CBD for Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Itching, Irritated Skin?

Everything from the science to a DIY recipe, here’s what you need to know about CBD for psoriasis.

A woman suffers from a skin condition. CBD for psoriasis could be the answer.

(Photo by Marcus Hessenberg/BarcroftImages/Barcroft Media via Getty Images)

Cannabidiol (CBD) is the first cannabis compound to be used in a medicine approved by the FDA. Earlier in 2018, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to an anti-epileptic drug designed to treat severe genetic epilepsy. Now, researchers are turning their attention to a different topic: dermatology. In a recent review, scientists at the University of Colorado investigated the potential of CBD oil for psoriasis. The verdict? The science is limited, but the early research is promising. CBD Oil is already gaining popularity among patients with these skin conditions, especially among those who find steroids ineffective. Let’s dive into the research to see what we know so far.

What is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune condition that causes an overgrowth of specialized skin cells called keratinocytes. Normally, these skin cells protect sensitive underlying tissues from abrasion. In psoriasis, these tough cells begin to proliferate, causing a scaly buildup of cells on the surface of the skin. Redness, pain, inflammation, and itchiness are all common during a psoriasis flare-up. The inflammation that occurs with psoriasis can also contribute to arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes painful swelling of the joints, which can make it difficult to walk and perform daily activities.

Psoriasis is often treated with topical steroid creams that reduce inflammation in localized areas after being applied to the skin. These steroid creams are very effective for psoriasis, but they come with a few drawbacks. Patients with the condition often have to use these creams for extended periods of time and psoriasis outbreaks often happen the same areas of the body over and over again.

Potent topical steroids can temporarily reduce symptoms and ease pain associated with the condition, but the long-term use of these products can bring about uncomfortable negative side effects. Specifically, the long-term use of potent topical steroids is associated with an increased risk of bruising, thinning skin, contact allergies, skin infections, greater likelihood of injury, and a prematurely aged appearance.

For this reason, finding treatments that reduce the likelihood of long-term side effects is a worthwhile venture. Some researchers think that CBD may be a step in the right direction. Some pharmaceutical companies have already received grants to research the cannabis compound as a potential treatment for psoriasis.  Yet, curious patients don’t have to wait for new treatments to hit the shelves before experimenting with CBD. Many consumers use oral CBD supplements and oils to boost their health. But, CBD is more than just a dietary product. The cannabinoid can be applied directly to the skin for a soothing effect. 

CBD Lotion for Psoriasis

CBD for Psoriasis3 CBD for Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Itching, Irritated Skin?
Photography by Connor Fyfe for Herb

As it stands now, there have not been any clinical trials of topical CBD for psoriasis. That doesn’t mean, however, that the cannabinoid doesn’t work. It simply means that the compound has never been properly tested as a treatment for the condition. Early experiments give reason to believe that the cannabis compound may one day be proven useful to those with inflammatory skin conditions.

For starters, CBD is an immunosuppressant. The compound can indirectly engage with immune cells that are responsible for releasing pro-inflammatory compounds into bodily tissues. This dampens the immune response in the affected area, potentially reducing swelling and easing pain, stiffness, and discomfort.

In a sense, this is similar to steroid creams that work by suppressing the immune system in a localized area. Also like steroid creams, you can apply CBD topically in the form of lotions, balms, and salves. Thus far, however, CBD has not been associated with the harmful side effects that follow the long-term use of topical steroids. This may be partly due to the lack of long-term research on CBD, or due to the fact that CBD works in a profoundly different way than a topical steroid.

CBD oil for psoriasis can help thanks to the unique way the compound engages with cells in the body. The molecule taps into the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a large cell-signaling network that coordinates the cross-talk between nerves, hormones, and immune cells. The active chemical compounds in cannabis, like CBD, engage this internal network, altering the messages that cells send to one another. Researchers are still trying to uncover all of the nuances of the ECS, yet scientists have found that the system plays an important role in a wide variety of bodily functions, including:

  • Sleep
  • Mood
  • Appetite
  • Pain
  • Immune function
  • Movement
  • Metabolism

The cannabis plant can have medicinal and psychoactive effects thanks to its ability to tap into the endocannabinoid system. That’s where CBD for psoriasis comes into play. CBD boosts the body’s level of body’s reduce inflammation, pain, and itching in people with psoriasis—or anyone with dry, itchy, or sensitive skin, for that matter. According to a 2017 review from the University of Colorado, CBD, CBG, and CBN all have potential uses for psoriasis. This means CBD lotion for psoriasis could one day prove itself a promising treatment, should preclinical evidence hold true in clinical trials.

