Shingles is a condition where painful blisters or rashes appear on the body. CBD oil has anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage inflammation. Shingles is a painful condition involving a blistery rash caused by a specific type of bacteria. CBD is known for its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. Can it successfully treat shingles or, at least, reduce its symptoms? Shingles affects roughly one million Americans each year, and the medical community estimates that roughly one in three people who contracted chickenpox as a child will later develop shingles.
CBD Oil for Shingles – August 2022
People with shingles may experience inflammation and severe pain , especially in areas where the rashes appear. Some benefits of CBD include having anti-inflammatory properties (6) and the potential to manage chronic pain (7) .
Recent studies also show CBD to have promising antiviral properties (8) . A study published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research in 2020 states that CBD may have potential effectiveness as an antiviral drug.
Results suggest that CBD’s anti-inflammatory and analgesic characteristics may help with shingles, oral and genital herpes, and Ebola.
How CBD Oil Works to Help With Shingles
People may use CBD to manage inflammation brought by shingles. CBD engages the cannabinoid receptors in the body, helping to suppress inflammation (9) .
The Endocannabinoid System
The ECS is a neuromodulatory system responsible for the development of the central nervous system (10) . The ECS also provides regulatory functions for the body’s health (11) .
CBD products contain cannabinoids that interact with endocannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2 in the ECS. These receptors play a role in the management of pain and inflammatory response (12) .
CB1 receptors are primarily found in the brain and spinal cord , while CB2 receptors are more prevalent in immune cells.
However, recent studies suggest that these receptors are also present in the cardiovascular, muscular, and skeletal systems (13) .
CBD vs. THC for Shingles
CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) are naturally occurring cannabinoids in the Cannabis plant (14) . Both compounds interact with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the endocannabinoid system (ECS) (15) .
The primary difference between CBD and THC is that THC is a psychoactive agent that gets the user high. Thus, hemp-derived CBD products may be a better choice for individuals with a low tolerance for THC.
What Research Says About CBD for Shingles
No study has been conducted on CBD’s potential to manage shingles. However, there has been a review of various CBD literature concerning the drug’s antiviral potential (16) .
Individuals with shingles may also benefit from CBD’s potential to manage nerve pain . A 2008 review mentioned that the results of numerous clinical trials noted CBD’s safety and efficacy in managing neuropathic pain (17) .
However, clinical evidence is still insufficient, and anecdotal reports on the internet still lack scientific backing (18) .
CBD for Inflammation and Pain
Studies were conducted to examine CBD’s potential as a pain medication to help manage neuropathic pain (19) .
Research results may be helpful in further studies on how CBD may help manage pain from shingles.
P ostherpetic neuralgia , a painful condition that affects nerve fibers and skin, is a common complication of shingles (20) .
In individuals with shingles, inflammation may lead to nerve damage that can cause pain even after the blisters have disappeared (21) .
Research shows that CBD may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain (22) .
Pros and Cons of CBD for Shingles
- CBD does not have any psychoactive agents that give humans a feeling of high. CBD also does not have properties indicative of abuse or dependence (23) .
- CBD is readily available in most U.S. parts. The 2018 Farm Bill legalized hemp, making CBD legal on the federal level (24) . To date, all 50 states have enacted laws regulating CBD with varying restriction levels.
- CBD has multiple pharmacological potentials, including anti-inflammatory , antipsychotic, anxiolytic (antianxiety), and antiemetic (antinausea) properties (25) .
- High doses of CBD of up to 1,500mg per day are well tolerated among humans (26) .
- Multiple studies have been performed on human and animal subjects to examine the safety and efficacy of CBD.
However, clinical trials are still lacking to make a definite conclusion on CBD’s effectiveness, especially for shingles.
- The only use of CBD approved by the Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) to date is for the treatment of epilepsy (27) .
- CBD may cause negative side effects, like diarrhea, drowsiness, fatigue, dry mouth, or loss of appetite (28) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Other Alternative Treatments for Shingles
A review published in The AAPS Journal in 2009 suggested that cannabidiol (CBD) has anti-inflammatory properties (29) .
This characteristic may be comparable to cold compresses and essential oils that act as traditional painkillers and help manage inflammation.
CBD may also be compared to other antiviral medications . A 2020 study suggests CBD may have potential effectiveness in managing viral diseases (30) .
