CBD Oil for Shingles
Approximately one million Americans develop shingles every year. Moreover, the CDC suggests that one in three people will contract the disease at some point. It is a virus that causes a painful rash and can lead to various long-term complications.
Treatment options are limited, and some people are considering natural remedies like CBD oil for shingles. But is it a practical solution, or will it do more harm than good?
Here’s our complete guide to CBD and shingles, the potential benefits and risks, and how to choose a suitable product.
Shingles: What Is It?
Shingles is also known as herpes zoster. It is a common viral infection caused by Varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chickenpox.
Shingles is a common viral infection caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox.
When a person recovers from chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in their system and can flare up later in life. The risk of developing shingles increases with age. A shingles vaccination is available for people over the age of 50.
The most common symptom is the classic shingles rash that affects one side of the body. However, various other short and long-term issues can occur due to the infection.
Reviewing the Symptoms of Shingles
The first symptoms of shingles include sensations of pain, tingling, or itching, usually affecting one side of the body. Painful blisters will develop in the same area between one day and two weeks later.
Shingles generally appears in a single strip around the ribs or on the face. However, it could affect the entire body in people with compromised immune function.
After 7–10 days, the blisters typically scab over, and they should heal fully within 2–4 weeks. Other possible symptoms include:
- Stomach upsets
After these early-stage shingles symptoms subside, some people develop long-term nerve damage known as post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). This condition can last months or years and occurs in 10–18% of cases. It causes severe pain, sensitivity, and itching.
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Other serious complications include:
- Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
- Temporary or permanent vision loss
- Temporary or permanent balance problems or hearing loss
What Causes Shingles?
As we already mentioned, shingles is caused by the Varicella zoster virus. Many people already have this virus in their system due to having chickenpox earlier in their life. It can sometimes reactivate at a later date, causing symptoms to reoccur.
The causes of shingles transmission include someone who has never had chickenpox coming into contact with fluid from an infected person’s blisters. Although this will cause chickenpox rather than shingles, that person will be at risk of developing shingles later on.
As long as affected individuals keep their rash well covered, there is a low risk of passing on the virus. It is also impossible to infect others before the rash develops or once the blisters scab over.
Even so, people with shingles should avoid contact with the following groups of people:
- Those with compromised immune systems
- Pregnant women
- Premature or small-for-dates babies
The best treatment for shingles is an antiviral medication, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir. This shingles virus treatment aims to shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications. It is most effective when taken within three days of the rash appearing.
Some people recommend alternative shingles treatments such as acupuncture or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). However, the evidence to support these therapies is limited, and they could increase the risk of transmission if not performed carefully.
Aside from antiviral medication for shingles, several other options may help. They include medicines to relieve pain and topical applications like calamine lotion to reduce itching.
Shingles pain medication may also help with the long-term symptoms of PHN. However, nerve pain is challenging to treat, and regular painkillers may be ineffective. Therefore, doctors might prescribe anticonvulsant drugs, antidepressants, or anesthetic patches.
CBD and Shingles
Now that more people are searching for alternative remedies for a shingles outbreak, some are considering cannabidiol (CBD). It is a non-intoxicating cannabinoid found in marijuana and hemp and has various purported benefits. It exerts these benefits via the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system regulates the physiological functions in our peripheral and central nervous systems. It includes a series of CB1 and CB2 receptors.
A 2010 study looked at the effect of cannabinoids, cannabinoid receptors, and their antagonists on viral infections. The researchers concluded that “cannabinoids are profoundly anti-inflammatory.” Therefore, some people hypothesize that using CBD could help relieve a shingles rash.
While the symptoms of shingles are potentially resolved after a few weeks of treatment, the pain can persist for many years. Could CBD provide some relief?
CBD Oil for Shingles Pain
There is currently no research specifically on whether CBD can help with shingles and its painful red rashes. However, there is evidence that cannabis-based medicines could help certain complications, such as PHN.
A 2018 review looked at the effects of various cannabinoids on neuropathic pain. It included 16 clinical trials and 1750 participants, with study durations ranging from 2–26 weeks. The researchers investigated several neuropathic conditions, including PHN.
Although most of the evidence was low quality, the authors concluded that:
- Cannabis-based medicines may increase the number of participants experiencing at least 50% pain relief
- Cannabis-based medicines probably increase the number of participants experiencing at least 30% pain relief
The review included several consumption methods, including oral, oromucosal, and inhaled cannabinoids. However, it may be that topicals, such as CBD salve for shingles are also useful.
A 2020 randomized controlled trial investigated topical CBD application for peripheral neuropathy. Its results showed that the cannabinoid significantly reduced neuropathy symptoms compared to the placebo. These symptoms included:
- Intense pain
- Sharp pain
- Cold sensations
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CBD for Shingles: Sensible Practices
Although it has shown promise, individuals should be cautious when using CBD to alleviate infections.
