Can CBD Relieve Psoriasis Symptoms? Here’s What Doctors Are Saying
There’s a lot more to learn about the potential health benefits of CBD oil, so make sure to consult your dermatologist.
Lambeth Hochwald is a believer that everyone has a story to tell. As a New York City-based journalist, she has been busily covering COVID-19 and its effects on everyone from college students and their parents to restaurant workers and ER doctors. Over the last few decades, she’s written for the New York Post, CNN, Parade, WebMD, Millie, Reside, the Food Network, Delish, and Architectural Digest, always with the same mandate to be compassionate, hence the hashtag #compassionatejournalism that she includes in her email auto-signature. When she’s not juggling assignments, she’s helping to teach the next generation of journalists in her role as an adjunct professor of journalism at NYU’s Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute.
With all of the headlines pointing to the healing powers of cannabidiol (CBD)—one of more than 80 chemical compounds in the cannabis plant—it’s natural to wonder: Can using CBD oil help relieve psoriasis symptoms?
The reviews are mixed. While there’s anecdotal evidence that CBD oil, with its far-ranging anti-inflammatory properties, can help treat this autoimmune disease affecting some 7.5 million Americans, studies to date remain inconclusive.
This isn’t to say that CBD oil shouldn’t be considered as an additional treatment option for psoriasis patients who experience plaque psoriasis—which causes dry, raised, and red skin lesions (or plaques) covered with silvery scales on body areas such as the back of the elbows, over the kneecaps, and on the lower back.
In fact, the preliminary science investigating the ways that CBD, the non-psychoactive part of the marijuana plant, can help treat eczema and psoriasis shows some promise, says Jordan Tishler, MD, a physician and cannabis expert in Boston.
“However, while these studies are generally encouraging, they’re nowhere near conclusive,” Dr. Tishler tells Health.
What we need to learn about how CBD might work
Although clinical research connecting the health benefits of CBD oil to cannabis is slow to materialize, there’s still a lot of patient-driven interest in whether CBD, which can be used as an oil, balm, cream, or salve, can help treat psoriasis.
Some studies have been encouraging, including one study conducted in 2007, which found that cannabinoids, including CBD, slowed down the growth and division of skin cells involved in psoriatic skin rashes.
“We know that cannabinoids like CBD can reduce inflammation and pain,” David Casarett, MD, chief of palliative care at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, tells Health. “Again, what we’re seeing right now is that most of the evidence is circumstantial but promising.”
Another very small study of psoriasis patients conducted in 2019 is equally compelling. The study was led by researchers in Italy and showed that applying topical CBD-enriched ointment on psoriatic skin did help to reduce psoriasis symptoms.
In the study, five psoriasis patients applied CBD ointment to those areas of their skin affected by psoriasis twice a day for three months. After that time, researchers concluded that the ointment was not only safe and effective but it improved the quality of life for psoriasis patients.
How CBD might improve daily life
In addition to helping to treat skin itching and irritation, CBD may also help psoriasis patients control pain and reduce inflammation.
That’s why Hervé Damas, MD, a physician at Grassroots Medicine and Wellness, a cannabis medical practice in Miami, says he uses CBD—which has few side effects and is considered safe overall—as a part of the psoriasis treatment plans he recommends for his patients.
“For dermatological issues such as psoriasis, dermatitis, and eczema, I’ve found CBD to be very effective at decreasing the flare-ups, irritation, and discomfort my patients experience,” he tells Health. “Depending on the severity of the disease, I will use either topical creams or a combination of topical and systemic treatments.”
However, other experts aren’t convinced that CBD oil is as effective as current therapies, which include topical steroid creams and ointments, topical vitamin D creams, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory creams, and ultraviolet light therapy. In addition, psoriasis patients may also take immunosuppressant medications, like cyclosporine and methotrexate, and newer biologic medications to treat their symptoms.
“The effects of cannabis are relatively weak compared to topical steroids like hydrocortisone,” says Dr. Tishler. “In short, at this time I would not recommend any topical cannabis or CBD products to treat a serious illness like psoriasis.”
In the end, since the exact nature of how CBD works to help treat psoriasis remains unknown and psoriasis is a serious skin condition, consider this our best advice: Until more studies are done on CBD and psoriasis, be sure to speak with your dermatologist to plan a treatment course that’s right for you.
