CBD (cannabidiol) oil may provide relief for people managing psoriatic arthritis. Learn how CBD soothes joint pain, swelling, and inflammation. Psoriasis is an uncomfortable chronic skin condition with no known cure. Can CBD help to treat this condition? Today we will be looking at the facts. CBD is growing in popularity, and there are many over-the-counter skin products infused with CBD. While CBD can provide some pain relief to psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis, experts say there needs to be more research.
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, California.
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.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
Arthritis National Research Foundation. Types of Arthritis.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. Psoriatic Arthritis.
Atalay S, Jarocka-Karpowicz I, Skrzydlewska E. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):21. doi:10.3390/antiox9010021
Blessing EM, Steenkamp MM, Manzanares J, et al. Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics. 2015;12(4):825-836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
Shannon S, Lewis N, Lee H, et al. Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. Perm J. 2019;23:18-041. doi:10.7812/TPP/18-041
National Psoriasis Foundation. Information for Parents.
Atalay S, Jarocka-Karpowicz I, Skrzydlewska E. Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel). 2019;9(1):21. doi:10.3390/antiox9010021
CBD Oil for Psoriasis – Hemp Products Your Scalp Will Love
A staggering 125 million people have psoriasis worldwide. That’s 2 to 3 percent of the total population.
Psoriasis is currently incurable, so how do you treat this chronic skin condition?
CBD is thought to be an effective treatment for psoriasis and is a popular option for improving the quality of life of people suffering from this challenging skin disease.
In this article, we will be looking at how psoriasis sufferers can benefit from CBD, what benefits it offers, and where you can find the best CBD for the condition.
Does CBD Help With Psoriasis?
Although psoriasis does not have a cure yet, there are ways to relieve symptoms for a better quality of life. CBD is considered by many experts to be one effective way of treating the condition.
Summary: How CBD may help alleviate symptoms of psoriasis:
- CBD reduces inflammation in the skin
- CBD reduces inflammation in the joints
- CBD offers pain relief
- CBD may reduce excessive skin cell production
How Does CBD Work for Psoriasis?
CBD and other cannabinoids work by interacting with the body’s endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is made up of two receptors — CB1 and CB2. These receptors have been found all around the body and make up the endocannabinoid system. This system helps the brain communicate with the rest of the body.
CBD interacts with these receptors, impacting receptor activity. These interactions can help reduce inflammation, aid pain relief, support the immune system, and reduce a variety of other symptoms.
CB1 receptors are found in the skin (among other places), giving CBD the potential to impact many skin conditions. Studies show that CBD’s interaction with these receptors can positively impact psoriasis and other chronic skin conditions .
The same study suggests that CBD can also slow down excess skin growth, reducing the buildup of excess skin cells involved with psoriasis flare-ups.
The anti-inflammatory qualities of CBD help reduce the swelling, redness, and irritation associated with psoriasis. Both this quality and the pain-relieving qualities of CBD also help reduce swelling and pain in the joints, making it an effective treatment for psoriatic arthritis.
Although research into the effects of CBD on psoriasis is still in the early stages, existing studies do support users’ claims. Many people with psoriasis are already using CBD to treat their condition with excellent results.
Is CBD Oil the Only Option for Psoriasis?
CBD oil isn’t the only option for psoriasis.
When orally consumed CBD is concerned, there are a number of different products that are effective. Gummies, soft gels, capsules, honey sticks, and CBD shots will all give you the same effect. It is up to you which method of consumption fits you best.
Topical CBD products are another option that can be used alone or in conjunction with an orally consumed CBD product. Creams, balms, and roll-ons can help relieve psoriasis symptoms directly at the source.
Studies show that topical CBD products can significantly improve the skin and help reduce symptoms .
Vapable products are also available if you prefer to inhale your CBD. Vaping may have a negative impact on your lungs but this method of consumption has higher bioavailability. This means far more CBD is absorbed when inhaled compared to orally consumed CBD.
