CBD for Shingles
The growing body of research into the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD) has taught us that this cannabinoid has the potential to help treat a variety of conditions 1 Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A Corroon, J., & Phillips, J. A. (2018). A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 3(1), 152–161. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0006 A Cross-Sectional Study of Cannabidiol Users
. But while CBD may actually help eliminate some conditions, its role in treating others isn’t necessarily as clear. Understanding the benefits of CBD oil for shingles means digging deep into the research and recognizing that while a cure isn’t always possible, symptom management can be a goal worth striving toward.
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What is Shingles?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, shingles is a rash or blister outbreak, caused by the same virus that leads to chickenpox 2 Shingles Information Page. Shingles Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Shingles-Information-Page.
. In fact, having had chickenpox in the past is one of the leading risk factors for developing shingles in the future.
A burning pain or tingling is often experienced before an outbreak occurs. Days later, a patient with shingles will begin to notice fluid-filled blisters in the area they initially felt that pain or tingling. Outbreaks can last for weeks and be extremely painful, with nerve involvement in many cases. While treatments do exist to reduce the longevity and frequency of outbreaks, there is no cure 2 Shingles Information Page. Shingles Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Shingles-Information-Page.
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The Potential of CBD for Shingles
Unfortunately, there is no known cure for shingles – not even CBD.
Current treatments for shingles include a variety of antiviral drugs, such as acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. Research has found these to be effective for speeding up the healing process and reducing pain levels. However, the side effects of these drugs include constipation, headaches, nausea, and vomiting 3 A comparative study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of acyclovir and famciclovir in the management of herpes zoster. Gopal, M. G., Shannoma, Kumar B C, S., M, R., A S, N., & Manjunath, N. C. (2013). A comparative study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of acyclovir and famciclovir in the management of herpes zoster. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research : JCDR, 7(12), 2904–2907. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2013/7884.3670 Gopal, M. G., Shannoma, Kumar B C, S., M, R., A S, N., & Manjunath, N. C.
Could CBD help to reduce those side effects? Or even better, could CBD help to reduce the pain experienced as a result of shingles?
What Does the Research Say?
There are thus far no studies specifically looking into the benefits (or potential risks) of using CBD to treat shingles.
Here’s what we do know: Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the potential therapeutic benefits of CBD in treating chronic pain conditions, even neuropathic pain 4 Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928 Russo E. B.
. This suggests CBD oil for shingles pain may be a valid option in addressing one of the more difficult symptoms of this disease, particularly for those experiencing nerve pain.
For patients considering using CBD alongside traditional shingles treatments, research has found CBD to be beneficial in treating nausea and vomiting, as well as headaches 6 Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L. (2011). Regulation of nausea and vomiting by cannabinoids. British journal of pharmacology, 163(7), 1411–1422. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1476-5381.2010.01176.x Parker, L. A., Rock, E. M., & Limebeer, C. L.
. This suggests CBD could help to alleviate some of the side effects experienced as a result of treating shingles with antivirals.
. Moreover, it could be argued that patients dealing with shingles may face an increased risk of anxiety and trouble sleeping due to the pain experienced as a result of the condition. “CBD 8 Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research James M. Nichols and Barbara L.F. Kaplan. Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research. Mar 2020.12-31.http://doi.org/10.1089/can.2018.0073 James M. Nichols and Barbara L.F.
What all this means is that while CBD oil for shingles may not provide an outright cure, it could have the potential to alleviate some of the symptoms experienced by those living with the disease. CBD oil may also help ease some of the side effects associated with common shingles treatments. With anxiety, stress, and a weakened immune system all playing a potential role in contributing to additional outbreaks, it’s also possible that continued use of CBD could mitigate those factors, and lead to fewer outbreaks overall 10 Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia: an examination of psychological antecedents. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014). Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia: an examination of psychological antecedents. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 11(5-6), 31–34. Sansone, R. A., & Sansone, L. A. (2014). Herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia: an examination of psychological antecedents. Innovations in clinical neuroscience, 11(5-6), 31–34.
Is CBD Worth Trying for Shingles?