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How Does CBD Oil Work for Psoriatic Arthritis?
Lindsay Curtis is a health writer with over 20 years of experience in writing health, science & wellness-focused articles.
Verywell Health articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and healthcare professionals. These medical reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.
Meredith Bull, ND, is a licensed naturopathic doctor with a private practice in Los Angeles. She helped co-author the first integrative geriatrics textbook, “Integrative Geriatric Medicine.”
CBD (cannabidiol) has exploded in popularity in recent years, in large part because it has shown promise in reducing pain, alleviating anxiety, and reducing symptoms of certain health conditions.
One such condition that may benefit from CBD oil is psoriatic arthritis (PsA), a chronic (long-term) disease affecting the joints. While there is no cure for the condition, some people are turning to CBD to manage the symptoms of the disease.
Here are a few things to know if you want to try using CBD to treat the symptoms of psoriatic arthritis.
What Is CBD Oil?
Cannabis plants contain chemicals called cannabinoids. The two major cannabinoids are:
- Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which makes a person feel “high”
- Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no psychoactive effects but can provide a number of therapeutic benefits
Both CBD and THC act on a communication system in the body known as the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is a complex biological system that affects appetite, fertility, sleep, mood, and memory. The ECS is active in the body even if you do not use cannabis.
CBD isolate is the purest form on the market. It contains 99% CBD, with no other additives or chemicals from the cannabis plant from which it is derived.
CBD binds to and activates receptors in the brain that create a therapeutic effect in the body, which allows users to get relief from symptoms without feeling impaired.
Types of Arthritis
Arthritis is a term to describe conditions that affect the joints and surrounding tissues. Though there are over 100 types of arthritis, they all cause inflammation and swelling in one or more joints.
Psoriatic arthritis (PsA) is an autoimmune disease that causes an overactive immune system to attack normal cells and tissues in the joints. PsA affects some people who have psoriasis—a skin condition that causes the formation of itchy red patches topped with silvery scales.
PsA typically is diagnosed after psoriasis. PsA can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints and surrounding tissues. An estimated 2.25 million Americans have psoriatic arthritis.
PsA most commonly affects joints in the arms and legs, including the elbows, wrists, hands, and feet. It can also impact the spine, hips, and shoulders, though this is less common.
There are several types of psoriatic arthritis, which are categorized by the joints they affect.
The five types of psoriatic arthritis are:
- Distal interphalangeal predominant, which affects the end joints of the fingers and toes and can cause nail changes (such as pitting, spotting, and separation from the nail bed)
- Asymmetric oligoarticular, which affects fewer than five joints in the body and typically occurs on one side of the body
- Symmetric polyarthritis, the most common type of PsA, affecting five or more joints on both sides of the body
- Spondylitis, which involves inflammation of the spinal column and can cause neck pain, stiffness in the lower back, and limited mobility
- Arthritis mutilans, a severe type of PsA that can wear down, destroy, and deform joints in the fingers, hands, wrists, and feet
CBD and PsA Symptoms
Stress can cause psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis to flare up. People with PsA may find CBD helps reduce anxiety and prevent flares in addition to decreasing pain and inflammation in the joints.
CBD for Psoriasis Symptoms
Approximately one in four people with psoriasis will develop psoriatic arthritis. Some will develop symptoms of PsA slowly over time, and others will experience the onset of severe symptoms quickly.
Some common symptoms of PsA include:
- Swollen fingers and toes
- Stiffness, pain, throbbing, swelling, and tenderness in affected joints
- Pain, tenderness, and swelling in tendons (flexible fibrous tissue connecting muscle to bone)
- Nail changes (like pitting and separation from nail bed)
- Redness and pain in one or both eyes
- Limited range of motion
- Morning stiffness
- Anxiety and depression
CBD is being studied as a treatment for many conditions, including psoriatic arthritis, but research supporting its effectiveness is still limited. There is research demonstrating that CBD can effectively manage and reduce pain, however, so it might help some people with PsA.
CBD cannot cure conditions like psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, but research has shown that it might help some people cope with their symptoms by decreasing pain sensation, inflammation, and the anxiety that a person might experience related to the condition.