Our Top 3 CBD Brands for Psoriasis:
- Royal CBD — Best Overall CBD
- Gold Bee CBD — Best Organic Vegan CBD
- Hemp Bombs CBD — Best Budget CBD
1. Royal CBD Oil
Get 15% off all Royal CBD products. Use code “CFAH” at checkout.
Royal CBD is a larger California-based company that offers high-quality premium CBD products. Their motto “Don’t Go Average, Go Royal” sums up what the company is about.
They’re a trusted brand with a wide range of products. This large brand has more infrastructure and produces CBD on a bigger scale, so you can be sure the product you need will be available.
Like Gold Bee, Royal extracts their CBD from organic hemp and gets their products third-party lab tested. They offer full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate products.
They use a CO2 extraction process to acquire their CBD from the raw hemp plant. Their heatless and solvent-less extraction method ensures maximum potency and purity without any nasty chemical residues.
They produce everything from oils of all potencies to balms, creams, and dog treats. If you’re looking for a premium CBD company that has a wide range of products, Royal CBD is a great brand.
Royal CBD has 5-star customer service. They encourage you to contact them by phone, message, or social media if you need advice on dosage, consumption, or which CBD oil will work best for you.
- Wide range of products available
- Multiple potencies available
- 5-star customer service
- Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and isolate available
- Uses certified organic hemp
- CO2 extraction process
- Excellent cannabinoid profiles in their full-spectrum products — independent lab tested
2. Gold Bee CBD Oil
Gold Bee is a California-based company that focuses on quality rather than quantity. They’re a smaller company that prides itself on producing the highest-quality products by incorporating a slow-diffusion process.
The slow-diffusion extraction process requires a significant amount of time and is done in small batches to ensure consistent quality. For this reason, the company sometimes struggles to keep up with demand.
The attention to detail that this company gives to its CBD products is incredible. Although their slow extraction process slows down production, their oils, gummies, and capsules are of the highest quality.
Gold Bee’s product range is limited, but there is much to say about making a few products well rather than a lot of products averagely.
You will find CBD in oil, capsules, gummies, and their unique organic honey sticks. Potency options are limited, with most of their products coming in high-potency full or broad-spectrum options.
- High-potency products
- Full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, and Isolate available
- 100% vegan (except their honey sticks)
- Uses certified organic hemp
- A small company with incredible attention to detail
- Slow-diffusion extraction process
- High terpene and cannabinoid content — independent lab tested
3. Hemp Bombs CBD
Hemp Bombs CBD is a Florida-based brand. They’ve been on the market for over 5 years now and have quite a following with many happy customers. They focus on providing premium products for an affordable price.
They put their attention toward creating high-quality CBD isolates with no full-spectrum or broad-spectrum products in their range. Their product range is wide though, with everything from gummies to pet products.
Hemp bombs extract their CBD from GMO-free organic hemp. They formerly sourced their hemp from Europe, but now the U.S has caught up with organic farming processes they use 100% U.S-grown hemp.
Although Hemp Bombs are happy to reveal where their hemp is sourced from, they don’t reveal how they extract the CBD from it. We can assume that they use a solvent extraction from looking at the independent lab reports.
There are traces of ethanol, ethyl acetate, methanol, and isopropyl alcohol in their oils. These levels are extremely low and are deemed safe for consumption.
Hemp bombs have a page dedicated to lab reports on their website, so you can see potency levels, present terpenes, solvent residues, and bacterial analysis.
Overall, Hemp Bombs CBD is a great option if you’re looking for high-quality isolates on a budget. Perhaps less premium than the last two brands, but far more cost-effective.
- Excellent value for money
- CBD isolate
- Uses U.S-grown organic hemp
- Wide range of products available
- Multiple potencies available
What is Psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a common skin condition that causes uncomfortable skin flaking, redness, and itchy patches. Psoriasis is usually found on the elbows, knees, and scalp but can occur anywhere on the body.
The severity of the condition varies greatly. For some, psoriasis is a minor irritation with small patches developing in one area. For others, it can cause serious problems and dramatically affect the quality of life.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for this chronic disease. For most suffers this is a minor inconvenience but for others, it can cause major discomfort and eventually lead to another, a more severe condition known as psoriatic arthritis.
