A few years ago, the idea of using CBD as a potential treatment was one met with a lot of scrutiny. Today, however, there’s a growing body of research proving its efficacy in soothing all kinds of conditions and symptoms, including dermatological ailments like psoriasis.

In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at what psoriasis is, and how CBD-rich cannabis therapies could revolutionise the treatment of this condition.

What Is Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a skin condition that affects roughly 125 million people across the globe; that’s roughly 2–3% of the world population. It causes patches of red, itchy, and scaly skin, mainly on the elbows, knees, trunk, and scalp.

Psoriasis is a chronic condition with no cure, and it tends to cause “flare-ups” before residing or going into remission for some time. Luckily, psoriasis patients can use a combination of natural remedies, prescription medicine, and lifestyle changes to manage and control their symptoms.

Psoriasis is categorised depending on the location it affects and the symptoms it produces. The most common form of psoriasis is plaque psoriasis, which causes dry, red lesions typically on the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. Inverse psoriasis, on the other hand, affects skin folds in the groin, under the breasts and buttocks, and causes smooth patches of red skin.

What Is Psoriasis?

Other types of psoriasis include:

  • Nail psoriasis, which causes pitted, discolored nails with abnormal growth.
  • Guttate psoriasis, which typically affects children/young adults and is often triggered by a viral infection like strep throat.
  • Erythrodermic psoriasis, which can cover the entire body in a red, peeling rash.
  • Psoriatic arthritis, which causes inflamed and painful joints (arthritis can sometimes be the only symptom a psoriasis patient experiences).
What Is Psoriasis?

Symptoms of Psoriasis: At a Glance

  • Red patches of skin with silver scales
  • Dry, cracked, and itchy skin that may bleed
  • Burning or soreness in the affected areas
  • Swollen and sore joints
  • Pus-filled lesions on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
  • Deformed, discoloured nails

What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is categorised as an autoimmune disease and is believed to be caused by the abnormal growth of skin cells. People with psoriasis have skin that regenerates a lot faster than normal, and it's this rapid build-up/turnover of skin cells that causes the inflamed patches of skin that characterise this disease.

What, exactly, causes the abnormal growth of skin in psoriasis, however, isn’t clear. So far, researchers suggest it could come down to genetics. Some patients, on the other hand, may suddenly develop psoriasis as a response to a trigger, such as an injury, viral infection, or environmental change. Some possible triggers of psoriasis include:

  • Strep throat (especially in children and adolescents).
  • Weather changes: Cold and dry weather, for example, may trigger psoriasis in some people.
  • Damaged skin: Insect bites, cuts, scrapes, or sunburn can also trigger psoriasis or a flare-up.
  • Stress: Psoriasis patients often experience flare-ups as a response to stress from work, school, social situations, and more.
  • Smoking and alcohol abuse: Some people may also experience a psoriasis flare-up after being exposed to second-hand smoke.
  • Medications: Some prescription drugs can trigger psoriasis, including lithium, antimalarial drugs, and blood-pressure medications. A sudden withdrawal from corticosteroids can also trigger psoriasis in some people.

Besides these triggers, doctors have identified a family history of psoriasis as the main risk factor for the condition.

Importance of the Endocannabinoid System of the Skin

The endocannabinoid system, or ECS, is a complex network of receptors, endogenous cannabinoids, and enzymes that has proven to be one of the main mediatory systems in our body. In fact, a growing legion of researchers and scientists believe that the ECS’ main role is to promote homeostasis; a state that allows our body to function at its best and prevent illness.

Recent studies into the endocannabinoid system show that it is present throughout the skin. Hence, there’s growing interest in using cannabis-based therapies in the treatment of all kinds of skin conditions, including psoriasis.

To start, research published in 2009[1] demonstrates that the skin produces its own endocannabinoids (anandamide and 2-AG) as needed. Several cell types in the epidermis, dermis, hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and sweat glands are capable of synthesising these cannabinoids, which then act on a wide variety of receptors, including the primary cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2, and secondary receptors.

Cannabinoids from cannabis are also capable of stimulating these receptors, often to a greater degree than endocannabinoids.

Importance of the Endocannabinoid System of the Skin

Many of the compounds found in the cannabis plant, including cannabinoids like THC and CBD but also terpenes, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties[2]. Therefore, compounds like CBD, THC, linalool, pinene, and caryophyllene (to name a few) may help in reducing the severe inflammation caused by psoriasis lesions, as well as the arthritic pain and inflammation that often accompanies this disease.

Furthermore, research[3] has looked into the effects of cannabis compounds in the treatment of different kinds of skin inflammation, demonstrating that the ECS is a crucial mediator of the inflammatory response in the skin. In fact, since the 1990s, researchers have learned that the endocannabinoid system is one of the key players[4] responsible for keeping our immune system working properly.

Both CB1 and CB2 receptors can be found inside immune cells, and cannabinoids (endo, phyto, and synthetic) are capable of interacting with and modulating the activity of these cells via these receptors.

