As of June 2017, 29 states plus Washington D.C. allow medicinal use of marijuana. This might be good news for people living with psoriasis. Several studies in the past few years have shown that cannabinoid creams and lotions, made from the active ingredient in marijuana, can help reduce symptoms of psoriasis.
What the research says
A report published in the Journal of American Academy of Dermatology, based on a review of studies, found that topical treatments made with cannabinoids helped with skin conditions by relieving itch and inflammation. The researchers also found evidence that there was an association between these formulas and the immune system.
Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes the skin to rapidly produce new skin cells, creating plaques. This treatment helped prevent or reduce the proliferation of cells. The researchers noted that some dermatologists have begun using topical treatments containing cannabinoids in their treatment plans.
One of the studies reviewed in the report, which was completed in 2009, did not look specifically at psoriasis but found cannabinoid topical treatments helped a variety of skin conditions by reducing pain, itch, and proliferation of skin cells. An earlier study, published in 2004, found these types of treatments helped reduce inflammation and regulate the immune system.
The medication was readily absorbed through the skin, helping patients avoid some of the toxicity and side effects from systemic treatments for psoriasis. (Topical marijuana does not produce a “high.") Although research is ongoing, the use of cannabinoids to help relieve some of the discomfort of those living with psoriasis looks promising.
Will smoking or eating marijuana work?
Cannabinoids, the active chemical in marijuana, have been found to be helpful in treating certain skin conditions—but that doesn’t mean you can smoke a joint or eat a cookie and feel better. According to Compassionate Certification Centers, the effectiveness of this treatment depends on the method of consumption.
Smoking marijuana, just like smoking cigarettes, could have a negative effect on your skin, isn’t good for your lungs, and might not provide the relief you are looking for. Topical treatments are created using vaporized cannabis that is made into creams, oils, lotions, sprays, balms, and ointments; they are applied to the skin and absorbed through the epidermis. When made in this way, the treatment can be used by children and adults.
Talking to your doctor
You may feel uncomfortable asking your doctor about using marijuana to ease your psoriasis symptoms. After all, it is still a controversial topic. Before you broach the subject, find out if medical marijuana is legal in your state and, if so, what are qualifying medical conditions. Each state has its own laws governing the use of medical marijuana and each provides a list of conditions covered, although some states indicate that it can be used for any chronic condition that interferes with daily functioning.
When talking to your doctor, you may want to bring copies or URLs of studies that support the use of topical treatments containing marijuana. It’s important to be honest and open. Let your physician know that you aren’t trying to get high; you are interested in finding relief for your skin condition. If your usual doctor is hesitant to prescribe one of these topical treatments, consider talking to a different doctor.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.