Over the past decade, medical researchers have unlocked the potential of medical cannabis in treating a wide range of health conditions. Active chemical compounds found in cannabis have been shown to have profound therapeutic properties. These properties can help to relieve the symptoms associated with cancer treatment, glaucoma, arthritis, and gastrointestinal disorders, only to name a few of the many possible health conditions that can benefit from medical cannabis therapy. An emerging discovery shows that cannabis may also be beneficial for those suffering from psoriasis, a skin disorder that is notoriously difficult to treat.
Classified as an autoimmune disorder, psoriasis is a relatively common condition where skin cells exhibit accelerated growth, resulting in thick, scaly patches on the surface of the skin. These patches are often accompanied by redness, itching, and pain. The medical community is unsure of the causes of the disorder, but environmental factors, infections, and high stress levels may be triggers.
There are several types of psoriasis, and each has different symptoms that may result in small affected areas or even eruptions that cover large portions of the skin. Typically, the condition flares up, then subsides for a period of time. Some people with psoriasis will go into remission and may only experience the occasional flare-up. There is no cure for psoriasis; medical professionals help to treat the symptoms and slow the growth of skin cells to provide relief.
A small percentage of those diagnosed with psoriasis will also develop psoriatic arthritis. This results in swollen, painful joints. Over time, people with psoriatic arthritis may experience joint damage and a resulting loss of mobility. Another potential development is that of declining mental health. According to the National Psoriasis Foundation, people with psoriasis are at a higher risk of developing depression and anxiety.
Treatment for psoriasis varies, but is typically accomplished by the application of topical creams such as corticosteroids, retinoids, or synthetic vitamin D preparations. Each of these treatments may result in irritation as well as increased sensitivity to sunlight.
Medical cannabis contains hundreds of active chemical compounds, some of which mimic chemicals produced naturally by the human body. In the human endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids and associated chemical receptors serve to provide balance to numerous body processes. Cannabinoids found in medical cannabis, such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), can also bind to the receptors, helping to restore balance.
At the cellular level, cannabis has been found to reduce the spread of psoriasis across the body. One study demonstrated that cannabinoids have inhibitory effects on tumorigenic cell lines, some of which are mediated through CB receptors. One of psoriasis’s key characteristics is the hyper-proliferation of epidermal keratinocyte, and cannabinoids were found in the study to inhibit the proliferation of keratinocyte. Because of this, utilizing cannabis products could allow psoriasis sufferers to slow the growth of cells in the outer layer of skin.
Cannabis does not just treat psoriasis at a cellular level; it can also be a relieving agent for psoriasis symptoms. Other studies suggest that these chemical compounds can reduce inflammation and pain, both of which are commonly experienced by people living with psoriasis. In addition, cannabinoids have been found to play a role in reducing itching (a common psoriasis side effect) and healing wounds. Many common steroid-based topical solutions that are prescribed to treat psoriasis can have very damaging side effects, so cannabis-based topicals offer a gentler anti-inflammatory treatment.
A study published in the Journal of Dermatological Science examined the ability of cannabinoids in suppressing part of the immune system, potentially helping to control the development of the disorder. Specifically, cannabis can suppress the production of T cells, which in turn would reduce the production of excess skin cells.
Further research is needed, but for those struggling with psoriasis, medical cannabis may represent a safer path forward.