BY KIMBERLY TRUONG
Though cannabis was once seen as simply a recreational (and even “risky”) drug, in recent years, scientists have made significant progress in finding evidence that it can have a wide range of health benefits; research suggests it can relieve pain, improve your mood, and perhaps even help treat conditions like epilepsy and multiple sclerosis.
The Link Between Cannabis and Psoriasis
In the past few years, numerous studies have found that cannabis has the potential to treat psoriasis, a chronic and incurable skin condition. Psoriasis is a common autoimmune condition that causes cells to build upon the skin, resulting in painful and/or itchy scales and red patches. Psoriasis often comes and goes, and the main goal of treatment is to stop the skin cells from growing so rapidly. Although it’s not a curable condition, treatment usually focuses on carefully managing its symptoms, and reducing inflammation and clearing the skin through topical ointments, light therapy, and medications.
But Dr. Jeanette Jacknin, MD, a dermatologist, and cannabinoid expert, says that said more recently, researchers have studied whether or not cannabis might be another effective means of treating symptoms of psoriasis—and have seen promising results thus far.
A 2013 study published in PeerJ suggested that cannabis might help slow the growth of keratinocyte skin cells; since psoriasis is associated with the excess buildup of keratinocytes, this means that cannabis could have some potential to help psoriasis sufferers. As Jacknin explains it, there are cannabinoid receptors on the cells of your skin, and when you put on a topical formula that contains CBD, THC, or cannabinoids, it can affect the cannabinoid receptors and regulate the amount of keratin on the skin, which may help with the scaliness and itchiness that often come with psoriasis.
Furthermore, a 2009 study found that some cannabinoids could help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation, a key component of psoriasis. To wit: A 2016 study found that some cannabinoids might help people with psoriasis by affecting the interaction between the body's immune and nervous systems; this relationship is thought to be the key mechanism behind the condition.
There’s a reason to believe that there might be even more conclusive evidence coming, too. Jacknin says that most studies on cannabis and psoriasis up until now have been done out of the country because cannabis had been illegal in most of the U.S., so she’s hopeful there will be more research to come now that more states have opted for legalization.
That additional research, she says, will be key if doctors will potentially recommend cannabis products for people with psoriasis. For example, Jacknin says she tends to recommend oils and lotions with higher concentrations of cannabis for psoriasis sufferers, but the amount of cannabis needed in a product can vary from individual to individual.
“There’s more education that needs to be done and more products directly made for psoriasis [treatment], with clinical studies to back them up,” Jacknin says. “I think psoriasis sufferers have a lot to look forward to. I think there’s going to be a lot more studies and products coming out. Now that it’s legal, pharmaceutical companies are going to find it to their advantage to look more deeply into this.”
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