Safety and Side Effects of CBD for Shingles
CBD does not have the same psychoactive effects as THC that gets a person high.
CBD also does not have the properties indicating the potential for dependence or abuse (31) . More importantly, there has been no evidence of the drug causing public health problems.
However, taking CBD may have side effects like diarrhea, fatigue, dry mouth, loss of appetite, or drowsiness. If a person is currently on medication, CBD can also interact with certain medicines like blood thinners (32) .
Persons with shingles must seek advice from a physician or professional health worker to ensure if taking CBD products is the best option for the disease.
CBD Dosage for Shingles
Individual factors like age, metabolism, cannabinoid receptor sensitivity, and severity of symptoms must be considered to determine the correct CBD dose for a specific medical condition .
To date, studies have not yet been conducted to determine the proper CBD dosage specific for shingles.
A review was published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research in 2020 showing varied formulations and doses of CBD for a range of diseases (33) .
Since there is currently no universally accepted dosage, physicians or professional health workers cannot prescribe CBD products ..
CBD Usage for Shingles
CBD oil may take the form of various product types, including tinctures , vapes , gummies and other edibles , and CBD creams , balms , and salves .
In choosing the best CBD oil for shingles , CBD consumers must consider the following tips to maximize the benefits of CBD products for their needs.
- CBD is among the essential components of medical marijuana . However, CBD is usually extracted from the hemp plant, a close relative of marijuana (34) .
- CBD products that contain other cannabinoids , including THC , are called full-spectrum CBD . On the other hand, CBD products that have other cannabinoids except for THC are called broad-spectrum CBD.
- Full-spectrum CBD contains terpenes that provide a wide variety of medicinal benefits.
- Consumers should buy only from legitimate CBD manufacturers to ensure high quality and safety.
Oral vs. Topical CBD Intake for Shingles
Individuals with shingles may take CBD through oral ingestion. This method may be preferred to take advantage of CBD’s antiviral properties, which may have more long-lasting effects when ingested orally (35) .
Alternatively, topical application may be more effective in relieving shingles pain and reducing skin rashes (36) .
What Is Shingles?
Shingles, also named herpes zoster , is a viral infection that appears as painful red rashes or blisters on one side of the body (37) . These blisters take about 7 to 10 days to scab over and two to four weeks to clear up.
The shingles virus impairs the nerves of the skin. Those with shingles usually experience an itching, tingling, or severe pain in the area where the rashes develop before the blisters appear. These signs usually occur days before the rashes manifest on the skin.
Symptoms of Shingles
Shingles may manifest all over the body among individuals with weak immune systems and make a similar appearance as chickenpox . Blisters that develop around the eyes may cause vision impairment (38) .
Other symptoms of shingles include fever, headaches, chills, and stomachache (39) .
Causes and Risks of Shingles
The reactivated varicella-zoster virus (VZV) in the body usually causes shingles . VZV is the same strain that causes chickenpox (40) .
VZV becomes dormant in the nervous system of an individual that recovers from chickenpox. The virus usually does not reactivate unless the person’s immune system weakens (41) .
Complications of Shingles
Shingles can cause complications (42) like:
- Postherpetic neuralgia – Some people may continue to experience painful conditions even after the blisters have disappeared. Shingles can cause neuropathic pain where the damaged nerves keep sending pain signals to the brain.
- Vision loss – Ophthalmic shingles form in and around one eye that can cause eye infections and lead to vision loss.
- Skin infections – Improperly treated blisters may cause bacteria to infect the skin.
- Neurological problems – Nerve damage caused by shingles can cause encephalitis (brain inflammation), facial paralysis, hearing problems, or balance difficulties.
Is Shingles Contagious?
An individual affected by shingles may pass the VZV to another person who has little or no immunity to the virus (43) .
A person does not get shingles from someone with VZV. That said, an individual who did not yet have chickenpox or was not vaccinated for VZV can get chickenpox from someone with shingles.
Should the Word “Herpes” Cause Alarm?
Another name for shingles is herpes zoster , caused by the reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus (44) .
However, people may associate the word “herpes” with genital herpes, a type of sexually transmitted disease. The herpes simplex virus is the cause of genital herpes.
The herpes zoster and herpes simplex viruses are transmitted in different ways. However, they come from the same herpes virus family.
Is Shingles Similar to Chickenpox?