The Symptoms of Psoriasis
Psoriasis varies from person to person and symptoms can differ depending on the severity of the condition. It’s common to have flare-ups of psoriasis with cycles of flaring and subsidence.
There are five common types of psoriasis each with differing symptoms:
1. Plaque Psoriasis
This is the most common form of psoriasis.
Symptoms include raised, dry, red skin with flaky scales of excess skin.
Psoriasis patches are usually found on the elbows, scalp, and knees, the patches of inflamed skin can become itchy, sore, and tender.
2. Nail Psoriasis
Psoriasis on the finger and toenails can cause pitting, discoloration, abnormal nail growth, and in some cases loosening from the nail bed or crumbling of the nail.
3. Guttate Psoriasis
This form of psoriasis is more common in people under the age of 30. This type is caused by bacterial infections such as strep throat. Symptoms include small scaly lesions around the throat, chest, arms, or legs.
4. Inverse Psoriasis
Inverse Psoriasis can occur all over the body. It’s common in skin folds and sweaty areas, it can flare up through exercise or friction. Symptoms include smooth red patches of skin that feel raw and tender.
5. Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriatic arthritis can be mild to severe but is uncomfortable for all its sufferers. It causes swollen, painful, stiff joints. Progressive joint damage is common with permanent damage possible in more serious cases.
How to Use CBD for Psoriasis
There are many different ways to treat psoriasis using CBD.
CBD can be consumed in the form of oil, edibles, and capsules.
Topical products such as balms, creams, and roll-ons are also considered effective treatments for psoriasis.
Whether you choose a full-spectrum, broad-spectrum, or isolate is also something to consider.
In this section, we will be looking at the different treatment options and helping you decide what will work best for you.
1. Oils, Gummies, or Capsules?
How you consume CBD for psoriasis is entirely up to you. Taking CBD orally with oil gives you the most flexibility as you can adjust your dose depending on how many drops are taken.
Consuming CBD-infused gummies, capsules, or other edibles makes it easier to regulate how much CBD you are taking throughout the day. Each edible or capsule has a specific dosage, making it easier to monitor your CBD intake.
2. Topical CBD products
Topical products such as creams, balms, and roll-ons can be applied directly to the skin. They have a positive effect on skin health and can be used to treat a variety of chronic skin conditions from eczema to psoriasis.
Cannabis users look for CBD topicals online from reputable sources to instantly relieve their pain or irritation and can be applied directly to the lesions, rashes, and scaly skin that psoriasis causes. They are also perfect for people that don’t want to ingest cannabis products for their psoriasis.
3. Full-Spectrum, Broad-Spectrum, or Isolate?
Full-Spectrum CBD — Full-spectrum CBD contains not only CBD but all the other cannabinoids and terpenes that are present in the hemp plant, including THC. To abide by federal law in the U.S and laws across Europe, Full-spectrum CBD products contain less than 0.3% THC.
Broad-Spectrum CBD — Broad-Spectrum CBD is similar to full-spectrum. It contains all other naturally occurring cannabinoids and terpenes however THC is removed.
CBD Isolate — CBD isolate is a pure extract. Isolates contain CBD only without any extra cannabinoids or terpenes.
Full-spectrum and broad-spectrum products are considered more effective for a wider range of conditions because the cannabinoid profile is more expansive. Cannabinoids and terpenes work in synergy to create the entourage effect.
Research suggests that full and broad-spectrum CBD has more prominent health benefits than isolates . This means they can be effectively used to treat not only psoriasis but other ailments as well.
CBD isolates (containing only CBD) are great for people that have negative reactions to other cannabinoids. Isolates are perfect for first-time users and in the case of psoriasis, are effective in both oral and topical products.
CBD Dosage for Psoriasis
There is no real dosage guide when using CBD for psoriasis.
If you have never used CBD before it is best to start with a low dose and work your way up gradually if you need to. Make sure to monitor how your body reacts to the CBD and stop upping the dose as you see results.