Can CBD Help With Psoriasis?

Since psoriasis is an autoimmune disease, compounds like CBD may go beyond just addressing the symptoms of this disease and actually help target some of its more complex underlying causes.

Even though we still don’t completely understand its mechanism of action, we do know that CBD is a powerful modulator of the ECS, and, thanks to its immunomodulatory properties, may play an extremely important role in the future treatment of autoimmune conditions.

The use of cannabis-based therapies in dermatology is an ever-evolving field. With more research and clinical trials, we’ll hopefully soon have a much deeper understanding of how the cannabis plant may help us manage a whole variety of skin conditions.

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For now, let’s take a closer look at four different studies on CBD and psoriasis:

  • Cannabis for Refractory Psoriasis

In 2016, the journal of Current Clinical Pharmacology published a research review[5] exploring the anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects of cannabis therapies. By acting through cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathways and the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids and other cannabis compounds could prove effective in treating some of the underlying causes of psoriasis.

  • Therapeutic Effect of CBD-Enriched Ointment in Inflammatory Skin Diseases

In 2019, the Italian journal La Clinica Terapeutica published a trial[6] on CBD-rich ointment for psoriasis, atopic dermatitis, and the resulting scars. The trial included 10 patients who were instructed to administer CBD ointment to the affected areas twice daily for three months. Based on skin evaluations as well as clinical questionnaires, the treatment improved all parameters of the patients' symptoms, skin elasticity, and hydration of the affected areas, all without producing any irritation or negative side effects.

  • Cannabinoids Inhibit Human Keratinocyte Proliferation

First published in 2007 in the Journal of Dermatological Science, a study[7] investigated delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabinol, and cannabigerol for their ability to inhibit the proliferation of hyper-proliferating skin cells. The study found that all the cannabinoids used were able to hinder skin cell proliferation, and therefore could play an important role in the treatment of psoriasis, a condition characterised by abnormal skin cell growth.

  • Cannabinoids: Possible Agents for Treatment of Psoriasis

In 2016, the journal Medical Hypotheses published a paper[8] examining the potential of cannabinoid therapies in psoriasis treatment. The paper found that JWH-133, a synthetic cannabinoid and strong agonist of CB2 receptors, had strong anti-inflammatory properties and was able to inhibit many of the inflammatory processes and angiogenesis involved in psoriasis.

Which Type of CBD Works Best for Treating Psoriasis?

Which Type of CBD Works Best for Treating Psoriasis?

Full-spectrum CBD topicals are by far the best option for addressing psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions. Unlike oral CBD oil or CBD capsules (which need to pass through the digestive tract and liver before taking effect), topicals like ointments and creams can deliver cannabinoids and terpenes directly to the area they are needed most.

We suggest sourcing full-spectrum CBD topicals, as they contain an array of cannabinoids and terpenes in addition to CBD. As suggested in the above studies, CBD isn’t the only cannabis constituent that appears to be potentially beneficial for the skin.

If you’re lucky, you’ll have access to a wide variety of commercial full-spectrum CBD topicals. If not, or if you just want to know exactly what’s in your topical, consider making your own using one of our CBD oils.

  • How Much CBD Should You Apply?

How much CBD you need to apply in order to relieve a particular symptom or ailment is very personal. Some people may find relief from applying their topical once a day, while others might need multiple applications. Others still may not experience sufficient relief at all.

For best results, we always recommend testing your full-spectrum CBD topical on a small patch of skin first and waiting a few minutes to gauge how your body reacts to it. Then, feel free to apply the product more liberally to all the areas of your skin that need it. Remember, CBD topicals are very targeted, so they need to be applied directly to the area where you desire relief.

Depending on your symptoms, you may need to apply the topical multiple times a day.

CBD for Psoriasis — An Intriguing Relationship

Psoriasis, as we saw in this article, is a skin condition that affects a large number of people, and ranges from mild to severe. And, while its symptoms are fairly obvious, the underlying causes of this chronic disease still aren’t clearly understood.

Although more research is needed to clearly understand how CBD and other cannabis compounds could work to treat/relieve the symptoms of psoriasis, luckily, there’s a solid body of research supporting the use of CBD, other cannabinoids, and terpenes in the treatment of dermatological conditions.

External Resources:
  1. The endocannabinoid system of the skin in health and disease: novel perspectives and therapeutic opportunities https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  2. The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Terpenoids from Cannabis https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  3. Cannabinoids in the Pathophysiology of Skin Inflammation - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  4. Getting High on the Endocannabinoid System https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  5. Cannabis for Refractory Psoriasis-High Hopes for a Novel Treatment and a Literature Review - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  6. A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  7. Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis - PubMed https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  8. Cannabinoids: Possible agents for treatment of psoriasis via suppression of angiogenesis and inflammation - ScienceDirect https://www.sciencedirect.com
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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