Shingles and chickenpox are medical conditions caused by the varicella-zoster virus (45) . However, chickenpox usually manifests on various areas of the skin, while shingles usually appear on one part of the face or side of the torso .
What Foods Make Shingles Worse?
Arginine, an amino acid, can cause the spread of the herpes virus (46) . To lessen or prevent further growth of the virus, a person with shingles must avoid foods containing arginine.
Some foods containing high amounts of arginine are legumes, nuts, and whole grains (47) .
To prevent the VZV transmission to others, a person with shingles must cover the areas with rashes and avoid touching or scratching those rashes. Handwashing can also help mitigate the spread of the virus (48) .
To avoid a shingles outbreak , persons with VZV must avoid contact with the following individuals until the rashes crust (49) :
- Pregnant women who did not get chickenpox or were not vaccinated for chickenpox
- Infants with low birth weight or delivered preterm (premature birth)
- People with weak immune systems
Some natural methods to manage shingles include cold compresses, oatmeal baths, calamine lotions , and essential oils.
Cold compresses may be used for pain relief and itch reduction (50) .
Oatmeal baths are approved and regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) as a skin protectant (51) .
Calamine lotions relieve itchiness and discomfort caused by skin irritations brought by shingles rashes (52) .
Essential oils like peppermint , eucalyptus, and tea tree oil may also be used to help fight bacteria and manage inflammation and skin regeneration (53) .
Typical Shingles Treatments
Antiviral medications like acyclovir , famciclovir, and valacyclovir can be used to treat shingles and reduce the severity and length of the illness (54) .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that, for best results, these medications must be taken as soon as the rashes begin to appear (55) .
Lidocaine skin patches are another medication used for pain management . Pain relief is achieved by applying the patch on the affected area caused by the shingles virus (56) .
Individuals who encounter the first signs of shingles must immediately contact a physician or professional health care provider for the proper treatment procedure.
1. Is CBD good for shingles?
CBD may provide some anti-inflammatory reduction and pain relief . However, one important disclaimer is that the FDA has not yet approved CBD as a treatment medication for shingles.
2. Is it advisable to put CBD on shingles?
CBD can be taken orally or topically, depending on an individual’s preference . Topical CBDs, like balms , creams, and salves, are applied to the skin. In terms of relieving pain and reducing skin rashes, topical application may be effective (57) .
3. What is the best pain reliever for shingles?
Currently, there are antiviral medications like acyclovir , famciclovir, and valacyclovir available for treating shingles (58) . For pain relief , Lidocaine skin patches are available for application on the affected area (59) .
Meanwhile, research shows that CBD may help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain (60) .
4. What essential oils are good for shingles?
Some essential oils, like tea tree, peppermint , and eucalyptus oil, may help alleviate inflammation and fight bacteria (61) .
Individuals with allergies should seek help from a physician or professional health worker to ensure these oils are safe to use.
CBD Oil for Shingles Pain: Effectiveness of Cannabis Oil (from Hemp & Marijuana)
Shingles are a painful condition similar to chickenpox, which is a type of rash on the body that typically affects children.
Many people are probably unaware that they have the shingle virus in its inactive form in their bodies.
Chickenpox is caused by the same virus as shingles — varicella-zoster. The virus stays dormant in the body after the chickenpox has disappeared and can be triggered at any time in your life.
What’s worse, doctors don’t know what exactly activates the virus.
So, how do you cope with those painful blisters? Pharmaceutical treatments often include a range of side effects, not to mention that a severe form of shingles can be debilitating on its own. That’s why people are turning to natural remedies, such as CBD oil.
This article will give you a deeper insight into the problem of shingles and the pain that comes with it.
We’ll also discuss the efficacy and safety of CBD for shingles, how to use it to get the most out of your shingle treatment, and whether you can use other natural remedies to relieve this condition.
What You Need to Know About CBD and Shingles?
The telltale symptoms of shingles include a painful, blistery rash that is caused by the virus varicella-zoster and can be mistaken for chickenpox. It typically occurs on one side of the torso, but can actually show up anywhere on the body.
After a person goes through a chickenpox infection, the virus transforms into its inactive form and can get activated several years later to cause shingles — also referred to as herpes zoster.
Shingles can spread to those who haven’t had chickenpox yet and are more likely to appear in older people (1).