As for topical products, you should apply a small amount to an unaffected area of skin to ensure you do not react to anything in the cream, balm, or gel. Wait for 30 minutes to ensure your skin doesn’t react to the product.
Once you’ve made sure there is no reaction, you can follow the application instructions on your chosen topical. For creams and balms, spreading a thin even layer over the affected area is enough to take effect, other products will need rubbing in to promote absorption.
Final Thoughts: Can CBD Help With Psoriasis?
Unfortunately, psoriasis is currently incurable but it’s certainly treatable. CBD is a great way to combat psoriasis and treat your scars due to this skin condition.
Using orally consumed products alongside topical products will provide you with instant and ongoing relief from your symptoms. If you’re new to CBD remember to start small and work up your dosages to see how you react to the substance.
Make sure you purchase your CBD from a reputable and reliable brand to ensure you are ingesting a safe product that will provide results.
It’s also recommended that you speak to a dermatologist before using CBD to treat your psoriasis. Some medications you currently use may react with CBD, so be sure to check with your doctor if you’re concerned about the medication you’re using.
References Used In This Article
- Jonathan D Wilkinson and Elizabeth M Williamson. (2006). Cannabinoids inhibit human keratinocyte proliferation through a non-CB1/CB2 mechanism and have a potential therapeutic value in the treatment of psoriasis. Japanese Society for Investigative Dermatology, 45(2): 87-92.
- B Palmieri, C Laurino, and M Vadalá. (2019). A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars. La Clinica Terapeutica vol, 170,2 (2019): e93-e99.
- Ethan B. Russo. (2018). The Case for the Entourage Effect and Conventional Breeding of Clinical Cannabis: No “Strain,” No Gain. Frontiers in Plant Science, 2018; 9: 1969.
Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
CBD for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis: What You Should Know
Cannabidiol, or CBD, is one of the two well-known chemical compounds or cannabinoids found in marijuana or hemp. But unlike tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), it doesn’t give you a “high.” Instead, it has a mellowing effect with pain relief. Lately, CBD has been gaining popularity and trending in the health wellness sector with a wide variety of creams, lotions, oils, vape pens, or edibles like gummies or candies.
The internet is littered with information that claim CBD as a natural treatment option for a host of conditions including skin-related disorders like psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis.
Reported health benefits include relief for:
But does it work as well as claimed? Jim Snedden says that for him, it did.
Snedden, 55, was living in Connecticut in 2005 when he first noticed his legs were very dry and itchy. Soon, the itch migrated to his hands.
“I was waking up all bloody because I was digging at it,” recalls Snedden who now lives in Goshen, NY.
In 2007, after he moved to upstate New York, he had another severe flare-up. Initially, he chalked it up to change in water, but it was confirmed as psoriasis. By 2012, he had developed psoriatic arthritis (PsA). Knowing it was a “destructive disease,” Snedden asked his doctor to put him on a biologic, a powerful, genetically engineered drug that’s designed to lower or stop inflammation in your body. It kept his psoriasis symptoms at bay. But the deep, bone-aching pain from the arthritis lingered.
“I have days where I can’t pick things up. I’m dropping things all day because my fingers hurt really bad,” Snedden says.
For years, he took prescription opiates to manage the pain, but they stopped working. In 2018, his daughter, who has fibromyalgia, a condition that causes pain all over the body, urged Snedden to look into cannabidiol (or CBD) as an option for pain relief.
He did. “It did a lot of good,” Snedden says. He’s cut out all the opiates from his treatment regimen.
Does CBD Really Work for Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis?
Doctors and other experts who are keeping a close eye on the growing demand for CBD say it’s hard to know for sure.
“While there are some theories to suggest CBD may have benefits for psoriasis, there is a complete absence of rigorous trials in people to prove their safety and efficacy for treatment of psoriasis,” says Joel Gelfand, MD, in an email to WebMD. Gelfand is a professor of dermatology and director of the Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center at University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.