Because shingles is a skin condition, you may be tempted to try using topical CBD products on active outbreaks. Please proceed with caution when it comes to this, though. While some research has suggested CBD may help speed up wound healing, we still know very little about this potential benefit, and there is no research on topical CBD treatment for open shingles blisters 11 Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A. (2019). Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(5), 918. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24050918 Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A.
What we do know is that many topical CBD products contain additives, which could be painful to apply directly onto an open wound. As a result, many of these products contain warnings against doing so.
For this reason, CBD oil for shingles may be your best option if you want to give CBD a try. Taking CBD oil orally is the best way to experience all the above-mentioned benefits of CBD (including side effects and symptom management). CBD oil products can be ingested as drops placed directly into your mouth or in water, taken sublingually, or even cooked into your favorite edible creations.
As with anything new, you are adding to your treatment regimen, it’s important to talk to your doctor before incorporating CBD into your shingles treatment plan. But with that go-ahead and the proper amount of experimentation to find the right product and CBD dosage for you, you may come to find CBD helps make your shingles battle that much easier to manage.
Can you put CBD oil on shingles?
There is some research to suggest topical CBD applications may help to speed up wound healing. However, because of the potential for infection and pain when applying products topically to open wounds, it is probably best to ingest CBD oil for shingles, rather than applying it topically to an active outbreak 11 Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A. (2019). Cannabinoid Signaling in the Skin: Therapeutic Potential of the “C(ut)annabinoid” System. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 24(5), 918. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24050918 Tóth, K. F., Ádám, D., Bíró, T., & Oláh, A.
What essential oils are good for shingles?
Bergamot, eucalyptus, lavender, tea tree, and geranium oils have all been shown to have potential benefits in the treatment of shingles 12 Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases Orchard, A., & van Vuuren, S. (2017). Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2017, 4517971. https://doi.org/10.1155/2017/4517971 Orchard, A., & van Vuuren, S
. As with all new treatment options, please discuss the use of these oils with your doctor before adding them to your treatment regimen.
What is the best pain relief for shingles?
For those experiencing chronic, enduring pain after a shingles outbreak, . You may also want to talk to your doctor about using CBD oil for shingles pain as you attempt different treatment plans.
How long does it take for postherpetic neuralgia to go away?
Postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) is a complication of shingles, where the pain persists, even after the rash has healed. This pain can range from mild to severe and continue for months after the fact. There are treatments available for PHN, to include tricyclic antidepressants, anticonvulsants, opioids, and topical anesthetics. How long the condition lasts can vary from patient to patient, and the condition may get better over time, even without treatment 2 Shingles Information Page. Shingles Information Page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Shingles-Information-Page.
Living in Alaska, Leah Campbell has a degree in developmental psychology and has written extensively on topics relating to health and wellness. As a single mom with endometriosis, she relies on medical cannabis to function at her fullest and is an outspoken advocate for marijuana legalization and the end of disproportionate incarceration rates against men of color for marijuana related crimes. A writer for HuffPost, Parents, and Glamour, Leah has discussed these issues on national television, to include Good Morning America and The Tamron Hall Show.
CBD Oil for Shingles: Relief from Pain
Though CBD can’t really cure shingles (herpes zoster), there is evidence suggesting that it can alleviate nerve pain associated with the disease.
A large percentage of shingles sufferers develop postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), a painful debilitating condition resulting from the damage of peripheral nerves caused by the viral rash.
Pain caused by postherpetic neuralgia can last anywhere from several months to several years for some people.
We’re going to go over the studies pointing to the beneficialness of CBD for various types of pain, primarily neuropathic (caused by damaged nerves) pain, which is extremely difficult to treat.
It’s important to mention that the delicate legal status of hemp/cannabis continues to hinder CBD research, and the majority of studies are still in preclinical stages.
Studies on CBD and Pain
A 2006 study stated that regulating the endocannabinoid system (a cellular system in our bodies through which CBD and other cannabinoids produce the majority of their effects), is potentially beneficial for an exceptionally wide range of conditions and disorders.
Here’s an excerpt from the study:
“Modulating the activity of the endocannabinoid system turned out to hold therapeutic promise in a wide range of disparate diseases and pathological conditions, ranging from mood and anxiety disorders, movement disorders such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease, neuropathic pain, multiple sclerosis and spinal cord injury, to cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, stroke, hypertension, glaucoma, obesity/metabolic syndrome, and osteoporosis, to name just a few.”