Shingles outbreak features a tingling sensation under the skin, which can be confused with a slight fever at first. People with shingles suffer from moderate to severe pinching pain in the problematic area, red patches of skin, and itchiness.
Doctors usually prescribe antiviral drugs like acyclovir to tackle shingles. People also try to reduce their duration and severity with over-the-counter painkillers such as lidocaine (2).
Even when a person has successfully treated shingles, they can still experience persistent pain lasting for years. That’s because shingles trigger a condition called postherpetic neuralgia, which is an annoying condition that irritates the nerves and skin.
There’s a growing body of anecdotal reports from CBD users that have used CBD products to relieve shingles. Despite the lack of shingles-specific studies, CBD is known to have, antiviral, and painkilling properties, all of which can help stop the growth of viruses, including the varicella-zoster virus (3).
Does CBD Help with Shingles?
CBD is one of the two significant cannabinoids in cannabis plants; it occurs both in hemp and marijuana in various concentrations.
This cannabinoid has been touted for its multiple therapeutic effects for various health concerns. Unlike its cousin, THC, CBD doesn’t cause intoxication, so you won’t get high off of it.
Once ingested, CBD signals the endocannabinoid system (ECS), our master regulatory network, to produce more of its own endocannabinoids. These endogenous molecules modulate the activity of the cannabinoid receptors by exerting certain actions of them. The ultimate role of the ECS is to maintain internal balance (homeostasis) between all biological functions in the body (4).
These functions include mood, memory, emotional processing, cognition, sensory perception, immune response, reproduction, neuroprotection, body temperature, sleep cycles, and more.
A 2009 review of the existing studies on the therapeutic qualities of cannabis suggested that CBD and other cannabinoids are remarkable anti-inflammatory compounds. The authors of the review concluded that these properties can be used in targeting a broad range of health conditions.
When it comes to shingles, CBD signals the CB1 and CB2 receptors in the ECS, reducing inflammation and decreasing one’s sensitivity to pain.
Although no study has yet investigated the effectiveness of CBD specifically for shingles, the said interaction between CBD and the ECS can allow it to ease nerve damage caused by the condition.
CBD vs THC for Shingles: Which Is Better?
Both THC and CBD are the primary cannabinoids in cannabis. Similar to CBD, THC also has remarkable anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties. Whether applied through the vapor, sublingual consumption, or in a topical product, cannabis delivers THC and CBD to the rash site, helping alleviate the swelling. Topical cannabis products also offer localized pain relief, so they may come in particularly handy for coping with painful blisters or sores. In addition, THC may prevent these areas from becoming infected.
Another potential benefit of using THC for shingles is the protective effect on the nerves against the damage from the shingle virus. This particular feature can prevent the development of postherpetic neuralgia, the aforementioned condition that causes the patient to experience severe pain in the area of the shingles rash long after it has healed.
However, when you take THC through smoking, vaping, or any sort of internal administration, the compound can get you high, and the higher you get, the higher the chances it will impact your functioning throughout the duration of effects. If you have a low tolerance for THC, it may be better to use hemp-derived CBD products.
Hemp-derived CBD is also more widely available. While marijuana — the primary source of THC — is legal in 17 U.S. states, products sourced from hemp are legal on the federal level under the 2018 Farm Bill.
How to Use CBD for Shingles?
CBD oil comes in many forms; you can choose between sublingual drops, capsules, edibles, vapes, concentrates, and topical products such as salves, balms, and gels.
The two most popular choices when it comes to using CBD for shingles are CBD oil and CBD topicals.
CBD oil is administered sublingually with a dropper that allows for accurate dosing. Once you’ve squeezed up the desired amount in the dropper, transfer that dose under the tongue, hold it there for up to 60 seconds, and swallow. The CBD will absorb through the tiny blood vessels in your mouth, avoiding the liver and the first-pass metabolism. As a result, the effects of CBD oil take hold faster than with oral forms (e.g. capsules and gummies) and last relatively long, up to 6 hours.
If you dislike the taste of CBD oil and don’t mind waiting several extra minutes for the effects, you can try CBD capsules or gummies. These products provide a premeasured dose of CBD per serving and are better suited for people who travel a lot and live a busy lifestyle.
Another way to take CBD oil is through vaping. Vaporization delivers the highest concentrations of CBD to your system and provides the fastest onset, but at the cost of some duration. The effects of vaporized CBD last for up to 4 hours.