However, Adam Friedman, MD, professor and chair of dermatology at George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences in Washington, DC, says there’s “enough mechanistic data” to argue the potential benefits of CBD for psoriasis or PsA.
Friedman explains that when CBD enters your body, it binds with several receptors including receptors called endocannabinoids that affect pain, itch, and inflammation. There are two types of receptors in the endocannabinoid system: cannabinoid type 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2). THC binds with CB1 located in the central nervous system, which gives you the fuzzy feels when you take marijuana, and CBD binds with CB2.
When CBD binds with the CB2 receptor found on immune cells throughout the body, it has effects on the body’s immune function.
“When CBD binds to various receptors, CB2 and others, from an immune perspective, what it does is it induces inflammation resolution,” Friedman says. Meaning it activates signals in your body that makes the cells that cause inflammation to change and subside.
In terms of psoriasis, according to Friedman, CBD can reportedly stimulate the secretion and recruitment of cells that are important to remove skin cell debris and to allow your skin to mature and heal properly.
In a 2019 study, 20 participants with psoriasis or atopic dermatitis, another skin-related disorder, were asked to apply a CBD ointment on affected skin twice daily for three months. The CBD ointment, without any THC, was able to improve skin hydration and elasticity. It also improved participants’ quality-of-life when it was measured against the Psoriasis Area Severity Index.
In a recent 2020 study, 50 people with scalp psoriasis or seborrheic dermatitis, a type of condition that causes dry, flaky skin mostly on the scalp, were asked to use a shampoo with CBD for 2 weeks. The shampoo was able to reduce itching, burning, the severity of the inflammation in the scalp.
But Friedman notes that there’s a lot more research to be done to see the full extent of CBD’s impact on your body. “Our understanding of the endocannabinoid system is incomplete.”
Moreover, Friedman says when it comes to cannabinoids like CBD and THC, if you’re buying over-the-counter creams and other topics products infused with it, it may not be getting absorbed properly through the skin barrier. This is because “cannabinoids are lipophilic.” This means they are likely to stay in a fatty environment — something your top layer of skin has plenty of. So if you apply a cream on your skin, only “a fraction of it” may actually get through.
“Purposeful delivery [of CBD] is what you have to think about versus asking ‘do cannabinoids work?’” Friedman says.
CBD and Potential Risk
Studies done on CBD to date are not conclusive. The lack of tests on safety and effectiveness is also because of the confusion around government regulations around CBD. It’s made it hard to study the plant and its potential use, risks, and benefits. Laws for legal access to CBD differ from state to state. So there are a lot of CBD-infused products on the market that are not regulated by the FDA.
“Due to current lack of FDA regulation for CBD, retailers may not adequately disclose the amount of THC in their products, potentially resulting in a positive drug screen. Also, CBD products are available for purchase online with little consumer safety oversight and can contain unknown and potentially dangerous elements,” says James Ralston, MD, a dermatologist at Dermatology Center of McKinney in Texas.
In fact, the FDA has served citations to several companies selling CBD-infused products or food supplements over safety concerns.
In 2017, one study looked at 84 CBD products manufactured by 31 companies and sold online in 2016, to see how accurate the labels were about the ingredients. Turns out, nearly 43% of the products were under-labeled, meaning they had 10% more CBD that advertised. Around 26% of the products were over-labeled, meaning they had 10% less CBD than advertised. Only about 31% of the products were accurately labeled.
Cynthia Covert, 52, from Moreno Valley, CA has been living with PsA since 2003. Covert has tried both THC and CBD products. Both have helped her manage her pain to a certain degree. But CBD products, she says, have too much hype surrounding it. She blames the market that’s flooded with CBD products to meet the growing demands.
“When it comes to CBD alone, I think it’s way too much hype, and it really does disappoint me. Because I know everyone just wants to make money off it, whether it’s the person who’s affiliated with it, or a salesman for it.”