Some researchers even theorize these skin conditions are caused by an imbalance in an individual’s ECS, a condition coined “Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency” by Dr. Ethan Russo. Theoretically speaking, an imbalance in the ECS could result in immune-related symptoms, like inflammation and unnecessary pain. Other medical issues that might be caused by a cannabinoid deficiency include fibromyalgia, migraines, and irritable bowel syndrome. Yet, high-quality scientific research is sorely needed.

Even with a lack of research, however, some very high-quality CBD topicals are hitting the markets. Trustworthy CBD lotions, such as Canna Cream, are available for online purchase worldwide. Even for those without psoriasis, CBD lotion may be a useful tool to have on hand. In the lab, CBD has demonstrated potent antibacterial properties, perhaps making it useful as a homeopathic first-aid essential.

How Does CBD Lotion Treat Psoriasis and Other Skin Conditions?

CBD for Psoriasis2 CBD for Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Itching, Irritated Skin?
Photography by Connor Fyfe for Herb

As mentioned above, CBD may tap into the endocannabinoid system of the skin. While scientists are still researching exactly what the compound does, there are several key ways that it may ease symptoms of psoriasis. Here are some of the most notable ways that the herb may benefit those with psoriasis:

Proliferation

At least one early experiment suggests that cannabinoids like CBD may decrease the proliferation of keratinocytes in laboratory models. As a reminder, keratinocytes are the cells that contribute to the scaling skin seen in psoriasis. In the study, scientists cultured keratinocytes in the laboratory and tested the effects of various cannabis compounds on their proliferation. CBD and other cannabinoids successfully reduced the proliferation of these cells. Of course, cells grown in a Petri dish are a far cry from cells that actually inhabit the human body.

Inflammation

One reason CBD oil for psoriasis may work is due to the immunosuppressant effects of cannabinoids like CBD and THC. This means they can reduce immune responses like inflammation. Because of CBD’s known anti-inflammatory properties, when it’s applied directly to irritated skin or consumed orally, it’s telling those immune cells to slow down and take it easy on the inflammation. Especially when applied topically, CBD oil for psoriasis may help skin “calm down” and give it time to heal. Cannabis’ suppressant effect on the immune system and inflammation is also how it helps conditions like Crohn’s disease, Lupus, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Stress Relief

As an inflammatory condition, psoriasis is associated with symptoms that run more than skin deep. The skin condition can be worsened by chronic stress, which triggers the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals. Those with the condition are also more likely to experience depression and anxiety than the general population, which may be partly due to the chronic inflammation that plaques patients. Amazingly, in addition to anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative properties, CBD has been associated with rapid-acting antidepressant and anti-anxiety effects in animal models.

How To Use CBD Oil for Psoriasis

CBD for Psoriasis4 CBD for Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Itching, Irritated Skin?
Photography by Georgia Love for Herb

There are a surprising amount of choices for treating skin conditions with cannabis. Between cannabis topicals with THC or CBD, hemp seed oil, and oral CBD for psoriasis, there are numerous ways to experiment with the supplement. But, how do you know what’s right for you? We’ve broken it down to make it easy.

Cannabis Lotion with THC

Legal states have the most options when it comes to cannabis topicals like lotions and salves. In places like Colorado and California, you can buy topicals with THC as well as CBD, which is great for skin conditions. That’s because THC is medicinal, too. Check out brands like Papa & Barkley or Apothecanna for full spectrum cannabis topicals.

Cannabis Lotion with CBD

One of the easiest ways to use CBD? Rub an infused cream, lotion, or balm to the affected area. Cannabis may not be legal everywhere, but in the U.S. anyone can order CBD-only products thanks to the 2014 Farm Bill. One popular CBD rub for active consumers is the CBD muscle rub from Weed Sport – this product is effective and derived with pure and lab tested ingredients. CBD products derived from hemp plants with 0.3% THC are shipped to 50 states. When considering a topical CBD oil for psoriasis, there are a couple quick guidelines to follow:

  • Look for CBD topicals free of alcohols and other impurities.
  • Make sure your product is tested by a third party lab.
  • Make sure you’re buying CBD from a safe and reliable source by following this checklist.