A review of 49 studies found that CBD may help with generalized anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. A 2019 study found that 80% of participants had reduced anxiety after a month of taking CBD.
What Triggers Flares?
Psoriasis can be triggered by certain factors in a person’s environment or even conditions within their own body, such as illness, foods, and medications.
Some common psoriasis triggers include:
- Allergies (such as those to certain foods, alcohol, or environmental conditions)
- Medication interactions
- Skin trauma/injury
- Smoking (dry and cold weather, in particular)
Some people are genetically predisposed to developing psoriatic arthritis, and approximately one in three people with psoriasis will develop PsA.
Are There Any Side Effects?
CBD is generally well-tolerated but can cause some side effects, particularly when taken in large amounts.
Possible side effects of CBD include:
- Dry mouth
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Reduced appetite
Best CBD for Managing Psoriasis Pain
There is limited research into CBD’s effectiveness at treating psoriasis, but its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties are well documented. Anecdotally, some people have found that CBD helps them manage their psoriasis symptoms.
Types of CDB
There are three basic types of CBD:
Verywell / Michela Buttignol
- Full-spectrum CBD contains all the natural components found in cannabis plants (and hemp plants), including terpenes, flavonoids, and fatty acids as well as cannabinoids. Full-spectrum CBD oil contains trace amounts of THC. When these plant compounds interact with the body, they help a user obtain the desired therapeutic benefits.
- Broad-spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum CBD but with all traces of THC removed. Users will not experience any mind-altering effects.
- CBD isolates are produced by using a detailed extraction and purification process of the cannabis/hemp plant. All other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids are removed to create a 99% pure CBD.
There is not enough research to determine which form of CBD is best for treating psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. You might want to try different forms and types to determine which works best for you.
Products and Delivery Methods
There are many different ways to use CBD, which means that you can tailor it to your preferences and needs. Examples of CBD products that are available include:
- Topicals (lotions, rubs, and creams)
- Tinctures (alcohol-based extracts)
- Edibles (like gummies)
- Capsules and pills
- Vaping products (oil)
How Much to Use
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only approved CBD for treating epilepsy. As a result, there is no standard dosage of CBD for treating psoriasis.
Follow the recommended usage guidelines on the products that you are using. You may want to slowly increase the amount that you use until you feel that you’ve reached the right dosage for symptom relief.
How to Buy CBD
Although CBD is generally safe, the industry is poorly regulated. When you are looking for a product that meets your needs, there are a few key factors to consider.
CBD from reputable companies should have information about the product on the label, including:
- Amount of CBD per serving
- Suggested use and dosage
- Whether it is full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate
- List of ingredients
- Manufacturer and distributor name
In addition to checking the labels, make sure that you:
- Avoid products that make sweeping, definitive health claims (like promises to ‘”cure”).
- Look for companies that provide third-party testing results of their products.
- Check customer reviews for products since testimonials from users can tell you a lot about a product.
Before you try a CBD product, ask your doctor if it could interact with any over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications or supplements that you take.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to feel the effects of CBD for PsA?
The type of CBD that you use will determine how long it will take to feel the effects. It generally takes 15 minutes to feel the effects after vaping or using sublingual tinctures (those placed under the tongue). Ingesting CBD oil or gummies will take longer (up to two hours). Topicals may take up to an hour for effects to be felt, and they peak around 90 minutes after application.
How much CBD oil should I use for psoriatic arthritis pain?
The FDA has not released an official dosage guide for specific conditions, but many people with psoriatic arthritis report taking around 20–40 milligrams per day. Some people take higher doses during a flare-up.
Is full-spectrum CBD better for psoriasis than isolates?
Research suggests that full-spectrum CBD has more obvious health benefits than isolates. Isolates are generally better for people who have negative reactions to other cannabinoids found in full-spectrum CBD.
A Word From Verywell
Psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis are painful, chronic conditions that can cause stress and anxiety. CBD is an alternative treatment that may help reduce pain and inflammation and relieve anxiety related to PsA.
Talk to your doctor before trying CBD. A physician might be able to recommend specific products and dosages that can help manage your psoriatic arthritis symptoms.