Jason E. Hawkes, associate professor of dermatology at UC Davis Health, has seen more psoriasis patients who are interested in cannabidiol (CBD) as an alternative or complementary treatment for their condition.
In this Q&A, he answers questions about the safety and effectiveness of using CBD to treat psoriasis or reduce its symptoms.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic inflammatory disease related to the body’s immune system. When immune cells are deregulated in psoriasis patients, they cause red, scaly patches of the skin and inflammation throughout the body.
Up to 30% of psoriasis patients also suffer from psoriatic arthritis with symptoms such as morning stiffness, fatigue, swollen fingers and toes, joint pain, and nail changes. Patients with psoriasis are also at increased risk for other conditions such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, sleep and breathing problems, depression and anxiety, high blood pressure, diabetes. and obesity.
What is CBD and can it help with psoriasis?
Cannabis is a plant that contains over 80 biologically active chemical compounds known as cannabinoids, which have a range of biological activities in the body, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and psychological effects.
Despite many very effective topical and systemic treatments for psoriasis, many patients still experience chronic itching and pain. They also face the stigma and psychosocial consequences of a highly visible skin condition. It is therefore not surprising that patients with this condition have sought relief through a variety of alternative treatment options, including cannabis products like CBD.
The medical community has barely scratched the surface when it comes to the potential benefits and risks of cannabis products. The biochemical impact of CBD on the body must be carefully considered. Their effects are determined by many variables, including the method of administration to the body (topical application, inhalation, oral ingestion), the dose or concentration of the cannabinoid, or the specific chemical (s) isolated from a particular plant strain. .
Still, it is a very reasonable hypothesis that the potential beneficial psychological (e.g. reduction in anxiety) and anti-inflammatory effects of cannabinoids could help alleviate the disease burden associated with psoriatic disease.
How do cannabinoids like CBD affect the body?
Like CBD, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a common cannabinoid isolated from the cannabis plant. However, CBD and THC have distinct properties and vary widely in their observed effects on the human body. Both compounds can work in place of the body’s own cannabinoid system – known as the endocannabinoid system – in which THC and CBD interact with receptors in specific tissues or the nervous system to mediate a wide range of effects. physiological effects such as reduced inflammation, itching and pain relief, increased ability to sleep, stimulation of appetite, and decreased anxiety.
For psoriasis patients with specific complaints such as pain, itching, or trouble sleeping, cannabis-derived products could help reduce the negative impact of these symptoms on their lives. Ongoing medical research can help uncover the complex mechanisms by which cannabinoids like CBD or THC impact health and modulate biological systems such as the immune response.
In general, CBD appears to retain many of the biological effects of THC, without the “high” that most people associate with THC or marijuana. This key difference has led many companies or research groups to study and develop pure CBD products that may be more desirable for patients who wish to avoid or not tolerate the stronger psychoactive effects of THC products. . This difference has also made CBD a popular choice among consumers who are novice or inexperienced users of cannabis products.
Are CBD Products Safe For Psoriasis Patients? What are the risks of using CBD products?
The risks of CBD and other cannabis-derived products in patients with psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions have not been carefully studied. This is an unmet need that deserves continued attention and research. Nonetheless, previous clinical studies are informative and suggest that the potential risks should be considered, especially in patients with psoriatic disease.
Several studies have linked systemic CBD and other cannabis-derived products to worsening heart disease, obesity and diabetes, fatty liver disease, or a higher likelihood of surgery to treat inflammatory heart disease. intestine. Patients with psoriasis should be aware of the diseases associated with psoriasis and their potential for worsening with cannabis products. Adverse events are also more likely with systemic or high dose intake, compared to other delivery methods such as topical CBD oil, for example.
Are there clinical studies on the use of CBD for psoriasis and other skin inflammations?
No. There is a need to have controlled clinical studies or at least prospective patient registries or databases designed to collect information and monitor the potential risks and benefits of CBD and other cannabis-derived products for the treatment of psoriatic disease.
The medical community needs to think creatively about ways to assess and determine the safety and effectiveness of CBD products for specific conditions. We need to advance our understanding of CBD and other cannabinoid derivatives, because the cannabis industry is here to stay.
Several factors make the investigative effort very difficult. They include:
- Lack of regulation in the cannabis industry
- Widespread availability of CBD and other cannabis-derived products in the United States
- Product variants to study
- Complexity of research design to address the severity of the patient’s disease, strain-specific compounds, strength and dosage, method of administration and duration of treatment
- Lack of transparency of ingredient lists for specific products
What should psoriasis patients do if they are considering CBD?
Doing your research is important. Patients considering holistic or alternative forms of medical treatment for their chronic illnesses should have open conversations with their healthcare provider to better navigate the cannabis landscape. It’s also important to research transparent ingredient lists and products with a good brand reputation before trying CBD.
Until we have more substantial and complete information on the potential effects of cannabis products on human physiology, we recommend that patients with psoriasis seek resources from established medical organizations and advocacy groups. patients to make informed decisions. The National Psoriasis Foundation (NPF) is currently working on publishing guidelines on psoriasis related to cannabis use in psoriatic disease.