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By Steven Voser


Researchers have found an association between ECS dysfunction and several skin conditions. Because constituents from the cannabis plant are able to interact with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), scientists are eager to find out if cannabinoids such as CBD are viable recruits in the war against psoriasis.

In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about psoriasis, and what the research says about CBD for the 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

Ongoing preclinical studies are determining the anti-inflammatory potential[2] of cannabinoids such as THC and CBD, as well as terpenes including linaloolpinene, and caryophyllene.

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.

What’s the Deal With CBD and Psoriasis?

Because the ECS plays an important role in the immune system and the regulation of autoimmunity, researchers are interested in finding out how exactly CBD interacts with this system. Future studies focusing on CBD's impact on immunity specifically will dictate whether the cannabinoid has a place in the treatment of psoriasis.

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?

Full-spectrum CBD topicals directly target the skin, offering a more direct form of administration than oral, sublingual, and inhaled options. These products also offer phytochemical diversity; many contain other botanicals, such as shea butter and vitamin A, that are regularly featured in cosmetics.

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?

The lack of data means CBD users have no protocol to go off. For now, applying CBD to the skin remains experimental and intuitive. Some users might find applying topical products once per day in a small amount works well for them, whereas others might feel the need to apply large quantities up to three times each day.

No matter how much you end up using, we recommend applying your topical of choice to a small patch of skin and waiting a few minutes as a test. Weigh up how your skin and body react before applying it routinely.

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.

Medical DisclaimerInformation listed, referenced or linked to on this website is for general educational purposes only and does not provide professional medical or legal advice.

Royal Queen Seeds does not condone, advocate or promote licit or illicit drug use. Royal Queen Seeds Cannot be held responsible for material from references on our pages or on pages to which we provide links, which condone, advocate or promote licit or illicit drug use or illegal activities. Please consult your Doctor/Health care Practitioner before using any products/methods listed, referenced or linked to on this website.

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
Disclaimer:
This content is for educational purposes only. The information provided is derived from research gathered from external sources.

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