Besides inaccurate ingredients on CBD products, research shows that there may be potential side effects to CBD use. It can:
- Cause liver injury
- Interact with other medications that can cause serious side effects
- Lead to physical injuries if mixed with alcohol or other drugs that can alter your brain activity
- Affect fertility in men or male offspring of women exposed to CBD as seen in some animal studies
There are also a lot of unanswered questions that scientists are trying to figure out when it comes to CBD use. This includes:
- What happens if you take CBD daily for a long period of time?
- How much is too much CBD?
- Can different methods or types of CBD such as creams, gummies, oils, etc., affect you differently?
- What effect does CBD have on the developing brain of children?
- How does CBD affect a fetus or a breastfed newborn?
Things You Should Be Aware of Before You Try CBD
If you’re thinking of trying CBD for relief from psoriasis or PsA, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Before you try, talk to your doctor about it. Snedden spoke to his neurologist, a doctor who specializes in nerves, brain, and the spinal cord before he decided to try CBD. He also gets frequent migraines and has three herniated discs. He was worried about some of his prescription drugs mixing with CBD.
“Talk to your doctor first because anything can interact with anything,” Snedden says.
Do your research beforehand. Friedman says he urges anyone who wants to try CBD to first do their “due diligence” in researching all they can about CBD and the different brands and methods.
“I think the easiest is to go on Google or whatever search engine and type in Department of Health medical cannabis program,” Friedman says especially if cannabis is legalized in your state.
If you’re going to buy CBD products online or over the counter at your local drugstore, research and write down a few things to check on the labels before you buy it. Once you buy it, Friedman says it’s always a good idea to test it out.
“I typically tell patients to start by doing a test site on a small area for a couple days to make sure that it doesn’t cause irritation or allergic reaction. If they tolerate it, then they can apply to affected areas twice a day, ongoing,” Friedman says.
Start low and slow. When Snedden first started using CBD, it was a bit of a learning curve, especially with what type to use and how much. He researched online on what types or brands would work best. He tried three different types before he found that worked best for him — a tincture, an alcohol-based liquid extract that you put under your tongue.
“I started with one drop and I wasn’t really noticing anything. So I decided to take two drops and it was fine. I started to sleep through the night, I was able to relax. A lot of the pain was gone,” Snedden says.
It’s important to remember that each person reacts different to CBD so it’s always good to start small and see how it goes.
Manage your expectations. CBD isn’t the same as THC. It won’t deliver quick results and it’s definitely not a “cure all.” You may have to continue your regular treatments for psoriasis and PsA and compliment it with approved CBD products to help with the pain.
“If you’re going to use CBD, you can’t go in with the expectation that it’s going to relieve all your pain. And that it’s not going to relieve your pain as soon as possible like an opiate would or smoking a joint. What you are going to get though is a wonderful muscle relaxation,” Covert says. “You’re going to sleep better [and] you’re going to be less stressed. All those things over time will lead to a decrease in pain.”
However, if you notice any allergic reaction or side effects on your skin after CBD use, tell your doctor about it.
National Psoriasis Foundation: “CBD for Psoriasis and PsA.”
FDA: “What You Need to Know (And What We’re Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD,” “FDA warns 15 companies for illegally selling various products containing cannabidiol as agency details safety concerns,” “FDA Warns Companies Illegally Selling Over-the-Counter CBD Products for Pain Relief.”
Karger Journals: “Efficacy and Tolerability of a Shampoo Containing Broad-Spectrum Cannabidiol in the Treatment of Scalp Inflammation in Patients with Mild to Moderate Scalp Psoriasis or Seborrheic Dermatitis.”
La Clinica Therapeutica: “Anandamide Suppresses Proinflammatory T Cell Responses In Vitro through Type-1 Cannabinoid Receptor-Mediated mTOR Inhibition in Human Keratinocytes.”
JAMA: “Labeling Accuracy of Cannabidiol Extracts Sold Online.”
Cedars Sinai: “CBD: What You Need to Know Before You Try.”
Adam Friedman, MD, professor and chair of dermatology, George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences.
Joel Gelfand, MD, professor of dermatology and of epidemiology; vice chair of clinical research and medical director, Dermatology Clinical Studies Unit; director, Psoriasis and Phototherapy Treatment Center, University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.