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CBD Oil and Psoriasis: What You Need to Know

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on September 15, 2021

When you're living with psoriasis, it might take a while for you and your doctor to find a treatment plan that works for you. As you try different medications to prevent and treat flare-ups of itchy, sore skin and other symptoms, you may wonder if CBD oil could bring you some relief.

But before you try CBD oil for psoriasis, you'll want to get the facts on what the research says about it and what the risks are. Here's everything we know so far.

What Is CBD?

CBD is short for cannabidiol. It's a chemical compound in cannabis plants like marijuana and hemp. CBD doesn't get you high, which makes it different from the other popular compound in cannabis, mind-altering THC (tetrahydrocannabinol).

Product makers create CBD oil by extracting cannabidiol from marijuana or hemp and then mixing it with a "carrier oil." Some forms of CBD oil come in drops or sprays you take by mouth called tinctures. Others come in oil-based capsules.

CBD products come in other forms, too, including:

  • Topicals like creams, lotions, and balms
  • Edibles like gummies, baked goods, and infused drinks
  • Smokable hemp flower
  • Vaporizer pens

The FDA has approved only one CBD product: a prescription drug called Epidiolex. It treats seizures linked to two rare types of epilepsy and to a genetic disease that causes benign tumors.

Otherwise, there are few large, well-designed studies about CBD's effects on other medical conditions. Some research suggests that it might show promise for easing psychotic symptoms in Parkinson's disease and for anxiety tied to public speaking.

But several experts say they haven't yet seen research that proves CBD's effectiveness for problems like:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety disorders

Does CBD Oil Show Promise for Psoriasis?

Some people wonder if CBD oil is safe and effective for psoriasis-related issues like:

  • Skin irritation
  • Inflammation
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Scars and wrinkles
  • Acne

Since there are so few human studies so far, it's hard to know how effective cannabidiol might be for these. But some dermatology experts think CBD topicals that you put on your skin show promise as a complementary therapy, which means you use it along with conventional treatment.

A pair of very small studies hints at CBD's potential. In one, a handful of people who put CBD-infused ointment on their psoriasis patches twice a day for 3 months saw their skin improve. In the other, a group of people with mild to moderate scalp psoriasis or dandruff who used a CBD shampoo had less scalp inflammation, scaling, itching, and burning 2 weeks later. Small studies usually need to be followed up with larger ones to confirm the results.

Most research on CBD's effects on psoriasis is preclinical, meaning it's been done on animals or in the lab. Some of these studies show that cannabidiol has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Although the results aren't guaranteed to translate to health benefits for people with psoriasis, some researchers and dermatologists think this is promising.

What Are the Health Risks?

At least one expert says CBD's possible risks for people with psoriasis haven't been studied enough yet.

Here's what we know. In general, CBD can bring on side effects like:

  • Dry mouth
  • Diarrhea
  • Less appetite
  • Drowsiness or sleepiness
  • Liver damage

It can also mix badly with medications you're on, like blood thinners.

CBD's quality varies widely, too. Some commercial products:

  • Make false or unproven or health claims.
  • Have less CBD than advertised.
  • Could be contaminated with things like pesticides, heavy metals, and THC.

Don't try CBD oil for psoriasis without talking to your doctor first. If your regular treatment isn't working, let them know right away.

If your doctor says CBD oil might be safe for you to try, first ask them questions like:

  • Can you recommend a dispensary that sells reputable, high-quality products?
  • What type of CBD oil should I take? How much of it should I use? And how often?
  • Is there a chance it could mix badly with any medications or supplements I take?

It's also important to ask your doctor if cannabis products might affect other health conditions you have, since psoriasis is linked to problems like:

  • Psoriatic arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of cholesterol and other blood fats (dyslipidemia)
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Inflammatory bowel disease

Is CBD Oil Legal?

It mainly depends on where you live. Medical marijuana is legal for adults in 37 states as of August 2021. If you live in one of them, it's legal to buy CBD oil that comes from marijuana.

Hemp, which has much less THC than marijuana, is legal in the U.S. under federal law -- as long as it has 0.3% THC or less. Before you try to buy CBD oil that comes from hemp, though, you might want to check for any local or state restrictions.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Clinical Therapeutics: "A therapeutic effect of cbd-enriched ointment in inflammatory skin diseases and cutaneous scars."

Skin Appendage Disorders: "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."

Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology: "Therapeutic Potential of Cannabidiol (CBD) for Skin Health and Disorders."

Antioxidants: "Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol."

National Psoriasis Foundation: "CBD for Psoriasis and PsA," "Related Conditions of Psoriasis."

UC Davis Health: "Can CBD help people with psoriasis find relief?"

Harvard: "Cannabidiol (CBD)-what we know and what we don't."

FDA: "What You Should Know About Using Cannabis, Including CBD, When Pregnant or Breastfeeding," "FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD)," "What You Need to Know (And What We're Working to Find Out) About Products Containing Cannabis or Cannabis-derived Compounds, Including CBD."

Medscape: "Cannabis for Pain? An Expert's Guidance."

U.S. Pharmacist: "Pharmacist's Guide to CBD Oil."

National Institutes of Health: "Tuberous Sclerosis Fact Sheet."

Anxiety & Depression Association of America: "Can CBD Help with My Anxiety and Depression?"

Mayo Clinic: "What are the benefits of CBD — and is it safe to use?"

Reuters: "U.S. Senate Democrats roll out draft bill to legalize weed."

Arthritis Foundation: "CBD for Arthritis Pain: What You Should Know."

Consumer Reports: "How to Safely Use CBD: Should You Inhale, Spray, Apply, or Eat It?"

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