The method to target localized problems is through the use of CBD topicals. These products provide relief in areas where they are applied. Using a topical formulation can effectively reduce inflammation and pain associated with red rashes caused by shingles. Using CBD cream is easy; you just need to make sure that the skin stays clean and dry during application. Massage the product gently for a few seconds into the affected area for better absorption.
Should You Use CBD Orally or Topically for Shingles?
From our experience, it’s best to take both. Doing so provides an all-around approach to shingles. The condition is triggered by the activation of the varicella-zoster virus, so if you want to benefit from the antiviral properties of CBD and speed up your recovery process, using CBD orally is the best option for the job.
On the other hand, shingles manifest themselves as red swollen rashes on the skin, so the use of topical may provide localized relief and reduce the redness, size, and painfulness of your blister.
In either case, make sure that you always choose high-quality, third-party lab-tested products from a reputable company.
CBD Oil Dosage for Shingles: How Much to Take?
No study has yet tested different CBD doses for shingles, so finding the right dose for your individual situation will require some trial and error. Everyone is different, and so will be their response to a certain amount of cannabidiol. Factors such as age, gender, metabolism, the sensitivity of cannabinoid receptors, and severity of symptoms should be taken into consideration when trying to determine the right dose.
According to anecdotal evidence, an oral dose of 20–25 mg of CBD daily works well to ease the painful symptoms of shingles. We suggest that you start low and gradually work your way up to the point where you feel the desired relief. You can use a ratio of 1–5 mg CBD for every 10 pounds of your weight for starters.
As for the topicals, people usually apply them to the rash once a day or as recommended by their doctor. A consultation with a healthcare professional experienced in cannabis use can help you increase the efficacy of your skin treatment.
Other Natural Remedies for Shingles
If you’re among the growing number of people affected by shingles, you may decide to supplement other natural remedies too. Here’s a list of natural products that may help alleviate shingles:
- Essential oils – people have used essential oils to relieve topical problems for many years. Some essential oils that reduce inflammation, fight bacteria, and improve skin cell regeneration include chamomile oil, eucalyptus oil, and tea tree oil. Those looking to try essential oils for shingles should make sure they are not allergic to them.
- Cold compresses – A cool cloth or compress may assist you in relieving pain and reducing inflammation. It’s best to lightly soak a natural cotton cloth with cool water and wire it out before placing it on sore, itchy areas. Keep in mind not to expose the skin to extreme temperatures.
- Witch hazel – According to researchers, witch hazel is more effective for reducing itchiness and inflammation than chamomile. You can buy witch hazel in different forms, including creams or witch hazel water.
- Cool baths – Taking a cool bath or shower every day, with gentle scrubbing, will help to keep the blisters and sores clean, reducing the risk of infection. Cool water also helps relieve sore and itchy spots.
- Oat baths – Some studies point to oat extracts as an effective moisturizer and soothing agent for sensitive and inflamed skin. The FDA has approved colloidal oatmeal as a safe and effective treatment. The active ingredients in oath help reduce inflammation, pain, and itchiness.
- Gentiana scabra – this purple flower occurring throughout North America has a positive effect on pain perception in shingles and reduces the likelihood of postherpetic neuralgia. By curbing inflammation in the skin, Gentiana scabra minimizes pain and speeds up healing. The plant has been used for many years by Chinese medicine practitioners.
- Vitamin supplements – Using supplements is a good idea when a person has a compromised immune system or has passed the age of 50. There’s a vivid link between immune function and vitamin D. Individuals with low vitamin D levels have lower immunity than those without deficiencies. Taking vitamin C, selenium, and zinc supplements can also improve immune function in adults.
Foods that Make Shingles Worse
People with shingles should avoid certain foods where possible. The worst type of food, in this case, is the one that contains the amino acid arginine that actually facilitates the spread of the herpes virus.
Here are some of the foods to exclude from your diet if you have shingles:
- Soy products
- White and whole-wheat flour
- Coffee and other high-caffeine products
- Saturated fats (processed foods with empty calories)
Finally, remember that the food should be served not too hot, not too cold — just right. Extreme temperatures in foods, such as scalding soups or icy treats are jarring to the nervous system.
Understanding Shingles: FAQ
What Causes Shingles?
