Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most active ingredient in cannabis. It’s extracted directly from the plant minus the THC (which is the component that makes you feel “high”).
Why try this green good? There’s some evidence that CBD could have some health benefits, including easing anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. But could CBD be a valid treatment for psoriatic arthritis (PsA)? Let’s find out.
Does CBD work for psoriatic arthritis?
No research has specifically looked at the effect of CBD on PsA. But animal studies have shown promising outcomes when it comes to CBD and inflammation — and inflammation is a key process of PsA. Also, taking CBD may help reduce certain triggers of PsA, such as stress.
CBD is legal in the United States, but it may come with side effects. It also isn’t regulated in the same way medications are. If you’re ready to try it, make sure to do your research to find a high quality product.
More than 8 million people in the United States experience psoriasis. And about 30 percent of those folks are affected by PsA, a condition that causes joint inflammation.
More research is needed on the potential benefits of CBD for PsA, but most published research so far has been animal-based or focused on chronic pain. Here’s what this limited research could tell us about the potential for CBD to ease PsA symptoms.
Talk with your doctor about your treatment options
CBD should never replace your prescribed treatment plan. PsA can get worse if it’s not treated properly, potentially leading to a reduced range of motion and severe pain, stiffness, and swelling.
CBD shows some promise as a remedy for inflammation
When your joints get achy and your psoriasis is visibly active, you’re likely dealing with PsA. An inappropriate immune response can lead to inflammation that causes uncomfortable symptoms.
CBD *might* be able to reduce this inflammation.
A 2016 study found that an endocannabinoid called anandamide could block inflammation signals that have been linked with triggering psoriasis in skin and immune cells. Your body produces anadamide, and CBD may boost your levels of it.
A 2020 review also suggests that CBD has an antioxidant effect. That means it may help get rid of free radicals and prevent oxidative stress, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
An animal-based study published in 2016 found that doses of 6.2 or 62 milligrams of topical CBD per day helped reduce joint swelling and limb posture in rats with arthritis. This outcome didn’t come with any negative side effects, but it also wasn’t specific to PsA.
CBD may help ease common triggers for PsA
PsA flare-ups are typically triggered by environmental factors. Common triggers include:
- skin injuries (like sunburn or bug bites)
- a diet high in sugar, fat, or salt
- lack of sleep
- high stress
Between achy joints and burning skin, PsA can make it difficult to fall asleep or stay sleep. But nipping poor sleep habits in the bud can get your snoozes back on track and may even help ease your symptoms.
A small 2019 study looked at usage of CBD in 72 adults dealing with anxiety and poor sleep. How’d it go? Sleep scores improved by the first month in almost 67 percent of the participants.
Stress is another trigger for both psoriasis and PsA. A 2019 study found that CBD treatment helped people with post-traumatic stress disorder. The sample size was very small (only 11 people) and there wasn’t a control group, but after 8 weeks of treatment, participants’ stress severity decreased with no side effects.
While there isn’t a specific type of CBD you should use for PsA, you may find that some products work better to manage your pain and inflammation than others. This will probably require some trial and error before you find the right fit for your needs.
You can take CBD by mouth (as a pill or drops), by inhaling it, or by applying a product to your skin. Here’s the lowdown on each option:
- Food, capsules, or liquid. You can find CBD in gummies, cookies, and other sweet foods. You can also find it in tinctures or sublingual sprays. It may take 15 to 45 minutes for the effect to kick in.
- Topical products. These are lotions or balms that contain CBD. They’ll usually have other over-the-counter (OTC) pain-relieving ingredients, too, such as menthol. Since we don’t yet know whether CBD can be absorbed through the skin to tissues deep below, research still needs to determine whether it’s CBD or the other ingredients that help soothe achy joints.
- Inhaled products. Although this may get the product into your system right away, it’s not the right choice for everyone. The additional risk of inhaling vapor oils and chemical byproducts isn’t ideal for those dealing with inflammatory arthritis.
The three types of CBD
When shopping for CBD, you’ll stumble upon three basic types:
- Broad-spectrum CBD. If you go this route, you’ll receive other hemp compounds with the CBD, including other cannabinoids called cannabinol (CBN) and cannabichromene (CBC), but generally there won’t be any THC.
- Full-spectrum CBD. Along with all the other compounds found in broad-spectrum products, full-spectrum products include small amounts of federally legal THC (less than 0.3%). It shouldn’t be enough to make you feel “high,” though.
- CBD isolate. CBD isolate products contain only CBD — no THC or other compounds.
So far, the FDA has approved CBD only to treat specific types of epilepsy. There aren’t any recommended dosages when it comes to PsA.
A review of various studies found that the dosages studied in humans ranged from 20 to 1,500 milligrams per day. This amount can completely vary depending on the individual and how they respond to the CBD dose.
Other factors that may impact dosage are:
- your weight
- the condition you’re hoping to treat
- the CBD formulation
- your body’s metabolism
To err on the side of caution, start with a smaller dose and see how you react. If you feel like your symptoms aren’t improving, you could boost the dose in small amounts each day until you notice a difference.
While there are pros to using CBD for PsA pain, there are also some downsides. According to the FDA, possible harmful side effects include:
- liver injury
- interaction with other drugs and alcohol
- toxicity to the male reproductive system
You may also notice some more mild side effects like drowsiness, digestive issues, and mood changes.
The FDA states also that there are many questions about CBD that they don’t have answers to yet, such as:
- What happens if you take CBD for a long period of time?
- How does CBD affect a developing brain (like during pregnancy)?
- Does CBD interact with herbs or other plant materials?
Talking with a doctor about the benefits and risks for you specifically can help you decide if it’s right for you.
If you’re hopping on the CBD train, be sure to do thorough research before buying, because many of these products aren’t tightly regulated. This means checking the quality assurance practices of the company or calling them to get more details about their product and how it was created.
It’s important to look for a third-party certificate of analysis, which will contain potency levels and safety analysis of substances like pesticides, solvents, and heavy metals.
Check out where the company sources their hemp (U.S.-grown hemp is arguably the most regulated, as opposed to imported products), as well as the conditions it was grown in and how the CBD is extracted from the plant.
Why is this so important? A 2017 study found that the CBD concentrations of many products were completely different from what the companies were marketing. Out of 84 CBD products being sold online in 2016, about 43 percent were under-labeled — the true CBD concentrations were 10 percent above the concentration on the label.
CBD *may* be able to help ease some PsA symptoms, such as joint pain and inflammation. But the research is far from conclusive. If you’re planning to give CBD a shot for PsA treatment or prevention, chat with your doctor and be sure to buy a high quality product.