This is because scientists are still working to understand its effects on the immune system fully.
Some research suggests CBD has antiviral effects against some infections, including hepatitis C and Kaposi’s sarcoma-associated herpes virus. However, it is also possible that specific cannabinoids could suppress the immune system and speed up virus progression.
Therefore, until we know more, it may be wise to avoid CBD during the early stages of shingles. While it should be safe for helping to reduce residual symptoms once the initial infection clears, we recommend consulting a physician before use.
Is THC Better Than CBD Oil for Shingles?
THC stimulates the brain’s cannabinoid receptors, activating the brain’s reward system and decreasing pain levels. Unlike CBD, THC is a cannabinoid receptor agonist. It binds directly to CB1 and CB2 receptors, though it has a greater affinity for CB1 receptors. CBD, in contrast, has an indirect effect on these receptors and doesn’t cause an intoxicating high like THC.
Research into marijuana’s effect on shingles is limited. However, it is fascinating to see that shingles was listed as a reason to use marijuana in the United States Pharmacopoeia in 1851!
One small study looked into the effects of another cannabinoid receptor agonist, N-palmitoyl ethanolamine (PEA), on the PHN experienced by shingles patients. Eight patients received a cream with the PEA cannabinoid in the study. Five of them reported a mean pain reduction of over 87%.
In general, there is evidence that cannabis is an effective analgesic, which is good news for anyone living with shingles pain. A review of studies published in JAMA in 2015 looked into cannabis to treat chronic pain. The researchers looked at data from 28 clinical trials performed between 1948 and 2015.
They emphasized six clinical trials featuring over 300 patients that examined chronic pain, six with almost 400 volunteers that looked at neuropathic pain, and 12 trials with over 1,600 patients that investigated cannabis’s effect on multiple sclerosis. Overall, the authors wrote that several trials had positive results.
So, Which Is Better for Shingles: THC or CBD?
THC could help with shingles symptoms such as pain. However, rather than saying it is “better” than CBD oil for shingles, it is a question of individual preference. For some people, the intoxicating high associated with THC provides them with greater relief than if they use CBD.
However, the cannabinoid causes the user to get high, meaning one can’t use it before or during work or if they intend to operate heavy machinery. Furthermore, marijuana remains a federally illegal substance and is outlawed in several states. One must live in a state where the substance is recreationally legal or a location with a medical marijuana program. In the latter case, one must have a valid MMJ card.
In contrast, CBD is broadly tolerated in almost every state and doesn’t cause an intoxicating high. Therefore, it is possible to use CBD at work without worrying about it hindering performance.
CBD Oil for Shingles: Is It Better to Use It Orally or Topically?
Individuals using CBD to help with skin infections must note the difference between an oral and topical application. Those who use oral cannabidiol claim it provides longer-lasting relief.
However, proponents of topical CBD products say they enjoy the fast effects. Topical products include salves, creams, lotions, and balms. The main difference between these products is the texture. Regardless of the topical one uses, applying it is simple. Ensure the skin is clean and dry before massaging the cream/lotion into it for several seconds. Users should wash their hands thoroughly afterward.
The Pros and Cons of Using CBD for Shingles
With a growing number of people using CBD for shingles, let’s check out the advantages and disadvantages of doing so.
- Cannabidiol doesn’t cause an intoxicating high. shows that humans can tolerate up to 1,500mg of CBD daily without noticeable side effects.
- The level of research that shows CBD’s efficacy for managing conditions such as nerve pain is growing.
- Most states have no issue with the purchase and sale of CBD products, as long as they come from hemp and contain a maximum of 0.3% THC.
- The FDA has yet to approve CBD for any medical condition. To date, it has only approved Epidiolex, a pharmaceutical drug containing CBD, for a handful of rare conditions.
- The CBD industry is poorly regulated, which means low-quality products flood the market.
- CBD could interact with a high percentage of OTC and prescription drugs.
- Clinical trials regarding the efficacy of CBD for shingles are lacking.
Best CBD Oil for Shingles – Things to Consider
Individuals wishing to try CBD oil for shingles pain have several options. Popular consumption methods include:
- Vape products
Topicals such as creams and balms may be most appropriate for localized problems such as shingles. They ensure that the product’s active compounds get to exactly where they are needed, providing more direct relief. However, not all topicals are equally effective, and it is critical to choose a high-quality product. And application over open shingles lesions is not recommended.
Not all topicals are equally effective, and it is critical to choose a high-quality product.
Firstly, look for a brand that publishes third-party lab test results on its website. These reports tell consumers how much CBD and other active ingredients the product contains. They also ensure the item in question is free from contaminants such as pesticides.
