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Is it worthwhile taking cannabis for psoriasis?

A person who has psoriasis. Photo: James Heilman, MD
A person who has psoriasis. Photo: James Heilman, MD

We have yet another entry to the massive list of diseases that respond well to cannabis (as detailed at this very website): psoriasis. This is a skin condition with red patches covered in silvery scales forming as a result of a problem with the immune system where an excess of skin cells develops and manifests on the surface of the skin before the cells mature.

Usually, psoriasis affects the back, elbows, knees or scalp. About a third of those afflicted have a family history of the condition. Over 650,000 people in the United Kingdom suffer from psoriasis, with one being pop star Liam Gallagher. Black people are around 50 percent less likely to get psoriasis than whites. The condition is much less common in tropical countries, possibly because there’s more sunshine; it is believed that a trip to the tropics might alleviate psoriasis for as long as a person remains there.

What psoriasis does to you

Skin might crack and bleed. There may be inflammation elsewhere on the body. Affected people can feel an itch or outright pain. 30 percent of sufferers develop psoriatic arthritis, with joints becoming stiff or inflamed. Psoriasis is incurable but can be managed. Existing treatments have side effects, including diarrhoea, fever, increased chance of infection and liver dysfunction. Treatments sometimes become less effective with time as the body develops resistance to them.

What you can do about psoriasis

The human body makes endocannabinoids, which play a part in appetite, eye pressure, fertility, inflammation, immunity and mood. The active ingredients of cannabis are cannabinoids.

Studies, such as a 2009 effort by the University of South Carolina, have shown that taking cannabis reduces inflammation.

More studies, like the 2007 job by Nottingham University’s School of Biomedical Sciences , found that cannabinoids can slow the growth of skin cells, namely keratinocytes, and reduce their accumulation on the surface of the skin.

Cannabis reduces pain, with a 2015 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association admitting that taking cannabis “may be an effective treatment” for pain.

Even more studies have found that cannabinoids can relieve itching. A review of these studies published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2017 stated that the relief of itching was “the most promising role for cannabinoids.”

One of the worst aspects of psoriasis is the cracking and bleeding of affected skin. Yet more studies, like the one of mice by China Medical University in 2016, found that cannabinoids assist with wound repair.

Stress can cause psoriasis flare ups. Taking cannabis lessens stress, and you probably don’t need a study to convince you. A 2010 study published in the Archives of Dermatology shows that people with psoriasis are 39 percent more likely to experience depression. Depression can cause inflammation. Cannabis is effective in the treatment of depression.

Take cannabis NOW! But …

Except for depression, inflammation and pain, the best method of taking cannabis in response to psoriasis is as a tincture or oil which is put on the skin. This doesn’t get you high. Boo!

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