active chemical substances found in marijuana plants. Your body also produces cannabinoids. These chemical messengers are called "endocannabinoids". They are involved in a number of functions in your body, including:
- eye pressure
- the state of mind
Talk to your doctor
Should you consider CBD to treat your psoriasis? Talk to your doctor to see if it is advisable for you to use CBD, taking into account your general health and state laws.