Can Cannabis Relieve Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis?

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Close-up of CBD oil in syringe against marijuana leaves

Due to the increased visibility of research into cannabis (marijuana) and cannabidiol (CBD) as potential treatments for many medical conditions, you may be wondering if cannabis can help psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis (PsA). While many more studies are needed to say for sure if cannabis compounds can effectively treat these conditions, some people do report effective symptom relief by using cannabis for psoriasis and PsA. And there appears to be a scientific basis to support their claims.

How Cannabis Might Ease Symptoms of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis

Cannabis plants contain more than 100 compounds called cannabinoids. The best-known cannabinoid is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the psychoactive substance in cannabis that causes users to get high. However, other cannabinoids, such as CBD, do not confer any euphoric effect. Researchers have made great strides in understanding how and why these substances may prove effective at treating inflammatory conditions like psoriasis and PsA.

The human body also produces its own cannabinoids, called endocannabinoids. These appear to influence a wide range of body functions, including mood, movement control, memory, pain modulation, and inflammatory response. Researchers currently think taking in cannabinoids from the cannabis plant may help activate the body’s endocannabinoids and facilitate their effects in dialing down the body’s inflammatory response, which could result in reducing the symptoms of diseases like psoriasis and PsA.

Both THC and CBD can influence symptoms in inflammatory diseases. Which substance you use depends on which symptoms you want to alleviate.

Medical Marijuana as a Psoriasis Treatment

Can smoking weed help your psoriasis? Maybe. The scaly plaques of skin psoriasis result when skin cells proliferate (grow and multiply) far too quickly and then die before maturity and build up on the surface of the skin. Multiple studies have demonstrated that THC inhibits the growth of skin cells, which might reduce the development of psoriasis plaques. THC also may alleviate pain symptoms, though studies conflict on this point to date.

Regardless, at this time no THC-containing medications have been approved for the treatment of psoriasis. If you’re interested in exploring the benefits of THC for psoriasis, you’ll need to talk with your doctor about what options may be available to you. In states with medical marijuana programs, you may be able to obtain a card that allows you to legally purchase and consume cannabis to treat your psoriasis symptoms.

CBD Oil for Psoriasis or Psoriatic Arthritis

While cannabidiol does not possess the cell-inhibiting effects of THC, it is more widely available and may effectively treat several other symptoms related to both psoriasis and PsA. CBD has shown promise in treating pain, inflammation and anxiety. Because stress can cause psoriasis and PsA to flare up, reducing anxiety with CBD oil could keep the disease calmed down.

Most people take CBD in an oil-based product that can be applied topically or ingested. Topical CBD might ease the itchy skin symptoms of psoriasis, while ingesting it could confer pain and anxiety relief. Since CBD is regulated only as a nutritional supplement, not a drug, some researchers have found significant variances between labeled CBD concentrations and actual product content. Some products contain far more CBD than labeled, while others contain much less. To obtain the most accurate dosing, you should seek out reputable sources of CBD oil, find a brand that works for you, and stick with that particular brand.

Currently a handful of CBD-containing medications hold Food and Drug Administration approval, but only for use in treating certain types of childhood epilepsy. If you’re interested in using CBD oil to treat your psoriasis or PsA symptoms, speak with your doctor first, as CBD could possibly interact with other medications you’re taking.

Neither THC nor CBD should be considered a miracle cure-all for psoriasis or psoriatic arthritis. However, when used under a doctor’s guidance in conjunction with medical treatments, these substances can bring relief to many people with psoriasis and PsA.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 22
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