Shingles are caused by the same virus that triggers chickenpox. Usually, people who have had chickenpox early in their lives can develop shingles in the future because the virus gets activated in the nerve tissues near your brain and spinal cord after remaining in a standby mode.
What Are the Symptoms of Shingles?
The symptoms of shingles include raised dots on one side of the body or face that eventually become painful, red blisters. The blisters usually dry out after 7–10 days; their duration is characterized by stabbing pain as well as tingling in the skin after the shingles virus goes into its inactive form again. Singles are often accompanied by chills, fever, and upset stomach.
Who Is More Likely to Suffer from Shingles?
The varicella-zoster virus is more likely to get activated in people with weakened immune systems, such as cancer patients, HIV sufferers, and people in their 50s and up. Chronic, severe stress is another risk factor for developing shingles. If you take immunosuppressants — medicines that weaken the immune system — you’re more likely to get shingles too.
Can People Spread Shingles?
People don’t spread shingles per se, but they can spread the varicella-zoster virus that triggers the condition. The virus is highly contagious, so individuals that get in contact with people who have shingles can catch the chickenpox virus and get shingles later in their lives.
What Are the Potential Complications of Shingles?
Shingles usually run their course within 4–5 weeks, but there are instances where complications may show up. People with a weakened immune system may need more time to recover from the shingles episode. Also, some individuals may develop postherpetic neuralgia, which includes sleep problems, chronic pain, and depression. Other complications of shingles include eye conditions and skin infections. If you experience the said complications, it’s a sign you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Final Verdict: Is CBD a Viable Option for Shingles?
Shingles are a viral condition that manifests in painful, red rashes on the body. They are caused by the same virus as chickenpox; most of the time, the virus remains dormant, but it can get reactivated later in life as shingles.
Common risk factors for shingles include a weakened immune system, nerve damage, skin infections, and older age. Before the shingles outbreak, a person may experience symptoms reminiscent of fever aside from a tingling sensation in their skin. Then, the skin becomes inflamed and itchy, developing red, painful blisters.
If you’re flirting with the idea of taking CBD for shingles, we have some good and, say, neutral news for you. The good news is that CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and painkiller whose health benefits are well backed by studies. Since shingles are caused by a compromised immune system, and their symptoms involve inflammation and pain, it only seems within reason to try out CBD oil as a natural remedy for this condition. The neutral news is that no study has yet investigated the effects of CBD specifically for shingles.
Therefore, we suggest that you consult a doctor experienced in cannabis therapies before adding CBD oils and topicals to your routine. Doing so will help you establish the right dosage and regimen. Undertaking necessary lifestyle changes and avoiding certain foods described in the article may also help improve your symptoms and speed up the healing process.
Have you tried taking CBD for shingles? Do you use CBD oil or topicals — or maybe both? Let us know in the comments!
- InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Chickenpox: Overview. 2014 Jun 30 [Updated 2019 Nov 21].Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279621/
- CDC.gov [Internet]. United States: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Shingles (Herpes Zoster): Treating Shingles. 2019 Jul. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/shingles/about/treatment.html
- Tagne, A.M. et al. (2020). Cannabidiol for Viral Diseases: Hype or Hope? Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, vol 5(2). https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2019.0060
- Pavlovic et al. (2018). Quality Traits of “Cannabidiol Oils”: Cannabinoids Content, Terpene Fingerprint, and Oxidation Stability of European Commercially Available Preparations. Molecules, vol. 23(5).
- Russo, E.B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, vol. 4(1), pp 245–59.
Livvy is a registered nurse (RN) and board-certified nurse midwife (CNM) in the state of New Jersey. After giving birth to her newborn daughter, Livvy stepped down from her full-time position at the Children’s Hospital of New Jersey. This gave her the opportunity to spend more time writing articles on all topics related to pregnancy and prenatal care.
5 Benefits of CBD Oil for Shingles
While cannabidiol (also known as CBD oil) has gained attention in recent years for its ability to ease inflammation, help with restful sleep, and even lessen the symptoms of epilepsy, there’s also reason to believe that CBD may help patients lessen the severely painful symptoms associated with shingles.
5 Benefits of CBD Oil for Shingles
- Anti-inflammatory Properties
- Antiviral Effects
- Itching Relief
- Pain Relief
- Stress Reduction
CBD is one of hundreds of chemical compounds found within the cannabis sativa or hemp plant, and the scientific community is just beginning to understand its potential for therapeutic use. But, while medical evidence remains in early stages, there’s a lot to be optimistic about when it comes to using cannabis oil to make shingles patients more comfortable as they heal.