A 2007 research concurred that CBD shows efficacy for neuropathic pain, stating that “the results indicate a potential for therapeutic use of cannabidiol (CBD) in chronic painful states.”
Finally, a 2012 study reported that CBD significantly suppressed neuropathic pain, without causing any analgesic tolerance.
The researchers concluded:
“Collectively, we have provided evidence to suggest that glycinergic cannabinoids are ideal therapeutic agents in the treatment of inflammatory and neuropathic pain. They can effectively attenuate pathological pain without significantly causing major psychoactive side effects and analgesic tolerance.”
Data indicating the usefulness of cannabinoids for various types of pain also includes two separate studies from 2018. (1, 2)
How Much CBD Oil for Shingles
There are two important aspects to every CBD treatment:
- Some users require a “build-up” period before any noticeable effects start happening
- People require different doses to achieve the desired effect
Microdosing Cannabis: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide
While most users immediately feel the effects of CBD, some people need to consume CBD for a brief period of time (usually weeks, sometimes even longer) in order to start noticing the benefits.
This difference in people is, unfortunately, still poorly understood but there are some solid scientific hypotheses.
The main one is called the clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency, and it basically entails that some people have a dysfunctional endocannabinoid system, through which CBD and other cannabinoids produce the majority of therapeutic effects.
The clinical endocannabinoid system deficiency is also potentially linked to several illnesses, including fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraines.
Since the mechanism through which CBD creates its effects is dysfunctional, no noticeable effects can take place.
But, the current understanding is that through regular exposure to cannabinoids like CBD the endocannabinoid system “restarts”, and gradually becomes functional again.
Because of this, it is advised to continue with a CBD regiment even if you don’t feel any immediate effects, so your body could renew the endocannabinoid system.
Again, this is only required for a small percentage of users.
Regarding the actual dosing, most users find relief with intermediate doses, ranging from 15mg to 20mg of CBD.
This, of course, isn’t written in stone, meaning some users will experience immediate relief with smaller doses, while others will require more CBD to achieve optimal alleviation.
It’s best to start with a medium dose and see how you’re feeling.
If you experience any adverse effects (we’ll get to that a bit later in the article), feel free to lower your dose and evaluate the effects.
If you feel that a bigger dose would offer greater relief, increase your intake to 40mg or 60mg of CBD.
Studies have shown that CBD is very well tolerated in humans, and huge doses up to 1,500mg per day are considered safe.
How to Use CBD Oil for Shingles
Two main means of CBD administration are:
- Placing CBD oil under the tongue for about one minute (where it quickly gets absorbed into the bloodstream via the sublingual veins)
- Ingesting CBD capsules
The most important difference between CBD oil and CBD capsules is that CBD oil starts working faster (within minutes), while CBD capsules have to pass through the digestive tract, and take 60
120 minutes to begin.
If you’ve used CBD oil (or capsules) a couple of times and no apparent effects occurred, avoid increasing the dose but continue to use the product regularly, in order to “kickstart” your endocannabinoid system.
Potential Side Effects
Due to differences in age, health, unique genetics and other currently unknown factors, a small percentage of people experience some side effects from CBD use, while most users consume it without any issues.
Luckily, the adverse effects of CBD cannot be considered too debilitating, and they include:
- Issues with appetite
- Fatigue (specifically with large doses)
- Irritability (specifically with large doses)
Since the science of CBD isn’t completely understood, the only way to know whether you’ll experience some of these side effects is to try using CBD.
CBD Drug Interactions
If you’re using any prescription or over-the-counter drugs, it’s essential to understand that CBD interferes with any medication that is metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme.
These drugs usually have a grapefruit warning (grapefruit juice also interferes, just like CBD) on their packaging, but to be extra safe you should always check the insert information for any mention of this enzyme.
In a nutshell, CBD interferes with these medications because it’s also metabolized by the CYP3A4 enzyme, which means that the enzyme is working to break down both substances at the same time.
This could lead to elevated levels of both substances in the body, which could be potentially hazardous.