Hemp Seed Oil

Hemp seeds are surprisingly nutritious and have been used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine for centuries. That’s because hemp seeds contain both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are essential for cell production and healthy skin. While they don’t have much in the way of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, hemp seeds make up for it in vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.

Some cannabis and CBD lotions will also contain hemp seed oil. In addition, you can buy hemp seed oil separately online and get it shipped anywhere in the U.S. for the same reason CBD is legal (hint: because it’s derived from hemp). Plus, most hemp soaps are made with hemp seed oil, and people with sensitive skin and more serious skin conditions swear by them.

Taking CBD Oil for Psoriasis Orally

While clinical trials are sorely needed, many consumers find that using oral CBD oil for psoriasis—either a drop under the tongue, in your morning coffee, or as a capsule—may help reduce skin condition outbreaks and symptoms, but more research is badly needed. If you’re in a bind, you can also apply CBD oil meant for oral consumption directly onto the skin for fast relief, as long as there’s no alcohol in it.

Best Topicals for Psoriasis

The best CBD topicals come from reputable suppliers, like RxCannaCare. RxCannaCare is based in Los Angeles and offers a variety of CBD-infused skincare products. The best value is their Canna Cream, which is a specialty blend of natural oils that moisturize the skin and deliver potent CBD relief.

Each tin of Canna Cream contains 600 milligrams of CBD per can. The CBD is infused into a nourishing base of organic coconut oil, unrefined shea butter, and cocoa butter. In addition, the topical contains a variety of specialty oils and extracts to enhance the soothing effects.

This includes calendula extract, which has powerful anti-inflammatory properties on its own. It also includes vitamin E-rich sweet almond oil and calming lavender oil. For those with an interest in energy healing, every bottle of Canna Cream also comes with a solar-charged amethyst, citrine, or quartz crystal for good measure.

Canna Cream is available in several different scents. Each bottle is made to order, and consumers can choose from:

  • Lemongrass
  • Egyptian Lotus
  • Pineapple
  • Guava
  • Grapefruit Quench

Canna Cream is available for online order in 50 states and 40 different countries. To learn more about Canna Cream, visit RxCannaCare.com.

Recipe for CBD Cream for Psoriasis

CBD for Psoriasis5 CBD for Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Itching, Irritated Skin?
Photography by Jonathon Coward for Herb

This recipe for an ultra-hydrating CBD cream for psoriasis contains both pain-fighting arnica oil and calming chamomile oils. Arnica oil is an excellent choice for consumers hoping to enhance the topical pain relief they experience from psoriatic arthritis. Chamomile has long been associated with soothing and pain-fighting properties, though research on the subject has yet to fully catch up to folk wisdom.

Ingredients:

½ cup shea butter
½ cup coconut oil
⅓ cup aloe vera gel
2 tbsp (⅛ cup) vegetable glycerine
2 TBSP concentrated CBD oil or tincture
1 tsp arnica essential oil
½ tsp chamomile essential oil
10 to 20 drops vitamin E
Cocoa butter can be used as an alternative to shea butter.

Materials:

Double boiler
Measuring cups
Measuring spoons  
Spoon
Spatula
Hand Mixer or blender
Glass container

CBD Lotion for Psoriasis Recipe:

  1. Before beginning, gather and measure all ingredients.
  2. Prepare a double boiler by filling the bottom layer with one to two inches of water. If you do not have a double boiler, simply place a heat-proof bowl or smaller pot on top of a traditional cooking pot.
  3. Warm water over low to medium heat, then add your shea butter and coconut oil to the top of the double boiler.
  4. Slowly melt the shea butter and coconut oil over low heat until there are no lumps, stirring frequently to combine the oils and prevent burning.  
  5. Once melted, turn off the heat and remove the melted oils. Transfer the melted oils to a glass blender or heat-safe bowl.
  6. Add aloe vera gel, vegetable glycerine, essential oils, and the CBD oil.
  7. Allow the oil mixture to cool for at least 24 full hours before blending to ensure correct consistency.
  8. Once cooled, a hand mixer or blender to emulsify all ingredients. Blending followed by mixing with the handmixer should create a whipped consistency.

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December 15, 2018 — Last Updated May 14, 2019
Written by Anna Wilcox

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