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Psoriasis and Cannabis

Do you know the difference between cannabis, hemp, and CBD? CBD oilA which is commonly called Cannabis oil is gaining in popularity, though not everyone is convinced- why? There is a lot of confusion about what each of these things is and is not.

A look at the differences between cannabis, hemp, and CBD

For a start- Cannabis and CBD Oil are two different things although they are derived both from the same starting point, a plant known as Cannabis Sativa. The Cannabis plant contains lots of active compounds, the most famous of which is known as THC. This is the compound that can bind to receptors in the brain and give users of Cannabis the ‘high’ feeling.

THC is a Cannabinoid, this is the general name given for the active compounds found inside the Cannabis Sativa plant. There is another increasingly popular cannabinoid- CBD. CBD does not have the psychoactive properties that THC has and is therefore not subject to the strict legislation and laws which control the manufacture and distribution of THC containing products. This is because it doesn’t bind to receptors in the brain. As an isolated extract, CBD alone is not illegal.

Can CBD help with psoriasis symptoms?

I couldn’t find any clinical trials focussed on supporting the use of CBD in the treatment of psoriasis, and therefore there is little scientific evidence to support the claims that it can help. There is however a lot of other evidence about how CBD interacts with the immune system.1

So what evidence is there?

Has CBD been investigated at all?

You can be safe in the knowledge that there have been numerous studies into the impact of CBD…if you are a mouse. Most of the studies I came across are in mice. Which has obvious limitations in the fact we are quite different from mice (although not as much as we like to think!). There are studies on humans too, but there are a lot less of them (most involve a blend that also includes THC).

The good news is that the results that we do have look very promising. In Multiple Sclerosis (MS) mouse models (mice that have been stimulated to generate auto-immune antibodies against myelin to simulate MS), the use of CBD has shown very positive results which include:

  • a reduction in the activity of pro-inflammatory genes (the ones that rev up inflammation),
  • suppression of Th17 (a T cell which is problematic for some of us with psoriasis especially me),
  • promoting T cell balance (the world is better when everything in balance),
  • making it harder to present antigens- the things that turns the T cells on,
  • increase systems to promote anti-antioxidant activity to help reduce inflammation.2

I have been particularly interested in the use of CBD as a topical agent, and there are exciting studies which support this form of usage.

Evidence for CBD as a topical

CBD is not very effectively used by the body when we eat it, so there is an increasing number of studies that investigate its use as a topical and if you hate taking pills, then this will interest you. In another mouse induced MS study, a 1% CBD cream was applied daily for 28 days, and the results were positive, with a reduction in activated T cells and reduced expression of the markers used to predict inflammation.3 So there were systemic changes from topical application.

Looking at another study involving topicals, but with a condition, we are probably more familiar with arthritis. In an arthritis mouse model, the application of a CBD gel showed a reduction in joint swelling, the number of immune cells in the joint and reduced thickening of the synovial membrane. These improvements improved as the dose was increased showing that it was most likely the result of the amount of CBD.4 So should we rush out and buy CBD oil?

Things to be aware of with CBD

CBD is a huge trend right now and my concern is that people jump onto the money-making bandwagon with no prior experience of cold pressing to retain the integrity of nutrients, the importance of storing oils to protect compounds from oxidation and degradation and so on. Therefore I have no idea which products are actually what they say they are, let alone whether they will work.

Make sure if your thinking of going down this route, that you talk to your doctor first and thoroughly research the sellers’ production and storage practices before investing. As with most things it is also likely the case that CBD reacts differently in different people, something that was identified in the experiments with mice. Karmaus et al. highlighted in their study that reactions can depend on age, cell type and the amount of cell activation (in mice).5 They found that CBD increased inflammation in the bronchioles (lungs) when the immune system was activated by LPS (something you commonly see in bacteria) so the results are not always positive.

When trying to find a reason for this, it became apparent that CBD was not acting on known receptors, and the compound also affects the activity of enzymes in different parts of the metabolism. This suggests that it is essential to talk to your doctor before trying CBD because it may modify the way medication works in the body, and how quickly it is broken down or add additional strain to a struggling system if you have complex health needs.5

What to look out for when purchasing

CBD is all the rage right now, which puts you in danger of being conned, and worse, being sold something harmful. Here are a few strategies you can use to make sure that you end up with what you think your buying:

1. Buy from a reputable supplier.

A reputable supplier is not online, anyone can sell online. Go to your local health store- they should have done the research for you, but check the following criteria just to be sure. If you live in a state where you can obtain medicinal products from the C. sativa plant, they may also sell CBD oil and as they are already aware of safety criteria during manufacturing, they are probably a safer bet too. Just make sure there is no THC contamination.

2. Check for an expiry date.

Oils oxidize, and therefore should be stored in dark bottles to prevent degradation. They will oxidize over time and therefore should have an expiry or best before date.

3. Check for a batch number.

A batch number suggests that the relevant good manufacturing practices have been followed. Batch numbers enable companies to more effectively quality check their products and activate more effective recall procedures if a problem is identified once the product has left the factory.

4. Does the packaging claim to treat or cure psoriasis?

If your packaging claims to cure psoriasis then either the manufacturer doesn’t know what they are talking about (at best) or have no understanding/regard for legislation. These are not people you want to buy from…avoid like the plague. Any container with a health claim must be assessed by the FDA under the category of ‘drug.’

5. Does the packaging make claims?

Does the packaging claim the CBD oil reduces inflammation or make a similar claim such as the ingredients affect a structure in the body? If so it must be accompanied by an FDA disclaimer statement like this: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.6

6. Check the ingredients.

Is the CBD oil pure oil, or is it mixed with other ingredients? Does it contain what you want it too? Sometimes they are combined with other cannabinoids, and sometimes they are combined with cheaper oils. Other ingredients can change the dosage requirements so make sure you know what you are getting.

7. Check the dosage

There should be clear instructions on how to use CBD oil. Though I still recommend checking with your doctor before using.

In summary

The research looks very promising and I expect over the next few years for there to be increasing numbers of studies in humans which give us much better insight into how CBD works, and the most effective ways for us to take advantage of its anti-inflammatory properties. For now, approach with caution and medical supervision.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. The Psoriasis Association (2018) The Psoriasis Association Magazine. Autumn 2018. Northampton.
  2. Kozela E, Juknat A, Gao F, et al. (2016) Pathways and gene networks mediating the regulatory effects of cannabidiol, a nonpsychoactive cannabinoid, in autoimmune T cells J Neuroinflammation. 2016; 13: 136.  accessed 23/03/2019
  3. Giacoppo S, Galuppo M, Pollastro F, et al. (2015) A new formulation of cannabidiol in cream shows therapeutic effects in a mouse model of experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitisDaru. 2015; 23: 48. Daru. 2015; 23: 48. accessed 23/03/2019
  4. Hammell D, Zhang L, Ma F, et al (2016) Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviors in a rat model of arthritis Eur J Pain. 20(6): 936–948. accessed 23/03/2019
  5. Karmaus, P, Wagner, J, Harkema J et al. (2013) Cannabidiol (CBD) Enhances Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-Induced Pulmonary Inflammation in C57BL/6 Mice  J Immunotoxicol 10(3): 321–328. accessed 23/03/2019
  6. FDA (2019) Questions and Answers on dietary supplements accessed 23/03/2019


  • Shayla.Oakes moderator
    2 weeks ago

    @gemmaboak, thanks for this. I have so many others in the community that are curious about CBD and praise CBD oil. I will definitely be sharing your article with them. Shayla (, Team)

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