What are Shingles?
If you had chickenpox as a child, there’s a chance you may also develop shingles as an adult. Both conditions are caused by the varicella zoster virus. Once the initial chickenpox infection clears, the virus remains dormant within the body—usually within nerve cells—until activated by stress or other environmental factors. When this activation occurs, the person develops shingles, a medical condition most characterized by a painful rash that can occur anywhere on the body, though it often wraps around one side of the torso. The infection also may bring with it itchy blisters, fever, chills, headache, intense pain, an upset stomach, and an overall increased sensitivity to touch.
Shingles affects roughly one million Americans each year, and the medical community estimates that roughly one in three people who contracted chickenpox as a child will later develop shingles.
While medical evidence isn’t entirely clear about what may reactivate the varicella zoster virus after years of dormancy, we do know that the endocannabinoid system is involved. In fact, CB1 and CB2 receptors can be found on the shingles rash. Years of treatment records also show that conventional pain relief medication has proven largely ineffective against the symptoms of shingles—the varicella zoster virus causes damage to nerve endings necessary for most painkillers to work.
Thankfully, successfully activating the CB1 receptor may cause a significant reduction in neuroinflammation. While CBD cannot directly activate these receptors, it can modulate the receptor’s activity, which may help provide relief. In addition, CBD is well known for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. In fact, a 2018 review of studies suggests that cannabis-based medications may help ease chronic nerve pain.
If you’re considering treating shingles with CBD oil, be sure to visit with your doctor or consult with a pharmacist. Though CBD has very few reported minor side effects, it’s always wise to make sure CBD products won’t have adverse interactions with any other medications you’re taking.
5 Benefits of CBD Oil for Shingles
Now that we’ve explained what shingles is, let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits CBD oil may offer for shingles patients.
1. Anti-inflammatory Properties
The cannabinoids inherent in CBD oil are known to have potent anti-inflammatory properties, reducing the number of inflammatory chemicals in the body. These inflammatory chemicals are part of the body’s pain pathways, and reducing their presence within the body can help lower pain levels. Much of the shingles pain, itching, and overall discomfort is directly related to inflammation, so managing this inflammation remains a key element of effectively managing the symptoms of shingles.
In addition to using cannabis oil to fight the inflammation associated with shingles, conventional treatment may also include taking over the counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or receiving corticosteroid injections.
2. Antiviral Effects
Current treatment for shingles may include prescription of antiviral drugs, including acyclovir, valacyclovir, or famciclovir. While these types of drugs may help shorten the duration of infection, none is a cure for shingles, nor will any of them treat its symptoms or make patients more comfortable.
Research is limited on CBD’s potential to treat viral medical conditions like shingles. However, one recent article in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research has suggested that CBD has potential to treat viral infections such as hepatitis C . However, there is not enough clinical evidence to confirm this hypothesis.
CBD also has recently been the subject of some animal testing against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19. In fact, many medical researchers are calling for clinical trials to test whether CBD can prevent and/or treat COVID-19 in humans. More testing is necessary, though, to determine both the efficacy and the mechanism of action CBD may employ against viral infections.
3. Itching Relief
The itching that accompanies a case of shingles can be excruciating for some patients—and scratching that itchy rash may lead to open sores that are even more uncomfortable. In worst cases, scratching the shingles rash can lead to a skin infection. But there is some evidence that the topical application of CBD oil could provide relief.
In fact, CBD is often applied topically as an oil or cream to treat other skin conditions, like eczema, which also itching and skin irritation. When applied directly to the skin, cannabis oil interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the epidermis and may offer several benefits, including moisturizing the skin and reducing both itchiness and inflammation.
4. Pain Relief
In addition to the itching sensation and rash, many shingles patients can experience intense pain, which in many cases is nerve pain. In fact, in many cases, severe shingles pain is the first symptom patients notice before developing a shingles rash, and some shingles patients even experience this type of nerve pain long after the initial shingles rash has disappeared. This is known as postherpetic neuralgia. With a shingles infection, nerve fibers are often damaged, meaning they can’t send messages from the skin to the brain as they normally would. Instead, messages become confused and exaggerated, which can cause excruciating nerve pain
Conventional pain-relief treatments for shingles include opiate painkillers, lidocaine numbing cream, or capsaicin topical patches. But a healthy body of research has shown that CBD oil can be effective in treating various types of nerve pain largely because of its effect on the endocannabinoid system. Although studies do not address the use of CBD oil to treat shingles specifically, it is within reason to expect that CBD may have a positive effect on managing shingles pain.