Secondly, choose a full-spectrum topical rather than one made from CBD isolate. Full-spectrum products contain a wealth of other compounds in addition to CBD. They include other beneficial cannabinoids such as CBG and CBN and various terpenes. These compounds could also have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects.
Next, check the manufacturing process. For example, does the product come from organic hemp, and what extraction process does the company use? Most experts consider CO2 extraction to be the best as it is a clean process that yields a pure and potent result.
Finally, read plenty of online reviews to determine how satisfied previous customers were with their purchases. We also have many CBD brand reviews available here at WayofLeaf. Learn about our favorite CBD topicals here.
Final Thoughts on CBD Oil for Shingles
Ultimately, evidence that CBD oil can help with shingles is limited. The theory is that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties could alleviate the pain caused by shingles rashes. Furthermore, the cannabinoid may effectively reduce the pain of PHN.
Despite the lack of research, a growing number of people living with shingles claim that CBD oil helps with their symptoms. Those interested in buying CBD products should heed the company’s manufacturing process and ensure the item(s) in question come with updated third-party lab reports.
How Long Does It Take Nerve Endings to Heal After Shingles?
For up to 50% of shingles patients aged 60+ who aren’t treated, the pain can last for months or years. Such individuals have post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN), the term given for when shingles damages the skin’s nerves.
What Is the Best CBD Oil Dosage for Shingles?
At present, there are no established guidelines on CBD dosage for any purpose. However, we recommend using a small amount of CBD to see how it impacts the body. One can gradually increase the dosage until they feel noticeable benefits after determining that there are no adverse effects.
How to Take CBD Oil for Shingles?
There are many forms of CBD, though most people who use it for shingles prefer a topical product like a balm or cream. They feel it provides a more immediate effect on a target area than orally consumed CBD. Using a topical is as easy as rubbing it into the skin in a specific area.
CBD Oil for Shingles: Fact or Fiction?
CBD is all the rage these days, and it’s being used for everything from reducing anxiety to pain. But can you use CBD oil for shingles and the pain that comes with it? We took a dive into finding out what the condition really is, how it’s treated, and whether or not you can effectively use CBD oil for shingles.
Table of Contents
- What Causes Shingles?
- Understanding Shingles
- Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts
- Experiencing Shingles
- Common Symptoms of Shingles
- Risk Factors for Shingles
- Is Shingles Contagious?
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia
- Eye Conditions
- Skin Infections
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
- The Endocannabinoid System
- Inflammation and Pain
- What the Research Says
- CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain
- Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain
- Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD
- A Summary of What the Research Says
What Causes Shingles?
As children, many of us experience chickenpox, an itchy rash caused by a virus that that lasts a couple of weeks from exposure to completion. Chickenpox is caused by the highly contagious varicella-zoster virus and spreads easily, especially among those who haven’t previously been infected by the virus or been vaccinated against it. Once you have had chickenpox, your body creates an immunity to the virus, preventing you from getting chickenpox again.
However, once you are exposed to the varicella-zoster virus, it remains in your system, essentially hiding inactivated in nerve cells. This virus can later become activated and cause you to develop the condition called shingles.
Shingles affects about 1 million adults in the United States each year. Currently, we do not have very effective treatments for this painful condition or some of its possible complications, such as post-herpetic neuralgia. As such, people are reaching out for natural ways to treat shingles in an attempt to find some pain relief. Some are using CBD oil for their shingles symptoms.
Using CBD Oil for Shingles: Just the Facts
Shingles is a painful red rash caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus. This reactivation is also called herpes zoster (not to be confused with other herpes viruses). Research shows that CBD is effective in treating various types of nerve pain, due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system. Although there are not any studies on the use of CBD oil for shingles directly, it is well within reason that it could help manage shingles pain.
The shingles rash typically affects one area of the body. Because the virus hides in nerve cells, the rash forms along the area of the body that those nerves control. This is known as a dermatome.
Common Symptoms of Shingles
The most common symptom of shingles is severe pain. Burning pain in one area of the body is usually the first symptom people notice. In some cases, people confuse the pain for other conditions, like a kidney infection or lung issue, depending on what area of the body the shingles affects. The tingling, burning pain generally lasts for a few days.
Next, a red rash develops. After a couple days, the rash forms small clusters of fluid-filled blisters that are terribly painful and itchy. Some people also experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Sensitivity to light
In most cases, the blisters scab over after 10 days or so, and after 3 to 5 weeks the rash clears.
Risk Factors for Shingles
Not every person who has had chickenpox develops shingles. Approximately 1 in 3 adults will develop shingles at some point in their lives. Although we do not know all the reasons why some people develop shingles and others do not, there are some common risk factors. These include:
- Being an older adult (over 50)
- Lowered immune system
- High amounts of stress
- Medications such as steroids
Is Shingles Contagious?
