CBD and Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Against One Of The World’s Most Mysterious Autoimmune Diseases?

CBD and Psoriasis: Can Cannabidiol Help Against One Of The World’s Most Mysterious Autoimmune Diseases?

Although many have never heard of the condition, psoriasis affects around 2-3% of the worldwide population. More than eight million people have been diagnosed with psoriasis in the United States alone.

Besides being painful, psoriasis can seriously impact the quality of life for people struggling with the condition. Let’s take a closer look at this mysterious illness and find out if CBD can help.

What Is Psoriasis and What Causes It?

Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that occurs when the immune system attacks normal skin cells, mistaking them for harmful invaders. T-cells and white blood cells flood to parts of the skin, destroying healthy cells in their wake. The body then tries to compensate by overproducing skin cells, leaving the affected areas irritated and flaky.

While we understand the mechanism involved with psoriasis, medical science remains mystified about what causes the condition. Psoriasis may be genetically related, and the disease seems to pass down through generations. However, environmental factors like stress, smoking, drinking, insufficient sleep, and excessive sugar intake also appear to be contributing causes. Furthermore, several other types of autoimmune conditions are often comorbid with psoriasis, including rheumatoid arthritis.

Symptoms and Types of Psoriasis

There are several different types of psoriasis that exhibit similar symptoms and affect distinct areas of the body. The various types of psoriasis may be triggered by a host of conditions, including:

  • Stressful situations
  • Cold, dry weather
  • Skin damage from insect bites, sunburns, or cuts
  • Infections
  • Prescription medications
  • Smoking or excessive alcohol intake

Plaque Psoriasis

Plaque psoriasis is the most common form and usually appears as pink or red patches with a silver lining and white scales. Plaque psoriasis causes lesions in several areas, such as:

  • Elbows
  • Knees
  • Edges of the scalp
  • Fingernails
  • Back
  • Palms

Other Types of Psoriasis

Less common forms of psoriasis can provoke a range of symptoms. Inverse psoriasis causes smooth, red patches in skinfold areas like the groin or under the breasts and buttocks. Nail psoriasis can cause the fingernails and toenails to become discolored and pitted or to grow abnormally.

Erythrodermic psoriasis often covers the whole body with a peeling rash. Guttate psoriasis is a variation that affects children and younger adults after a streptococcus bacterial infection, such as strep throat. People with psoriatic arthritis experience joint inflammation and pain with our without skin lesions.

The Psychological Impact of Psoriasis

Psoriasis often diminishes the quality of life for people struggling with the condition. Psoriasis is painful, irritating, and can be a hindrance in social situations.

People with psoriasis often choose to restrict the kind of clothing they wear to cover their irritated patches of skin. Psoriasis lesions have an extreme appearance, which makes many onlookers think the condition is contagious.

Patches of psoriasis can be extremely painful and itchy. People with the disorder have to be mindful not to unconsciously rub or scratch the lesions in public, which reinforces the illusion that the condition can be passed on to another person through contact.

Medications for Psoriasis

Physicians prescribe several medications to help manage the symptoms of psoriasis.


Doctors often prescribe corticosteroids in the form of topical creams and shampoos for their patients with psoriasis. Unfortunately, long-term use of corticosteroids can produce side effects, such as:

  • Thinning of the skin
  • Skin discoloration
  • Easy bruising
  • Broken blood vessels
  • Stretch marks
  • Light sensitivity
  • Increased hair growth in affected areas
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood sugar levels
  • Cushing syndrome

Calcineurin Inhibitors

Medications such as Protopic and Elidel help reduce inflammation and plaque buildup. They’re especially useful for sensitive areas such as around the eyes. However, long-term use of calcineurin inhibitors may increase the risk of lymphoma and skin cancers.

Coal Tar Products

Coal tar and related products like Anthralin can help reduce the itching, scaling, and inflammation associated with psoriasis. The negative side of coal tar products are their strong odors, tendency to stain anything nearby, and unsuitability for pregnant or nursing mothers.

Lifestyle Recommendations for Psoriasis Patients

In addition to prescription drugs, dermatologists and general practitioners recommend specific lifestyle changes to combat psoriasis.

Dietary Changes

If you have the condition, your doctor may recommend adhering to a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Oxidative stress is a primary contributor to psoriasis, and physicians usually recommend that their patients eat antioxidant-rich foods and take vitamin supplements.

Sun Exposure

UVB rays from sunlight help psoriasis lesions heal and encourage the body to produce more vitamin D. However, fair-skinned people should limit sun exposure and take vitamin D in supplement form instead.

Stress Management

High cortisol levels appear to be directly related to the development of psoriasis. Minimizing stress and anxiety can lower cortisol levels and reduce the number of breakouts.

How Can CBD Help with Psoriasis?

CBD and other cannabinoids interact with a network of receptors in our central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and immune system. This network is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS), and its primary purpose is to help our bodies remain in balance. Since our skin contains elements of all three vital systems, it possesses an abundance of ECS receptors.

The ECS responds to our body’s natural endocannabinoids, such as anandamide and 2-AG. A lack of sufficient endocannabinoids can cause our bodies to fall out of balance and exhibit a host of symptoms, including a more severe condition called Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency (CECD).

Phytocannabinoids, like CBD, can help the body restore balance by replenishing natural endocannabinoids and interacting with the ECS receptors.

CBD Helps to Balance the Immune System

CBD stimulates CB2 receptors in the body’s immune system and reduces cytokine production. Immune cells release cytokines to initiate the inflammation response. As a hyperactive immune system is at the root of psoriasis, this ability to reduce autoimmune responses could help with the disease.

CBD Has Antioxidant Properties

As we’ve mentioned earlier, antioxidant foods and supplements are highly recommended for psoriasis. CBD has potent antioxidant properties, and some studies claim that the compound has even more antioxidant power than vitamin C or E.

CBD Helps with Relaxation

Stress is often a significant factor in psoriasis cases, which seem to proliferate in the presence of elevated cortisol levels. CBD can alleviate stress through several mechanisms. CBD increases levels of the endocannabinoid anandamide by inhibiting the enzyme that metabolizes the compound. Anandamide is famous as a “feel good” compound responsible for the euphoric feeling athletes experience after exercise.

CBD also exerts a calming effect on the amygdala, the portion of the brain responsible for the fight-or-flight reaction to stress. In response to a perceived threat, the amygdala signals other parts of the brain to produce cortisol, preparing the body for action. Since high cortisol levels are a primary contributing factor to psoriasis, CBD’s ability to calm the amygdala may be particularly useful for reducing flare-ups.

Please keep in mind that this article is intended for educational purposes only. If you’re experiencing symptoms of psoriasis, you should seek the advice of a qualified physician for proper diagnosis and treatment. Ask your doctor if CBD products may be appropriate for you before adding them to your routine.