For example, one recent study found that CBD products were effective at reducing neuropathic pain, which comes from nerve damage, in patients treated with chemotherapy drugs. These drugs can negatively affect nerve cells, much like a case of shingles can, resulting in chronic nerve pain. Because CBD oil has been shown to reduce neuropathic pain related to this type of damage, it seems reasonable that using CBD oil to treat shingles-related pain also could be effective.
The manner in which the human brain perceives pain is heavily influenced by the endocannabinoid system. It directly influences our sensitivity to pain, especially when that pain is caused by inflammation. The cannabinoids in CBD oil may activate the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor, which then suppress the perception of pain.
5. Stress Reduction
What we know about the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus indicates that it’s strongly influenced by the body’s stress response, so decreasing your overall stress levels while treating a case of shingles is essential for effectively managing its symptoms and remaining as comfortable as possible.
The good news is that managing the symptoms of anxiety and stress is one of the key reasons for CBD’s popularity, and many people report great success with using CBD oil to manage stress. In fact, in some medical studies, CBD oil has been found to repress the body’s autonomic arousal. This is the nervous system response to stress that usually features a suddenly increased heart rate and/or rapid, shallow breathing.
The little research that exists seems to illustrate that cannabis may help alter serotonin levels, based on its interaction with the body’s CB1 receptor and CB2 receptor. While serotonin features at least 14 different receptors, CBD specifically binds to the 5-HT1A cannabinoid receptor, which plays a key role in many anxiety disorders. And many cannabinoid users report that it gives them an overall feeling of calm and relaxation. This may even help patients sleep better, which could aid in a faster and more comfortable recovery from shingles.
In addition to using CBD oil, patients can help manage their stress by engaging in activities like yoga, deep breathing, and meditation.
How to Use CBD Oil for Shingles
One of the easiest ways to use CBD oil to treat shingles is to simply massage the CBD salve or lotion into the affected or painful areas of the body. With this kind of topical application, you can make sure the oil goes exactly where you need it most. Make sure only to use CBD oil on intact skin; if your shingles rash includes broken skin or open blisters, avoid using CBD oil in these areas. Otherwise, you can reapply the CBD oil to your rash as necessary. Many shingles patients report feeling relief within five minutes, and the effects may last as long as six hours, but individual results will vary. You can reapply as often as needed.
If you don’t want to use CBD oil topically, you can also try putting a few drops under your tongue. Taking CBD oil this way allows it to bypass the digestive system and travel directly into the bloodstream. Many people report feeling positive benefits of taking CBD oil sublingually within 15 to 20 minutes, and the benefits may last four to six hours. You also can ingest CBD oil through edibles like CBD gummies .
As always, when using CBD oil for any condition, you should start with the lowest possible dose and gradually increase until you reach the therapeutic effect you’re looking for. The effectiveness of CBD for individuals depends on several different factors, including body chemistry, weight and levels of discomfort, so you may have to experiment a bit before you find the delivery method and CBD dosage that work best for you. Don’t be afraid to keep increasing the dosage to take full advantage of the therapeutic benefits, as we find that most people aren’t taking enough. For more information about finding the optimal dosage for you, read our How Much CBD Oil Should I Take? article or list to S1 E3 of our Podcast: The One Where We Talk About CBD and Dosing for Humans and Pets .
CBD is a Promising, Low Risk Shingles Treatment
While researchers are still studying the exact benefits of CBD oil for shingles, CBD’s general tolerability and lack of side effects makes it easy to introduce into your treatment plan.
As always, consult with your doctor or pharmacist to make sure that CBD won’t potentially interact with any other medications you’re taking. And be sure to purchase your CBD oil or other cannabis products from a reputable producer that you know and trust.
If you have questions about how to choose an appropriate CBD product, you can always reach out to the team at Farmer & Chemist. Our knowledgeable staff of pharmacists can answer questions and help you find the CBD product that’s right for you.