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Using Medical Marijuana to Treat Psoriasis

close-up of treatment of a psoriatic elbow with a psoriasis cream

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disorder that causes skin cells to multiply up to 10 times faster than normal. Medical marijuana offers a helpful alternative treatment option for individuals living with psoriasis, thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties. Compared to other topical treatments, which can have unwanted side effects, cannabis can help limit skin growth, manage pain and reduce other unwanted symptoms of psoriasis.

Read on to learn everything you need to know about psoriasis, what causes it and how to use medical marijuana as a treatment.

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What Causes Psoriasis?

Psoriasis is a long-term, recurrent skin condition that ranges from minor, contained patches to complete body coverage. Finger and toenails can often be affected by psoriasis as isolated signs of onset.

Psoriasis can also produce inflammation of the joints, called psoriatic arthritis. Approximately 10-30% of all individuals with psoriasis also struggle with psoriatic arthritis.

While doctors still don’t know what causes psoriasis, the immune system plays a role. T cells–essential in protecting the body from foreign invaders–attack healthy skin cells. Simultaneously, the same T cells trigger the development of new skin cells, neutrophils, and white blood cells. These all end up on the skin’s surface and interfere with the body’s ability to shed them, producing the red, scaly plaque associated with psoriasis.

The immune system is not the only potential cause of psoriasis. An individual’s genes can also determine whether the condition develops, as well as these triggers:

  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Infections
  • High stress
  • Medications such as beta-blockers, lithium or antimalarial medicines
  • Skin injuries such as cuts or scrapes

Symptoms of psoriasis can vary from person to person, in severity or longevity, but common symptoms include:

  • Red patches of skin with silver scales
  • Cracked, bleeding skin
  • Dry skin
  • Red spots
  • Itching or soreness
  • Joint swelling
  • Stiffness

Traditional Treatments for Psoriasis

Traditional treatment options for psoriasis offer varying degrees of effectiveness and side effects. The most popular options are topical corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone, which help to minimize itching and inflammation. These are often prescribed for mild to moderate symptoms.

Vitamin D creams are another treatment that helps slow down the excessive production of skin cells. Still, these creams are either irritating to the skin or cost-prohibitive. Anthralin is another topical remedy that helps slow skin cell production but can stain fabrics and surfaces.

A class of medications called biologics can help suppress the overactive immune system function involved with psoriasis, preventing T cells from attacking healthy skin. But these medications lower overall immune response, which places patients at risk for infection against viruses or bacteria.

How Marijuana Helps with Psoriasis Symptoms

Medical cannabis offers an alternative remedy to the above medications by addressing several different elements of psoriasis.

Compounds in cannabis–particularly cannabidiol (CBD)–contain powerful anti-inflammatory properties, working on CB2 receptors in the skin to help soothe inflammation and leave the skin feeling healthy. A study found that cannabis effectively slowed the proliferation of skin cells in psoriasis and reduced T cells’ activity, helping to mitigate the immune response that produces excess skin cells.

Medical marijuana also helps to minimize the pain associated with psoriasis flare-ups, with plentiful research documenting the role cannabis plays in soothing experienced pain. The anti-inflammatory elements in cannabis also reduce pain and itchiness at the site of plaque, relieving unwanted discomfort.

Another study observed that cannabinoid receptors play a role in wound repair, suggesting the usefulness of cannabis to address the cracking and bleeding in psoriasis-affected skin patches.

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How to Use Cannabis for Psoriasis

Studies examining cannabinoids’ successful treatment of psoriasis recommend direct application to the skin as the best delivery method. CBD topicals are among the best cannabis products suited to treat skin conditions, though be sure to select an item specifically geared for dermatological use instead of relieving aches and pains.

Smoking cannabis isn’t recommended for patients with psoriasis, as smoke can trigger a flare-up. To soothe other symptoms, products such as topicals, tinctures or edibles can help with pain or stress associated with the condition.

Best Strains for Psoriasis

  • Mango Kush
  • Cannatonic
  • White Widow
  • Skunk #1
  • Harlequin

There is no definitive “best” strain (variety or cultivar) that is best for psoriasis, and most reports are anecdotal. The above cannabis varieties may work for some, whereas others may require different ones.

The Bottom Line

If you have access to medical marijuana, it offers a promising remedy to soothe various symptoms of psoriasis, particularly compared to other medications available. Speak to a Leafwell doctor to understand if medical cannabis works for your unique needs.

Note: the information in this article does not constitute medical advice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Does marijuana worsen psoriasis?

No; on the contrary, marijuana represents a promising alternative treatment to soothe many symptoms associated with psoriasis, such as immune response, dry skin, itchiness and pain.

What CBD product is best for psoriasis?

CBD topicals are among the best cannabis products suited to treat skin conditions, though be sure to select an item specifically geared for dermatological use instead of relieving aches and pains.

How much CBD should I take for psoriasis?

There's no definite amount of CBD recommended for treating psoriasis, though there's no such thing as too much. Ask your doctor to discuss specific dosage needs.

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