You cannot catch shingles from someone else; however, the varicella-zoster virus is highly contagious. This means people who are exposed to people with shingles cannot catch shingles, but they can catch chickenpox.
Complications of Shingles
Although most cases of shingles run their course within about five weeks, there are instances where this is not the case. In people with lowered immunity, the episode may last longer than five weeks. This warrants medical attention from your doctor. Furthermore, shingles can produce other complications. These complications include:
Post-herpetic neuralgia is when pain continues in the area of the shingles rash, even after the rash has cleared. This is due to damage having been done to the nerves. People who experience post-herpetic neuralgia may also become depressed or have issues sleeping due to their chronic pain.
If shingles develops around the eye, it can result in eye infections that could lead to blindness.
Skin infections are also possible with shingles. If the rash is scratched and the blisters are broken open, bacteria can enter the open skin and create an infection.
Currently, there is no cure for shingles. The typical course of treatment includes anti-viral medications, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. These medications can help shorten the duration of the outbreak, however, they do not provide pain relief.
The conventional treatment for shingles pain is prescription medications like opiate painkillers, lidocaine numbing cream, or capsaicin topical patches. In addition, on some occasions, medications like gabapentin or anti-depressant drugs are recommended.
Post-herpetic Neuralgia Treatment
Post-herpetic neuralgia is difficult to treat. The most common treatments for post-herpetic neuralgia pain are steroids, traditional painkillers, and anti-depressants. These drugs are not particularly effective, and they also come with a host of side effects. For example, pain killers can be addictive.
Using CBD for Shingles
Because shingles is such a painful condition, and treatment options are limited and are only somewhat effective, people are turning to CBD products to help relieve their shingles pain.
CBD products are available as oral supplements, including gummies, pills, and oil, as well as topical salves.
The History of CBD Use for Pain
CBD is derived from the industrial hemp plant, otherwise known as cannabis sativa. There is anecdotal evidence to support cannabis’s use for pain management as far back as 2000 B.C.
There are numerous accounts of people using medical cannabis (also known as medical marijuana) for nerve pain. Medical cannabis contains the same cannabinoids as CBD oil. However, medical marijuana also contains THC, which is a psychoactive component not found in CBD products.
How CBD Can Relieve Shingles Pain
The Endocannabinoid System
The way we perceive pain is controlled in part by our endocannabinoid system. This is a signaling system in our bodies that influences our sensitivity to pain, especially pain due to inflammation. The cannabinoids in CBD oil activates the CB1 receptors and the CB2 receptors, which suppress our perception of pain levels.
Inflammation and Pain
The cannabinoids in CBD have potent anti-inflammatory properties. Research supports that CBD reduces the number of inflammatory chemicals in the body, including TNF. These inflammatory chemicals are part of our pain pathways, and reducing inflammatory mediators in the body can help lower pain levels.
What the Research Says
To date, there have not been any research studies specifically regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, CBD’s effects have been studied in relation to a variety of other pain conditions, including joint pain, other types of nerve pain (including chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain), and trauma-induced nerve pain.
CBD and Other Types of Nerve Pain
A review of the efficacy of CBD oil on several types of nerve pain found that CBD products are overall effective for nerve pain. Although the study did not assess CBD oil for shingles itself, it is reasonable to consider that CBD may be effective for treating shingles pain due to its effect on the endocannabinoid system.
Chemotherapy-induced Neuropathic Pain
A recent study found that CBD products were effective at reducing the neuropathic pain, which is pain that comes from nerve damage, in people treated with chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can negatively affect nerve cells, much like a shingles outbreak can, resulting in chronic nerve pain. Given that CBD was able to reduce pain in this condition, the possibilities of using CBD oil for shingles pain are optimistic.
Post-herpetic Neuralgia and CBD
As previously mentioned, a complication of shingles is chronic nerve pain—or post-herpetic neuralgia. Animals studies support that CBD is helpful for post-herpetic neuralgia. However, there have not been human studies to confirm this. Therefore, more research is needed.
A Summary of What the Research Says
To date, there have not been any human studies regarding the use of CBD oil for shingles. However, the use of CBD for shingles as well as post-herpetic neuralgia is promising.
Several studies on the use of CBD for other types of nerve pain show it is effective for pain management.
A shingles outbreak is a painful medical condition and can disrupt many aspects of your life. Current treatment medications are only somewhat effective and come with numerous side effects.
CBD products are shown to be capable of reducing nerve-related pain and can also help with post-herpetic neuralgia. However, it is always recommended to consult with your physician before making any changes to your medications or trying new natural supplements.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently regulate CBD products. When purchasing CBD in any form, ensure you are using a product that has undergone third-party testing. This helps ensure that the product you buy meets certain quality and purity standards.